The drinks are cheap and strong and the bathrooms are humid and slippery. The carpeted floors are lumpy and the walls are papered with mementos of decades past — fading photos and funky keepsakes, a Bud Light-branded guitar and a metal sign from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The Oregon Lottery, Ducks, Beavers and Seahawks abound.

But the Relief Pitcher — aka the “R.P.” — in Seaside does more than keep locals lubricated, gambling and watching sports. It boasts appealing and occasionally tantalizing blue-collar bar grub. The R.P. is a dive bar of the highest order.

While their burgers satisfy, the Albacore Tuna Reuben ($12.95) is a star belonging on the short-list of North Coast Dishes You Have to Order. Dare I say, it’s among the best uses of tuna on the coast.

The R.P.’s regional signature stacks a stout, flaky, seared tuna steak on buttery, toasted rye bread with sauerkraut, Swiss and slippery-sweet Thousand Island. It’s gooey, salty, crispy, juicy, creamy, sweet and briny. Just perfect.

Like its pastrami-piling brethren, the Tuna Reuben is super meaty. But rather than meat sweats, you’ll be left buzzing on that high-octane lean protein. But I assure you: The Tuna Reuben isn’t diet food; it’s indulgent and irresistible. You’ll just happen to feel awesome after.

Dishes like the Tuna Reuben are why we do this: a reminder that creaky, unassuming places are worth exploring, that hidden gems exist in every setting. Even one that looks like a trailer park, where none of the furniture matches and the paint is peeling.

Much of the Relief Pitcher’s vibe — humble, unpretentious, easygoing and low-maintenance — is an extension of owner Peter McClure, who lives on the grounds and often hangs out when he’s not working. Bartender Tony deserves mention, too — he’s personable, magnanimous and a maestro with the grapefruit.

Tony squeezes them so regularly into cocktails — mostly Greyhounds and Sea Breezes — that he’s keyed in to the seasonal characteristics of every batch. On a recent trip he recommended the Sea Breeze over the Greyhound because these grapefruit weren’t as sweet and needed a dash of cranberry. My goodness, was he right. A bright, fresh, balanced (and bracing) cocktail.

No mixology degree necessary. Nor a bible of bartending botany. No measuring tools, ornate glassware or small-batch products, either. Just a press to wring out all the juice and pulp, and the good sense to get the ratios right.

I’ll have a devil of a time ordering anything else at the R.P. besides a Sea Breeze and a Tuna Reuben. I mean, I guess there might be a time where I’m more in the mood for a beer. But, still …

As I mentioned, the burgers are fine if that’s what you need. I’ve heard them spoken of in quite high regard, though I find them short of spellbinding. The R.P.’s burgers are, to me, a reliable but replacement-level performer — simply pressed, dressed and seasoned on airy, white bread buns.

They come in a few arrangements, like with pastrami (instead of bacon), and the Grand Slam ($12.45), which comes with ham, a fried egg and two kinds of cheese. It’s heavy but not unreasonable — hardly a gluttonous abomination. Assuming your arteries are unclogged, at just $1.50 more than a standard cheeseburger the Grand Slam is hard to turn down.

Burgers and sandwiches come with choice of fries or coleslaw. The fries are hand-cut with the skin on and taste like they were once, not so long ago, actual potatoes. And I quite enjoy the extra milky, cranberry flecked coleslaw — even if I only need a few bites of the sweet palate cleanser.

The R.P.’s menu is purposefully limited. What they do, they do well. The Fried Oysters ($14.95), with crumbly, crunchy breading, are delicately cooked, absolutely melting the moment they touch your tongue. No teeth necessary, their structure practically gives way under a hot breath.

There are a few other bar standbys, most of which are fried. While some (the chicken strips) bored, and some (like the Albacore Tuna Tacos) beckoned, I just keep dreaming about the Tuna Reuben.

Credit to the R.P., by the way, for leaving fish and chips and chowder off the menu. Really, I can’t think of any locals who clamor for them. (Are you a resident who love-love-loves fish and chips? Drop me a line!) And that refusal to bend to tourist desires is a big part of the R.P.’s charm. It’s a place, first and foremost, for locals.

Indeed, the R.P. has its own community. Regular readers of the column will remember the inches I’ve given to the Fiery Food Festival, a spicy cooking competition that’s akin to a family potluck. There are the games, too, and the gossip.

For me, though, it’s that signature sandwich. So, Tony, when you have a moment, another Sea Breeze and Tuna Reuben, please.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.