Contributor: Diana Banning is the City Archivist for the City of Portland and is a member of the host committee.
Portland extends its innovative approach to all things food-related by offering imaginative and tasty cocktails that are sure to satisfy, often using local booze and other ingredients. Almost anywhere you go in town you’ll find a place to imbibe, but if you’re interested in some Portland favorites, here’s a list to check out. I’ve included a few bars close to the Convention Center and the conference hotels. There are also some great bars that will take you into fun neighborhoods – if you don’t mind using public transportation (don’t worry, it’s easy! And safe!), or taking a taxi, uber, or lyft.
Near the Oregon Convention Center
Altabira in the Hotel Eastlund
1021 NE Grand Avenue
Located on the rooftop of the Hotel Eastlund and just a few steps away from the Convention Center, how could you go wrong?
Spirit of 77
500 NE MLK Jr Blvd
While you can’t get a cocktail here, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t point out this bar just down the street from the Convention Center. If you don’t mind a sports bar vibe, and are happy with beer and wine, then this is a convenient place for meeting up with colleagues. Yes, there IS a Red Robin close by, but really, why would you?
Most of the places listed for downtown are walkable from the Hilton.
The Melting Pot
1001 SW 5th Ave
If you’re staying at the Hilton, you just might be able to see the entrance to this restaurant from your window. Every town needs a fondue restaurant, and this is Portland’s. Close by and their cocktails are pretty decent.
Multnomah Whiskey Library
1124 SW Alder St
In case you’re wondering, yes I do like my whiskey. Add “library” to the name and all will power goes out the door. But lest you think whiskey is all they offer here, fear not! They use a lot of local ingredients to make well-crafted cocktails. The bar has this to say about their bartenders: “[they] not only mix cocktails, but act as historians, chefs, and evangelists.” AMEN!
511 NW Couch St
Remember those youthful days spent playing arcade and video games? What if you could relive those days AND enjoy a drink while doing so? Ground Kontrol has you covered. With 27 pinball machines, over 60 classic video games, and a full-service bar, why wouldn’t you check this out?
1014 SW Stark St.
If you watch Portlandia you may have a déjà vu moment when you walk into the Ace Hotel, which houses Clyde Common. However, don’t let that put you off from the wonders that await you in the restaurant and bar. The bar is run by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, who was named America’s Bartender of the Year in 2016. Known for his barrel-aged cocktails and putting a new spin on old favorites, this is a bar you need to visit. It doesn’t hurt that the food is also exquisitely crafted.
Tasty n Alder
580 SW 12th Ave
Chef John Gorham is quite a thing here in Portland and owns several restaurants in town: Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons, Shalom Y’all, Plaz Del Toro. The food: divine. The cocktails: fun and well-crafted. I usually go to the Tasty n Sons in my neighborhood, but you can’t go wrong with any of Gorham’s restaurants. If they happen to be serving their venison pate on the meat board, get it. You can thank me later.
Portland City Grill
111 5th Ave
The drink menu is pretty solid, but what you’re really here for is the view. Located on the 30th floor of the US Bank building (commonly referred to as Big Pink because it is 1. tall, and 2. it is pink.) Try to time your visit for happy hour, but get there early.
Departure Restaurant and Lounge
525 SW Morrison St
Speaking of roof top bars, here’s another one you should visit. The view is worth it.
If you’ve decided to take the streetcar and don’t mind a little walk, here are some places to check out that are still near the Convention Center:
Produce Row Café
204 SE Oak St
A Portland institution for food and drink. With 24 taps, a large whiskey selection, wine and bubbles, and nice cocktails, this is a good place to please the group. To get here, grab the streetcar in front of the Convention Center on MLK and debark at MLK and Morrison. You’ll need to backtrack a few blocks.
726 SE 6th Avenue
Cocktails. In case you need more – food cooked in a wood fire. Yum!
720 SE Sandy Blvd
I am told that this is where the bartenders flock for their cocktail hour; I don’t know if this is true, but I can say they care about their craft and want to make sure you have an excellent experience. Nice patio as well.
600 East Burnside Stree
Looking for more of a party scene after dark? Rontoms is your place. Great food, better drinks, and a large patio. Located in an area of town that offers good people watching and a bit of excitement.
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside ST
The Doug Fir has it all. Really. Attached to the Jupiter Hotel, it serves as a model for reinventing a building. The dive motor hotel was transformed several years ago into a hip hotel. During the renovation they designed the Doug Fir to look like a log cabin. A popular place to eat and drink, it is also home to one of the best small live music venues in town. Check out the calendar of shows: http://www.dougfirlounge.com/calendar. Saturday night 7/29 you could see the 10,000 Maniacs….
