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Monday, January 08, 2007
The Chapel Pub
When I first heard that McMenamins was planning to convert a north Portland mortuary into both a brewpub and their company headquarters, my first thought was "neat." The "neat" was followed by "woah, it will probably be haunted" and, finally, "maybe this is a bad idea." After all, isn't it a little bit crass to turn a place of mourning into a place of getting liquored up? What would be the next step in McMenamins ongoing quest to convert every Portland building over 50 years old into pub? A mausoleum? An abortion clinic?
While the Chapel Pub may seem like a cold hearted idea on paper, the concept makes sense once you actually set foot inside. The new owners have remodeled the building with loving care. Much like other links in the empire's chain, the pub is littered with tributes to its past. Instead of ignoring the place's history, McMenamins has embraced it.
While they've hardly stuck the bar in the old embalming room, murals of former owners, luminaries and events cover the walls. The restaurant itself is housed in the main chapel with the stained glass windows still in place. I figured the pub would be cold and creepy but it's actually warm and inviting. Against all the odds and, much like the Bijou Art Cinemas, a former mortuary turned movie theater in Eugene, it all somehow works.
And the menu isn't half bad either. There are a few dishes at the Chapel Pub that I haven't seen at other McMenamins hubs. In addition to the usual array of burgers and sandwiches, there's several Cajun dishes. During a recent visit, I gave the spicy mac n' cheese with chicken a shot. It was pretty hearty and a step up from yet another Captain Neon Burger.
While McMenamins pulled off a small miracle with the Chapel Pub, despite its history, they should probably hold off on buying any real estate up at Riverview Cemetery.