Beverage Director

The Best Bars in Portland Right Now

You could use a drink.

It’s a weird time to be leaving your house to do pretty much anything. The Rose City has handled the COVID-19 crisis better than most other mid-sized cities, but the idea of gathering at a bar remains a low priority for many. Still, the glory days of Portland’s booming restaurant and bar scene are still a not-so-distant memory for most, and a glimmer of hope that we’ve got our shit together and figured out a way to enjoy a pint with a friend is visible through the rain clouds that are slowly rolling in. 

Your favorite neighborhood bar may be shuttered—perhaps for good—but plenty of mainstay establishments are doing their best to offer clean, safe, and surprisingly convenient alternatives to drinking while doom-scrolling on Twitter in your living room. In recent years this list has served as a finger on the pulse of what’s new and exciting. We’ve done our best to adhere to that principle, but this time around it felt necessary to award bonus points to establishments that rose to the occasion by adding a patio, augmenting their business model, or being well-suited to “these times” prior to the explicit need for either even existed. Winter weather will likely throw a wrench in many business plans, but anyone who’s spent more than just a summer here knows damn well that no patio is ever empty regardless of the season. So strap on your mask and pack a few extra bucks for a generous tip.

Roscoe's

Montavilla

If it weren’t for its impressive 20ish-handle tap list Roscoe’s would be just another neighborhood boozer where barflys from a 10-block radius gather to play video lottery and eat tots. It’s still definitely that, but it’s also one of the best craft beer bars in town. It’s uncommon to find less than 5 different styles of IPA on taps, though their beer buyer is more in the business of keeping things fresh and exciting instead of just checking boxes. Simply put, no West Coast brewery is too small or obscure to escape the view of Roscoe’s. There’s also a full lineup of liquor, a satisfying food menu adorned with drunk munchy staples like mac ‘n' cheese and po' boys, and a covered patio out on the street that’s shared with Miyamoto, the best sushi spot in town you’re never heard of. 
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.

If you’re in the market for Cocktail-esque mixology shenanigans then you may want to skip Vintage. Lucky for the kind hearted folks who run this top-notch cocktail bar, flashy presentation takes a backseat to a quality product for most oldschool Portlanders who live nearby. The overhead they save on laser shows and other fantastical nonsense is parlayed into approachable prices on the lengthy menu, most of which hovers around the $10 mark. If text scares you you’re welcome to wing it and give the bartender a general idea of what you’re in the mood for. Chances are it’ll be stiff, delicious, and out of the ordinary, which is far better than you’ll do with whatever’s left over in your cabinet from that time you entertained guests about 8 months ago. The food menu is small lineup of hot dogs that are better than you’d expect for for liquor license-mandated hot food items, but you may want to scope out the menu at Redwood, which shares a wall as well the ad hoc patio space that breathed life back into both establishments once it was finished. 
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.

A wise man once defined a bar as “any place you would happily grab a drink without eating—but where the food kind of makes you want to order a drink.” This perfectly sums up Bar Casa Vale, which refocused the concept of tapas from tiny, overpriced versions of entrees to salty snacks that are traditionally served alongside glasses of sweet sherry and rustic cider. Since the recent closures of Toro Bravo and Clyde Common—the latter of which employed Nate Tilden before he opened Bar Casa Vale in 2017—this stunning space in Buckman is the go-to for jamón Ibérico and a glass of Spanish red.
How to order: Grab a seat, scan the QR code for the menu, and order with the “Dine-In” link on the site. Advance reservations are available on the site as well.

The dichotomy of Portland’s east and west sides is usually overblown, but the yin-and-yang dynamic of Scotch Lodge and the Multnomah Whiskey Library tracks perfectly along these lines. The former is where business execs, out-of-towners, and suburbanites reserve bank account-crushing whiskey “experiences” months in advance, while the latter is where normal people go on their night off to splurge on a pour of Weller or a cocktail that won’t dare to step on the smoky, peaty flavors of the bars titular libation with heavy doses of simple syrups or infusions. Outdoor seating arrived just in time, and the menu pivoted from photogenic French fare to a brash bonanza of deep-fried everything ownership dubbed Oui Chippy. After catching flak for kicking things off with hot chip sandwiches the kitchen landed on a winning selection of drunk food like fish & chips, crab sandwiches, and duck confit poutine. You’ll be broke by the time you get toasted enough to really dive in, but you can order your grub to go in case it’s an Old Crow-and-chips-at-the-kitchen-table kind of night. 
How to order: Snag an open table and order from the server.

