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Portlands 10 Best New Bars
Dated: November 5 2014
3203 S.E. Division St.
Inside the Richmond Bar on Southeast Division.
Colin Powers/The Oregonian
This Southeast Division bar co-owned by Clyde Common/Olympic Provisions' genius Nate Tilden (and sister to Victory Bar and Free House) is deceivingly complex, with far more to offer than a waiting area for Pok Pok across the street. Let the simple, illuminated "bar" sign hanging on the building draw you into the surprisingly handsome and cozy spot with a British-meets-Pacific Northwest vibe decorated with tufted leather booths, imported wall paper and large wooden tables. Menu items pay homage to the theme with a selection of reinvented pub grub and a number of hand pies. Find your favorite local and imported brews on draft or in bottles (cans of macros, too) and a handful of mostly European wines. The no-fuss cocktails are the real winners here, proving that sometimes the greatest things are still the simplest.
Who's sitting next you? A friend of mine visiting from out of town.
Signature drink: The Strong Waters – a stirred cocktail of rye, cardamaro, averna, dry vermouth and bitters.
-- Samantha Bakall
9. DOWNTOWN BAR CRAWL
Blue collar dreams
Inside Southwest Portland's Jackknife.
Samantha Bakall/The Oregonian
When Tilt (1355 N.W. Everett St #120; 503-894-9528) expanded from its Swan Island base to a perch in the Pearl District's old warehouse row, it boasted of food and drink "built for the American work force," an American flag blazoned on its back wall and "blue collar biscuits" on the menu. All that was missing was an '80s Springsteen hit on the sound system. But a cursory look at the drinks list —with ingredients like elderflower liqueur and verjus, and cocktails reaching 12 bucks — makes clear this isn't your average "average joe" bar, but what you might call Pearl District Casual.
Whether a repudiation of the area's gentrification or just a testament to the wide appeal of burgers and pie done right, Tilt heralded an influx of downtown-area spots that blend low-fuss atmosphere with high-quality food and drink. Pretty soon, Tilt was joined down Northwest 13th by River Pig Saloon (529 N.W. 13th Ave.; 971-266-8897), promised as a "gritty" homage to the area's industrial past (even the name is an old lumberjack reference). That means a little more aesthetic restraint and cocktails in the $8 neighborhood. But the River Pig Old-Fashioned is anything but common with rye whiskey, fig, maple and bitters. Downtown, River Pig's porcine cousin, Swine (808 S.W. Taylor St.; 503-943-5844), takes the concept further. The whiskey bar opened as a joint venture with Swank, a fancy restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel.
It's a great idea: Want to dress up for an intimate dinner? Head to Swank. But if you'd prefer a looser vibe, head next door to join Portland's unwashed masses. If the moonshine still behind the bar doesn't put you at ease, the house-made pork rinds will. End your night at another downtown hotel lounge: Jackknife (614 S.W. 11th Ave.; 503-384-2347), in the Sentinel, doesn't push the blue-collar theme but offers a relaxed vibe that heats up as the night goes on. The 50-seat curved marble bar encourages socializing, as does a generous list of classic and contemporary cocktails.
Who's sitting next to you: A wide cross section of Portland bar-goers.
Signature drink: The Orchard Sidecar with pear brandy stood out at Swine, but if you want to do like the blue-collar hipsters do, search out PBR tall boys whenever you can.
-- Colin Powers
401 N.E. 28th Ave.
Taps at Stammtisch in Northeast Portland.
Stammtisch, a sister bar to North Portland's Prost, pushes Portland's already strong German beer scene forward in a big way. Among the 18 taps, you'll find good standbys like Kostritzer Schwarzbier, Hofbrau Lager and Veltins Pilsner, best paired with a pretzel or currywurst and fries. But on a recent visit, the less common beers proved more intriguing.
Those included an ultra-refreshing Zunft Kölsch, the unfiltered Grevensteiner lager and the Professor Fritz Briem Grut, an unusual beer brewed with herbs and spices in a style that disappeared after the passing of the Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity Law. Each was a perfect jumping off point for chef Graham Chaney's comforting, considered German food menu, which includes pungent, pillow-soft leberknödel -- liver meatballs; riesling-braised trout; and maultaschen, the wallet-sized Swabian ravioli dressed in butter and white wine.
Who's sitting next to you? Two guys in ball caps watching Sunday Night Football on the flatscreen above the bar.
Signature drink: In the early going, it's that crisp Zunft Kolsch, a fine example of the signature beer style of Cologne.
-- Michael Russell
7. COOPER'S HALL
Weaned off the bottle
404 S.E. Sixth Ave.
Coopers Hall in Southeast Portland offers more than 40 taps, most of which are dedicated to wine.
Third time was the charm. After two attempts to visit this inner Southeast winery and taproom were thwarted by private parties, we got the chance to see what those groups coveted for themselves alone: An epic space that feels like an airport hangar hosting a Tuscan garden party, with communal tables, hanging plants and strands of patio lights. The airy industrial vibe comes honestly, rather than by art direction. The old quonset hut once housed an auto-body shop.
The daily toil goes on, with the evidence of wine production -- fermentation tanks, barrels -- arrayed in the corner, unobscured from sipping patrons. For provenance-obsessed foodies, it's a cask-to-glass experience. What's missing are the bottles. Wine arrives through a 44-tap system with a handful dedicated to beer and cider. The rest pour house and "guest" wine by the glass, carafe or 2-ounce sip. Like what you taste? Take it home in a growler. Cocktail fans can rejoice in concoctions like the delicate Ciquito (tequila, hibiscus maraschino, lime, honey, bitters and mint), while rotisserie cooking focuses the food menu.
Who's sitting next to you: A couple directing their own wine flight with a wealth of 2-ounce pours.
Signature drink: House wine. The Applegate Red -- an easy-going, affordable blend of syrah, merlot and cabernet -- is a good starting point.
-- Colin Powers
6. THE KNOCK BACK
2315 N.E. Alberta St.
Jesse Card, bar manager at The Knock Back, 2315 N.E. Alberta St., chats with customers.
Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian
When Jesse Card returned to Portland after six years in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he eased back into the scene working at two Portland bars -- Raven & Rose, the high-end cocktail lounge downtown, and Hale Pele, the closet-sized craft Tiki bar on Northeast Broadway. One way to look at The Knock Back, opened last year by brother and sister team William Platt and Jane Smith, is to think of those two bars mashed into a Northeast Alberta Street dive. The ambiance is rockabilly casual, with a little bit of edge -- check out the angry boar vs. goat mural behind the small stage -- but the craft behind the cocktails is legit.
Card, the big dude with the bald head, nails the classics, from Old Fashioneds to boilermakers -- there's a list of left-field beer-shot combos on the wall, including one pairing porter and aquavit -- and the on-tap Manhattan is made with Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon. But it's not all brown and bitter: There's almost always a fragrant punch on the bar, with ingredients that change frequently -- a recent gin, earl grey, lemon, cava, lavender and cardamom blend was particularly lovely. And last month, two slushy machines churned up two different frozen drinks, a watermelon-infused Paloma, the tequila-grapefruit cocktail, and a divine Spanish coffee topped with a float of 151, meant to be set aflame before it was passed across the bar.
Who's sitting next to you? A guy ordering tallboys of macro-brewed beer, blissfully unaware of the talent behind the bar.
Signature drink: It was the frozen watermelon Paloma, though that drink has flown south for the summer. Consider its mate, the Spanish coffee slushie, which TKB's bartenders hit with a 151 float then set on fire.
-- Michael Russell
5. MULTNOMAH WHISKEY LIBRARY
1124 S.W. Alder St.
Shelves of bottles at Multnomah Whiskey Library.
Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian
More than 1,500 bottles of nearly every spirit from across the world glisten in vintage chandelier light at this gorgeous Southwest Portland bar. Inside, heavy wooden beams span 13-foot ceilings over the opulent decor, seemingly inspired by a mash-up of your wealthy grandfather's study and an Ivy League university library. Settle into a tufted leather armchair, a cushy leather sofa near the fireplace or at a sturdy wooden table lit with collegiate green desk lamps for a cocktail (wheeled over on a wooden cart and made tableside) or a pour from The Bible, an embossed hardcover guide to every spirit in the building.
Spirits in the Bible are first broken into major classes, such as whisk(e)y, sugar cane and brandy, and then further categorized into geographic origin. The last few pages of the book are dedicated to information on the numerous historical portraits that gaze majestically upon the room. Set your drink down on the leather coasters and peruse the upscale bar food menu for some mid-tippling snacks while you're there. Overwhelmed? Just ask someone for help. The knowledgeable staff can point you in the right direction or curate a tasting flight for all palates and tastes.
Who's sitting next to you: A trio of older regulars, slowly working through The Bible.
Signature drink: Sip your spirit of choice or have literally anything you want made tableside.
-- Samantha Bakall
4. TRIFECTA TAVERN & BAKERY
726 S.E. 6th Ave.
The bar at Ken Forkish's Trifecta.
Photo by Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian
Ken Forkish's ambitious bakery, oyster bar and American drinking food tavern wouldn't be complete without a solid bar. Once an auto upholstery shop, Trifecta is now home to fire engine red booths set, a wood-fired oven and a marble bar backed by eyedropper bottles of bitters, local spirits and old oyster cans. The top-notch bar program offers every option you'd ever need to pair with a pimento double cheeseburger (try the slightly bitter and anise-y John Woods, made with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Irish whiskey, house-made Kummel and fresh lemon juice) or a mix n' match plate of ham, honey, butter and oysters (sip on the navy strength gin martini -- at 100 proof, you'll only need (and be allowed) two).
Flip open the black, leather-bound drink list to find eight taps pouring a beer menu focused on Oregon-brewed Belgians, a lengthy wine list featuring glasses from local and beyond, and a diverse cocktail menu (a five-pronged list of everything from "stirred and strong" to "bubbles"), where it's nearly impossible to go wrong. Just open the book, close your eyes and point. Not so interested in the menu? Have one of the bartenders mix up a riff on your favorite cocktail or create something entirely new just for you.
Who's sitting next to you: A trio of friends enjoying their baba au rhum and champagne maybe a little too much.
Signature drink: The wood-fired cocktails (Negroni or Tipperary), where Cocchi sweet vermouth gets infused with charred Maplewood for an extra layer of depth and smoke.
3. ANGEL FACE
14 N.E. 28th Ave.
Lauren Scott (right) chats with Greg Falk while tending the bar. Angel Face on NE 28th Avenue serves cocktails and french-inspired food.
Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian
What makes a great bar? Is it the depth of the cocktail list? The breadth of the spirits selection? Or is it the skill and character displayed behind the bar? Angel Face, a sugar tin of a cocktail lounge next door to sister restaurant Navarre, puts all its chips on option No. 3, forgoing the cocktail list entirely, while offering a small but well-curated list of liquors, amari and bitters. Here's how it works: Walk in off Northeast 28th Avenue and find a seat at the slim marble counter, surrounded on all sides by pink walls hand-painted with nearly 500 blue and yellow flowers by local artist Michael Paulus. Order your go-to cocktail and it will be made just so. Or suggest a variation on a classic -- "I like Negronis, but I'd like to try something new."
What makes this cuckoo clock tick is the staff, led by Kelley Swenson, still fondly remembered from his time at Ten-01, back when he was considered on of Portland's very best bartenders. (Hint: He still is.) If you're willing to experiment, try ordering a drink based on a flavor profile, a few adjectives or, perhaps, the color of your mood ring. Watch as Swenson and his cohorts dig deep into their archival memories to stir up something delicious that you may never have tried -- or heard of -- before. Divorced from the "classic cocktails with a twist" monotony, Angel Face is free to be whatever it wants to be, one part cocktail history, one part cocktail future, always a good time.
Who's sitting next to you? Artists, musicians, boutique owners, chefs and a writer grabbing a drink before a second-run movie at Laurelhurst Theater.
Signature drink: Whatever suits your spirit.
2. PEPE LE MOKO
Rock the Casbah
407 S.W. 10th Ave.
Talia Gordon mixes a Hotel Nacional Special: aged rum, lime, apricot brandy, pineapple gomme, bitters.
There's something illicit about descending into Pepe Le Moko, the underground bar beneath the Ace Hotel, a feeling somewhat akin to discovering your dad's old Playboy collection. There's the covert entrance and oyster-shucking counter, which looks like a tiny, nondescript storefront, and the host, in a black skullcap, channeling "Casablanca's" Signor Ferrari, leading you down to the bowels of the building. The bar itself is an upside-down half pipe -- or miniature Quonset hut -- framed out of the basement, with postcard-sized photos of half-clad women on warped walls that create some of Portland's strangest acoustics. Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the noted bartender at Clyde Common -- and Playboy cocktail columnist -- named his second bar after a French gangster film set in Algeria. The mission here, besides offering finely crafted drinks of all stripes, is to improve the reputations of a handful of unfairly maligned cocktails.
