Lutz Tavern is truly a blue-collar bar for the ages!
If you are lucky enough to be out and about in Southeast Portland on a rainy day in the fall you are likely to find yourself walking among maple trees, sweet gums, and birches that have transformed themselves from monochromatic green blobs into glowing pillars of scarlet, orange, and yellow flames. And if you find yourself in need of some comfort food or simply a pint of good ale and shot to ward off the chill of a typical Portland fall afternoon, make your way to the Lutz Tavern located in the heart of Woodstock.
Lutz Tavern, which was first opened by the Lutz family in 1947, is an authentic Eastside Portland landmark. A prototypical blue-collar bar in its day, Lutz Tavern was a favorite of the city’s concrete workers and other city crews. Over time it also became a popular haunt for students from Reed College located a mile or so to the west down Woodstock Boulevard. Look for the old school neon sign above the door and then be ready for a little time travel as you enter. The dimly lit interior is divided down the middle with a row of booths on your left and the well-stocked bar lined with silver bar stools topped with dark red leather cushions stretching the length of the room on your right. If you are not quite ready to completely forsake daylight in your quest for an hour or so of tavern life, or if you simply feel better mixing in a little rain with your drinking, you can sit near the large windows that make up the front of the bar.
The walls of Lutz Tavern are decorated with a cornucopia of vintage beer signs and odd paintings including a large red-hued portrait of actor Jackie Gleason. The air of old school is enhanced by the presence of several pin ball machines and a small pool table with red felt. One touch of modernity that feels a bit out of place is the digital jukebox mounted on the wall to the left of the bar. Alas, in 2022 no happy luddite dream is completely safe from the long arm of technology! Ironically one song that was set for several repeats by another customer was a techno track called Stepping Into Tomorrow!
On the late afternoon I visited Lutz Tavern it was raining steadily in the normal Portland fashion. I was with a close friend who had just arrived from California, and I was excited to share this old Portland Gem with him. As we settled into our booth, we were glad for the warmth and closeness of the space. We began with identical orders of Rosenstadt Brewing’s Festbier, a rich amber ale brewed in the German style right here in Portland, and a shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Once our cockles were sufficiently warmed by the whiskey and some cheery conversation we turned our attention to the menu. While featuring standard pub fare, Lutz Tavern prides itself on generous portions always made fresh to order and brought to the table piping hot. I chose the Rueben sandwich, and my friend chose the Lutz Corn Dog. Both of these came with French fries.
The Rueben, served on thick slabs of toasted of marbled rye, was loaded with flaky corned beef ensconced in layers of molten Swiss Cheese, onions, and a not-too-sweet sauce.
Like every good Rueben it was more than a meal’s worth and half of this one founds its way home to be enjoyed the next day. The corn dog, made with local hot dogs and a house-made cornbread batter, was almost impossible to stop eating, even after our stomachs told us it was time to kill the motor and take a few breaths.
The Lutz Tavern is a neighborhood bar, plain and simple. It doesn’t try to be anything that it is not, but it is very good at being exactly what it sets out to be; a place where folks from the neighborhood can meet after work, be greeted with a smile and an earnest hello, and be served cold beer and hot food while basking in the warm red glow of a true blue-collar bar.