Opened in downtown Portland over a century ago as a men’s bar, Huber’s found itself when the original owner hired a Chinese chef and the two of them got the idea that if they served turkey sandwiches, customers would drink more beer. To this day, turkey is the heart of Huber’s menu; and while many customers come to drink beer in the boisterous back room bar or to munch jalapeno olive poppers and drink the restaurant’s notorious 151-proof flaming Spanish coffees while listening to live jazz, it is still possible to sit in a quiet booth and have a bird-and-potatoes meal your great-great grandfather would recognize … and likely enjoy.
Here is one supermodel of a turkey dinner: moist, flavorful slices of white meat evenly arrayed on the plate between a mound of sage dressing and a great drift of mashed potatoes from which flow rivers of melting butter. There’s gravy, too, of course, and a small cup of cranberry relish. Preceding this classic meal is a plate with a slice of “beer bread” cut in two. It’s nearly as sweet as cake and so yeasty as to be virtually intoxicating: wonderful to push through puddles of gravy on a plate.
If you need an alternative to turkey, how about ham? This also is a classic: tender pink slices topped with chunky pineapple sauce, also accompanied by mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. Beyond these two square-meals paradigms the menu offers such other examples of what it calls Turkey Cuisine as turkey piccata, turkey stir-fry with prawns, and a turkey drumstick. Plus there are all manner of steaks and chops and cioppino, a Cobb salad, and shrimp Louis.
That back room bar is a merry place indeed; but you’ll likely find us up front, surrounded by vintage mahogany paneling, preferably seated in a booth opposite the open kitchen, where the only commotion consists of flames licking up and the sizzle of meats on the grill.