Green Dragon: Early Appraisal

The Green Dragon, to its credit, has decided to throw open its doors before all the screws have been tightened. There's still no brewery, and the space has a certain provisional feel. But the kitchen's cooking, and the taps are flowing, and on the Friday night I visited, the seats were being warmed by the behinds of a full crowd. This is a similar effort--an interim, pre-review.

The Green Dragon may seem vaguely familiar to you. This could be because you're familiar with the American ur-story or because you've seen one of the 97 Green Dragons elsewhere. About those that predate the Boston pub that inspired Jim Parker's Portland outpost I cannot speak. But about that Boston pub, I can at least quote:
The name the Green Dragon has historic roots, dating to before these United States were even a reality. The original Green Dragon Tavern was in the basement of a building and was the largest gathering place of its kind in Boston when Paul Revere and other like-minded Revolutionaries decided that they had had enough of that taxation without representation stuff.

They planned the Boston Tea Party at the Green Dragon. It also was where Revere started his famous midnight ride to Lexington with his warning that the British were coming.

The building that housed the original Green Dragon in Boston was torn down in 1854, but a Green Dragon Tavern in Beantown remains.
I have actually been to the more historic tavern in Boston, but the truth is that from the inside it's a little boring and generic. Ours is better.

Thumbs Up
The intention behind the Green Dragon was not just another brewpub. Owners Jim Parker and Loren Lancaster were aiming for something along the lines of a Belgian cafe--fantastic beer, sure, but also fantastic, fresh food. It is an evolution that has long influenced Portland dining, and I've been waiting (and praying) for it to spread to brewpubs. The two things are so closely connected--beer is an artisinal product very closely connected to its agricultural building blocks. In Belgium, cafes feature freshness of food prominently alongside their biere. But we inherited the English pub model, and with it deep-fried foods. I thought we might be forever doomed to have to go different places for good food and good beer.

The Green Dragon rectifies this. I didn't scrawl down which beers they have on tap--the list I saw was already substantially different from reports I'd heard just days earlier on other blogs. The taps rotate quickly, but they are selected on the basis of diversity. Lots of good locals and a few international selections as well. For those who have been to Higgins, it will look familiar.

The food is even more impressive, though. I was there as part of a quartet, and got to see four dishes--a bowl of steamed mussels and chorizo, Cajun meatloaf sandwhich, a fig and cheese sandwhich, and guajillo chiaquiles, which was a bowl full of Mexican goodness. I'm not really qualified to write about food, and I feel inadequate doing it. What I observed generally was fresh, unprocessed food, well-prepared, and ultimately well-received. Sally gave it a big thumbs up. There are almost no brewpubs you could envision going when you were hungry but not in the mood for a beer (a hypothetical, obviously). The Green Dragon breaks new ground in that respect.

Thumbs Down
Is it my imagination, or do these glasses not looke like full pints (look carefully and you can see a hand behind the glass in this picture). I'll have to take my pyrex measuring bowl in next time. They're cool-looking, but suspiciously diminutive.

The really big issue they need to address, and quickly, is heat. There was no heat on the night we went, and it couldn't have been more than 60 in there. I saw a regular I knew--actually even a member of the mug club with what looked like a 20-ouncer in hand--and he was draped with a blanket. The building's an old warehouse, and that's what it feels like inside. Take gloves and a coat.

I'll report back as the changes are implemented.