WE ALL KNOW that bar on SE 52nd and Foster—the one that looks like a Spanish hacienda, out of place on a busy corner at the edge of Felony Flats. But who knew one of Portland's beloved dive bars had such an illustrious history?
The restaurant was built in 1934 as the flagship and headquarters of Siberrian Inc.—a chain of ice cream parlors and fountain lunch/burger spots owned by Portlander Simon Berry, who operated franchises throughout the Northwest, five of which were in Portland. In addition to helping found the Oregon Restaurant Association, Berry invented the machine that made "Siberrian Frozen Cream," a precursor to soft-serve.
The building changed to Allegretto's Il Trovatore Italian Restaurant in the mid-1940s when Oregonian mail clerk Eugene Allegretto bought the place. Allegretto died in 1978, and it was reborn as the Trap a year or so later, functioning as a somewhat reputable steakhouse with live music through the 1980s. It is uncertain when it transformed from a neighborhood nightclub into the beloved shithole it is today, but the Trap's white stucco exterior and terrazzo tile roof have not changed in the building's 80-plus years.
If you happen to be in need of relief from this morning's hangover, you're in luck: The Trap's dark atmosphere is kind on a pounding headache, their cheap breakfast specials capably line the belly, and their serviceable Bloody Marys go down as easy as whatever got you in trouble in the first place. The Trap has been the same Foster-Powell institution for decades, regardless of how many food carts and hipsters move into the neighborhood. In fact, god help you if you try to get a drink if you're under the age 50. This place is just shitty enough to scare the cool kids away, which is almost a point of pride. That's all part of the Trap's charm, though: It's regulars or GTFO. The Trap offers a rare glimpse into the Portland that began its decline into bland homogenization in the late 1990s; it's Old Portland's death rattle incarnate.
And hey, they have bingo on Tuesday nights! They occasionally honor a "Customer of the Day"! Friday is karaoke night and you KNOW someone is gonna sing "Hotel California" more than a little off-key! The place stands as a monument to everything that is right about a dive bar. You may not find house-infused vodkas or small-batch bitters at the Trap, but you will find cold PBR tallboys, barbarically strong well drinks, and the salt-of-the-earth folks that consume them.