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Portlands 10 Best High Dives
Dated: October 22 2014
Built to spill
1028 S.E. Water Ave.
With a half dozen locations scattered across Portland, including two inside the Moda Center, the Bunk juggernaut thunders on -- understandable when you've built a fierce loyalty to meatball heroes and pork belly Cubanos. Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood teamed with Bladen County Records' Matt Brown on this booze-focused Central Eastside Industrial offshoot of their original Southeast Morrison location.
Where the original was dark and cramped, Bunk Bar features an open dining room with room pinball machines and the occasional live gig, plus views of downtown's KOIN center. Beer fans of all stripes are welcome, with a Rainier tap just a couple spots down from the one dispensing Boneyard RPM, and the three founders' namesake cocktails are fun and worth exploring. Whatever your poison, tossing one back without a follow-up bite from one of the signature sandwiches is unthinkable.
Who's sitting next to you? Invariably, someone in flannel.
Signature drink: The stiff Bunk frozen margarita, fresh from the slush machine.
-- Adam Lindsley
The scene at Dig a Pony
DIG A PONY
You can radiate
736 S.E. Grand Ave.
By day, Dig a Pony, perhaps Portland's most hipster-ish bar, sits quietly at the eastern edge of the Morrison Bridge. Come nightfall, twenty-something hordes line up three-deep around a horseshoe bar and spill out onto the picnic tables along Southeast Morrison Street and Grand Avenue. Inside Dig a Pony -- a former Greek diner -- the walls are decorated with vintage pictures, animal skulls, color-coded books and a two-tiered bar lined with glittering bottles. Chic customers line up at the bar -- named for a Beatles song -- looking for simple cocktails, beer, wine and bites from the Southern-ish food menu. More into music than people watching? Nightly DJs spin vinyl into the wee hours of the morning.
Who's sitting next to you? Leading members of the Portland hipsterati.
Signature Drink: A shot of bourbon and Tecate tallboy.
-- Samantha Bakall
THE FIXIN' TO
8218 N. Lombard St.
The Fixin' To, a Southern-inflected bar at the gateway to St. Johns, offers a kind of second living room for many North Portlanders. Grab one of four good beers on tap -- recently including a first-of-the-season Jubelale -- or one of the quartet of suggested boilermakers, then take them round back to the gravel patio wrapped with recycled doors and corrugated metal. Or sit at the bar, where you'll find red Christmas lights, vintage beer memorabilia and Television's "Marquee Moon" playing on the speakers.
The old shuffleboard table has hit the silica, replaced by a six-foot Gameboy -- dating the owners, perhaps, and their clientele -- which wasn't working on a recent visit. As you might expect from a bar with a name from the "Git-R-Done" book of Southern phrasing, the cramped kitchen turns out both chicken 'n dumplings and nacho-style platters of Frito pie. Better yet, carry in a kale and sausage pie from the rustically inclined Pizza Contadino cart parked out front.
Who's sitting next to you? A couple drinking Hamm's and watching "The Walking Dead," the sound of impaled zombies on high.
Signature drink: The Mexi-Sconsin boilermaker, a shot of Jose Cuervo and a Hamm's tallboy for $6.
-- Michael Russell
GOLD DUST MERIDIAN
3267 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Leave it to Hawthorne hipsters to turn a former accounting office into a funky hangout that's like a cross between their grandparents' rec room and a throwback Vegas lounge -- with better drinks. One came with a hibiscus flower draped in the cocktail glass, another combined marionberry nectar and reposado tequila in a fine margarita. The party starts early with an expansive happy hour (2-8 p.m.), then ambles late into the night (2:30 a.m.) with DJs or live music.
Remnants of the building's past life as a 1950s-era firm -- are those repurposed rolling office chairs? -- give the room a mid-century modern touch. At night, cushy, dimly lit booths beckon groups to share 60-ounce fish-bowl drinks as birds of prey watch from paintings hung around the brick-and-wood interior. If you're feeling adventurous, continue your night at one of Gold Dust's two sister bars, Club 21 (2035 N.E. Glisan St.) and Double Barrel (2002 S.E. Division St.).
Who's sitting next to you? Regulars who suggested we check out the cloistered side patio on a sunny day.
Signature drink: Old Granddad Fashion with Old Granddad bourbon, bitters, orange and soda.
-- Colin Powers
THE HIGH DIVE
1406 S.E. 12th Ave.
This quiet watering hole just off Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard feels like a sports bar -- without the obnoxiousness. There are multiple TVs lining the walls around the bar and covered patio, plus a menu of the kind of south-of-the-border snacks typically reserved for a game-day party (chips and salsa, nachos, tacos, etc.). But there's something alluring about a bar that serves Jell-O shots (still fun!) and everyday is a celebration of some sort (Taco Tuesday!). Beer options range from tallboys of Hamms to taps reserved for trendy new breweries. Cocktails are interesting and tasty, but the best part of the drink menu is the margarita section, where options range from slushies to one shaken, recently, with Hatch chiles.
Who's sitting next to you? A guy having troubles with the recent Apple update on his phone.
Signature drink: Try the frozen margarita, maybe the best iteration of this underrated cocktail -- silky smooth with a heavy dose of salt.
4639 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.
Most importantly, they kept the vintage decor in place, from the curved bar with its nostalgic lunch counter stools to the cozy red booths ringing the walls. The Lutz has long been rumored to be the birthplace of Pabst as a hipster brand, and, therefore, is owed some of the credit for bringing Modest Mouse to Pabst Project, the Portland music festival billed as a "thank you" to Portland.
Who's sitting next to you? A trio of Reed students bouncing between the pinball tables and the bar.
Signature drink: Pabst tallboys.
NIGHT LIGHT LOUNGE
2100 S.E. Clinton St.
Name a Portland cliche and you'll find it at this Southeast Clinton Street standby: It used to be scruffy, but was remodeled a few years back. The dining room, though classier than the city's average, with copper-topped tables and real curtains, features both booths and board games. The back patio is both covered and heated, with climbing vines somehow thriving despite the smoke. There is an enormous bicycle rack out front; indeed, the sidewalk tables are the best spot in town for bike-gawking. There's a good cocktail menu, though you'll probably order beer. The tap list is short but strong. The menu is mostly solid, but everyone orders the burger (unless it's brunch). Of course you can make that a veggie burger; you could make an entire meal of dishes that are both vegan and gluten-free. That includes the truffle fries. Of course there are truffle fries.
Who's sitting next to you? English major, plays in a band, knitted her own scarf, probably working on a master's degree in a practical but non-rapacious field.
Signature drink: Bottomless mimosas, $10 every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
-- Ben Waterhouse
Keeping it weird
1020 N.W. 17th Ave.
After a legal threat, Paymaster changed its name from Balls the Cat's Moonshine Kitchen and Lounge, but its fetishist feline mascot lives on. A winking attitude pervades the space, a onetime check-cashing business -- hence the new name (and old sign) -- transformed into a warren of drinking rooms. Walk past picnic tables into a barroom plastered in nostalgic beer memorabilia, including a Heineken windmill and a Spuds MacKenzie statue, and turn the corner to patronize or gawk at the vending machine, which featured, among other drunken must-haves, a "Pulp Fiction" VHS tape, a Margaret Atwood paperback and a pregnancy test. Navigate back to the large covered patio, unless you decide to hunker down in the cozy corridor. Hidden away in a yet-to-be-fancified portion of Northwest Portland, Paymaster ups the game for other dives with infused spirits and fresh-juice cocktails and burgers and dogs with gourmet accents.
Who's sitting next to you? Out-of-towners looking for a good time.
Signature drink: Don't feel like beer? Try a drink from the slushy machines, recently including white Russians and hurricanes.
The spaetzle mac at Victory Bar.
3652 S.E. Division St.
There's a charm you just can't put your finger on after a visit to Victory Bar. A friendly amber glow casts a welcoming light over walls lined with coasters from around the world. There's Orwellian artwork, mid-century advertisements and hanging televisions playing "Victory Vision" (black-and-yellow wartime news broadcasts) on repeat. The gastro-pub menu prominently features spaetzle, the small, comforting Germanic noodle nubs, here bathed in creamy aged Gruyere cheese sauce and stirred with mushrooms, chorizo, sausage or pork belly. But what you've really come for is the bar -- up to 18 taps of local and Belgian brews and a cocktail list where old drinks get a new spin and hot toddies have earned a place of their own. It's barely a high dive, more a place you'll want to post up at every day of the week. Just don't forget, order at the bar.
Who's sitting next to you? A long line of folks waiting to order at the bar. It's toddy season right now.
Signature drink: The bourbon ginger, with a healthy scoop of fresh ginger and housemade orange bitters.
WHITE OWL SOCIAL CLUB
Burgers & brews
1305 S.E. 8th Ave.
A great neighborhood bar in search of a neighborhood -- bordered on two sides by warehouses, with a gas station across the street -- this modest building with an enormous back yard has housed a long string of fun-loving, hard-rocking dives. The latest, opened in 2013 by the owners of Sizzle Pie, kept the cheerful metal attitude of its predecessor, Plan B, and added an excellent tap list, cocktails featuring local spirits, and a menu that includes excellent burgers, shoestring fries, and plenty of options for allergies and restricted diets. (And lots of New Mexico green chile.) Grab your drink at the bar -- there's no table service -- head out to the partially covered, dog-friendly patio and take a seat by the fire pit. Don't you wish this was in your neighborhood? And you haven't even ordered the s'mores yet.
Who's sitting next to you? He has shoulder-length hair and knuckle tattoos and doesn't see any reason why craft beer and rock 'n' roll shouldn't coexist peacefully.
Signature drink: A housemade grapefruit radler.
For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 25+ years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in....
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