The SE part of Portland is home to a lot of nightlife, great food and drinks. Well worth the effort to check the area out. Here are some favorite places to get some quality cocktails.
SE Belmont Street: Belmont is a sweet street to explore and as you get closer to SE Cesar Chavez Blvd you’ll find more shops, restaurants, and bars. This street is close to Lone Fir Cemetery, home to many of our founding fathers and mothers.
The Sweet Hereafter
3326 SE Belmont St
Looking for a place that serves up vegan food with their drinks? This is the place for you! Even if you aren’t vegan, the food is great, and the vibe is defiantly Portland, through and through. A good place to find those hip lumberjack types.
3348 SE Belmont St
A prohibition themed bar with outstanding cocktails. They get my vote for the best Moscow Mule in town! The food offerings are pretty amazing, too.
The Liquor Store
3341 SE Belmont St
Just across the street from the Sweet Hereafter and Circa 33, you’ll find one of Portland’s new live music venues with a well-rated bar.
SE Hawthorne Blvd: An early hipster destination with plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop. Great street to find vintage clothing shops.
Gold Dust Meridian
3267 SE Hawthorne Blvd
A popular hangout with good drinks and a great place to people watch. Full disclosure: The few times I’ve been here, I’ve never felt so old and unhip.
5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Great and imaginative drinks with a relaxed vibe. How could you not love a place that has this on their menu: “We will never give you a hard time for what you like to drink, ‘cause hell, we all like weird shit.” There are several bars within a block of each other on this end of SW Hawthorne, so have fun!
SE Division St: This street used to be pretty sleepy with a few restaurants and bars. The last few years have brought big changes – most of it good, unless you are trying to find parking. If you are looking for a street that contains some of the best Portland has to offer, this is it, my friends.
Starting with the West end of the street, some notable places: Double Dragon (perhaps the best Bahn Mi in town); Bar Avignon; Salt and Straw ice cream (if deciding between Voodoo Donuts and Salt and Straw ice cream for your destination food “must-try” – pass on the first and go for the second. Voodoo is meh.)
More on Salt and Straw. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a crazy sensation. Still a young company, they’ve been wildly popular and growing. Why do people stand in lines nearly a block long, even in the rain? I think it is the 17% butterfat. Or maybe the innovative flavors. Depending on the time of year, you might find flavors like bone marrow, turkey, squid ink, edible flowers, wasabi and green apple. But they also have flavors for the less adventurous. They use a lot of locally sourced ingredients and are quality all the way. http://saltandstraw.com/
Caution! Clowns ahead!
2432 SE 11th Ave
Just off of Division St, the Funhouse describes itself as “a modern cabaret of sorts.” On any given night you can listen to comedy, watch a burlesque show, improve, storytelling, and many more entertainment forms. I don’t know that the drinks are anything special, but the experience should be!
Whiskey Soda Lounge / Pok Pok
3131 SE Division St / 3226 SE Division ST
These two establishments are owned by Any Ricker and are just across the street from each other. Pok Pok should be a destination place for all Portland visitors. The food is amazing and they have that whole umami thing nailed down. But since we are talking cocktails here, I want to point out that you should really drink here. Bringing unexpected ingredients together, they create a whole new world for cocktail lovers. Tamarind in your whiskey sour? Yup. Maybe some salted plum in your vodka Collins. Sure! Best of all are their drinks using their in-house brand of drinking vinegars. Vinegar in your drink?! Try it – I’d be surprised if you weren’t won over.
While North Portland is developing along with the rest of the city, it still maintains much of its blue collar vibe. Grab the Yellow Max line headed in the direction of the Expo Center, or one of the many buses headed north, and check out my neighborhood! If you get off at the Kenton MAX stop, you can visit our own 37’ tall Paul Bunyan statue. Bars and restaurants await you in Kenton.
The Alibi Tiki Lounge
4024 N Interstate Ave
The Alibi is celebrating its 70th birthday and remains a popular Portland dive spot. Always a fun place to hang out and drink sweet, fruity drinks while waiting to sing Karaoke (or listen, in my case), the bar recently upped its game by bringing in a well-known rum aficionada who relies more on craft than on sugary additions. To get to the Alibi, hop on the Yellow Max headed towards the Expo Center. The bar is in between Max stops, so you can either get off at N Prescott St stop and walk back about 3 blocks, or get off at the Overlook Park stop (next to Kaiser Permanente) and continue walking in the same direction for about 3 blocks. Overlook Park is a simple park that offers a beautiful look at Portland and the Willamette river, so my recommendation is to take this stop and enjoy the sites.
