Thompson Brewery and Public House

Okay, so I'm easily amused, but whenever we go to Thompson's (McMenamin's) Brew Pub and I see the parking lot bursting at the seams I figure that every other table of four is responsible for 4 of those vehicles. Why else would it be easy to find a table when it's nearly impossible to find a place to park?
N and I were ready for a relaxing burger and brew, so that's where we found ourselves Monday evening. I was a little concerned about the temperature being warm enough to enjoy outdoor dining in our shirtsleeves, but it was just right - even with the sun going down. We settled on one of the picnic benches outside, not far from the fire pit. The waiter had to bring us the menus, since they had removed everything from the tables to protect it from the showers. If we closed our eyes we could almost imagine we were at the beach with the wood smoke and the smell of another diner's seafood.

N ordered his favorite Communication Breakdown Burger with tater tots - gotta have those grilled mushrooms & onions with the barbecue sauce. Instead of the Dante Chicken sandwich (it's been a bit too hot for me the past two times), I ordered the third of a pound Franklin's Burger, with a side salad. The waiter kept apologizing about the wait, but we were doing fine with our porter and chatter. It's a good thing we weren't starving, the wait was long. Our food arrived, looking fresh and hot, but N's tot portion looked as if they were running low. My side salad looked a little smaller than usual, too, but maybe that's because I was ready to eat once the food arrived. The quality of the burgers was good and the lettuce, tomato and onion was fresh. Despite the wait, they hadn't been sitting under a hot light.
Since we wanted to stay and enjoy the evening, we splurged and ordered a Marionberry Crisp ala mode to share. Delicious and relaxing! A great way to catch up on each other's days.

Review by Salem Man 2007
Slow down, have a cold micro brew and enjoy the late sunset of a warm summer night. Thompson Brewery on Liberty Rd. and Madrona South, has the best outdoor dining in all of Salem. Shaded by trees, diners relax on dozens of picnic tables in the back of the house built in 1905. Inside, tables spread throughout the two story house. One room upstairs has just a single table for customers seeking a private dinner. But before you get started with dinner, order from the list of McMenamin's Ales at $2 a pint. Not a big micro brew fan, I think the "Hammerhead" is pretty good. It isn't too heavy and goes down smooth. The menu includes a number of burgers and sandwiches served with soup, salad or fries. For $7.25 the turkey sandwich and green salad is the perfect, light and healthy, compliment to the comfortable outdoor atmosphere. The whole grain bread is stuffed with a generous portion of turkey and just enough cranberry relish to remind you of Thanksgiving leftovers. They do allow smoking outside, it's noticeable, but only a minor nuisance.

19 comments:

K & N said...

I love how they give you the dressing on the side and that the salad isn't all iceberg lettuce. Mmmmm, cranberry sauce on turkey!

Anonymous said...

I've only been there once for a beer with some friends. Will have to try it out, sounds different, with the tables outside. Will let you know how it was.

K & N said...

Mmmm, the last time we went they had a new seasonal item on the menu. It's a tomato, basil, mozzarella, penne salad. I ordered a Rubinator beer to go with it. (contented sigh) If they had included a nice hunk of their sourdough bread . . . perfection!

Food Troll said...

Decent but unremarkable food (with the exception of the Cajun-ized tots, which rock) which is de rigeur for a McMineman's .

Just don't have more than two beers - hangover city (something about the water or yeast they brew with, not quite sure). Same deal with the Ram (although Ram food is even worse)

K & N said...

I usually have 2 beers whenever we eat there and haven't suffered from a headache yet. I wonder if you're sensitive to one of the ingredients?

Salem Man said...

Food Troll is right about the hangovers. Micro brews in general leave me with pounding temples if I drink more than one. I usually order a Budweiser at these places because of that. I went to the McMenamin's Edgefield up in Troutdale this weekend. It was a lot of fun. They have a pitch and put golf course and all kinds of fun things to do.

Food Troll said...

I've found that two beers is usually safe regardless of what you're drinking brew pub beer. More than that and you start asking for trouble. Having brewed beer myself, I think it may be an issue with the water. I usually didn't have good luck using straight tap-water - it either made for brutal hangovers or intestinal distress. Once I switched to either filtering my water first or buying filtered water (not mineral water - that causes serious problems), those issues all went away.

The real danger is at the Ram though. Just one of their beers is enough to cause a brutal headache.

K & N said...

I'll take the word of both of you. I'm not even slightly tempted to test this out, as three servings of ANY alcoholic beverage gives me a nasty headache.
I'm curious though.
I wonder if it's some kind of chemical change in the fermentation process?

momoffive said...

