Every Pint Has A Story
Old Town Pizza opened its doors in 1974, converting what had once been the lobby of the Merchant hotel in to a pizzeria. The Merchant Hotel along with the rest of the neighborhood has what people who don't want to offend anyone call "a storied" past. Truth is, this part of Portland has a history of opium dens, prostitution and Shanghai'd sailors, sure, okay, I suppose we can call that a storied past.
My first apartment in Portland was located in the Logus building on the east side of Portland. Built in 1886, and home to its own set of Shanghai tunnels, the Logus building has a few stories of its own. My place was a sprawling 285 square feet with a single 12 foot high window, 18 foot ceilings with the original beautifully preserved hardwood trim. The only window faced west, perfectly placed for the Summer sun to bake me in the brick oven that I called home. To say this apartment got hell hot is an understatement. I had to sleep during the day so I could work all night, but it was just too damn hot for any of it, I had to find a retreat. This is how I came to be a regular at Old Town Pizza.
Old Town Pizza had air conditioning, cheap food and played good music. It was a no brainer, it's hell hot in my apartment, I'm hungry & bored, let's head down to Old Town. As a regular, I heard many stories about the building, the shanghai tunnels and the ghosts.
I've always had a hard time swallowing a ghost story. I think that if you believe it happened, then it did, but that doesn't mean I believe you. I always listened and tried to be respectful of their experience. Ultimately tho, I had no problem telling everyone within ear shot that they all probably just needed to stop smoking so much weed.
Maybe I'm Just Paranoid
It was a Sunday night and as usual I found myself at Old Town with a slice and a soda. I was tired, having worked the graveyard shift Friday and Saturday night serving eggs to drunks who are not as cute or funny as they think. Relaxing in my usual spot, a restored Victorian era fainting couch, I heard my name. Or rather it was like someone had whispered my name in my ear, even stranger than the whisper, there was the smell of roses and sandlewood mixing with the aroma of garlic knots and marinara sauce that always permeates the air at Old Town. I played it cool, casually looking around for who was calling me. There was no one there. Literally, the place was pretty much empty, it was Sunday night remember, not exactly the high time for pizza joints in questionable neighborhoods. I was left with an odd skin-crawling sensation, but just chalked the experience up to being over tired.
And Then It Got Weird
It was a beautiful night in early October, I had been joking around about how we better wactch out and not leave our drinks unattended or we might get drugged and Shanghai'd when "the poke" happened. It felt like someone had drilled an index finger into the middle of my back. I immediately jumped up, hollering "ow, f'er" and whipped around to see no one there. My girlfriend startled, started laughing "dude, what the hell is your deal?, Gawd, you are so weird.” Embarrassed, I laughed it off and tried to just move on. I wanted everyone to think I was cool especially the super cute skater boy who worked there. Internally, I was genuinely afraid. I felt watched, I felt like prey. Gut churning, hairs on the back of my neck standing up, I couldn't wait to leave.
The previous evening's events now a blur, I woke up at my usual graveyard waitress time of 2pm. My back was itchy in a spot that I couldn't reach, I looked at it in the mirror to diagnose and resolve the annoyance. To my sheer terror, there was a finger print bruise on my back complete with a half-moon shaped gouge. I hadn’t a clue what could've made those marks. What I did know was that's the spot where I had been poked the night before. I called my best friend and told her it was an emergency, she needed to get to my place like, right now. Finally arriving at my apartment my BFF starts teasing me before I even get the front door open. While she kept teasing me I turned lifting my shirt after which all I got from her was, "What the?" followed by stunned silence.
Too Bad We Can't Stay Baby
This is where my story turns in to the tale of why I have never, ever set foot in that pizza joint again. I don't know if I believe in ghosts or not, I tend to think not, but something happened to me that night at Old Town pizza that I can't explain. Whatever happened, it scared me so badly that not even the doughy deliciousness that is garlic knots could lure me back.
My Old Town story picks back up some years after my scare downtown. I'm living in Northeast Portland wishing that someone would deliver me some Pizza and freshly brewed beer. It must be that the beer gods have smiled on NE Portland because the owners of Old Town Pizza opened a location on MLK from which they deliver fresh pizza and growlers of award wining beer AND they do it by bike, so Portlad, isn't it? Yes, at times I do feel like I'm living in ann episode of Portlandia, but come on...it's beer by bike, pretty awesome.
Keeping with the theme of Old Town Pizza's downtown location, the new joint, Old Town Brewing, is housed in an old auto repair and used car lot. I was first in line when they started pouring their own freshly brewed beer. I am happy to report that the beer does not disappoint. I've spent many hours hanging out at Old Town Brewing writing and enjoying their beer.
It feels like I've come full circle in a way. I’ve grown up a bit but some things never really change. I still crave garlic knots. I'm pleased that I can now enjoy a delicious slice of pizza and a beautifully crafted pint of Northwest beer without (so far) any ghostly encounters at Old Town Brewing.
Old Town Tap Room
If you'd like to get poked by a ghost or experience the old shanghai tunnels beneath Old Town's downtown location you're crazy, but you can get in touch with them by visiting their Facebook page, or visiting the location downtown at: 226 NW Davis Portland, OR 97209.
Sunday – Thursday 11:30am – 11pm
Friday & Saturday 11:30am – Mid
In the mood for a pint and a slice? Old Town Brewery serves fresh beer and hot pies at: 5201 NE MLK Blvd. Portland, OR 97211.
Sunday – Wednesday 11:30am – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday 11:30 – 11PM
For a uniquely Portland experience, give Old Town Brewery a buzz at 503-200-5988 and they will gladly bike over some beer and food. On a hot Portland day, I recommend their easy-drinking IPA and of course, garlic knots.
Be sure to look for Old Town Brewing at the upcoming Oregon Brewers Fest.