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Portlands 10 Best Neighborhood Bars
Dated: October 8 2014
412 N.E. Beech St.
One night in 2007, wandering around Northeast Portland after Last Thursday, we wandered down to Prescott Street, past the old Podnah's Pit, and peeked into a new bar with candles flickering in the windows and on the bar. This was Tiga Bar, for several years my favorite Portland bar, a place where indie-rock stars might be DJing or pouring your Ninkasi Tricerahops IPA (so trendy then), where you might sit next to filmmaker Todd Haynes at the bar or swear you saw Stephen Malkmus ducking out of the dim back room.
The party ended this summer, when Tiga closed, making way for a southern-inspired brunch spot, Muscadine. With luck, the scene will migrate down the hill to the Beech Street Parlor, the bar Tiga owners Zach Sargent and sisters Maryam and Djamilah Troncelliti opened in 2011. The vibe is already there, with nightly DJs, house-infused spirits and good food served in a lovingly restored Victorian home, full of antique furniture, a gorgeous wood bar and customers spilling out onto the two-tiers patio. See you there.
Who's sitting next to you? The night's DJ, taking a break between sets.
Signature drink: Unfussy cocktails made with house-infused spirits.
-- Michael Russell
2600 N.E. Sandy Blvd.
With a biblical theme, Southern-influenced food and a long list of inventive cocktails, Church is a place you can't help but want to come back to, no matter what neighborhood you live in. Try the punch, a refreshing sipper served on ice for a downright abstinent $6, or explore the theologically-named cocktail list where lapsang souchong-infused Benedictine, black IPA syrup, yerba mate syrup are shaken and stirred. Hankering for something a little simpler?
The "more" section of the menu offers fun shots -- the sangrita back, a mini boot of El Jimador blanco tequila served with a sidecar of the sweet-spicy sangrita, or the pickle back, bourbon followed by a swig of pickle juice to ease the burn. Commemorate the night in the cloistered, claustrophobic photo booth, which texts all your embarrassing photos straight to your phone.
Who's sitting next to you? A couple of stylish young women gossiping about their latest love conquests and the colors they'd like to dye their hair.
Signature drink: The punch.
-- Samantha Bakall
1325 N.E. Fremont St.
The Turnbuckle at Free House
Michael Russell, The Oregonian
When is a neighborhood bar more than a neighborhood bar? Free House, reopened in 2012 with an immaculate pedigree -- including owners from Victory Bar and Olympic Provisions -- provides an answer. The menu here, in a narrow space roughly between Acadia New Orleans Bistro and County Cork Public House, is solid.
Cocktails are sharp. Order the Turnbuckle, a gin cocktail with cardamom vermouth and passion fruit, garnished with mint and served in a Collins glass, and a bowl of the smoked mac and cheese with sweet, crunchy onions (a worthy competitor to the baked spaetzle mac at Victory). Scan the menu and you'll find Olympic Provision meat, both in charcuterie and sausage form, plus good beer and an interesting vermouth selection. Irvington and Sabin residents have it good.
Who's sitting next to you? A woman in her early 30s, wearing a military coat, eating a cheddar cheeseburger.
Signature drink: while warm weather lasts, it's the Turnbuckle.
Past meets present
4057 N. Mississippi Ave.
Don't let the animal heads on the wall fool you. The hipsters here are only hunting for good drinks. They found them. A favorite of local bartenders -- it's open till 2:30 a.m. -- this "new American saloon" has the pre-Prohibition and spirit-forward cocktails they crave. There are Sazeracs and Old Fashioneds, of course, but who can resist ordering a Suffering Bastard? Gin and brandy team with lime and ginger beer for a strong, spicy sip.
The tavern pays tribute to some of its favorite drinks with craft jelly shots ($2 at happy hour). Because it's a gastropub, bone marrow sits on the menu next to buffalo wings. Interurban is named for electric trains that ran along North Mississippi in the first half of the 20th century, with design touches borrowed from that era. You'll find wood aplenty, and the banquette is inspired by old train seats. It's a fitting tribute to a modern tavern that finds interesting ways to celebrate the past.
Who's sitting next to you? A young couple who apparently coordinated their outfits to the 1930 "Savoy Cocktail Book" (which featured many of the standards at Interurban).
Signature drink: The Sword Fight, with bourbon, ginger beer and a blue pun.
-- Colin Powers
2105 N. Killingsworth St.
Three years after opening, The Old Gold has become exactly what it was always meant to be: a catchall bar with a few good beers, some straightforward cocktails, and the best whiskey list you'll find this far north (at least until you hit Seattle). We could talk about the nerdy posters on the wall, the hardy Bay Area sports fandom, the Adidas-clad customers visiting from the sportswear company's campus down the road.
But everything you really need to know is written on a wall-sized chalkboard on the right as you walk in the door, where dozens of bourbons and ryes, from cheap firewater to $30-a-glass luxuries, are spelled out in a punctilious script. There's even an Elmer T. Lee bottled specifically for The Old Gold from a barrel hand-selected by the owners in Kentucky. Order it with a big rock.
Who's sitting next to you? Guy in a red baseball cap, drinking Rainier.
Signature drink: Bourbon.