Mississippi Ave: This stretch is about 6 blocks long and encompasses some more of the quirkiness that is Portland. From Sunlan Lighting to the Rebuilding Center to Mr. Green Beans, and the Meadow, you’ll get a peek at Portland’s DIY sensibility.
4057 N Mississippi Ave
Serving up great pre-prohibition era cocktails. This is a great place to get a sense of that Portland stereotype while enjoying an amazing drink or two. Whiskey fans will love this place. The food is pretty amazing, so make a meal of it! To get to the Interurban, catch the 4 bus (the bus system is great here, so don’t worry!) and get off at Mason street and walk back a ½ block.
More on Mississippi Ave: I’d also recommend that you take time to wander Mississippi Ave in order to soak in the Portland neighborhood vibe. Some places of note:
- Liberty Glass is a funky and fun place to hang out and get a drink http://www.libertyglassbar.com/;
- Ecliptic Brewing http://eclipticbrewing.com/;
- Spin Laundry Lounge – got a load of laundry to do? This place lets you do your chores all while enjoying a drink. Portland, gotta love it! http://www.spinlaundrylounge.com/
- Por Que No? is a favorite spot for tacos. They have a few locations now, but this is the original. Expect to wait in line. http://www.porquenotacos.com/
- Ruby Jewel offers up some yummy ice cream, including their specialty ice cream sandwiches http://www.rubyjewel.com/;
- Mississippi Studios is a popular music venue offering an intimate space to listen to all types of live music. Attached is Bar Bar, offering good food, beer, and cocktails. http://www.mississippistudios.com/
- Sunlan Lighting is a lighting store, but unlike anything you’ve encountered and will probably speak to your inner nerd. http://sunlanlighting.com/
- The ReBuilding Center is a non-profit place encouraging the re-use of building materials. Even if you aren’t planning on bringing back a vintage screen door or siding taken from a house that was deconstructed, visit to check out the art created using found objects. http://www.rebuildingcenter.org/
- The Meadows, also known as the salt store, was founded by Mark Bitterman. Yes, he now has a NYC store, but it started here, folks. The salt selection is expansive and impressive. They also have a nice array of salt blocks and other serving dishes. Their chocolate library offers fine chocolate from around the world. This is not a place to get your Hershey’s fix. And finally, there is the bitters wall. An amazing array of craft bitters that will take your cocktail making to another level. This is an awesome place to get gifts to take home! https://themeadow.com/
- Green Beans is a place for coffee enthusiasts. You can take a class on roasting coffee, take home some green beans to roast, and they have all of the coffee-making accoutrements you could ever hope to have. http://mrgreenbeanspdx.com/
While a tad bit more difficult to get to on public transportation, NE Portland is well worth the effort. Find a place to visit and map it out on TRIMET’s trip planner (https://trimet.org/#/planner ). Busing is easy in Portland and is a good way to get around – especially if you’re visiting some of the fine drinking establishments! But uber and lyft are always an option.
NE Alberta St: you have to check out this street. Much like SE Division, Alberta offers some of the best food, drink, and shopping in town. Some notable places: Salt and Straw ice cream; Bollywood Theater (not a real theater, but some darn good Indian street food. ); the Grilled Cheese Grill (order from any number of ways to serve up a grilled cheese and then eat it in a converted school bus – how cool!).
Bye and Bye
1011 NE Alberta St
Great cocktails that pack a punch! And another place to get tasty vegan food. Excellent patio.
1203 NE Alberta
Taptails and hotdogs. What?! Cocktails on tap is like a dream come true. Moscow Mule, Margarita, Texas Tea, Old Fashioned, and Fernet all on tap. Do you see now why we love living in Portland? Although it could be all the rain that drives us to dream of taptails…
2338 NE Alberta St
They describe themselves as a taco lab, which is pretty apt because these are not the tacos you’re used to. Vegan, veggie, carnivore – they’ve got you covered. If you don’t mind the bacon, the Mac is my personal favorite: fried pickles, bacon, cheese crisp, cabbage slaw. At Cruzroom, you come for the food and stay for the drinks. And maybe the music. Or the lego competitions. Or the knit night. So since this is about cocktails, I have to mention the Cruzroom’s house infused liquors. Fig scotch, pineapple vodka, mango habanero bourbon, and my favorite, the BB King, which is a blackberry bourbon.
14 NE 28th Avenue
Cute. Really cute.