Bar Dobre looks like any ordinary eatery on SE Hawthorne Boulevard. It’s got a good burger, a nice beet salad, and a non-descript interior. This would be unremarkable, except Dobre is also trying to serve traditional Polish food, cranking out potato pancakes and kielbasa alongside Reubens and Caesar salads. Dobre brings local ingredients, from-scratch everything, and Polish ambition to the table, but needs to focus its concept and polish its standouts before it can become a serious player.
Dobre’s opening menu last winter was laid out in three “P’s”: Portland, Pizza, and Poland. It was a schizophrenic dining experience intensified by Dobre’s generic interior, save for a spread-eagle Polish coat of arms above the kitchen. But the food was good. Almost everything was handmade and locally sourced by owners Stan and Kimberly Pratnicki, and Poland’s iconic dishes were well accounted for.
Flash forward to now and the menu structure is more cohesive. The pizza has disappeared, with a new focus on “Portland” and “Poland.” You’ll find a salacious, half-pound burger layered with funky Gruyere and caramelized onions, fries tossed in truffle oil, parmesan and garlic, and airy beer-battered cheese curds in tartar sauce. But little of the Polish fare—from thick-skinned pierogis to spicy golumpki dumplings—will make you yearn for Baltic shorelines or ancient Warsaw castles, save for the intensely smoky kielbasa, juicy, full of snap and worth the trip alone.
Dobre’s vodka-centric drink program is worth noting. Against the grain of Portland’s whiskey-centric zeitgeist, Dobre offers a dozen varieties, all touting Polish pedigree. A creative cocktail list utilizes them well, shaking up drinks with cumin-scented liquor and fresh juices and avoiding the pitfalls of the Sex In the City cosmo-syndrome but without the flair of today’s modern mixologists.
Dobre has the potential to be Portland’s best (and only) Polish bar, rather than a pub that also serves Polish food. But first it needs a clearer identity. As is, Bar Dobre risks fading into the background noise of Hawthorne Boulevard’s ordinary eateries.
3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Mon-Thurs, 5-11pm; Fri-Sat, 5-12am