Palomar

Hosford-Abernethy

Prior to COVID-19 this sleek, multi-tiered tropical paradise was almost club-like if you hung around late enough on a Friday or Saturday night. Twenty-somethings buzzed around with sugar highs from the over-proofed rum drinks that highlight Palomar’s menu, and it never seemed clear if they ever had a proper place to sit. One never got the impression this was exactly what craft cocktail celeb Ricky Gomez had in mind when he opened the Cuba-meets-New Orleans-themed bar in 2018, and now that the Dig-A-Pony model is outlawed they’ve settled on a reservation-only model to keep things compliant. Sessions are limited to two hours tops, which is plenty of time to plow through a plate of jamon croquettes and a daiquiri or two. 
Hot to order: Table service; seating is reservation only.

Bar Diane

Alphabet District

It’s hard to pin down when exactly the Portland wine scene finally copped to the fact that the craft beer boom may soon upend their stodgy ways, but few wine connoisseurs will disagree that the past 5 years have been a genesis or sorts for newbie-friendly wine bars. Like Les Caves or Enso Winery before it, Bar Diane ditches the pinot-swilling boomer-bait aesthetics in favor of a place where normal people can feel comfortable walking in off the street to drink killer wine at affordable prices. Boomers are obviously welcome, but it’s also a fine place for a singleton to try a half-glass of vintage orange wine they may not want to purchase by the bottle for close to $100. 
How to order: Head inside for seating on the patio.

Bantam Tavern
Bantam Tavern

Bantam Tavern

Alphabet District

Every neighborhood needs a bar line Bantam Tavern. Many neighborhoods have a bar that wishes it was like this charming pub from the folks who own heavy-hitters like Prost, Stammtisch, and Interburban, but there’s always one thing that’s off. It could be the tap list, which is small but mighty, with rare kegs from regional cult favorites like Holy Mountain and de Garde showing up from time. It could be the food menu, which is lean but large enough to create some difficult decisions (if you can’t decide just get the burger). It could be the atmosphere, which is great for a date but not at all in a try-hard kind of way. In a smaller city this may be the coolest place in town, but in Portland it’s just right. 
How to order: Patio seating.

Prior to spilling the beans about what was in the works, most neighborhood folks who walk, bike, or drive up this busty stretch of North Williams Avenue assumed Shine would be yet another brewery. Considering its glistening stills, floor-to-ceiling windows and impressive rooftop patio it would not have been the least bit surprising if it ended up being another 10 Barrel location, but instead the small-batch booze gods smiled upon this bustling thoroughfare with a distillery experience that’s truly like no other. Summer is almost gone, but there’s still some time left to enjoy a blue agave margarita on the roof, and there’s plenty of gut-warming goodness to enjoy courtesy of their excellent bourbon when the weather finally takes a turn.
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.

Paydirt

Kerns

Food cart pods are fun and all, but the lack of amenities like a roof and a real bathroom can be a real drag. Lucky for you Paydirt has you covered -- literally. Imagine a cart pod built around a central dining area that spills out into a patio with fire pits and that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Zipper, which is anchored by one of the best whiskey bars in a 5-mile radius in Paydirt. Their house margarita goes great with a plate of tacos from Tight Tacos, and a draft pour of Fernet is a fine chaser for the hulking chicken sandwich that’s helped Basilisk secure its place as the most reliable tenant in the building behind the boozy heart and soul of the operation.
How to order: Grab a seat, scan the QR code, and order online with your table number.

