Portland's Best Spot for Pig & Booze: Hamlet

A slinky, single-minded Pearl District bar gives you three reasons to go whole hog.

By Karen Brooks October 9, 2015 Published in the November 2015 issue of Portland Monthly


Little @aviationgin cured salmon bites we served for #funsizedevents series for @feastportland tonight. Y'all missed out! Oink

A photo posted by Hamlet Cocktail Bar (@hamletpdx) on

Hamlet revels in serving little more than precisely sourced cured pig meat, seven kinds—“vertically sliced or hand-carved,” dished up naked on a plate. Oh, you can get some mixed warm olives (your server will ID every kind), a hammy sandwich, or a perfect cocktail shaken with a sole purpose: to make you crave more of the rosy, salty pork. Honestly? I expected to hate this place. The name alone inspires murderous thoughts and bad puns. And yet, though this be madness, there is method in it: giving the world’s best hams the spotlight, in a space tailor-made for wallowing, we’re powerless against Hamlet’s genuine charms. To swine own self be true, baby. 

The Drink

Bartender/co-owner Ryan Magarian’s cocktails are graceful, fruit-proud, and floral—qualities largely banished by today’s barrel-aging bartenders. His Iberian Road Soda gathers good tequila, soft sherry, beautiful French rose liqueur, deep cherry tones, and a little oyster sea breeze into one tall, effervescent glass. Ham or no, a drink not to miss.

The Dish

One of the year’s best-kept secrets: Spanish Toast, a super-satisfying omelet oozing hot potatoes, punchy cheese, and ’nduja (Italy’s spreadable spicy salami), flopped over aioli-glazed toast. It’s patatas bravas, croque madame, and breakfast for dinner, all at once.

The Ham

Hamlet’s playlist saunters from Iowa’s silky La Quercia Acorn Tamworth prosciutto to Virginia’s hickory-fuming Surryano ham. But the best of breed is Spain’s prized 48-month-aged Iberico de Bellota. This is pure pork bling, a bucket-list bite, all beautiful marbled fat and meaty richness. Alternate bites with the fab cream biscuits. Die happy. 

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