Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

Portland Tips Part 2: Eating

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Last time I gave you all sorts of tips on how to get to Portland, and get around the place once there. What next? You should eat. I’m quite fond of food, myself. I eat it most every day. You’re likely the same, and Portland has lots of food to cram in your nutrient intake orifice of choice. So gander below, at places I’ve been that apply heat to deceased flora and fauna, then put it on a dish for you.

Note: I might have missed your favourite place, but that’s just because I haven’t eaten there yet. Leave me a tip in the comments and I’ll visit said place, then pan it in a future review.

Map: If you’re getting lost, here’s a handy dandy map I put together. It’s swell.

Restaurants – Food carts – Around

Food cart pods are ubiquitous downtown and offer cheap eats in a variety of cuisines and qualities. Generally the food is pretty good, though, and definitely has a leg up vs Vancouver and our tiny-but-growing fleet of mobile carts. Check online frequently for the hot, new, shit.

Outside of downtown, the carts form mini pods on vacant lots, circled like covered wagons in the old west. Strings of fairy lights and lanterns provide illumination, bands often play, and usually one or two of the carts is selling beer and/or wine. It’s basically heaven, or a BC LCLB Inspector’s worst nightmare (amazing how those two things are usually the same). Again, these pods change and shift frequently, so keep an ear to the e-ground. Definitely take the time to track them down, though, as this is the quintessential Portland experience.

Pictured: a thing that actually happens in Portland.

Restaurants (Brunch) – Kenny and Zukes – 1038 SW Stark

Do you want pastrami? No, I mean, do you REALLY WANT pastrami? If you screamed Yes at the top of your lungs, go to Kenny and Zukes where something huge awaits you: the line to get in. At the end of that line, though, is a pastrami sandwich the size of your head. It’s pretty tasty, too, as is the kosher pickle you get with it.

Restaurants (Brunch) – Mothers – 212 SW Stark

In a season 2 episode of Portlandia, a group of locals wait in line for brunch so long that they develop their own rituals, customs and society. I would bet that the inspiration for this episode is the outside of Mother’s Bistro on Saturday morning. The food is fantastic but, is it worth the wait? You have to try it once (hint: I have not been back). They do accept reservations, but with quite a few hoops to jump through before one is granted.

Restaurants (Wings) – Fire on the Mountain – 708 E Burnside

FotM is a somewhat legendary Portland institution, and that reputation is well deserved. The secret is truly in the sauce here, as the wings themselves, while pretty good, are not best-in-class. The hot wings I had on my first visit were neither the hottest wings, nor the best wings-in-general I’ve ever had, but they definitely were the best hot wings I’ve chowed down on, specifically. Lots of heat and flavour options, coupled with a rather decent lineup of custom-brewed craft beer, makes a happy Chuck.

Restaurants (Dinner) – Pok Pok – 3226 SE Division

Okay, let’s get this out of the way: the wait times are absurd. Downright shocking. On my most recent visit I was quoted 2.5 hours, and they don’t take reservations, to boot. However, unlike the pool of suckers slowly growing outside Pok Pok’s SE Division address, I simply marched across the street to the associated Whiskey Soda Lounge and instantly scored a patio seat.

WSL will let you know when your time comes at Pok Pok and, in the meantime, you can enjoy a variety of cocktails, beers, wines and even most of the appetizer menu from Pok Pok. Do yourself a favour and start dinner early.

Is it worth the wait? Unlike Mother’s, I go back every single time I go to Portland. I was also dropped on my head a lot as a child, so it remains unclear what weight this endorsement holds.

The wings at Pok Pok/WSL. I have unnatural feelings towards this dish.

Restaurants (Dinner) – Luc Lac – 835 SW 2n

Luc Lac is NOT amazing food. It’s simply pretty decent Viet grub, even though the Pho is quite bland. What Luc Lac IS, though, is a fun twist on what you expect a restaurant to be, and one of those “so cheap you leave smiling” Portland experiences that are harder and harder to find. They keep prices down by keeping the seats full: order when you walk in, get a table given to you as your food becomes ready, and walk out the second you’re done, because you’ve already paid.

Go for Happy Hour between 4 and 7pm, and you’ll find a menu of pretty decent $2 and $3 food items. You can leave stuffed to the gills with perfectly okay Viet food for sub $10 and, remember: no tax.

Restaurants (Dinner) – Little Bird – 215 SW 6th

For something a bit higher end and definitely more French-ish, Little Bird is a must-try. Reservations fill up early, so plan your visit a few weeks out. Prices are a bit higher than perhaps we’re used to in Vancouver, with entrées generally being in the mid-to-high 20s USD (32-40ish CDN), but sometimes you just can’t wait until you’re back in Lotustown for your next fix of Foie Gras or Duck Confit.

Restaurants (Dinner) – Deschutes Brew Pub – 210 NW 11th Ave

I’ll keep the rest of the breweries, brewpubs and bars in a different post, but Deschutes goes here. Why? It’s not a bar. It’s a family friendly restaurant in a big-budget room. It is definitely not a bar (although the bar half feels bar-ish, it’s not enough to get over the vibrating reservation discs and queue of strollers out front). Couple that with overtly cheery, prompt service-with-smile and a room crammed full of over 200 patrons and I have to hate it, right? Wrong. I **want** to hate this place. I really do. It’s Disney’s version of a BrewPub. However, the food is very good, the beers are excellent, and the price is downright cheap. Oh, how easily I sell out my standards.

