Yesterday evening I went to the Ranger Station PDX in the Hawthorne District of Portland, and I found it to be a hipster dive bar, with a great deal of pluses and minuses and a mixed to negative overall impression. The only reason I had gone there was for a Geeks Who Drink competition set up by someone else in my local congregation, and the two of us were joined (albeit somewhat belatedly) by another member of our congregation and his girlfriend, which made for an enjoyable evening, if a somewhat late one. In all fairness to the particular venue, the Ranger Station’s initial difficulty was its location. Located near the intersection of Hawthorne and Cesar Chavez, this restaurant, through no fault of its own, is far from the West side, and traffic is “soul-killing,” as one of my friends noted. The combination of horrific traffic to get there and the fact that one must find street parking when one finally arrives tends not to put people in a good mood starting off.
Aside from issues of Portland’s dodgy traffic and parking infrastructure, there are some issues regarding the restaurant itself. As I mentioned earlier, this is a hipster dive bar, and that has both positive and negative elements. On the positive side, this is one of the cleaner dive bars I have been in, and it is organized with a cozy stage on the side of the bar facing Hawthorne, less than a dozen tables and booths between the inside and the outside, and a small but reasonably well-stocked bar. The restrooms are located in a corridor that the restaurant shares with neighboring establishments, and here too there is a somewhat irksome hipster sensibility, with two unisex restrooms that encourage awkward interactions in the hallway while one is waiting to empty one’s bladder. Whether or not someone considers these elements to be charming or irritating depends in large part on one’s perspective. As for me, I could see elements of both, being by no means bothered by quirky local restaurants but also enjoying the larger size that is often enjoyed in chain restaurants .
The general smallness and hipster quality of the layout and location of the restaurant was also in evidence when it came to the menu. Dietary concerns eliminated a huge portion of the menu for me, leaving only a few options available. I ended up choosing some Idaho trout with cole slaw and a side salad with the house vinaigrette instead of fries, a sprite, and a little bucket of popcorn with brown sugar and butter on top. The resulting dish, by no means filling, cost me $20 not including the tip. Other members of my party enjoyed the cocktails–none of which were to my tastes–and the lovebirds of our party shared a couple of overpriced but tasty-looking venison sliders. Given the price of the food, one would expect double or triple the amount of food, but it appears that the Ranger Station is devoted to smallness, which would make sense given that there was only one person working on staff the whole time I was there, taking the orders at the bar, delivering them to tables, and then busing afterward. To be sure, Ranger Station is not a horrible place, and it is far from the worst place I have ever gone to eat, but this is not likely to be a place I decide to visit again unless I want to pay for a dinner with my winnings from the trivia competition. It could happen. On the other hand, I will happily look for another venue, one that does not require heinous traffic, in order to reprise the Geeks Who Drink experience.
 See, for example: