“I came to J’ s to get pissed and get laid” said a typical J’s patron sharing his intentions in a not-so-quiet voice approximately three minutes after stating “You can’t get laid at J’s.” In between, he tried to pick up the woman sitting next to him, happily giving out his number to her. He was among the more well behaved of the typical crowd on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the only seats available were at the bar.
J’s has the distinction of being one of the finest dives in Portland – a place where moderately low class and culinary arts class intersect to make a burping, bubbling cauldron of absolute awesome that is as entertaining as it is delicious. Everything about the restaurant says “party like is 1983 and feel free to drink like it’s the prohibition.” From the not-all-that-refined wait staff to the outdated decor, J’s doesn’t give much of a shit and it’s obvious. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care at all – they do – just enough to make you happy but not enough to get rid of the slight hint of debauchery that permeates the air.
Lest anyone think my description of this fine establishment is an insult, it’s not. J’s is an astronomically astounding assortment of atmosphere, assholes, and alcohol in the perfect setting. It’s a place where smiles are a dime a dozen and it’s a thirsty seafood lover’s dream. They always deliver and I expected nothing different on that fine day. From the moment we arrived, J’s exhibited its true, beautiful colors.
We were greeted by the host immediately upon entering and saw the seats at the bar. We offered to sit there and grabbed two right in the middle. The place was lively and the wait staff busy. We were delivered a couple menus and offered a drink. We weren’t ready yet and we weren’t ready the next time we were asked either, though there wasn’t much time in between the queries. I eventually went with a vodka cranberry and my wife had an Angry Orchard. If you’re looking for a sexy beer and wine list at J’s, you’ll be utterly disappointed. If you want a Bud and a bourbon, then you’ve hit the jackpot.
My vodka cranberry was given to me in a snifter – not a typical vodka delivery system in my experience, but one I accepted with great pleasure as consuming the vodka still only required lifting the glass and tipping it toward my beak. J’s doesn’t always follow the rules and that’s why they’re so bad – bad meaning good, not bad meaning bad. I sipped the concoction. It was potent and led me to search the menu for food. Wanting to try something new, I scoured the menu for an interesting item. I figured a starter of Baked Stuffed Oysters would be good for a change. My wife started with the Lobster Stew. She then decided on a Lobster Roll and I ordered the Crabmeat Roll. Our orders would surely be a succulent seafood serenade.
We drank our drinks and listened to the craziness that is the oyster bar. Pure hilarity was abound with patrons drinking shots before going to work, sipping whiskey while giving out seemingly legitimate legal advice, and a host of regulars discussing their favorite aspects of the restaurant. My wife and I hardly said a word because we were focusing intently on the unintended entertainment, occasionally giving each other “that” look.
It didn’t take long for our apps to come out. I lemoned my oysters which were filled with lobster stuffing and we both dug into our food. I tried my first bite, carefully removing the oyster and some stuffing from one of three large half-shells on my plate and dipping it into my mouth. It was excellent – salty, flavorful, and fresh. The oyster itself was great and the stuffing was perfect. Mrs. Portlandeater’s stew was chock full of lobster. She loved it and let me try a bite. It was superb. We gobbled our apps like they were the last apps on earth and waited patiently for our sandwiches.
Once again, our food came out quickly. As the craziness of the restaurant merrily swirled about, we got the crustaceans we’d been craving. They both came overflowing in a roll with lettuce; pickle and chips were on the side. There was no mayo mixed into the roll, but there was a packet of mayo on the plate. I quickly added the mayo to the roll so I could devour it. With the mayo applied, I bit down. Narrowly avoiding my fingers, I got a good chunk chewed. It was very fresh, super delicious, and everything I expected. I loved it. My wife’s was essentially the same but with lobster – a first class offering.
We chomped away until our chomping was done, finished our drinks, and were ready to go. Our meal at J’s came rife with free entertainment, the food was outstanding, and the general atmosphere was fun as hell. Our meal came to around 70 bucks and we had a great time. If you’re looking for entrees, they have a good selection including items like Shrimp Scampi and Broiled Haddock Filet in addition to lots of other sandwiches, salads, and the like. No matter what you feel like, J’s will surely have something for you unless you’re looking for a quiet seaside experience. They don’t offer that. However, excellent food, outdated decor, and unique clientele are sure to give you an experience you’ll love. I love it enough that from now on, I’m spelling J’$ with a dollar sign because the place is so money.
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