Bart Blasengame, Portland Monthly senior editor and, also, writer for everywhere from Details--where he profiled J.R. Rotem (remember that particular Brit-episode?), Ben Affleck, and a post-Screech Dustin Diamond--to Nerve, and Seattle, has just diversified his employment portfolio and, along with his wife Marli and pal Megan Wentworth and cook Grant Miller, opened a St. Johns bar called The Fixin' To. Turning the tables on an interviewer, Eater asked Blasengame to describe the bar, the process, and the why. For whatever reason, he agreed. Yesterday was the first round. Today is the second.
There’s definitely this purity test you’re sometimes subjected to when you lay stakes in St. Johns. Some of the older bars here have a bit of a shady history (serving underage, drugs, brawls) so we had to jump through some hopes and smooch a few rings on our way in to prove we weren’t like that. Not having video poker was a great start. There’s been a few people who openly tell us they don’t want us here. We even had one guy call us out as “outsiders” because we accidentally put an apostrophe (like St. John’s) on one of the drinks on our menu. But the vast majority appreciate what we’re trying to do. It’s a cliquish little community but that’s part of the appeal, I guess. It’s the last of the old school Portland neighborhoods, a very blue-collar crew (like us) that because of its distance from the heart of the city has maintained its identity far longer than other hoods. We want to respect that.
Some people don’t believe we’re true Southerners. We are.
I’m from Arkansas. Our cook, Grant Miller, is from Tennessee. Both of us have, at one time or another, lived in actual trailer parks.
St. Johns deserves something nice, something in between the down-and-out glory of The Wishing Well and the kid-friendly panache of the McMenamins cinema pub. Maybe I’m just light-headed from lack of sleep, but with Leisure, the revamped Slims, and now The Fixin’ To all within a few blocks of each other, I really think St. Johns is working itself into a place where people will want to come and spend a weekend night. Dare I say...hip? I’m not sure if the people here are okay with it becoming this “cool” neighborhood, and maybe considering the distance from the more populace parts of Portland it will never truly happen...but maybe they’d settle for it being Portland’s best kept secret.
· Newbie Bar Owner Bart Blasengame Talks Bars, Owning, Self [EaterPDX]
· The Fixin' To [Official Site]
· The Fixin' To Blog [Official Site]