One hundred and twenty-eight. Two hundred and thirty-two. These are the numbers (respectively) of bars Portland Monthly‘s editors visited and drinks they drank in researching our "Best Bars" feature. But just as a true Lothario is bound to miscount the number of women whose lips he has kissed, the editors cannot guarantee these figures. All we know for certain is that for the past three months, Team Drinkie (as the editors—unimaginatively, we admit—dubbed themselves) walked through the doors of a helluva lot of bars; partook of every imaginable spirit, beer and wine; and engaged in innumerable conversations with the bars’ patrons, their tenders and their keeps. The point of this cirrhotic endeavor was partly to save you from embarking on a similarly exhaustive journey — but also to identify the best watering holes in 19 categories, ranging from places where you can procure a glass of tawny port to the kind of joint where it’s perfectly acceptable to belt out Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’," Miller Lite in hand.
To those who understand the nature of true thirst, this must sound like the ultimate assignment. After all, few conscripted to the American workforce can decide, summarily, to shut down their computers six hours into the workday and announce to their boss, "I have to go sample Scotch at the Benson! Goodbye!" Much less be met with enthusiastic approval: "Hear, hear! Have one for me!"
Yet the mission was not all buzz and bliss. Consider: While researching the "Dives of Distinction" category, consulting editor Bart Blasengame was propositioned by a female prostitute while in the men’s restroom of one watering hole. And at a bar that did not make our list, associate editor John Chandler was asked repeatedly for $10 from a man claiming to be his cousin Tony. "I don’t have a cousin Tony," Chandler says.
But no one had it quite as tough as assistant editor Brian Barker — who is not the Brian featured in our story about polyamory. As the only one among us who lives in Beaverton, Brian was a natural choice to research bars for our "Suburban Safaris" list. From the hinterlands of deepest Gresham to the strip malls of Hillsboro, Brian persevered, week after week, in hunting for establishments that were, in his words, "at least three steps above a T.G.I. Friday’s." To find the 4 bars that made the list, he visited no fewer than 15, and found the final inductee, Hall Street Grill, a mile from his house.
At last, the notes scribbled surreptitiously onto cocktail napkins have been translated and tallied, and the final results appear here. Even more exciting, the Best Bars list also will be incorporated into one of our new pocket guides, which will be available at local bookstores and grocery stores this summer. For those times when the thirst hits, this is one volume you’ll definitely want to keep on your shelf — the top shelf, of course.