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Fearless Critic restaurant review
American, Belgian

Mon–Thu 4:00pm–midnight
Fri 4:00pm–1:00am
Sat noon–1:00am
Sun noon–midnight

Features Date-friendly, live music, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx


Northwest Portland
517 NW 21st Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 248-6317
North 45
A friendly, updated pub with a Belgian fetish

“Gastropub” is a word that gets tossed about too freely, and often winds up denoting an uptight, pretentious place with sugary drinks and boring food. What we picture is closer to North 45: the inside is full of dark cherry wood and some stained glass details, with faux marble topping the tables; a tented, heated sidewalk patio full of benches sometimes gets impromptu performances from the chef’s band (but closes at 10pm per a neighborhood ordinance). St. Paddy’s Day is huge here, as is Oktoberfest and any other holiday in which beer drinking is celebrated. It’s just a festive, fun, casual place that cares about pairing food and quality beer. In other words, a real gastropub.

There are only half a dozen taps, mostly for seasonally changing or local brews, and sometimes one for a Belgian guest spot. Most Belgians are in the bottle, but the range is impressive. All five of the Trappist beers currently available in the States are here, as well as Lambics, Sours, Saisons, and Tripels. What’s more, North 45 cares enough to serve these beers in Belgian beer glasses, which have wide enough bowls for aeration. You will have to give up a shoe as collateral, though; these things don’t come cheap.

To pair with these excellent Belgians, there’s a selection of moules frites with globetrotting broths. We most like a small bowl of plump, healthy mussels in a light broth of white wine, garlic, and pancetta. A touch of roasted-shallot sweetness adds depth. Suggested beer pairings on the menu are astute, and frites are seasoned to match the mussels: coconut-lemongrass mussels get curry-dusted frites; Amaretto-cream mussels are paired with Old Bay-seasoned frites; the pancetta-shallot version comes with salted frites with fresh herbs; and so on. These are all pretty pricey for the portion size, but they’re very good.

Other than that, it’s pretty standard upscale bar fare. We normally balk at “Asian” anything on a menu, but these tangy calamari are just fine. A selection of sliders, including petit filet and fried chicken, are good and filling. Happy hour is all night on Monday, after 11pm on Wednesday, and daily from 4–6pm; during these times, most things (but not the mussels) are under $6.

Just as accomplished as the Belgian selection is a cocktail menu with some award-winning talent behind it. Bitters, digestifs, and egg whites are used to gently tweak classic recipes intelligently and carefully. Cheers to that.

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