December 26, 2013

Bar Guide: Mathew’s is a dive bar with a capital D

Find some of the cheapest happy hour deals at Portland’s 'oldest pub.'

By Claire Jeffers

No one, neither the manager nor the bartender, seems to know for certain why Mathew’s is the “oldest pub in Portland.” But it’s emblazoned right on the sign out front, so to any trusting soul, it must be true. After all, no one else is taking claim.

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The bar seats are mostly filled with regulars, but there’s plenty of other seating throughout the dining area at Mathew’s Pub.

Claire Jeffers photos

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Get $1.50 cans and drafts from 4 to 6 p.m. daily at Mathew’s.

MATHEW’S PUB

WHERE: 133 Free St., Portland

PHONE: 253-1812

WEBSITE: www.facebook.com/pages/Mathews-Pub

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 1 a.m. Sunday

SPECIALS: Happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; after 6 p.m. Busch Ultra and Rolling Rock for $2

AMENITIES: Pool tables, darts, karaoke, occasional live music, ATM inside

PARKING: Street parking

BOTTOM LINE: Mathew’s Pub, advertised as “the oldest pub in Portland,” is as gritty as they come, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pay nearly nothing for beer and even less for a pool table, and Mathew’s is not just the oldest bar in Portland but perhaps the cheapest. If it’s your first time venturing into Mathew’s, bring a friend or two.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: No

True or not, the location has been a watering hole for generations, say some of the regulars. Mathew’s was once “Chip’s” and before that, another name, but no one who was asked could remember.

Mathew’s shares the block with two jewelry boutiques, a chic flower shop, a hip hair salon and the Portland Museum of Art. Needless to say, the bar that allegedly dates back to 1872 sticks out like a sore thumb – as anything that old should.

There’s almost always a crowd at the 25-seat bar and no matter where you sit, you’ll be able to see at least one of the 11 TVs.

Mathew’s has loyal patronage but attracts newcomers with live music shows, karaoke and cheap pool table prices – 75 cents for as long as you want to play.

The bar’s Facebook page, which is updated regularly with music shows, has accrued an impressive 450 followers, all of whom can’t possibly date back to 1872, right?

Happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday boasts $1.50 PBR and Bud cans, $4 well drinks and $1.50 Bud drafts. After 6 p.m., Busch Ultra and Rolling Rock are still just $2.

Food is advertised on the front windows, but no one will be eating anything but peanuts until a new bar manager or cook fires up the kitchen again. (The peanuts can be found in the coin-operated dispenser next to the ATM machine.)

Open as early as 10 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon Sunday, Mathew’s is virtually never closed. On a recent night, caution tape blocked off a section of the sidewalk outside the bar, likely because of falling icicles, but that also wasn’t entirely clear.

If new to Mathew’s, you’ll probably hear a few friendly people say, “have a good night!” as you step to leave.

And maybe that’s Mathew’s secret for surviving all of these years – dirt-cheap beer and a friendly clientele.

Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.

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