Sometimes you’re thirsty and you just don’t know what you want. Luckily, the bar scene in Portland offers a great variety of different hot spots in which to wet your whistle.
Begin your night out at the Horse Brass Pub, located in a predominantly residential neighborhood on SE Belmont. Beer is the main attraction here. This local hangout tends to be loud and crowded and beards and blue jeans are the fashion; in a word comfortable.
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The four-page drinks menu lists microbrews from Oregon, California and Washington, imported ales and stouts from England, Ireland and Belgium, and lagers from Pennsylvania, California and Oregon and they are all on tap. You will also find bottled brews from Belgium, Germany, Poland, Holland, Scotland and New Zealand, as well as a long column of interesting looking single malt scotches. Try something new, like Hog’s Back Stout, or Hair of the Dog Fred Strong Ale. Love those names! A rousing game of darts may tempt, but you have places to go so drink up.
Next head toThatch, a tiki bar on NE Broadway. From the outside it’s a storefront, but walk through the door onto a little wood bridge that crosses a stream and you’ll feel like you have instantly been transported to Tahiti or Waikiki. A turtle eyes you sleepily from his lava rock. A slack-key guitar wails softly in the background. Blowfish lamps swing over the teakwood bar and a thatched roof protects you from the (presumed) blazing sun above. The snow and chilly wind you’ve left outside fade from memory.
There’s a long list of umbrella drinks and martinis and most are $6-$8. Many of the drink recipes, along with the silently gazing tiki gods that adorn the space were reputedly salvaged from the famous and former, Trader Vic’s restaurant. Try Taboo, a pineapple-rummy-melon concoction with, yes, an umbrella. Or try Thatch’s signature Killer Mai Tai, but be careful… this exotic elixir contains several kinds of rum, liqueurs and juices. Pace yourself with a dish or two from the Pupu aka appetizer menu; it’s all good.
If you can pry yourself away from the tropical paradise head out through the night to your third and final stop at Mint 820 in Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. Mint is a Pan-American bistro with Mediterranean and Latin American influences and next door is the 820 bar. Both are owned by Lucy Brennan, touted by Bon Appetit as one of the top ten mixologists in the U.S. and who has written a great drinks book called Hip Sips.
Indeed the sips are very hip at this warm and elegant lounge. Try Bella, a marvelous combination of blackberry puree, vodka, and house-made lemon lime in a huge sugar-rimmed martini glass. Other delicious cocktails are the Cucumber Margarita and the Ad Lib that includes vodka muddled with cilantro and lemon-lime again served in the huge sugar-rimmed glass. They are all equally creative and delicious. Most drinks are $8.
Eat if you must, and Mint is a good choice. They serve until 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Try the spicy Caesar salad with grilled bread or the fried snapper burger with sweet potato fries. Although the venue is upscale and the food is wonderful, it won’t empty your bank account. Appetizers are $6 – $10, and entrees run $12 – $26.
These are just a few of the many options in Portland’s booming club and bar scene. When the night is young and you’re ready for a little fun head out and enjoy yourself. Of course, remember to designate a driver or better yet, take a cab.
As W.C. Fields so wisely said, "I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home." Cheers!
What & Where:
Horse Brass Pub (4534 SE Belmont; 503-232-2202)
Thatch (2733 NE Broadway; 503-281-TIKI)
Mint and 820 (816 North Russell; 503-460-0820)