This particular location is near and dear to me. The former location of one of my favorite haunts in Portland, La Bodega, holds memories of late evening stumbles home, conversations, and food with JJ and Amber that really are just too tough an act to top. So much so, that I never really warmed up to the first iteration of the Free House, when it first opened up under the former management. Now, the not so recently re-opened Free House has different management and menu to go along with it.
My nearest pub options are the County Cork and Free House, both around 14th and NE Fremont. For the food, I choose Free House. The taplist is limited to about 6 or so beers but I can always find an acceptable IPA or Stout and they have a nice cocktail list. Olympic Provisions are featured on the menu and so far I’ve had the frankfurter and the sausage, both of which I’d get again. There is a lovely looking charcuterie list which I have yet to try, as well as a pate banh mi. The newly added burger of Laurelhurst Market beef will be discussed later on down the line.
They tolerate minors here, I wouldn’t say the welcome wagon has been rolled out, but a parent who manages their child will do just fine. We order the mac and cheese for our 2-1/2 year old, which is penne pasta covered in a smokey cheese and crispy onions on top. It is volcanic hot, so let it cool before allowing a toddler to dive in, but our kid loves it. We ordered their shoestring potatoes, which come with a tomato chutney that a toddler may not like it, but you probably will.
As I’d mentioned, the burger was the main event on this particular visit (besides the Goodlife Stout). Keep in mind they have a very tiny kitchen space within which to work, so if you order multiple items, they will not come out all at once. However, the staff here seems to be aware of this as a short-coming and have always brought out the shoestring potatoes first, so if you are hungry, you won’t eat your arm while you wait. This time, my burger came out a bit quicker than I would have expected, making me slightly suspicious but whatever. It comes with cheese, shredded lettuce and a nice sauce on it that you cannot quite see because it isn’t bright in here on winter evenings, thanks to the previous owner’s lighting choices. This visit, my burger was more undercooked than I would have liked, so I didn’t eat it all. Next time, I will make sure to specify medium-well. I understand lately it has become a fashion to enjoy pink, if not a little bloody and juicy burgers, so note taken. PS: all the food is salty but in a pub-y way. I don’t know how else to describe it. The pickles that come with it are divine. Order those with whatever you get and you will not be disappointed.
I’ve written all of this and have not yet mentioned the service, which isn’t fair of me to have done. You need to order at the bar, they will bring food to your table, after giving you a number. The gents I’ve encountered here are quite nice and willing to do what it takes to make sure you have a pleasant experience. They will check on you and even chat for a bit if they aren’t running to serve the folks at the bar.
The space has never been large nor has it been particularly warm and cozy, but they’ve seemed to have done well to work with what they’ve got and I appreciate that. Also, it seems there is a loud bunch of guys that have their Friday Happy Hour here, since this was the third Friday in recent memory that we had come here, and they’re quite boisterous until about 6 or so: the acoustics are pretty terrible, it’s too loud to talk to other people at your table. Another item worth mentioning is that there is a back patio that is at least somewhat covered and they’ve made a successful attempt to make it look like an inviting space. Maybe we will sit out there next time if the after work crowd is still roaring inside. That is, if there are heaters out there, which I’m hoping there will be….
I’ll report back on the pate and/or charcuterie. I am curious about cheese as well, seems there must be a shortage in town, judging by the microscopic sized pieces of cheese I’ve seen in town lately…..more to come on that.