2010 Best Bars

Best Bars to Eat Well

Cocktail Recipes

By Rachel Ritchie November 17, 2010 Published in the December 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

Dinner is served at Bar Avignon: Carlton Farms pork chop, polenta verde, and roasted grapes.


2926 NE Alberta St; 503-206-6266

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YOU’RE DRINKING Branchhattan ($8)
Rye whiskey, Vya sweet vermouth, Angustura bitters, orange bitters, served up

December has arrived: the elements have turned against us, and thus commences our annual search for refuge. All signs point to Branch, where the denlike, European-style whiskey bar’s warmth extends a powerful invitation to indulge our seasonal urge to nest. In an unexpected twist for the often one-track world of whiskey bars, Branch’s chef, Larry Tavernetti, is crafting some serious (and seriously comforting) food in the back. The small, meat-loving menu brims with memorable meals to pair with your spirits—rich, perfectly salty pork rillettes; plump baked meatballs; a flavor-packed Vietnamese pork bahn mi. So this year, do yourself a favor and follow your hibernation instincts: escape the elements, eat some fine food, sip some whiskey, and create the winter of your content.

Bar Avignon

2138 SE Division St; 503-517-0808

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YOU’RE DRINKING 2006 Domaine Rabasse Charavin Côtes du Rhône ($9)

In a town prone to overhype (thanks, New York Times), Bar Avignon stands as one of those rare gems that has flown largely under the radar since it opened in 2008. Those who have been lucky enough to discover this neighborhood bar inevitably walk out fantasizing that it was their neighborhood bar. Bedecked with myriad tealights and a Provence blue bar holding more than 80 well-priced bottles from around the world (most are also available to go), Avignon is a wine bar at heart. But don’t let your glass of Côtes du Rhône distract you from the food menu. Sharing is the culinary navigation mode here; tack your way through the menu’s seasonal flavors, from the finger food to the small plates (don’t miss the mussels, bathed in white wine, cream, and tarragon), entrées (creamy vegetable risotto, flavorful slices of bavette steak), artisan charcuterie, and rustic desserts. Plied with such pleasures, you just might find yourself considering a move.

Bunk Bar

1028 SE Water Ave; 503-477-9515

YOU’RE DRINKING Everybody’s Pale Ale ($4)

If you haven’t yet enjoyed the sublime indulgence of a Bunk sandwich, you’re … well, to put it lightly, you’re a fool. With Bunk Sandwiches, chefs Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood took the lowly sandwich and reimagined it as something new—a kind of decadent, drippy, belly-stretching objet d’art that draws a steady line of hungry patrons snaking out their doors on SE Morrison Street. Now, the pair’s new spin-off, Bunk Bar, lavishes those same masterful sandwiches with some fitting counterparts: a wall full of liquor and a row of taps. In the heart of the shabby and increasingly chic Central Eastside Industrial District, Bunk Bar’s expansive, light-filled corner space oozes casual hipster charm, its old-school booths and bar stools populated until the wee hours with a very Portland mix of suits, flannel, tattoos, and high heels. Look to a large chalkboard for a list of rotating creations that range from a grinder stuffed with Italian cured meats to a french-fry po’boy doused in duck gravy. And when your tray arrives, you can enjoy your Bunk sandwich the way it was meant to be: beer in hand, without the endless line.


1314 NW Glisan St; 503-228-9535


Andina’s must-try cocktail: the Sacsayhuamán.

Image: Andina

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YOU’RE DRINKING Sacsayhuamán ($9.50)
Habanero pepper vodka with puréed passion fruit and cane sugar, served up with a sugar rim

You may fumble your way through pronouncing most of the dishes on the menu and even find yourself intimidated by unfamiliar ingredients (beef heart, anyone?), but Andina is a place to release that old gringo angst. Step inside this Peruvian stronghold and take a hard right, following the enticing glow of the bar. If you can, find a nook and fold yourself into this bustling, jewel-toned room, where you’ll be greeted by attentive servers ready to gently guide you through any imbibing indecision. From traditional south-of-the-border staples like caipirinhas and pisco sours to fiery modern innovations like the Sacsayhuamán (pronounced “sexy woman”), Andina’s cocktails are liquid cure-alls. And the food proves equally therapeutic—the bar menu of entradas is an inventory of palate-expanding flavors: empanadas stuffed with slow-cooked beef, silky Peruvian tartare, and a selection of the best ceviche in town all ensure that nothing gets lost in translation here.

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