For many years, I bemoaned the absence of a "Blazer Bar" in Portland. Maybe some would say that every bar in Portland is a Blazer bar, yet somehow every venture I made into the streets of PDX to find the Holy Grail of Blazermania Gathering Spots came up just a little short. Every establishment was lacking somehow. You see, in my mind, to take the crown of "Supreme Blazer Bar", you need the following:1. Adequately large size (to accommodate all of my Blazer friends).
2. Decidedly pro-Blazer management and employees
3. To show the Blazer game! (preferably on one giant screen that everybody can see)
These three requirements sound simple, but I went to many locations that fell short in various ways. I won’t name names, but I’m sure everyone has encountered:
- The impartial sports bar. They package up sports that everyone can enjoy. As long as those sports include football. In order to watch the Blazer game, you gotta ask the bartender, and even then it won’t have sound. Any such requests made on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, or Saturdays during football season will fall on deaf ears. If you cheer for the Blazers, you will find you might be the only one watching the game, let alone have a rooting interest.
- Really awesome neighborhood bar. This place shows the Blazer game, and maybe even has Blazer specials, but its called a neighborhood bar for a reason: it only has space for the Blazer fans living within a 50 yard radius.
- Bar that has 200 TVs, none of which you can see very well. The TVs are everywhere: in the bathroom, right above your head, behind you…. everywhere except where you can see them when you are in your seat. This issue is compounded if they play two separate, out of synch, broadcasts of the same Blazer game. "Why are those people over there cheering?"….. *Batum hits alley-oop at buzzer* ... "Oh there! I see it now! Yeah!"
- On Deck. COOL! Look at that patio! Let’s get some lemonade and a tan! Oh wait…. I promised not to name names, didn’t I? On Deck: I like you, but not because you’re a sports bar.
Basically, I want the "Supreme Blazer Bar" to be like the Rose Garden. I want to feel the energy and camaraderie of fellow Blazer fans. I want a single point of Blazer action that everyone can rally around. I want to know that the game won’t get preempted by Wimbledon. Imagine my delight at discovering the establishment that took the space of the ill-fated (maybe ill-conceived?) American Cowgirls on MLK.
Spirit of 77, how I do I love thee? Let me count (or at least list) the ways:
I love the name. It’s very Blazer-centric, without being cliché or in danger of copyright infringement. Even more, the meaning goes beyond just the Blazers to encapsulate the city’s pride and passion.
The layout is KILLER. It has a giant screen in one really big room, with space for plenty of people to gather in the middle. Even more, all the seats are oriented to face that screen.
The little touches continually surprise me. From the random bits of Blazer memorabilia scattered throughout the place (Rasheed Wallace lunch box, anyone?) to the "Both Teams Played Hard" quote printed on my receipt, there’s plenty to please everyone.
Free pop-a-shot. I mean…. what else can I say?
The menu is eclectic and weird, but in a good way. I was initially inclined to wonder "what kind of sports bar doesn’t offer a burger and fries?" and "What kind of bar (in Portland) doesn’t have Deschutes or Widmer on tap?" Let me just say that every dish I’ve tried is unusual, if not bizarre, but very delicious (the patty melt is mind-numbingly good), and that the beer list is filled with oddities but never disappointing.
Spirit of 77 also doesn’t serve PBR, which may be good or bad depending on who you ask. The bartender did offer up something called "Old German" as an alternative to PBR. What I will relay is that it comes in a can, has an elf (a goblin?) on the label, and if PBR is really your thing, it will probably suffice.
The location is near the actual Rose Garden, so if you’re looking to cool yourself off after a hard fought victory, you need only walk. This means it’s also right near the MAX.
Really, the only word of caution I have is that it is a little on the spendy side, and that there’s no free parking. These are also beefs I have with the Rose Garden, so I guess be careful what you wish for. $6 for an imperial (20 oz) pint of hard-to-find microbrew isn’t insane, but you could go to lots of neighborhood places with game time specials and end up spending a fair bit less. Personally, I consider it a well deserved premium for a top-quality Blazer game experience and 20 rounds of free pop-a-shot. Overall, this is a place that got it right, and I happily give them "Supreme Blazer Bar" status in my book.