In 1903 two gentlemen, George Besaw and Medric Liberty, dreamed of starting their own beer parlor and gambling hall. At the time, a booming industry full of loggers, longshoremen and their families were populating much of this vibrant corner of the Northwest. Loggers themselves, George Besaw and Medric Liberty received the generous help of Henry Weinhard, one of the best known brewery owners in the nation at that time, 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 outdoor bazaar akin to the Worlds’ 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 Mr. Liberty sold his half to Mr. Besaw, who introduced simple home cooking once he was the sole proprietor. After Prohibition was repealed, Besaw’s was granted the first liquor license in the state of Oregon.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. The stories of the late and infamous Clyde Besaw, with his decades of service to the neighborhood, still ring out over many a cold beer.
As the cafe became the most popular meeting place in the neighborhood, with a reputation for a stiff drink, a scrumptious meal and lively conversation – its core foundation was clear. Besaw’s ethos is a simple one: providing delicious, seasonal and local food and drink, with genuine warmth of heart. Though the building itself dates to the 19th century, one can still sit at the same elbow-pocked mahogany bar that’s quenched the thirst of so many over the years. The expansive garden out back is one of its biggest treasures, a wonderful reminder of Besaw’s commitment to sustainability and community. And in the end, guests will still come across the same kind, attentive service found 100 years ago.