On any given night, the clientele at this cavernous former bowling alley feels like a jagged cross-section of American culture: stubbly men grumbling over fumbles on Monday Night Football rub shoulders with young, hip people (not hipsters—those don’t exist here) belting out karaoke songs in the middle of the wide dance floor. Off-the-clock coworkers mingle with people killing time between loads at the laundromat next door. Indie folk rockers twang through live sets some nights; soul bands spark dance parties on others. Old and young bond over plates of overcooked noodles and tepid sauce on spaghetti nights. The bartenders flirt with everyone. (Don’t ask them what micros they have on tap; they don’t have any, and you’ll feel silly.) The Spare Room’s sectional “design” really feels like multiple bars: part pool-hall, part karaoke temple, part-hole-in-the-wall—making it the end of the line for both melancholic loners and big, boisterous groups in search of a fun spot to colonize for an evening. In a city not lacking in dive bars, the Spare Room stands head and slumped shoulders above them all: a supremely time-warped fishbowl refracting the weirdness still lurking at Portland’s core.
We featured Spare Room in our article on Portland's Best Bars for 2014.