Oscar Wilde famously opined that life imitates art far more than art imitates life.
Local business owner Matt Morrissey and chef Justin Rouse, of the new upscale cocktail bar, Siren Song — much like the Greek sailors in the myth that inspired the watering hole’s name — saw a need that wasn’t currently being filled in downtown Canby and answered the call.
Undoubtedly, the ending will be a lot happier in this version.
“You walk around these streets, and we’re like, ‘You know what? There’s no classic cocktail bar,'” Rouse recalled. “‘We could do that.’ And that’s sort of how it all happened.”
The new bar — which is open only to guests 21 and older — specializes in old-school cocktails made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and crafted the old-fashioned way.
Morrissey said some guests have already remarked how their old fashioned or whiskey sour tastes different than what they expected (in a good way), and that’s because the flavors come from fruit and other real ingredients — not out of a bottle.
Like Morrissey and Rouse’s previous collaboration — the high-end sandwich shop and wine bar Wayward Sandwiches at the Dahlia building — Siren Song has drawn widespread acclaim since it opened on Sept. 28.
In their mind, they’re not really treading new ground as much as going back to the basics.
“I’ve found that a lot of places don’t focus on really fundamentally sound cocktails as they were originally designed,” Morrissey explained. “They’ll do their own spin on it.
“And, I mean, there’s a reason that drink became popular and withstood the test of time: It’s because it’s a good drink. It doesn’t need, you know, blueberry or bacon or any of these extra flavors to improve it.”
Rouse and his team have applied that same relentless commitment to process and quality to crafting Siren Song’s menu. Its food offerings are more limited — and deliberately distinct — from Wayward (you can also order food from the sandwich shop while its kitchen is open).
The list includes oysters on the half-shell, baked chicken wings and jalapeno poppers, and Rouse’s signature pork shank.
“It’s just like good, home-cooked food,” Rouse explained, adding with a laugh: “My favorite thing is when people tell me, ‘Oh, this reminds me of my grandma.’ And that resonates with my heart because I love grandma cooking.”
The downtown space, most recently a guitar and yoga studio, has been completely transformed this year under the watchful eye of Morrissey. The ambiance centers on an eye-popping mural across the new south wall, painstakingly brought to life by Janessa Bork of the Bend-based VIVI Design Co.
The bar also features nautical-themed lighting and sculpture by Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage, countertops and tables from Mellecker Woodworks and custom booths by Raleigh Hills Upholstery. Canby’s Ken Hostetler Construction led the contracting and structural work.
A large Siren Song logo, which beckons into the heart of downtown Canby from the building’s north-facing exterior wall, was executed by J&S Signs.
Rouse praised Morrissey’s vision in seeing the space’s potential and marrying it so seamlessly with what the community wanted and the downtown core needed.
“When it comes right down to it, we wanted to have a place that makes drinks that we wanted to drink, without having to go to Portland or somewhere else,” Rouse said. “And that’s what the community wanted, especially after Covid, to be able to stay close to home without sacrificing quality or the experience.”
Siren Song is open 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. Champagne and oyster happy hour from open to 6 p.m. daily. Find it at 136 North Grant Street in downtown Canby.
To hear more from Morrissey and Rouse, check out Episode 306 of the Now Hear This: Canby podcast, “I Sy with My Little Eye”:
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