February 24, 2017 by Cody
A new establishment has popped up in the last year featuring the essential spirit of Portland grub spots – simple pub fare with an emphasis on good beer. Mash Tun, the brainchild of Ricky Binet (also minority partner in King’s Head), is a little, yet well to do hole in the wall located on trendy Wharf Street. Unlike their neighbors though, Mash Tun sheds any trendy music and do it yourself beer taps, in favor of it’s unabashed love affair for beer.
I walked in to this establishment on a late Saturday afternoon where there were already several folks enjoying some lunch and brews. The whole place is nothing but bar, with just enough room to navigate past bar stools to the picnic tables in the back (if you’re lucky). This place is built for beer, with a small, short order kitchen station adjoining the bar. Cocktails adorn the wall behind the bar, and the far wall to the back of the joint, is nothing but beer options.
I take a seat at the bar, to which the bartender notices right away, and asks if I’ve ever been there before. I respond to his inquiry in the negative, which sends the man into his run down. “Lunch menu behind you, cocktails behind me, and beer on the back wall with the local stuff underlined,” he says. Mash Tun is run as economically and efficiently as possible, to the point where each patron’s tab was kept running on a ticket order sheet tucked in front of us under stacks of coasters. None of this was bothersome or cheap, just efficient.
After scanning the beer wall, I ordered an Austin Street Patina Ale, and the chicken sandwich on ciabatta with an order of parmesan fries for lunch. I was hesitant to order the chicken sandwich, as I feel like most establishments focus on trying to perfect their hamburger, and leave the chicken sandwich by the wayside to rot with the veggie option, but I decided to take a chance. I received my Patina and waited for my lunch, patiently listening in on various bar conversations (isn’t that the best?).
It didn’t take long for lunch to arrive. The sandwich was more than ample in size, with a healthy portion of fries with actual grated parmesan cheese over the top. I dove into the fries, which were tasty, but I am not entirely sure that the parmesan made a real impact on the flavorful fried potato. The chicken sandwich on the other hand, was a revelation. Containing what seemed to be pickled onions (I didn’t open up to check), over incredibly well seasoned chunks of chicken. I have had average to bad chicken sandwiches so often, that my mind had to do a double take on this experience, so my first bite was quickly followed by a second for confirmation. And of course, both sandwich and fries went well with the Patina, which is a very well balanced IPA, that goes very well with most food, particularly with chicken.
I quickly sipped through my Patina, and followed that up with a tall glass of classic Paulaner pilsner, whose logo is curiously well represented all over the taps. Yes, it is the season for dark ales, but a huge glass of German lager goes so well with chicken and fries.
This was a great lunch experience, adding to the many previously available in the downtown area. I look forward to returning here with some friends, and then maybe watching co-eds drunkenly trip on the cobblestones as they leave 51 Wharf!