IMAGE: Eliza Sohn
“What’s that PODS container doing there?” I exclaimed in horror to my wife as we drove past Caldera Public House (6031 SE Stark St., 233-8242) a few months ago. In this toxic economy, any time a beloved establishment shows signs of a major change, it’s reason to panic. Especially since this former turn-of-the-century (well, last century anyway) pharmacy building sitting upslope of Mount Tabor is a fixture in my rotation of favorite places. Turns out, the storage container was for a long overdue expansion that extends the place upstairs. This reading-room-style addition lends itself well to Caldera’s overall mission: helping you tune out. The classy, well-worn dark wood bar (dragged here all the way from Montana) and folksy instrumentals piped softly through the main room are a fine tonic for a horrible week. The comfort-food-laden menu helps as well, featuring typical pub standards, like a bacon cheeseburger ($8), and some random but welcome items like a shrimp po’ boy oozing with cheese ($10) and a creamy beef stroganoff ($11) that is just as good as your imaginary Swedish grandma used to make. Caldera’s taps rotate ($3.75 a pint, $2.75 during happy hour), but they always seem to feature Terminal Gravity IPA, so you’re covered. The most stress Caldera has ever caused me is forcing me to decide between a bucket of fries ($4) or a wheel of bourbon-soaked Brie ($11) as an appetizer.