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Portland Monthly Senior Editor Bart Blasengame grew up in Arkansas—as he told Eater PDX, “at one time or another, [both he and cook Grant Miller] lived in actual trailer parks”—so don’t call him a hipster imposter hopping on the blue collar trend with his new Southern-style bar in St. Johns. Along with his wife, Marli, her cousin, and fellow southern boy Miller running the kitchen, The Fixin’ To hopes to stay true to the distinct St. Johns character while enticing neighbors from all over Portland to make the trek northward. Mason jars, Frito Pie, picnic tables in the courtyard, even a vintage painting bedecked mantle over the fireplace—it has all the fixins to become a favorite Portland hang out. Liz Hummer, 3/4/10
If you've never visited the South but always wondered what it would feel—and taste—like, just belly up to the bar of Bart and Marli Blasengame's quiet North Portland neighborhood bar. Bart's a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., which explains the framed photos of famous Arkies Johnny Cash and then Governor Bill Clinton. And while you wait for your food and drinks, enjoy the old Stax recordings while gazing at the velvet painting of friend, former partner and fellow Southerner Grant Miller's three-legged German shepherd, Jack. It's casual, welcoming and, after a round or two of St. Johns Sweet Tea (a Southern specialty spiked with triple sec and bourbon), the place feels deliciously lazy. Just make sure to pair those drinks with some Ro-Tel queso dip, which may be the only thing on the menu that isn't truly Southern—but only because the kitchen uses real cheese instead of the traditional Velveeta. Order some on its own with tortilla chips, or ask to have it mixed in with your Frito pie or rot-chos (Ro-Tel nachos), both of which come with beans (black and pinto), chopped tomatoes, scallions and sour cream. But if you really want a taste of the South, ask for the chicken and dumplings. It's hackneyed to say that something tastes just like grandma's, but in this case, it's the truth—and doubly so. The dish is a compromise between Bart and Miller who combined their grannies' recipes to make what The Fixin' To serves today. Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Not sure you'll get away on a summer vacation this year? After your south-of-the-border visit to Autentica, consider the oh-so-exotic Arkansas (seriously), which has found its way to St. Johns at The Fixin' To. The patio's decor is decidedly shabby chic with corrugated tin walls and distressed doors as a backdrop. There are also heat lamps and strings of lights that encourage the raucous fun to last well into the wee hours.
Forecast: Space abounds around the crunchy gravel patio. Picnic tables and continuous wrap-around benches against the walls welcome large parties. But like any good party, you don't want to sit in one place for too long, and you'll have plenty room to move about.
Atmosphere: A perfectly curated hipster-homage to blue-collar living, thanks to owners who actually grew up in the South. Tongue-in-cheek theme nights (Video DJ Thursdays, Soft Rock Saturdays) and a fun-loving crew ensure a really good time.
Advisory: Smoking is permitted. Also, you must order from the bar.
SPF: Something for everyone: covered, shaded or downright sunburn-inducing. At least there's no humidity.
Barometer: PBR tallboys—is there anything else?! Well, The Fixin' To does pair beers with shots and shakes a mean hair of the dog: The Hungover Helper is comprised of vodka, muddled lemons and limes, and Emergen-C with a cranberry float. Once your belly's settled, have some Frito Pie or order up the St. John's Chili Bucket (vegan, veggie or beef chili poured over jalapeño corn pudding).