Look at you, you have a baby… in a bar.

Okay, that’s enough for this post. Next time: Bars and Bottle Shops. I might even do Breweries then, as well, but I think those guys might just get their own post.

Written by chuck

August 21st, 2015 at 10:54 am

Giant Glasses and Tiny Beers

with 6 comments

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the chronic short-pouring that occurs in the Vancouver bar scene. From CAMRA Vancouver‘s rather public Twitter shaming of craft beer bars to the Vancouver Sun‘s (slightly) more scientific survey of a variety of pubs, craft or not.

The results? Yes, pubs are short pouring and yes, it’s a widespread issue. When you consider the absolute, letter of the law on the matter, ordering 20oz of beer must net you a glass that contains no less than 19.5oz of actual liquid beer. Given appropriate head levels for properly poured beer, that basically means that it’s not possible to fulfil a beer order in the same sized glass as the volume of beer advertised (aka 20oz of beer cannot be properly served in a 20oz glass).

However, having said all that, I think this whole glass-vs-pour size thing is a distraction. Most bars are not short pouring to increase profits, but rather incidentally are short pouring due to a variety of other factors: common industry practice, competitive pressure around advertised size, etc.

Yes, it’s not legal and yes, pubs should all get on board but, deep down, most pubs weren’t truly aiming to rip the consumer off.


Well, any more than usual.

Say you run a pub. Say a keg costs you $200 to buy and holds 120 14.5oz pours of beer. Now say you want to make a (perfectly reasonable) 150% gross profit on that beer, before expenses. You’ll sell that 14.5oz of beer for ~$4.25. Hey, running a bar ain’t cheap.

Slide over to the pub next door, and they’re selling a real pour of 16oz, but still paying $200 to get that same keg. Only now it holds 110 pours because they’re actually serving 16oz of beer. In order to stay open, though, the gross margin still needs to be 150%, so they sell that sleeve for ~$4.50.

A third pub, for whatever reason, sells their 16oz real pour for $5.00. Maybe they have a view. Maybe they’re all fancy-like and clean their glassware between uses. Who knows. The result is ~175% gross margin, but the short pour level of 0% shows that they’re not cheating you, they’re just expensive.

However, go to the next pub down the line and the real motivation in advertising a larger pour is to gouge the clients. In this case, that 14.5oz pour is listed as “16oz” on the menu and priced at the same $4.50 as the real 16oz down the street. Bam, that’s 170% of gross profit, and that combination of short pour and high profit margin becomes a tell.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know where I’m going with this. If I had a list of short pour levels plus price levels for a variety of pubs I could then find the ones that are actually ripping off clients. So, I took the Vancouver Sun’s reported pint pour sizes, pint prices, and researched the raw cost for the beers they’re serving. I then applied the magic that is mathematics to see if the short pouring bars split out into two groups: those that short pour without profit increases in mind and those that do.

The result? Yup, they do. The folks that short pour for reasons other than deceiving their clients have almost no correlation between short pour levels and profit. However, a different group emerges from the numbers; a group that has quite a strong correlation between the level of short pour and profit. Strip out the bars with zero correlation between pour size and profit and you get this graph of short pour percentage vs profit margin.


y = 0.1x for those following along at home

Basically, the trend is that for every 10% of a short pour (e.g. 18oz instead of 20oz) these bars’ profits go up 100%. That guy on the top? Shortpouring 30% for over 300% gross profit margin. Note that there were other bars with 300% margin. However they were selling you what they advertised and, as such, I don’t consider them dishonest, just expensive. All told, though, just under 50% of the bars surveyed by the Sun wound up fitting the trend line very nicely.

Next up, I took it a step farther. If there’s an entire sub-section of the pub industry dedicated to ripping off clients via short pours, wouldn’t it reason to follow that there’s a support industry out there? I mean, they’re not simply selling you 14oz in a 20oz glass and hoping you won’t notice. Nor are they placing a 14oz glass in front of you and banking on you shutting up and taking it. Nope, they’re using deliberately misleading glassware.

On the top is the standard “shaker vs sleeve” debate. One of those glasses holds 16oz while the other holds 14.5oz. You can tell the difference by looking at the bottom. This, plus a 16oz sleeve being delivered when a pint is ordered, is what you’re most likely to run into in the wild.

The bottom, though, is a singular piece of mastery. Meet the Anchor Hocking 1170U. This monster of a glass is praised for its large size, its heavy weight in the hand and, above all, its ability to help with both “portion control” and “profits.”

Oh, you thought they’d call it “helps you rip off customers?” Nope. When you’re dishonest, you need a euphemism to hide behind, and the dishonest pub has latched onto “portion control.” That monster glass? It holds 10oz. 10 freaking ounces. In a glass you could knock out a horse with. Those divots on the bottom deliberately hide the fact that the bottom inch of this sucker is pure glass. Those sharp angles likewise conceal just how thick the glass is on the side. There is only one possible reason to make a glass in this fashion, and it’s not about being fair.

