If you’ve been paying attention to this column, you may have noticed that the over 21 and under 21 options have some sort of connection each time. The first two were glass-front, hole-in-the-wall establishments. The second two were both arcades. This week’s establishments have a literal physical connection.
We’ll start with the under 21 option because Old Town Pizza is turning 40 on April 15. Old Town Pizza is located at 226 NW Davis St. This is an all-ages establishment with a unique Portland flare. When you order, you receive a playing card you take with you. The pizza arrives wherever that card sits.
You order at an open counter for pizza or whatever other food options you wish to go with. Then you are directed to the bar for drink orders. While those underage can order soda, espressos and other coffee drinks, for those of age, it is a full bar. The two floors hold several rooms, including one of the coolest decorated bathrooms in Portland.
The furnishing is hodgepodge and ranges from antique to just old. At one table between the door and the pizza counter, there are flyers and menus. One flyer explains the story of how the restaurant is haunted. Another tells the story of Portland’s underground city.
A short note for those of age is a drink called “the magic.” It’s a stout and an espresso, and you pour the espresso in yourself. There’s also a cold coffee infused beer, making this a nice starting point for people of all ages who wish to explore new beverages.
Around the turn of the 19th century, before it was a pizza place, this building was a brothel. Sometimes it was a beginning point for unfortunate men who were sold to ship captains as unwilling workers. This practice was called “Shanghaiing,” because most of the victims ended up in Shanghai, China at least according to legend.
This is the literal connection to the Shanghai Tunnel, an underground bar in a location that at one time was the holding point for these unfortunate men. Though you can get tours of the tunnels, they’re mostly sealed off.
The Shanghai Tunnel, located at 211 SW Ankeny St., can be easily missed. It is on the corner surrounded by other popular Portland watering holes, near a street that has been turned into a sitting area. It is also near Voodoo Doughnuts.
There are a couple of chairs roped off from other restaurants, with an open door leading to a very small bar in a narrow room. The room leads to two bathrooms and an open doorway containing a stairwell. Walk down the stairwell, turn and walk down a second stairwell, and you’ll be standing in front of where the food comes out. The room opens up before you, containing a bar, video poker machines, several tables, pinball and a pool table.
This underground bar converted from part of Portland’s shady past is a nice starting off point, since it is centrally located surrounded by Portland mainstays.