“Bigger can’t be better” is an ethos most craft beer geeks in Portland could swear by, but Breakside Brewery serves as a rare exception that’s essentially unimpeachable at this point. They’ve won piles of medals in fiercely-contested GABF categories like best IPA, their lightning fast turnaround on ascendent beer trends leaves most competitors in the dust, and their massive new brewpub in Slabtown has yielded one banger after another since it first opened in 2016. Bigger is definitely better when it comes to socially distanced beer consumption, and it doesn’t hurt that Breakside carries a small variety of cocktails, a fantastic food menu and a growing selection of barrel-aged bottles in addition to their generous list of near-flawless beers from all over the hop spectrum. Both Slabtown and the location on Northeast Dekum are great for patio hangs, so you really can’t go wrong with either. 
How to order: See the host for a seat, then queue up at the bar for food and drink.

Powered by expertise of industry vets from Bailey’s Taproom, Ex Novo, and Laurelwood, Level Beer is one of the latest entrants in the elite caste of Portland breweries that are good at just about everything. On a sunny summer day you’ll find young families, cyclists and east county locals crushing pint after pint of juicy, bright orange hazies and amber-hued West Coast IPAs on the massive backyard out back. In the winter the crowd is concentrated in the heated and covered greenhouse space, with plenty of authentic English styles like bready ESBs and dry stouts to suit the season. A quartet of food trucks provide burgers, tacos, oysters, and gyros most days of the week, and it’s not a bad idea to check their hours before making the schlep on an empty stomach. 
How to order: Queue up to the counter inside the barn-turned-taproom and order beer directly from the bartender.

Wayfinder Beer

Industrial Southeast

At the time this list was assembled the landing page on Wayfinder’s website displays a bartender pouring golden liquid in a pint glass behind the slogan “Maybe partying will help.” All that’s missing is the thundering pop-metal of acts like Baroness or Mastodon and you have the essence of this cheeky haven for light beer and dark music distilled into one simple gesture. The mind behind the aesthetics is co-founder Matt Jacobson, who transposed the metal cred of his respected label Relapse Records on the headbanging pizza chain Sizzle Pie prior to poaching brewer Kevin Davey from Bellingham, Washington emporium Chuckanut. Aside from favorites like a juicy hazy called Flower in the Kettle or the aptly-named Hell, Wayfinder serves up killer cocktails like a negroni with Aquavit and a variety of rum drinks that use their own proprietary blend, along with impressive German pub fare like a schnitzel sandwich or a bratwurst sandwich drenched in beer cheese. Space on the patio is a hot commodity year-round, and it’s well worth the wait even if the weather is as heavy and dreary as the music on the stereo. 
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.

Filling a niche consumers didn’t know existed is often the start of something great. On that token, Interurban has mastered the art of giving dive bar dwellers an unpretentious alternative to stridently upscale food and beverage options that are out of place on Mississippi Street. The draft list alone is worth the trip, which at the time of publishing features all-star breweries like Ruse, pFriem, Great Notion, de Garde, and Wolves & People. The cocktails range from unfussy to adventurous, and the whiskey list is the best in the neighborhood by a mile. The food menu is a fantasia meaty farm-to-table goodness, and is home to the classiest corn dog in town. Interurban mastered year-round patio dining long before COVID-19 upended the industry, so it’s safe to assume it’ll be business as usual for the foreseeable future. 
How to order: See host for seating and menus.

Wonderly

Beaumont Village

Despite being the main thoroughfare of an upper-crust neighborhood that hugs the scenic Alameda Ridge, the string of shops and restaurants that line Northeast Fremont Street is not what any rational person would refer to as “happening.” The lack of dedicated drinking establishments speaks volumes to this notion, so it’s comforting to know that Wonderly’s grown-up take on an inner Portland hipster bar found its footing with the locals almost instantaneously. Founded by the owners of Aalto Lounge, one could say this is a calmer and more collected elder sibling to the buzzy Southeast Belmont Street cocktail spot that’s known best for its impossibly cheap happy hour options and the throngs of first Tinder dates that show up for the occasion. At Wonderly you’ll find thoughtful updates of oft-overlooked classics like an Oil Washed Alaskan, an Old Fashioned that uses a carefully selected blend of whiskeys, or an Aperol Spritz that’s punched up with St. Germain and Carpano Bianco. 
How to order: See host for seating and menus

Noble Rot
Noble Rot

Noble Rot

Lower Burnside

The 6-month drizzle may have already settled in by the time you’re reading this, but that’s rarely stopped this Lower Burnside institution from serving up stunning views of the West Side to accompany a flight of pinot noir from the Willamette Valley. Even beer-and-burger types will find plenty to love at Noble Rot, which makes it a great venue for checking all the boxes for your party without compromising on quality or attention to detail. 
How to order: Table service; see host for seating. Reservations via Opentable are encouraged.

