EASY GOING Flask.
It turns out that the federal government’s Title IX, intended to ensure the genders equal participation in school-sports programs, has hobbled a generation of young women. Thanks to their greater flexibility, when girls go hard on the field they tear ACLs and strain other ligaments at a rate five times greater than boys. So by age 21 what these women really need is to limp into a friendly place to savor their pain and talk about the good old days the way men with bad knees have for centuries. For this we need a new kind of sports bar.
Here in Portland, Flask Lounge is that bar. It is woman-owned and gay-friendly in a low-key way. The bartender, god bless him, was happy to put tennis on the two big flat screens even in baseball-football season, though it eventually got booted for NASCAR. The bar offers unpretentious drinking. Every cocktail comes on the rocks in a pint glass, and wines are ordered by name of the predominant grape. The cabernet is not bad. A cosmopolitan, sipped by a veteran of cheerleading (America’s most dangerous high-school sport), was not too sugary despite the huge serving, though of course it was watery by the end. The beers on tap lean toward the good and the local.
The menu at Flask is appropriate to the atmosphere — modest, a bit quirky, affordable, and appealing. Your waiter (she is also the owner I believe) scoots back to the kitchen and prepares the food herself with admirable speed. Pizza pockets offer a pleasant regression to childhood but are made with enough care to satisfy an adult palate. The bit of cream cheese added a smooth fresh-mozzarella texture, and the salty sausage worked well with the aggressive but well-blended arugula and herbs.
We had mixed feelings about the wontons stuffed with jalapeno and cream cheese. There was a bit too much cheese in ratio to the pepper but the creamy heat was great with the crisp wrapper. Their novelty reminded me of the “week of the wonton” when an ex and I, surprised by the incredible number of wonton wrappers that come in a package, fried them up filled with just about everything we could think of. I recommend avocado, ground beef, and Vietnamese chili sauce.
Flask has sandwiches rather than entrees: a few panini, a steak sub, and a burger. The Tuscan panini could have used a few more slices of the thin, salty prosciutto. But the tomato, fresh mozzarella, and pesto were good enough on their own to make for a fine pressed sandwich. The burger was simple and nicely done — with crisp lettuce and thick slices of tomato. A big ramekin of mayo allowed for fry-dipping in the French style.
Flask’s own style is hard to decipher because the room is very dark. But it looks fine once eyes adjust, with lots of red brick, an island of stuffed couches and a smattering of black tables on the perimeter of the room. Most of the crowd hovers near the bar where the vibe is very friendly. The smallish room, the eclectic jukebox with wavering volume, the Wii system by the big television — all help create the atmosphere of a casual party at someone’s home. There is karaoke some nights, and Wii tournaments on others. There is just one step up on your way to the bar, so even the sorest knees can negotiate things easily. Equal participation in sports may be crippling a gender, but at Flask equal participation in post-athletic drinking has a promising future.