Like most McMenemen's the service is slow, but if you're not in a hurry and just want to relax and chat, the food is decent and reasonably priced.

The Duder said...

Geezus! Way too much dialogue about the 2 beer hangover. Just man up and shut up. The fact is they make great beer that exceeds any of the snobby bottled brands, and at little to no extra cost. The food is excellent, if your a fan of rustic american-euro bistro (which i am). It is one of the only places, for example, that is prepared for the customer who likes english style fries with malt vinegar. Great gathering place and good pricing. Service can be slow.

Alan DeWitt said...

Ah, Thompson's. I was a 2-4 dinner per month regular for, oh, about eight years. Typical McM's food and beer; if you've eaten at one of their pubs, you know what food to expect from any of them. It's pretty good pub grub, if a bit pricey.

Alas, my regular appearance there came to an abrupt end not long after the manager Diana left to go manage Hotel Oregon's pub some years ago. (Diana is awesome, I need to go out there and say hi again.) One truy awful service experence led me to demand satisfaction from the manager, whereupon I discovered that the person screwing my wife and I over was the new manager.* I told him then I'd never be back so long as he was the manager, and I haven't been.

If anyone is able to tell me that they've changed managers recently I might give 'em another try. But I don't miss it all that much, to tell the truth. Now I take my business elsewhere and have thus discovered some other nice places to eat.

[*: Thompson's was at the time a place with no tradition of reserved seating and there was a "Please Seat Yourself" sign at the door when we came in. We found a napkin on the last open table in the place with "reserved" handwritten on it, and we asked passing waitstaff if it was for real. Waitstaff said "No, that's ridiculous", threw the napkin away, and told us it was okay to sit there. We did. The manager then came by and kicked us out of the table which he had "reserved" for some of his personal friends, offering us no compensation or even apology. Unacceptable behavior in my book.]

Anonymous said...

So-So food and VERY slowwwwwww service. Tried 5-6 times...service just got worse. Won't be going back

Anonymous said...

I use to work for Thompson's and I can say honestly that every one of the things I just read are in some way true. Management has had issues, the service is slow, the food is good, and the beer is unbeatable, try the pol-Ax It's the bomb!

The one thing customers of thompsons should really understand, is how small the grill is compared to the seating capabilities... as well as the bar area. But all you have to do is go in to see for yourself.

And once you find a seat... stay there, those "reserved" seats are so the servers can contain people in easier accessible areas. More than likely you'll find those "reserved" seats upstairs, later in the evening... but it's all for your benefit.

Dsperin said...

I remember one time long ago that I REALLY enjoyed the food and atmosphere. The last couple of times that I've gone though, I've been sorely dissapointed in the food. And the service? I always seem to get the waitress who's had a bad day with the look on her face like she'll spit in your food if you irk her the slightest. Not really interested in returning.

The parking sucks too. And the fries are horrible.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the ex-server - the "service" is NOT slow - it's the kitchen - I go once a week with a group and we always get our beers lickety split - it's the food that always takes the time. But it's not right to beat up the poor servers for the fact that McMenamin's will not upgrade any of their kitchens to match the number of people who regularly come to their establishments. It is like that in almost all their places. I don't know if they think that upgrading their kitchens to be modern and properly sized will lose them "character" points. I wish our weekly group would figure some other place to meet because I am tired of supporting a restaurant whose profits are clearly going someplace other than re-investing in their restaurants.

Hayley said...

I haven't been to Thompson's since my brother stopped working there (and I knew the quality of food would be exceptional) but I do highly recommend the Mcmenamins in Lincoln City. Their feta chicken calzone is amazing, as are their fall ales. We've always had exceptional service.

Anonymous said...

We have dined here several time over a few years and has always taken us more than an hour to get our food. To long for a burger and fries. We will not be going back.

Jess said...

I live about half a block from Thompson's and LOVE it. Although, pretty much every Mcmenamin's I've ever been to I've also loved. The beer is fantastic, and they make some bomb drinks too. The menu doesn't have a lot of variety, but everything I've tried is tasty. I have had very slow service a few times, but always friendly and if you're sitting outside (especially on a warm evening) I don't notice the wait. I've also gotten very fast service on slow afternoons, I understand their kitchen is small and they work with what they've got. If you like the good old-fashioned pub feel and great northwest fare, this is the place.

Anonymous said...

Like the American (French) dips. Love the malt vinegar with fries. Hate the seat yourself thing. If your a group of five it is very hard to find seating as all the bigger tables are taken by couples and threesomes. This happed twice to me. During summer months not a problem because there is plenty of room outside. We are all big chatters so haven't really noticed slow service.