Behind Bars

New Bars in Town

Whether it’s umbrella drinks or an underground vibe you’ll find a stool.

July 26, 2011

So many new bars, so little time. In order to properly guide you to your next watering hole we sent out the "street team" (i.e., intern Max Gelber) to gather some intelligence on a quintet of new Portland joints. And that was the last we saw of him. Seriously, if anyone knows of Max’s whereabouts, please clean him up and stuff him in a cab. Sigh. Good help is so hard to find.

Dig a pony bar lqqmrb

The minds behind Dig A Pony (736 SE Grand Ave.) are trying their best to make a name for themselves by sticking with classic themes, and a "classy but not classist" motto. Taking over the space that formerly housed Niki’s Diner on the corner of SE Grand and Morrison, the dingy old carpets were soon jettisoned and the hardwood floor was restored to its original glory. The food will focus on classic American comfort stylings with a regional bent and will shift seasonally, due to the owners heavy focus on sourcing their food locally as much as possible. Prices will range between $5-$10. The local sourcing mind set is also present in the beverages, with local beers on taps rotating both seasonally and with the changing preferences of the customers. House-infused liquors will be a big focus, with the possibilities of extras like house-made bitters to come. Drinks will float under the $8 price tag, with drafts at about $4.

Nestled in the quiet Sellwood ’hood is the newly opened Portland U-Brew (6237 SE Milwaukie Ave). One part home brew store, one part watering hole, and one part training ground for beginning brewers, P.U.B is the brainchild of Jason Webb, who got his start at the now-defunct Saxer Brewing as a brewer and cellar man, and amateur home brewer Aaron Gillham. Housed in a two-story building, the second floor contains a fully fortified beer and wine supply store and a NW/British influenced bar with eight rotating beers on tap and a wide bottle selection of beers and ciders. The first floor houses a brewing area with six 20 gallon kettles that P.U.B will use to brew their own specialties, as well as renting out to locals to come in and use for their own concoctions. Webb and Gillham also will host beginner brewing classes every Saturday ($35, 10 percent off for couples), teaching everything about the science of beer to the brewing process itself. And after a 2 to 3 week fermentation process, students will be able to keg or bottle their new frothy inventions on site.

Once the home for one of Portland’s rare off-track-betting establishments, the Rialto Poolroom transformed its basement space into the Jack London Bar (529 SW 4th Ave). Out with the old betting parlor, in with a dimly lit space that gives off the vibe of a subterranean Portland dive (except much cleaner and with functional toilets). If you’re itching to find a new place to dust off your dancing shoes, the space includes a healthy amount of open hardwood space just screaming to be danced all over, paired with at long list of dance nights and revolving DJs (including DJ Gregarious on Fridays) with an emphasis on vintage vinyl. If that’s not your bag, the bar has some comfy looking couches and lounge chairs generously sprinkled around the space. Comedy showcases every first Thursday are also on the docket. Tuesdays will feature presentations by historian Doug Kenck-Crispin, the man behind the website Kick-Ass Oregon History ( And mustachioed man-about-town Sean McDonald (a.k.a., Seantos) will be in the house on last Thursday for Seantos Showdown, which he describes as "a little bit variety, a little bit talk, and a whole lot of awesome."

And just as summer has finally chosen to grace our city with its presence, two bars (one newly inspired, the other an old friend returning home) are keeping the rum flowing with tiki-inspired concoctions. The folks in charge of Beaker & Flask recently soft-opened their new sister bar Rum Club (720 SE Sandy; to the public, while the Tiki behemoth Trader Vics (1203 NW Glisan; will reopen to the Portland faithful August 1 with an overflowing menu of over 80 tiki drinks. Even if we only have a few months to drink cocktails with tiny umbrellas without feeling too ridiculous, we’ll take it.

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