THE SAPPHIRE HOTEL
5008 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
This Mount Tabor cocktail lounge derives its name from a previous incarnation as an early 20th century flophouse "inhabited by sailors, travelers and ladies of the night." A century later, it has transformed from a brothel lobby to the perfect date night spot, retaining a mysterious, sensuous allure that has you feeling like you're enjoying a late-night drink no matter the hour.
Live jazz on Sundays completes the scene. Bathed in deep reds, the lounge is full of exotic design touches and cozy corners that encourage lingering, but it's the charming bisected bar that offers a window into the Sapphire's main attraction: its cocktails. The sprawling menu hints at its notorious past with the Retrosex (gin, St. Germain, basil, grapefruit) and Floozie (pear vodka, Benedictine, Torani Amer, lemon honey, bitters). But there's also a classics section if you're not comfortable ordering a libation named You're Not My Real Dad. And if you like The Sapphire, don't miss The Box Social (3971 N. Williams Ave.), also co-owned by Shannon McQuilkin, which offers a similar vibe and cocktails in a smaller North Portland locale.
Who's sitting next to you? Cocktail hipsters and date-nighters.
Signature drink: The Most Popular Drink -- vodka, lime, coconut, orgeat and Shirley Temple soda -- makes you wonder why all drinks aren't served with a side of pop rocks.
-- Colin Powers
Kids and cocktails
3111 SE Division St.
This Southeast cousin to North Portland's Lincoln restaurant resembles the product of a one-night stand between Pietro's Pizza and Clyde Common. The shuffleboard table, vintage video games, and TV turned to ESPN might seem to clash with the restaurant's mismatched incandescent lights, stylishly rough wooden surfaces and serious beverage program, but the combination has proved a winner with young people who like a little prosecco with their Ms. Pac Man, and with parents looking for good food and a decent buzz without hiring a baby sitter.
It's also a nice place to go on your own, especially in the early evening, for an interesting cocktail -- the Dutch Daiquiri subs Bols Genever for the rum in Hemingway's favorite tipple -- and a blistered pizza. If you're having more than one or two, the fried chicken and ham-spiked waffle will keep you upright. Don't forget the soft serve for dessert.
Who's sitting next to you? A couple in their early 30s rushing to finish a pitcher of Worthy IPA before baby Atticus wakes up again.
Signature drink: The 10-ounce frozen margarita, like the restaurant, revels in balancing high and low style.
-- Ben Waterhouse
3326 S.E. Belmont St.
Just a couple of years ago, me and a gaggle of friends ended up ringing in the New Year at this dark-wood saloon in Southeast Portland. Servers in party dresses walked around with trays of bubbly, while bartenders wearing ties, suspenders and impeccable facial hair stirred stiff cocktails. It was all very "Boardwalk Empire."
Today, the staff seems more comfortable in T-shirts and tats, mixing up Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds and other classic cocktails while pouring pints of Barley Brown's IPA or Liefmans' Oud Bruin. Like it's sister bar, the Bye and Bye (1011 N.E. Alberta St.), all the food here is vegan. So order your drink with a slice of raw "cheese"cake and take them both out to the warm, bamboo-bordered back patio.
Who's sitting next to you? A young woman In a black dress with white polka dots, eating a bowl of broccoli.
Signature drink: The Long and Short of It, with a Applejack, lemon, agave, cardamom syrup and a hint of Ardbeg scotch.
Home away from home
5425 E Burnside St.
Barely bigger than a one-car garage, The Tannery, East Burnside's neighborhood spot for a cozy evening, is more than you could hope for within walking distance of home. On some nights, two turntables spin quietly near the back while a chef and a bartender dance around each other behind the kitchen/bar. When tables are full, the small space acts almost like a beer hall, with burgers, steak frites and bar snacks making their way onto communal tables.
Step up to the antler-crowned bar to order a drink from the varied cocktail list, which stirs up everything from "classic concoctions" -- think Hemingway daiquiris, Moscow mules and Negroni Sbagliatos -- to "Tannery bar creations" -- more interesting mixes of everything from Genever and red wine reductions to Velvet Falernum and bay leaf syrup. So cozy up, bring a group of friends and settle in for the night. Even if you don't live nearby, it'll still feel like home.
Who's sitting next to you: Someone meeting the parents for the first time.
Signature Drink: The signature Manhattan with house-sweetened cherries.
The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club from Vintage Cocktail Lounge.
VINTAGE COCKTAIL LOUNGE
Truth in advertising
7907 S.E. Stark Ave.
The accurately named Vintage Cocktail Lounge, which managed to score what must be one of the most desirable URLs in Portland, grants refuge from the noisy Stark Street crawl through Montavilla with a cozy space done up in dark woods, candles and mirrors. Wedged between the Bipartisan Cafe and a boutique, the bar splits its focus between an extensive list of classic concoctions and house creations that come with a generous tip of the hat to their elder brethren.
Expect everything from a gimlet with Old Tom gin to a tropical Royal Bermuda Yacht Club with housemade falernum to the "Nameless," with chamomile tincture and a flamed orange cap, just a fraction of a menu that includes a handful of local beers and ciders on tap and about a dozen wines by the glass. The friendly gentleman tending bar is quick with a suggestion if you require a navigator, not an unreasonable assumption with so many pillars of the cocktail world vying for your attention.
Who's sitting next to you? An impeccably dressed octogenarian nursing his Sazerac.
Signature drink: Absinthe, served traditionally with fountain and sugar spoon.
-- Adam Lindsley
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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