By Nancy Tannler
4260 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
M – Sat 4 pm – 12 am
Sun: 2 pm – 10 pm
Matt Walker, one of the owners of The Ranger Station, uses his experiences living in the great northwest as a touchstone for the ideals of his gastro-pub on SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Walker first came to Idaho from Maine to go to college and then ended up staying for the lifestyle. He’s piloted whitewater rafting expeditions in Idaho and Montana as well as working for years in Corvallis at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, while running a food cart on the weekends making Westcoast Phillies. He’s seen the bounty, rugged beauty and camaraderie of the northwest and he and his partner, chef Nate Keuneke along with investors Amber Gladieux and Kevin Staley, have made the effort to capture these qualities in a local pub.
Walker met Keuneke in Corvallis through a mutual friend. Keuneke graduated from Western Culinary Institute and had been cooking for high-end restaurants in Portland and Corvallis.
He decided to join Walker at the food cart on the weekends and kept his cooking job in a restaurant. The dream was to leave Fish and Wildlife, the restaurant and the food cart and open a brick and mortar restaurant here in Portland. He knew Amber and Kevin in college. Amber works at The Ranger Station sometimes.
The restaurant’s decor of topo maps, handmade knotty pine tables and bar, and refinished chairs, all done by the owners, give a fresh face to the place. Corner windows bring nice natural light in the afternoon – a complete 360 degrees from the last inhabitant of this corner venue.
“Lots of people have offered to give us paraphernalia that captures the spirit of a ranger station but so far we haven’t received much,” Walker said. “We also don’t want the place to be defined as any one particular type of place.”
The sports television goes on soundlessly behind the bar and a big screen is available to view special Blazer games, but The Ranger Station wouldn’t be described as a sports bar. “We started having music on the weekends and an Open Mic on Wednesdays,” Matt said. They’ve become more selective about who plays because of the size of the space which can’t really accommodate a big sound.”
Featured November musicians are Dan Eagan Sings The Blues – Nov. 8; Habits : Bluegrass Trio – Nov. 14; The Katelyn Convery Trio – Nov. 15 and Yur Daddy – Nov. 21. All performances begin at 9:30 pm.
The polenta fries are a satisfying use of corn, especially when served with the flavorful dipping sauce. Fried Brussels (as in sprouts) with bacon, carmelized onion and a mustard vinagrette is another appetizing dish.
The Ranger Station does an elk burger that is ground with Carlton Farms bacon. Keuneke serves it like this because it adds moisture to the very lean elk meat. Shrimp ‘n’ grits is served with wilted greens and bacon.
“This month we’ll be serving house-cut fries, a different special during the week and we’re rotating the menu now to fit the season,” Walker said.
Their beer selection is all local and, because of the many different breweries in the area, The Station has the option of trying different brands. Some new fall brews are the Lompoc red ale and the Dapper Skelton pumpkin ale by Burnside Brewery. There is also a full bar that offers a variety of each type of alcohol.
The restaurant’s goal is to keep prices reasonable so people can have an evening out and not need to empty their piggy bank. Their Happy Hour from 4 – 7 pm, six days a week–soon to be seven–serves some menu items at a very reasonable rate.
The Ranger Station is a comfortable pub where people can have something healthy to eat, have a drink and enjoy the end of the day alone, with friends or other patrons. This pub puts a new face on the boulevard – comfortable, authentic and local.