Laurelwood Public House

1728 NE 40th

282-0622

Ah, the Laurelwood. That old familiar umbrella holder inside the front door, the chess games for all to use, the kids' play area, the special foamy bathroom soap, the server's denim shirts and khakis, the plentiful number of high chairs, and let me not forget, the Tree Hugger ale. The Laurelwood, hand-crafted for fleece-wearing, kid-bearing Subaru drivers. I mean, just look at the name--Laurelwood (smack between Laurelhurst and Hollywood)--should I have expected anything different?

While the Laurelwood--the name is so catchy I can't stop saying it--is not a chain restaurant, it might as well be. By putting their staff in those assembly-line denim shirt/khakis uniforms it's hard to decipher them from the people working at Applebee's or Red Robin. And the same can be said for the food. A teeny but tasty pile of chicken wings costs $8. Also, $8 for a burger (they craft all sorts of varieties with BBQ sauce, cheddar, apples, curry, bacon), and about $8 for a meatloaf sandwich that, I kid you not, comes out looking exactly like the cover of a Hungry Man dinner, but tastes a little better. If you are a salad-dressing enthusiast, the Laurelwood serves 307 varieties of fusion dressings such as Thai peanut or orange poppy. Expect to wait 10 or 15 minutes for a dining spot at the Laurelwood, and expect to see more kids than you've ever seen in your life, unless of course you've been here before. (While dining at the Laurelwood, I managed to run into the only person I know in Portland who has a kid.)

Oh, the Laurelwood is also a brew pub. Not to keep stereotyping, but I can't help it: This is one of those places where parents, thank God for them, can come and get drunk while their kids can run around acting crazy without anyone caring. This is also a place where Dads can come and have a hearty Tree Hugger ale with a buddy while their wife and kid are out of town. They can also watch the Blazers game.

I know; why so cynical about the Laurelwood? I really can't say, other than this is another one of those generic white people hang-outs that pepper the United States and collectively lower the standards for restaurants everywhere. I mean there should really be no such thing as "upscale bar food." And people should be able to eat with kids at restaurants besides Applebee's, Red Robin, McDonald's and, at long last, the Laurelwood; but I guess that's just the way it is.

I witnessed two younger couples at the Laurelwood. One of the couples had a guy in it who sat sideways with his legs crossed and spouted smugly about his MBA. The other couple sat on the same side of the booth together and looked at bridal magazines.

I don't mean to say the Laurelwood sucks entirely. It serves its purpose. The beer is good and gets you drunk, the customers leave with smiles, and the kids get fed and can beat each other up. All I'm saying is that I might liken a trip to the Laurelwood to listening to the Indigo Girls' song, "Galileo" (you know, "king of night vision, king of insight"), and that song really cheeses me out.