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The drink options in downtown Portland are as diverse and unique as the city itself. Whether you’re looking for a low-cost happy hour or carefully crafted cocktail, you can find it here –- if you know where to look. I’m lucky enough to have downtown Portlandia as my backyard, and I’ve spent the last few years exploring (almost) every bar, lounge and tavern in the neighborhood (no, I’m not an alcoholic). Below are my top suggestions for where to drink in downtown Portland:
Multnomah Whiskey Library:
You know that scene from Beauty and the Beast when Belle enters the library for the first time and appears awestruck as she takes in her surroundings? That’s the reaction I had when first visiting Multnomah Whiskey Library. Featuring over 1,500 spirits, Multnomah Whiskey Library is a whiskey lovers dream come true. The aptly named bar has the facade of a library with shelves covering the walls and rows upon rows of whiskey bottles filling the shelves. The ambiance is reflective of the prohibition-era speakeasy theme, where large comfy couches and chairs meet old paintings and a cozy fireplace. The bar is fairly hidden and doesn’t have much signage. Once you ascend the stairs and tentatively open the wooden door, you will be transported back in time.
The bartenders are extremely knowledgeable, and will roll an old style bar cart over to your table to make your drink right in front of you. The food, the cocktails, the ambiance, everything about this bar is perfect. The only downside? 99% of the time, there will be a wait to get in. However, they take your phone number, so you can explore some other nearby bars / restaurants (Tasty & Alder, Kask, Jackknife, etc) while you wait. Don’t let the wait time deter you, this place is a ‘must’ when visiting Portland. TIP: If you really don’t want to wait, visit their website to receive a “hall pass” — a $25 pass that allows you to skip the line, even if you’re not a member.
The Rookery at Raven & Rose:
Raven & Rose is located in the historic Ladd carriage house, and the Rookery is actually the hayloft of the carriage house. I stop by most Wednesdays for a drink on my way home from work (and to celebrate the milestone of making it halfway through the week). There are numerous reasons why I love this bar, but the number one reason I bring all of my out-of-town guests here is the cocktails. The Rookery takes craft cocktails to a whole new level, and the mixologist behind them is arguably the best in Portland. The custom cocktail menu changes seasonally and everything is good. The bar atmosphere (and the history behind the it) is equally as impressive. The space features a fireplace, leather couches, a billiards table and a custom-made bar.
Established in 1879, Huber’s cafe is Portland’s oldest restaurant. While Huber’s specializing in traditional turkey dinner (or, as I prefer, turkey stuffed happy hour items like the delicious turkey quesadilla), my favorite menu item is served in a glass, rather than on a plate. Huber’s has the BEST Spanish Coffees in Portland. Spanish Coffee’s are prepared table side, and can be served hot or ice. You will enjoy watching them make the luscious libation, almost as much as you’ll enjoy drinking it.
Everything tastes better with a view. Perched atop the Nines hotel, Departure is situated right in the middle of downtown Portland. Both rooftop patios boast views of Pioneer square and Southwest Portland, while the restaurant windows look towards the Willamette river. Enjoy a happy hour on the rooftop bar, or stay for a delicious dinner in the restaurant (try the brussels sprouts!). Departure also boasts the largest Sake selection in Portland, as well as creative cocktails made with house infused spirits (my favorite is the Crazy 88). Visit during happy hour (4-6pm) for a laid-back, chic atmosphere; or get dressed up and visit later in the evening for more of a classy club-like atmosphere.
Pro tip: When sports teams are in town to play the Blazers or Timbers, they generally stay at The Nines. Visit Departure around game days to rub elbows with your favorite athletes.
Everyone loves a good dive bar, and Kelly’s Olympian is – in my opinion – one of the best in Portland. Kelly’s Olympian is Portland’s third oldest continuously opened and operated bar/restaurant. Where cheap, stiff drinks meet above average bar food, and a myriad of antique neon signs shed light on vintage motorcycles that hang from the ceiling. At first glance, Kelly’s may seem a classic biker bar, but the guests who frequent the establishment run the gamut from businessmen, to students, and bikers to hipsters. The bar is a favorite gathering place for locals from all walks of life (which makes for great people watching).
Pépé le Moko:
If you want to go underground Pépé le Moko is the prefect place to hide away for an hour or so, and enjoy some amazing classic cocktails in a small, intimate setting. Plus, the bar is literally underground, so it’s easy to lose track of time in the dimly lit (and I mean dark), basement booths. Upon entering the small, neon-signed storefront you are greeted by a man in a tuxedo guarding a platter of oysters. Once said man allows you to descend the steep staircase and enter the subterranean speakeasy, you will feel decades away from the rest of Portland. The drinks are on the expensive side, but they’re so good! I especially love the Amaretto Sour, the Old Fashioned and the Grasshopper.
Portland City Grill:
Portland City Grill is one of my favorite places to bring out-of-town guests. Situated on the 35th floor of the US Bank Building (or “Big Pink” as locals call it), Portland City Grill boasts stunning views of the entire city. The cocktails are amazing (my favorite is the Champagne Supernova), the food is delicious, and the Happy Hour is one of the best in Portland (Happy Hour is Mon-Sat 4-7pm & 9pm-close; Sun. 12-11pm). If you’re visiting during Happy Hour, get there early to snag a booth by the window.
MoMo’s is another favorite downtown dive bar. Conveniently situated between two MAX lines, locals love MoMo’s great location and cheap drinks. While the unassuming bar may not look like much from the outside, MoMo’s has a hidden back patio that’s one of few outdoor drinking areas in the neighborhood. The large patio is open all year, and has heat lamps and covered seating areas for cold nights. The bar food is legit and the bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable.