Black Cat Tavern
8230 SE 13th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
Deep South-nomah dive frequented by Reedies and gruffer Sellwoodites, this place is somehow a glorious mess. Of the three classic American 22 foot tables, only two provide proper game play. The taps at the bar are American heavy and geared toward the budget-minded Northwest gulper. The pool table is always busy and no-nonsense barkeeps are friendly, grounded, and comfortably snarky. The food selection is standard pub fare. Just enough TV to keep track of the game, but refreshingly not dominant in size or number. While we can’t really do somersaults over it, we have trouble finding much wrong with the place, as it certainly doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. Plus, there are very few places that have two classic tables of this caliber. It is a bit out of the way, so best to make it your first, rather than last, stop on your shuffleboard crawl. Never been there at closing time, but I’m pretty sure some fat guy’s hairy navel will be showing by the end of the night. Reality’s got sharp teeth, you know.
Darker, wood-paneled dive has that Alaskan pioneer bar feel that makes one feel like they’ve just walked in out of the harsh weather, even in milder seasons. Great outdoor sign and deep south location make it intriguing enough. Inside is all tables and no booths except the padded window seat area. The L-shaped bar extends into an auxiliary room where pinball and poker sit in waiting. There is a fine tall, long table in the middle of the room made from a past shuffleboard plank which provides nearly all of the furniture style points. Rumors of loud-mouthed rudeness seem unfounded, but, then again, we kind of like the straight-forward opinionated type. The general decor looks unfinished, the bar itself is kind of a mishmash, and the clientele is a weird mix of hipster college and old drunk. All of this may put some folks off, but those same folks probably wouldn’t want to cross under the Black Cat sign anyway. All in all, very Northwest, very relaxed, and plenty comfortable. That all makes for a fine night of shuffling.
“Pussy Galore” This south table, a 22 foot American is quite nice, with the unique character the connoisseur travels for. We were late to discover its charms, but now have been won over. The table has good speed and quirky rail curl. However, this once very well cared for table is getting a bit rough altely. Still a must-play for those who prize the classics, it may need attention to stay in this class.
“Tabby” American 22 footer that plays just fine. It has a consistent lean to the south and lacks that extra subtleties that make “Pussy Galore” and other classics so great. That said, it provides quite adequately as a second table. It is prone to high scoring groupings and hangers, which makes things exciting. The ends at times can slow weights rapidly, leading to battles of strong push rather than ample glide. This blunts the game play just enough to cause the players eyes wander to the fine table to the south. This one also is getting rougher and is in need of proper care.
“Hairball” Coughed up and in miserable condition. Unplayable until further notice.
Scoreboards: Vintage scoreboards, but none in commission (or turned off) on our visits. Wipe board will suffice.
Weights: One set of Triple Crowns and the others are mutt sets.
Supplies: Recycled wax in the bucket and a few shakers of new here or there. Board wipes and a few t-squares in amongst the dry good boxes stuffed under the tables.
Cost: Free most days, but we believe you have to pay on Fridays and Weekends.
Tournament Play: No word on an official or regular tourney day or night. Impromptu, informal challenges abound though