Two months after taking over “the bar next door,” Anthony Sharrah is starting to feel like everything’s coming together.

“We painted and put up art,” Sharrah says, gesturing to the new interior of the La Center Tavern, which he has renamed “4th Street Bar & Grill.” “I’ve hired a Le Cordon Bleu chef … and we have a number of microbrews on tap, and some great wines.”

With a fresh interior, a huge upgrade in the food and drink menus, and an owner dedicated to bringing a higher-end “but not too high end” feel to the heart of downtown La Center, the little tavern is quickly becoming a go-to stop for locals and tourists alike.

“I’ve lived here since 1998 and opened The Trellis (a home and garden shop next to the tavern) in 2005,” Sharrah says. “In the past 10 years, I’ve seen this bar go through three different owners. And, each time that it came up for sale, I’d think, ‘I should buy it,’ but the timing was never right … until now.”

Sharrah took over ownership of the local tavern – a La Center mainstay for generations – in early December of 2014. Over the past three months, he has transformed the tavern from a regular bar to a popular dinner spot.

“People are eating it up,” Sharrah says. “I think our dining is up about 75 percent.”

Being a self-described “foodie” and lover of the TV show “Bar Rescue,” which takes failing bars and turns them into successes, Sharrah knew he’d have to totally revamp the tavern’s atmosphere and menu to turn the bar around. He hired a Cordon Bleu chef, brought a vast selection of microbrews into the bar and is planning to utilize the tavern’s back porch dining area, as well as set up a couple bistro tables in front of the building for people craving an outdoor meal on a warm spring or summer evening.

The new menu is sprinkled with items like the Seasonal Salmon Salad, a mix of organic baby greens, grilled salmon, marinated tomato, shallots, julienned cucumbers and carrots with a lemon-garlic vinaigrette; the 4th Street Steak Melt, a La Center version of the Philly cheesesteak that incorporates thinly sliced Angus beef, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms and a special, homemade cheese sauce; and the house Mac & Cheese, a penne pasta coated with an aged white cheddar/vodka sauce and topped with fried onions.

Sharrah and his silent business partner, Steve Schatz, have brought in two chefs and three bartenders, and are emphasizing great food and an upscale selection of cocktails, beer, wine and cider. The new tavern menu also includes local produce from Rob Olson’s Uncle Frogs Farm, a naturally grown fruit and vegetable farm located the hills outside La Center.

“La Center is a wonderful place, with all of these beautiful neighborhoods. I’ve lived here for years and, every weekend, I went into Portland,” Sharrah says. “I just wanted to have a place to go in La Center, and I think a lot of people here were feeling the same way.”

Folks can come for dinner, explore the microbrew offerings – bartenders rotate through a couple dozen options, but keep a “regular” brew like Coors Light on tap for customers who aren’t into the microbrew craze – and, if a big game is on, watch it on one of the tavern’s three big screen televisions.

If beer isn’t your style, the new tavern offers a great selection of fine wines, ciders and top-notch liquors, including several from regional distilleries like the Portland Potato Vodka the Raspberry-infused Vodka from the Wild Roots distillery out of Hillsboro, OR, and the Oola Pepper Vodka from Seattle’s Grain to Glass distillery.

“People are excited about the new craft beers and cocktails,” Sharrah says.

Currently, the 4th Street Bar & Grill is open from 4 p.m. to close (between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. depending on customer demand), Monday through Saturday. Sharrah also plans to open for Sunday brunch, complete with a Bloody Mary bar and “bottomless” mimosas, within the next few weeks.

The tavern is located at 107 E. 4th St., in the heart of La Center. For more information, call (360) 263-9920.

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