I like dive bars. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. In the old days, they were smoky and run down, filled with live local music and cheap eats and drinks.
These days, not much has changed, sans the smoking. Dive bars are one of the last bastions of cheap food and drinks and live local music left in the community. No bar in Portland exemplifies this old school ethic than the Ash Street Saloon.
Located in the heart of Down Town Portland on second and Ash, just off Burnside, kitty corner from Kell’s Irish Pub. I have always had a special place in my heart for the Ash Street Saloon because I have been playing shows here since I was 19 years old. In those days, they spread police tape across the stage to keep us minors from walking through the bar. Now, as a full grown man, I go to check out shows and enjoy one of the last places to get a burger and a beer in Portland, Oregon for under $10.
Walking into Ash Street Saloon is like walking back in time. Paying the usual cover ($5) and walking in, fliers and posters plaster the windows. Fliers showing upcoming concerts for local bands and smaller national acts, and concerts from decades ago. Lie back on one of the benches and peruse the ceiling for fliers and posters from bands like Nirvana, Poison Idea, Gas Huffer, Heatmiser, and other long gone 80’s and 90’s acts. Ash Street is a Portland music history museum of sorts. The memories flood to me here. Every time. And why shouldn’t it? I’ve been going here for half my life, and have taken the stage here a dozen or so times here (Heck, they still have the same promoter that they did when I submitted that first demo CD back in 1999… unheard of in this industry).
Tons of beers on tap and a fully stocked bar, a laminated menu with everything from cheeseburgers, fish n chips, salad, hummus plates, and other typical bar fare… but at half the price. I like to order, take my number and make my way to the show room.
Hip Hop, glam metal, death metal, punk rock, even country, blues, and jazz can be heard here, live and on stage. Live music. There’s nothing like it in an intimate club setting. I see people I know here all the time. I see old friends and make new ones, I enjoy good food and good drink and, if the weather permits, I enjoy a nice chat outside in the covered patio with some of the performers and other friends and family.
With places like the O Hell Café, Satyricon and other iconic Portland bars and pubs having long since closed their doors, the Ash Street Saloon stands as an homage to the past and as a bastion to the future. The Ash Street is one of the best places to go in Portland for live local music and good eats. So, whether you want to stop by for a show or just for a quick bite to eat, Ash Street Saloon is a treasure in Portland, Oregon and I hope it is always here.
Ash Street Saloon is located on Second and Ash in Portland, Oregon.