The Solo Club: Where Summer Lasts Forever

Spritzes and Southeast Asian bites fuel Besaw’s new bitters-loving sister bar.

By Kelly Clarke September 21, 2016

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Besaw's new sister bar the Solo Club.

The Solo Club, a pretty new bar from the Besaw’s crew, is a dreamy, bitters-fueled Bali Ha’i, where a wicker-wrapped motorcycle lords over a bar of low-alcohol coolers and little Southeast Asian-tinged plates. Perched next to the brunch icon’s sleek new NW 21st Avenue dining room, the pink- and gray-hued space's tall tables and hidden mezzanine seem perfect for fun happy hours or casual dates—a calm otherworld where it’s always near sunset and your next effervescent drink is on its way.

Besaw’s owner Cana Flug and chef Dustin Clark (formerly of Wildwood) teamed up with amari ace Mark Bitterman (the Meadow) to open the watering hole. Bitterman’s love for the Italian liqueur is well known (he wrote Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters and Amari last year), and his influence is all over the charming bar’s menu, which drops names like Calisaya and Sfumato Rabarbaro as casually as gin and scotch. 

Indeed, the bar’s best ideas are bitters-focused. Its lineup of “Coolers” invites drinkers to pair straightforward sips with a wild lineup of amari. Match cava and seltzer with Aperol or Suze; spike cola with Branca Menta or Letherbee; test drive lager laced with Underberg. The combos are endless—lightweight and a bit fizzy, with an appealing herbal bite that saves them from sugar shock. You could drink these all day and night.

"It's a build-your-own-adventure bar," says Flug. "We're focusing on simplicity; trying to keep the drink ingredients to three or less to highlight how they interact and make something special." 

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Solo Club sips and bites.

Indecisive sorts can choose from a short roster of house cocktails, including a gin and green chartreuse number splashed with herby bonal to a dainty coupe of mescal and port rolling with whispers of rhubarb bitters and orange blossom water (that last one tastes a bit like smoke and fruit leather, in a nice way).

Clark's accompanying food menu is devoted to spiced, Southeast Asian small plates, from goat curry with smoked potatoes to a far too tame bowl of steamer clams topped with fermented black bean-smeared pork ribs. Best so far? Shatter-crisp fried green beans served with a side of Thai-inflected ranch dressing or anything featuring the Club’s tender, salty-sweet Fernet and house cola-braised pork. There’s also a sizable sweets menu from pastry pro Michelle Vernier (Imperial, Wildwood), touting everything from matcha layer cake and pandan creme brûlée to (what else?) a cola float…with amaro. 

The Club is open afternoons to late night currently, but plans to serve Vernier's Southeast Asian-inspired pastries and eclectic world coffee drinks mornings starting at 6 a.m. as soon as next week. 

And the story behind that wicker motorcycle? "3 a.m. on Craigslist, that's all me," says Flug, who picked up the bar's centerpiece from a guy out in Milwaukie who'd had the moto hanging in his living room since the 1970s. "I wanted [the vibe of Solo Club] to feel like travel. To be 'not of Portland,' a place where you could just...escape."

The Solo Club
2110 NW Raleigh St
3 p.m.–midnight Sunday–Wednesday;
3 p.m.–1 a.m. Thursday–Saturday

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