It started as a dream of opening their own beer parlor and gambling hall. And in 1903, George Besaw and Medric Liberty did just that.
At the time, a booming industry full of loggers, longshoremen and their families were populating much of this vibrant corner of the Pacific Northwest. Loggers themselves, Besaw and Liberty received the generous help of Henry Weinhard, one of the nation's most successful brewers, to finance their dream. An immediate success with locals and visitors alike, Besaw's was conveniently located en route to the 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, a grand outdoors bazaar akin to the World's Fair, attracting many of the Northwest's - not to mention the world's - elite.
With the onset of prohibition, the duo was faced with a difficult decision: either cease the service of alcohol or close the doors on their dream. Ultimately, Medric Liberty sold his half to Mr. Besaw who, as newly minted sole proprietor, introduced simple home cooking to the establishment.
After Prohibition was repealed, Besaws was granted the first liquor license in the state of Oregon. The Besaw family honed the time-honored tradition of offering hearty food and memorable experiences at a good value. Stories of the infamous Clyde Besaw and his decades of service to the neighborhood are the stuff of local legend. The cafe quickly became the most popular meeting place amongst locals, with a reputation for a stiff drink, a scrumptious meal and lively conversation.
Besaws' ethos remains a simple one: providing delicious, seasonal and local food and drink, with genuine warmth of heart.
Since its origins in 1903, Besaw's has seen many iterations: soda fountain, 24-hour diner, leading light of Portland's ongoing Brunch Boom. Under its current ownership - Cana Flug has been at the helm since 2005 - Besaw's has seen its iconic status grow, from neighborhood favorite to national attention.
Industry and neighborhood development continued their inevitable progression through Northwest Portland, and in 2015 Besaw's was driven from its 112-year home. New digs were secured two blocks away, however, and in February 2016, Besaw's 2.0 flung its doors open wide to a comfort-starved public. Rather than try in vain to replicate its "scrappy little neighborhood cafe" charm, Besaw's has instead embraced its role as a comforting touchstone of the Portland dining scene. Spacious, Art Deco-inspired ceilings, innovative lighting design and handcrafted wallpaper have replaced the original cramped dining room. The original neon sign still remains, though, as does our deft, genuine standard of service, delicious food, and spirit of community.