Von Ebert Brewing

The Pearl and Glenfair

Von Ebert wasted little time in converting the Pearl District space formerly occupied by Cleveland-based Fathead’s Brewing from a jarringly hokey brewpub experience to one that jives just a little bit better with its tony surroundings. Brewer Sean Burke has a bit more room for experimentation since a second location opened Glendoveer Golf & Tennis, which is our pick for an outdoor dining experience that’s loaded with tart sours, clean lagers and earthy farmhouse ales that recall Burke’s days at The Commons. 
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.

Victoria

Humboldt

With vaulted ceilings and a spacious patio that’s popular year-round, it’s not at all surprising this North Portland outpost from the folks who brought us places like Sweet Hereafter and The Bye and Bye is doing just fine in spite of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Cocktails do a lot with a little at Victoria, which is undoubtedly a product of its ownerships expertise in running a sleek high-volume operation in a way that eschews corner-cutting for consistency and reliability. Cheap cans of Montucky and White Claw are on offer for bargoers who like to keep it simple, and a food menu that’s split almost evenly between vegan and omnivore options means a night out at Victoria is likely to be a hit with all parties involved. 
How to order: See host for seating, queue up at the bar to order, and be sure to mention your table number if you ordered food.

Rontoms

Lower Burnside

Like death and taxes, Rontoms will always be there with a seat on the patio and a cheap can of Tecate to soak up the sadness. The glory days of packed Sunday Sessions and happy hour hijinx on sunny afternoons are dearly missed, but it’s actually kinda nice to show walk into Rontoms and just relax at a table with an Urban Cowboy and a juicy burger topped with bleu cheese and bacon jam. The covered portion of the patio is heated, which means this Lower Burnside staple is sure to stay busy even when the weather takes a serious turn. 
How to order: Table service; see host for seating.

When used in reference to new buildings, the term “mixed-use” has a way of aggravating a certain type of Portlander like few other things can. When it comes to the rehab of the old Washington High School building, however, there’s something for everyone to live. Prior to COVID local WFH warriors spent hours on and at Martha’s, the ground-level cafe/bar hybrid that spills out into a field that serves as a massive dog park. The rooftop patio, which is now reservation-only until the rain shuts it down for the season, is the crown jewel of outdoor drinking options on the east side, and the new-ish Show Bar is utilitarian beer-and-cocktails joint that’s a spinoff of Mississippi Street’s Bar Bar. If you’re craving some sense of normalcy and routine that feels like the good old days, you’re sure to find it amongst the assorted venues that make Revolution Hall tick. 
How to order: Order at each respective bar and keep an eye on the signs advising where you can and cannot go with a drink in hand.

Bar Bar

Boise

Live music at Mississippi Studios is gone until who knows when, but that hasn’t stopped Bar Bar from doing brisk business next door on its beloved (and mostly covered) patio. With a walk-up window for food and drinks, and a massive fire pit that’s lit year-round, it’s no surprise this popular Mississippi Street is doing just fine these days all things considered. An expansive tap list and a killer list of rotating cocktails means there’s never a shortage of exciting beverage options, and the Bar Bar Burger is an iconic staple of the city that few locals can stand to go without. 
How to order: Order at the bar or walk-up window, and be sure to grab your number if you ordered food.

While impressive on its own, Prost has much more to offer than award-winning German beer when you step outside its generous back patio. Here you’ll find some of the best food carts in town, specifically Matt’s BBQ, Burger Stevens, and Little Conejo. New to the pod is Bloodbuzz, a concept named after Brooklyn NPR-core outfit The National that serves coffee, cocktails and mash-ups of both until 2:30pm most days of the week.
How to order: Seating out back is somewhat of a free-for-all, but a spot at the actual patio of Prost requires a visit with the host beforehand.

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