Remember the Long Island Iced Tea, that grab-bag of hooch, barely cut with cola, that gave that 21-year-old you such a miserable hangover? At Pepe, it's a nuanced blend of quality spirits, balanced yet lush, with a little sweetness from some Mexican Coke. Pepe's Amaretto Sour, a drink once anathema to modern mixology, is reimagined here with high-proof whiskey, sweet almond liqueur and lemon shaken with egg white. Morgenthaler calls it the best in the world -- no argument here.
Who's sitting next to you? Technically, he's across the room, but the amped up marketing exec in the booth by the bar sounds like he's yelling in my ear.
Signature drink: The Grasshopper, a minty milkshake spiked with Fernet Branca and brought on a metal tray with a red-and-white straw.
5424 N.E. 30th Ave.
Owner Kyle Linden Webster behind the bar at Expatriate.
Want to put your own spin on "eat local, think global"? Take a trip to Expatriate, which aims to whisk you off on a worldly journey while staying true to the Portland culinary ethos espoused by Beast, its big sister. Starting with its name, Expatriate appeals to travelers and travelers at heart, while nodding to the fact that some of America's most famous expats found a home away from home in the bars of Paris, Havana and other exotic locales. The major destination here is Asia. Although inspired by a trip co-owner and celebrity chef Naomi Pomeroy took to Myanmar, there's plenty of border-hopping on the menu of "drinking snacks": Chinese sausage corn dog, Indian spiced fries, Korean fried game hen and Burmese tea leaf salad. The onion and butter sandwich — borrowed from Portland culinary legend James Beard — proves that travelers need to return home sometime.On the drinks front, you'll find sake and Taiwanese beer.
The Asian touches don't extend as significantly to the cocktail menu, though a Royal Hawaiian evokes the sweet Polynesian drinks you'll sometimes encounter at family Chinese restaurants. Only this time it comes with high-end ingredients, notably Martin Miller gin standing in for the rum. Aesthetically, Expatriate also conjures a retro vibe reminiscent of those restaurants and it's those premium spirits — framed on the back bar by a red-and-gold ornamental arch salvaged from a shuttered Hollywood (Portland, not Los Angeles) restaurant — that send Expatriate's patrons into a state of joyous repose.
Although some bars get by on their looks and others on cocktail creativity alone, Expatriate has fashioned a fitting home for its sophisticated sips. There's ambience to spare, though some of these idiosyncratic touches might be spied only by the flickering of candles, small votives in simple glass or crimson pillars on ornate pedestals. Peer into the shadows to appreciate the thrift-store finds or discern the titles of classic books offered implicitly for perusal, though the obstacles of lighting and sobriety should ensure they remain decoration alone.
Those shadows also afford one the comforts of late-night splendor even early in the evening, while the plush chairs — if only airline seats were so agreeable — encourage lingering till closing time. The tunes emanating from the turntables, vintage like the decor, compete with the buzz of the packed room. Perhaps some guests made a pilgrimage of sorts to the surrounds of Northeast Killingsworth and 30th, a hub of restaurants presenting their own world map of flavors, from Mexico (Autentica) and Italy (DOC) to France (Cocotte) and Japan (Yakuza). At the center stands Beast, a prix-fixe destination even before Pomeroy fought hard on "Top Chef Masters" and took home a James Beard award.
But across the street, it's time for her husband, Kyle Webster, and his drinks to soak up the spotlight. The food is referred to as "drinking snacks," after all. Already a rising bar star for his work at the French-inclined St. Jack, Webster has found the perfect spot to showcase his expertly made classics and originals. Given the Far East vibe, it makes sense to order a Pegu Club or Singapore Sling, but make sure to join Webster on his own journey, which includes stops in the Caribbean (the rum-fueled Lesser Antilles), Mexico (the tequila-powered Infante) and Europe (Entre Nous, with gin, genepy and Pimms).
Or see if the bartenders can whip up a Shanghai, a standout of previous menus with aged rum and exotic accents. It's the sort of deft, slightly mysterious drink that shows Expatriate at its best. Webster and Pomeroy could have been content to turn the lounge into a perfunctory waiting room, but instead Expatriate is its own beast -- a destination in its own right, no passport required. It's also Portland's best new bar.
Who's sitting next to you: A trio discussing cocktail ingredients. Is one of them a bartender? The spot is popular with mixologists, amateurs and professionals alike.
Signature drink: Ornament and Crime -- bourbon, becherovka liqueur, lemon juice, palm sugar and bitters -- has become a regular on the fairly concise drink menu.
-- Colin Powers
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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