Portland’s 13 Best New Bars

Whether you're into ham and fortified wines or mussels and Belgian beers, there’s a new spot for you.

By Marty Patail, Rebecca Jacobson, Ramona DeNies, Fiona McCann, Benjamin Tepler, and Kelly Clarke April 22, 2016 Published in the May 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Loyal Legion


Loyal Legion

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No bar actually needs 99 taps. But when you’re local restaurant magnate Kurt Huffman—and you live in a state that bleeds beer—that’s just how many spigots you install, all of them spouting Oregon-made suds. Formerly the Portland Police Athletic Association, this 220-seat space has been kitted out with dark leather booths, plenty of hanging plants, and a wood-topped wraparound bar. But the focus is on the drink, down to a full-page bespoke infographic that describes how exactly Loyal Legion pours the best beer possible, with the cleanest lines, at the perfect temperature (less than 38 degrees, which has some beer snobs grumbling certain flavors can’t bloom). The taps are helpfully divided—IPAs, sours, European styles—and servers are happy to guide you. Our tip: order a half dozen tasters, grab an Olympia Provisions sausage (nine options have never felt so meager) on a pretzel roll, and revel in Oregon’s bounty. —RJ  710 SE Sixth Ave,

Hamlet (now closed)

It may be the chic, Portuguese-style tiling on the walls, the titular nod to the Prince of Denmark, or the scrupulously sourced, ham-heavy menu—perfectly calibrated for sherry and cocktail pairings. Whatever the reason, this slinky Pearl cocktail spot operates in a Euro mode that makes you want to linger till the wee hours. Come for plates piled high with salty and smoked pig sourced from Seville to the Midwest; stay for the delicate Fino and other fortified wine gems. Or, experience both in one drink—we’re looking at you Melon v. Meat, a spring-fresh concoction of dry gin and just-pressed honeydew juice, garnished with air-dried prosciutto. —FM  232 NW 12th Ave,

The Green Room 

With its emerald-tiled bar back and forest-glade stained glass skylight, the Multnomah Whiskey Library’s kryptonite-hued waiting room could slay Superman with its good looks. You’ll drink in the cush environs before you take a single sip of the house’s roster of stiff but balanced cocktails, served by a cadre of crisp-tongued servers not shy with the recommendations. Recent hits: Kyushu Fling’s sweet bubble-tang of Prosecco and shochu blended with port reduction and a whisper of Violette, or the medicinal bite of Sardinian myrtlewood liqueur lending interest to a big-cubed glass of Old Grand-Dad Bonded and Fino sherry. (The crunch of the Green Room’s bourbon caramel corn goes with everything.) With this destination for date-night assignations and fancy happy hours, you may never make it upstairs to the main event.  —KC  1122 SW Alder St,

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The lush scene at the Green Room.


Bit House Saloon

A century or so ago, the Grand Avenue tavern reportedly called Nat West’s Bit House was known for rowdiness, even street brawls. Today, the tipsy townies lining that spacious bar tend to be more blithe than bloodthirsty: a mix of off-duty bartenders, be-plaided east-siders, and weekend warriors, all drawn by pleasantly affordable top-shelf quaffs (cocktails on draft, sherry flights, a boilermaker menu). And yet, a rich frisson still rises from Bit House’s barrel stave flooring, dark leather, and original 1896 sconces. “We wanted it to feel like it’s been here all along,” says manager Jesse Card, whose geniality—to say nothing of his crack team of bartenders (like Ración alum Chauncey Roach and Teardrop’s Brian Gilbert)—can keep you pleasantly stationed in your cushy armchair until way past the witching hour. West’s landmark building has never been more dangerous. —RD  727 SE Grand Ave, 

The Sandy Hut 

To call the Sandy Hut a “new” bar is slightly disingenuous. The pie-shaped dive has pointed toward downtown like a rusty shank since 1923. But amid a development boom that threatens old haunts with mass extinction, this bar’s stubborn survival feels, well, new. The duo behind nearby Club 21’s restoration took over the Hut last year and improved only what was necessary. Outside, the purple façade’s now a garish memory; inside, new HVAC and fewer nicotine stains. But the Jell-O shots and the unfashionable arm cushions on the bar have been lovingly preserved. The menu pays homage with “The Fat Man Sandwich”: a bacon, egg, ham, and onion ring–topped nuke of a burger originally served at the tavern in the 1960s. The music stage is gone, true, but I won’t miss it. On a Saturday night, as I nursed a well whiskey and Googled the name of the long-dead actress in the signed black-and-white photo behind the bar, the jukebox played all the classics I needed: the Breeders’ “Cannonball” to Judas Priest’s “The Hellion/Electric Eye.” Unlike that well whiskey, the Sandy Hut goes down smooth. —MP  1430 NE Sandy Blvd,

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Sandy Hut


Bible Club

When a green light in the attic window of this small Craftsman house winks on, it’s a signal that Westmoreland’s new cocktail-fueled time machine is open for business. Jewelry designer and rabid antiquer Ryk Maverick recently retooled the longtime home of Schoendecken Coffee Roasters as a 1920s-era speakeasy, complete with plinky jazz soundtrack and dizzy-making heritage cocktails. First and foremost, you’re here for the eye candy: Bible Club’s décor is attacked with meticulous, museum-worthy intensity, right down to period-specific doorknobs, 90-year-old beer taps, and velvet drapery festooning nearly every square inch of the teeny house. A short list of “proprietary libations” brims with balanced, extremely drinkable ideas—from a yeasty, rich, grapefruit-kissed shandy shaken to frothy goodness with an egg white to a sweet, smoky, lemon-laced Hombre Santo (Maestro Dobel Diamante tequila stirred with Dolin Blanc and Bénédictine)—all served in delicate glassware scavenged from a great-grandma’s sideboard. In the kitchen, former Ración chef-owner Anthony Cafiero sneaks modernist touches onto a short bill of lusty Americana fare. Roasted mushroom mac wafts truffle vapors; Castelvetrano olives taste of smoked hay. The whole thing teeters on a knife’s edge of Disneyland Main Street–level schmaltz but ends up charming thanks to chatty servers, rock-solid drinks, and some epic, star anise–perfumed French onion soup. Hello, date-night time warp. —KC  6716 SE 16th Ave, 971-279-2198,

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Bible Club

Image: Brandi Leigh

Victoria Bar

Portland’s Lightning Bar Collective sure knows how to make locals swoon. The cooperative is behind Dig a Pony, Sweet Hereafter, Bye & Bye, and now NoPo’s charming Victoria, which feels like an older sibling to those joints: out with the mason jars, in with the delicate hobnail lamps. The roomy space brims with lovely details—distressed wooden benches, a hulking painting of the Lusitania, an Astroturfed patio. Even sweeter: bartender Lisa Hare mixes a roster of cocktails riffing on, yes, The Princess Bride. Try the tequila-based, cardamom-accented Inigo Montoya or the citrusy, IPA-spiked Six-Fingered Man. New Orleans–inspired fare, much of it vegan, emerges on china your grandma would love, to be consumed by patrons sporting beanies and just the right amount of facial scruff. Inconceivable? Hardly. —RJ  4835 N Albina Ave,

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Victoria Bar


The Commons Tasting Room

For months after the Commons’ airy new tasting room opened, fans of the brewery’s crisp, tart farmhouse ales found only scattered barrels on which to rest their snifters, no seats. So patrons stood, on hard concrete, leaning awkwardly against window sills—and never looked more content. Biker dudes in club patches, retirees in chinos, and urban hikers in Gore-Tex: all seemed grateful just to be there, munching Steve Jones’s most excellent cheese plates with tulips of Myrtle ale and fruity Fleur de Blanc, bathed in calm northern light. In the land of the Commons, the laws of hospitality extend to all travelers. —RD  630 SE Belmont St,

Americano (now closed)

It’s barely pulled its first shots, but this ambitious spot celebrating Italy’s greatest exports—espresso and vermouth—is already one of the city’s most exciting places to drink. San Francisco bar star Kate Bolton and Hale Pele “tiki guy” Blair Reynolds dive headfirst into fortified wines, putting them center stage behind a marble bar graffitied with Italian futurist art. Drinking commences at 7 a.m. with house-roasted coffees and a boozy brunch Shakerato—a cool, frothy, bitter-on-bitter espresso drink shaken with cream and amaro. At night, vermouth-heavy cocktails, Rob Roys to manhattans, and effervescent Campari sippers rule, while the kitchen churns out whimsical plates and long-lost James Beard staples, like “jellyroll” eggs with salmon and chèvre. Any bar that can thrive at the intersection of coffee, vermouth, and Beard himself is doing something right. —BT  2605 E Burnside St,

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Killingsworth Dynasty

Some bars are for slow craft-cocktail sipping and earnest conversation. Others are for knocking back a whiskey soda in order to maximize your dancing time. Killingsworth Dynasty falls squarely into the latter category. The drinks and eats (coconut milk and piney syrup–assisted twists on classic cocktails, Southern-fried vegan fare) are a means to an end—you came for the party. In a raw space coddled by dark woods, rotating DJs and bands serve up a sweaty rotating riot of late-night fun, from Twerk’s queer hip-hop jam to the punk and new wave sounds of Strange Babes. Come midnight, that makes this North Portland haunt a weekend essential. —FM  832 N Killingsworth St,

La Moule 

If there were an award for sexiest new bar, it would undoubtedly go to La Moule, the Francophile mussels-and-fries joint from the team behind popular bouchon St. Jack. Head straight to the dark, blue backlit bar area plastered with psychedelic wallpaper for a late-night bowl of cider-spiked Normandy mussels with long, salty fries. Pick from the all-Belgian-style tap list—a traditional (and perfect) partner to moules-frites—or try the Black Lodge, a beautifully balanced whiskey drink with luxurious body. —BT  2500 SE Clinton St,


Paydirt celebrates modern Portland excess: Fernet-Branca flows freely on tap, a list of 100-plus whiskeys glow amber from the shelves, and a 1930s phone booth sits in the corner, built exclusively for expedient orders of Champagne and its lowbrow counterpart, Miller High Life. It’s also the pivotal cog on NE Sandy Boulevard’s Zipper microrestaurant complex. Order fresh-made falafel or fried chicken sandwiches from one of the building’s four independent eateries, request a Czech Mark, made with sweet, vanilla-tinged Central European fernet, and take a seat by one of the outdoor fire pits; the goods will come to you. —BT  2724 NE Pacific St,

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Artists Nancy Prior and Adam Moser’s bar is a front for alcohol-assisted art installations, talks, and other creative events. When an interested civilian is accepted into Likewise’s “Bartender in Residence” program (the nation’s first, probably), this bare-walled shoebox along Hawthorne becomes their personal playground for a month—drink menu to décor. The result is less a bar and more a dare. Do you want to organize a vegan punk rock dinner at the spot’s long wooden table? Sure, says Likewise. Screen David Letterman clips on its walls for a month? Why not. Build an airplane inside the bar, complete with seats, custom SkyMall catalogs, mini bottles of booze, and tickets that request passengers assume a fake persona? Yes, yes, and yes. But the spot doubles surprisingly well as a theme-free watering hole; a candlelit space where you can strike up a conversation about bad movies or share a pint of Double Mountain with John, the 76-year-old founding member of the bar’s 500th Beer Club. (There’s a framed photo of him on the wall sometimes.) Chances are, after a few rounds, you’ll end up feverishly describing your own vision for the bar. Who knows? Likewise might just say yes. —KC  3564 SE Hawthorne Blvd,

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