Food & Drink

The Most Fun Bars Open in Portland on Christmas Day

Bantam Tavern
Bantam Tavern | rburtoni/Flickr
Bantam Tavern | rburtoni/Flickr

Being the haven for underemployed transplants that it is, Portland is filled with more loners on Christmas than most places. Whether it’s the cost of travel or the mere idea of spending time back home with family that makes one recoil in horror, it’s hard to argue that the best way to keep your mind off it is to embrace being alone and drink about it. 

Lucky for us there’s more than a few bars in town that are open on Christmas, many of which offer food options that are at least a touch less than sad than nuking a pot pie in your empty apartment. This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start if you’re in need of a place to enjoy the company of some kind strangers this December 25.

Beulahland

Kerns 
A rowdy all-purpose dive with something for everyone

Beulahland feels like a dive in all the right places -- the cheap tallboys, the dim lighting and the proud lack of pretense -- but closer inspection reveals staff and ownership are far too proud of the place to let it digress into shithole status. Many of Beulah’s biggest fans are locals who started showing up to get blitzed and watch footie and Ru Paul’s Drag Race on the projection screen, and now they’re all regulars who could not care less what night of the week it is, or that their rent is likely to rise to prohibitive heights in the next year or so. It’s a fine place to spend Christmas alone made all the better by the cooler full of pie near the counter, which is a nice touch no one who’s drinking alone on the holidays should overlook. 

My Father’s Place

Buckman
The classic eastside diner with cheap all-day breakfast and pinball galore

Conventional wisdom around Portland’s rapidly gentrifying inner eastside agrees that the party’s not yet over until My Father’s Place kicks the bucket. If a Scorcese film followed a hard-boiled cop around the seedy underground of Portland that teems within its many underpasses and hideaways along the nearby Willamette River, this is where the protagonist would come to wash down the grit and grime with a plate of pancakes and a generous pour or whiskey. This is a great place for anyone to enjoy those things at any time, and the comfort of knowing you’re not entirely alone in a place like this is a nice feeling to embrace on Christmas. 

Bar Bar

Mississippi Ave.
A lively North Portland hub for craft cocktails, tasty burgers, and a popular firepit

Though Mississippi Studios, the beloved indie venue attached to Bar Bar, doesn’t have anything on the books Christmas night, the burgers and booze will still be flowing freely. Winter is mild enough in Portland to stop almost no one from crowding around the fire with a PBR in one hand and some delicious fried food in the other, and there’s a good chance members of your favorite band will be around just because it’s a fine place to hang out under most any circumstances.

The Trap

Foster-Powell
A top-tier dive in FoPo that still keeps it weird after a subtle renovation

The Trap is a difficult place to explain to outsiders. The combo of old carpet, video lottery machines, and mismatched macrobrew signage implies it peaked over a couple decades ago, but ownership puts just enough effort into keeping the place attractive to both young and old patrons who need a simple place to drink a few beers too many and belt out classic rock karaoke without judgment. The two groups are never at odds here, as it’s quite common for weird uncle types who remember when the nearby Brentwood-Darlington ‘hood was called “Felony Flats” to bro down with the slow trickle of hipsters who show up as a curious joke before realizing the Trap is secretly one of the best dive bars in America.

The Conquistador

Sunnyside
A slick, vegetarian-friendly throwback to the casual excess of 1970’s SoCal

Known best for understated Steely Dan vibes and snazzy tequila drinks made with ruthless efficiency, the Conquistador is one of just a handful of Portland bars that exude coolness without beating you over the head with it. On weekends this manifests as a steady stream of industry types, indie rockers and the various hangers-on who follow the same circles, but you’ll also find a table of middle managers from Illinois crushing massive plates of nachos and playing a game of pool in the back per the advice of this site and the many others like it. You’ll probably find the coolest 40-something you’ve ever seen spinning vinyl this Christmas, and the top-tier bar staff is sure to have something unexpected up their sleeves to celebrate the occasion. 

The Sandy Hut

Kerns
A wood-panelled den of vice that’s charmingly low-brow in spite of its surroundings

You didn’t expect Portland’s foremost post-dive to ever be closed, did you? Whether you’re a tatted-up freelancer or a mild-mannered office worker who just moved into one of the new mixed-use monstrosities within spitting distance of this iconic -- and oddly-shaped -- watering hole, the Sandy Hut is almost always better than the alternatives on nights when mischief is in the cards. It helps that their food, like their infamous Fat Man burger and a woefully underrated fried fish platter, is fantastic, which makes Sandy Hut the perfect place to shake off the hangover and get the party started again when they open up at 2pm.

Bantam Tavern

Alphabet District
A haven for craft cocktails, rare beer, and luxe bar food from celebrated industry vets

After barely a year in business, Bantam Tavern, the latest from the folks who also own Interurban, Prost, and Stammtisch, already feels like it’s been a vital part of the Northwest District for years. Cozy, sparse, and candlelit inside, it’s one of those rare neighborhood haunts that’s almost better when enjoyed alone. Their cocktail list is inventie yet familiar, their taps are often home to kegs from out-of-the-way breweries like Logdson and de Garde, and the menu has better food than most of the actual restaurants within a mile. If you’re in the mood for an Old Fashioned and some quiet time outside the confines of your home this Christmas, Bantam is a welcoming and semi-fancy option.

The Alibi

Overlook
North Portland’s most reliable go-to for stiff tiki drinks and rawkus karaoke

Before Hale Pele wowed critics with its haute takes on retro pan-Pacific cocktails like the Corpse Reviver and the Mai Tai, the Alibi was a delightfully tacky alternative to the bounty of understated neighborhood haunts that flank North Interstate Avenue. It’s since been purchased by the owners of the Sandy Hut and the late Club 21, and like most things they touch it’s only gotten better. So dust off your Fat Elvis costume, grab a neon-blue drink with an umbrella in it and brace yourself for a night of kitschy Christmas classics alongside whatever oddities the throngs of regulars throw at the DJ all evening.

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Pete Cottell has spent many Christmases happily alone since he moved to Portland in 2013. This year he’ll be back in Ohio enjoying a Swensons cheeseburger and some beer from Jackie O’s, but deep down inside he’d much rather be at a dark, murky old dive bar making some new best friends he’ll probably forget about the next morning. Follow his exploits in the midwest at @VanifestDestiny.