On January 18, The Bitter End quietly reopened its doors, unveiling the fruits of an extensive six-month renovation.
Located directly across from Jeld-Wen Field on W Burnside, the dive has served as the go-to watering hole for thirsty soccer fans since the early days of the Timbers Army. (Indeed, the Bitter End is where the now-ubiquitous “No Pity” scarf was first sketched on a napkin in 2002.) But since shuttering in March 2013, the bar has abandoned its cheap tallboy past, courtesy of new owners, a floor-to-ceiling remodel, and a brand-new vision.
The Bitter End
1981 W Burnside St.
Gone are the dust-filled fish tank above the bar, the pool tables, and ancient booths. In fact, except for the dirt-blackened hardwood floors (which have been restored to a shiny golden luster) almost everything inside has been replaced. Surfaces are covered in gleaming pine, metal, dark paints, or HDTVs, while the tall, uncovered windows admit a healthy dose of natural light, something not previously known to Bitter End patrons.
“It had a lot of charm to it under the dust,” says co-owner and chef Dwayne Beliakoff. “We just went back to the brick walls and cool floors.”
Beliakoff brings something else the Bitter End has never had: culinary seriousness. A veteran of Bruce Carey’s Blue Hour and Saucebox, he is the former owner of North Portland's now-shuttered French creole joint Roux. The new menu is eclectic but uncomplicated with an emphasis on big portions. Entrees range from “monster-sized” burgers to salads and Korean short ribs.
(On my two visits, drinking snacks provided the only sustenance: oysters from the raw bar—rather small but tasty—and addictive salt and vinegar chicken wings, which my companions eagerly helped share.)
The Bitter End originally opened in 2001, the bar has opened and closed multiple times, but always pulling a large crowd of Timbers fans from across the street.
“The place had a very loyal following on game days,” says Beliakoff. “But the tumble weeds were rolling in on every other day.”
So in November 2012, the building’s owner approached Beliakoff and his partners to transform the corner spot into a neighborhood hub for Goose Hollow's and Northwest's growing population—one less beholden to the irregularity of the soccer season. Still, Beliakoff and his partners kept the name The Bitter End (a decision that Beliakoff says took a long time) signalling their desire to connect with the bar's soccer history.
“We will still be a Timbers bar,” says Beliakoff. “But our goal is to make it a neighborhood bar with a sports slant.”
The Bitter End officially opens this Sunday, February 2.