Don’t worry about being limited to 10oz, though; they almost make virtually identical glassware in 16oz, 14oz, and 12oz. Same height, width, style, and weight (when full of beer). They don’t specifically say so, but these glasses are basically designed to enable slowly lowering pour size as your patrons get drunker so as to maximize profits/fraud.

Forget the glass vs pour size debate. Education will solve that on all sides. It’s these bastards we need to go after.

Written by chuck

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

Glass Size vs Pour Size

with 25 comments

There was a whole flurry of keyboard-warrioring going on this weekend over a recent CAMRA effort to raise the issue of endemic under pours in the local craft beer pub scene. Like their style or not (and I did not like their style) they at least got us talking about it.

One thing that immediately became clear from the discussion is that there’s plenty of confusion out there regarding what, exactly, is meant by the phrase “16oz of beer.” It might seem trivial upon initial inspection, but two camps quickly emerged: those that feel 16oz is the beer alone (head is extra) and those that feel 16oz is the amount of beer–including head–that fits in a 16oz glass.

There’s no official line on this matter, either. The LCLB Policy Manual helpfully suggests that “quantities” must be displayed as part of a price list, but never clarifies what a certain quantity of beer actually is. Thus, we must infer from the policy. The point of listing quantities is to allow patrons to appropriately gauge their consumption (although curiously listing ABV is not required). It would reason, then, that the LCLB intent is to specify the volume of the liquid itself excluding head, since head contains very little alcohol.


Although some heads have more alcohol than others

UPDATE: Measurements Canada has since explicitly confirmed that stated volume for beer sales does not include head. No ifs, ands or buts.

With that out of the way, we can talk about making it all better. Clearly all we have to do is get out the ladder, climb up to the chalk board, cross out the “16oz” before “Fat Tug, $5.00” and then write in “~14oz” right? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Sure, everyone reading this would see that, congratulate the bar on upping their standards, and then order a properly poured ~14oz drink and tip big. Other folks, especially those not vested too heavily in craft beer, will see the now-lower “14oz” size next to the just-the-same $5.00 price and say “What the bloody fuckin’ ‘ell?!” (Everyone has a cockney accent in my examples).

That person would likely then walk out the door and into a pub that’s still selling their 16oz (glass) of Fat Tug for the old price of $5.00, despite the fact both pubs are serving him the exact same amount of the exact same beer in the same glass, and charging the same price for it. Only now he’s very mad at one of them.

Basically the logic is “we can’t afford to be honest because then the dishonest folk would profit at our expense, so we’ll just be dishonest too” or more frequently stated “it’s common industry practise.” Sure, it’s common, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Bar owners either know full well that they’re playing fast and loose with serving sizes, or they manage to convince themselves that “16oz” actually means glass size, and everyone should know and accept that. Sorry guys, as a beer consumer, and a regular reader of that epic tome, the Licensing Policy Manual, that dog don’t hunt.


What? It’s in the glass you ordered!

Sure, there are other options. The bar could buy 18oz glasses, and actually pour the client 16oz of beer. Of course, this has two added expenses: the new glassware plus the extra 2oz of beer the client is now getting for that same $5.00. Your rep is saved, but your profits are down. As a business that’s no good.

Can’t raise the price of that 18oz glass/16oz pour of beer either, since that just puts you right back in the scenario of directly competing with the dishonest places down the street, only this time the size stayed the same on the board but the price went up.

So that’s the corner we’ve painted ourselves into. The bars have been short pouring people for so long that it just seems like the only way to do business, and giving the competition any slight advantage in terms of perceived value just isn’t palatable.

What do we do? There’s no easy solution. I’ve thought on this long and hard, and I don’t see a way around ripping off this band-aid. We have to go cold turkey and give up the addictive profits of short pours. The pubs should pull out the ladder and change their pour sizes. They should also post a sign explaining what’s happening, and what’s happening down the street.


To be honest, I’m pretty curious about what’s happening down the street, too.

Consumers are smarter than you give them credit for; they’ll figure it out. Yes, it brings up the awkward conversation around honest vs dishonest prices and which of those you were charging before, but it lets you frame that discussion and prepare your staff for it. Best do it now while you have control.

Either you lead the charge, or slowly, folks will start to wander into your pub, look at your board and ask “is that pour size or glass size?” Trust me: you don’t want to be honest because your clients figured out you were lying, and demand it of you.

In the long run, move away from the “~14oz” pour and into actual marked glasses. These are more expensive, but when you hear people talking about places with marked pours you hear phrases like “fancy as shoot” and not “what’s with these weird markings?” (Okay, some of the people in my examples are actually near-illiterates from Alabama). Fill lines remove all doubt about what’s in your glass and allow your patrons to ask other bars why they, in turn, don’t have fill lines.

Make no mistake, moving in this direction won’t be easy, but I also suspect it won’t be as hard as bar owners fear. In the long run, it’s simply the right thing to do. Might as well get a head start.

Written by chuck

July 7th, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

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