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Food

Porterhouse Pub

Something for everyone

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ever since the Porterhouse opened its doors in downtown Mount Vernon many years ago, my husband and I have been regulars. Through changes in ownership, menu and décor, and the opening and closing of a sister pub in West Seattle, it continues to be one of our favorite local hangouts. The pub won Best Happy Hour in the Weekly’s recent Best of Skagit issue, and deservedly so. It’s a great place to have for our local pub.

Ambiance and beer are what they do best. There are few places I’d rather be on a wet, blustery day in Mount Vernon than sitting by the fire in the Porterhouse nursing a pint and watching the rain through the huge windows. During nice days, the staff opens the garage door in the lower half of the pub, which also lets in the aroma of Thai food from the café next door. They use their active Facebook page to keep regulars apprised of garage door openings, food specials, brewer’s night events or particularly exciting beers on offer.

The beer selection is fantastic, with 20 or so craft brews available on draft, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, but including other great West Coast beers such as Green Flash or Firestone Walker. Boundary Bay IPA is always on, as is Angry Orchard apple cider. Otherwise the selection rotates, keg by keg, maybe a little heavier on the pale ales in the summer and dark beers in the winter, but there’s always something for everyone. If you’re just not a beer drinker, there is a wine list of affordable selections as well.

As much as I love this place, a gastropub they’re not. Still, they have a solid menu of pub food and the kitchen staff seems to enjoy themselves, especially when it comes to creating specials. Some of these work better than others; I recently ordered a fish taco on special that was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten here, but sometimes the flavor combinations get a little confused, ranging from vaguely Asian to Mexican to Hungarian.

I would say their best regular dish is their steamer clams ($13) or the clam chowder ($11), which are both made with fresh, in-the-shell clams and lots of herbs. The chowder adds lots of cream and potatoes, so it’s hardly a light dish, but extremely good on a cold day, with a generous hunk of garlic bread to help mop up. I once came here for dinner with half a dozen hungry people and every single person ordered clams or clam chowder.

Beyond clams, there are other good things to eat. For an appetizer, the chipotle chicken quesadilla ($9) is tasty and substantial. Fried items like the calamari plate with aioli dipping sauce ($11), fish and chips ($11), or fried oysters ($12) are usually excellent, but the kitchen can be uneven with their fryer and occasionally the fish or fries aren’t as crisp as they might be. Because of this, I often ask for salad instead of fries, either a Caesar (which they do very well) or a house salad with wasabi ranch dressing.

Sandwiches are usually a fine choice. The PLT ($11)—prosciutto, lettuce and tomato—is an unusual but tasty offering. The pub burger ($9) is made with natural beef from the Skagit Valley Food Co-op down the street, and while a little dry for my taste (I like lots of goop on my burgers), it’s always good. We seldom order off the “entrees” part of the menu, but my husband likes the beef and wild mushroom stroganoff ($18), a vast plateful of creamy pasta.

Happy hour, which runs all day Monday and from 3-6pm Tuesday through Friday, adds in a short menu of cheap appetizers and $3 pints (normally a pint goes for $4.50, so it’s a great deal). We particularly like the happy hour nachos ($5), which are very manageable for one or two people and are so liberally topped that we tend to run out of chips and need to use a fork to finish all the cheese and salsa—not a bad problem to have.

A quintessential Northwest pub is part of what makes a small town good to live in. Mount Vernon is lucky to have establishments like the Porterhouse.

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