This installment of Best Bar in the World is unique in that literally every person reading this article has already been there. A confusing statement considering the venue holds only 70 people and is located in Eugene, Oregon.
However, this particular bar has the unique claim of being immortalized in one of the most discretely ubiquitous ways possible.
Max’s tavern is the bar which inspired Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons.
You see Max’s location in Eugene is a quick jump over from Springfield, which is one of the 16 Springfields to be given an honorary Simpson’s couch by the show. This was meant as a fun gesture to acknowledge their potential as the true inspiration for the home of television’s longest-living cartoon family.
But the Oregon installment always felt they had a leg up. Not only did Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, grow up in Portland, but he spent his college years at University of Oregon which is in Eugene. And if that alone didn’t provide sufficient evidence, there are a number of other facts which also support this claim.
One is Pioneer Statue, which looks very similar to good ol’ Jebediah Springfield. Another is Principal Skinner, apparently named after Eugene Skinner, founder of the city.
But the smoking gun is undoubtedly a jar of pickled eggs which has been sitting on the bar at Max’s Tavern for years (just as with Moe’s).
Sure there are many other unique similarities between the two venues; a one syllable ‘M’ name commemorating the owner, the stained glass with rustic wood, and of course the unique blend of characters at the bar (including a man named Pat Larry … who the staff claims as their Barney/Homer hybrid).
But all these could be explained away if it weren’t for a jar of pickled eggs which is ever present in both Max’s and Moe’s.
Too random to be mere coincidence, this was simply a fun/weird tradition of Max’s, which for obvious reasons has rarely been mimicked (at least in non-cartoon venues).
The association is deepened by the fact that Max’s proprietor, Ward Fairbairn, remembers Groening from his days as an early illustrator, spending time doodling at the bar while a student at the University.
But as cool as its influence on the most famous bar in the cartoon realm is … Max’s is also famous for its real world attributes as well.
Constructed in 1927, the venue was founded by Max Robinson, who beautifully exploited a city law that stated there could be no bars within 1000 yards of campus. Max’s defiantly stands 1,005 yards away.
Since then it has gone through many changes … stints as a biker bar, live music venue and every other promotion common to venues that cater to college students.
But through it all Max’s has always held true to its old fashioned roots as a working class venue where everyday folk feel welcome.
“Its the kind of place where you might sit down and not only find yourself between a college professor and a mill worker, but that all of you have something random in common”, says General Manager Eric Clarke.
Needless to say Homer, Barney, Carl, Lenny would all feel at home …
perhaps finding their own origins as well, as Groening admits to using people from his past as inspirations for most of the characters in the show.
And for those of you who are still skeptical of Max’s influence on the most watched cartoon in history, note that Groening did finally admit that Springfield, Oregon was in fact the true inspiration for the Simpson’s home.
But the years of ambiguity were no accident. He in part chose the name because there were so many US towns using it (34). He thought it would be a fun point of debate, recalling his own youth and how excited he was to learn ‘Father Knows Best’ took place in a town called Springfield, which he assumed was the one just down I-5.
But in a world where, unlike young Bart, people do eventually graduate from 5th grade, you can only keep the truth hidden for so long. A fair acknowledgement to a bar and a town we never knew we had already been to so many times.