Where to Drink in Portland Right Now
Take the edge off.
Driving, biking, or walking around Portland over the past two weekends may have suggested to you that life has returned to business as usual. This is very much not the case, but the mere glimpse of light at the tunnel a la warm weather and vaccines for all is apparently all the reason anyone needs these days to take to the streets and party like it’s 2019. Restrictions on indoor dining are easing up ever so slightly, but as usual that may completely change by the time you read this. Check out the list below for our suggestions on carefully vetted food and beverage purveyors that are doing their best to keep things relatively normal—rather than “weird"—in a time of great uncertainty and unease. This should go without saying, but you better mask up, avoid close contact with strangers, and tip the waitstaff like your life depends on it.
Vintage Cocktail Lounge
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 old-school 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.
How to order: See the host for seating, pull up the menu with the QR code on the table, order via table service.
Bar Casa Vale
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.
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.
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.
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, the former of which is delivered to your table.
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.
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 beer 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.
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.
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 bar-goers who like to keep it simple, and the food menu is 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.
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 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 is the crown jewel of outdoor drinking options on the east side, and although you can snag a seat on a first-come first-served basis it’s still a great idea to reserve a spot if the weather is anything but drizzly and below 60. Don’t sleep on Show Bar, which is a utilitarian beer, burgers, 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.
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 2:30 pm 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.
From the slogans on its website to the personality of its late owner Alfredo Climaco, every facet of the Tropicale brand is big, bold, and fun. This is a logical choice given the roots of the “piña colada king" as a roving cocktail stand that competed for dollars and attention at events like the Portland Night Market or the Cathedral Park Jazz festival. Revelers would be seen wandering around sipping fruity drinks out of hollowed-out pineapples, and the legacy of Climaco lives on at Tropicale’s open-air brick-and-mortar spot just a block up Northeast Sandy Boulevard from culinary hot-spots like Providore, Han Oak, and Tails & Trotters. Per the scrolling prompt on their stie Tropicale does not have burritos, but they do have fantastic tacos that are served two at a time and wrapped in house-made organic blue corn tortillas. Paired with Caleco’s legendary daiquiris, coladas, and margaritas, it’s a warm-weather treat that can’t be missed this summer.
How to order: Queue up at the window and find a spot on-site (or off) to enjoy your food
New-ish Portlanders take so many things for granted, with “neighborhood bottle shop-as-beer-bar” being a principal asset that even long-time residents just assume is a given. Since founding in the Southwest townie enclave Hillsdale in 1999, John’s Marketplace has been a go-to for craft beer nerds who demand a bit more quality and selection than what’s available at either the Plaid Pantry down the way or the prized local brewery in the city center. John’s recently expanded across the Willamette River, and the result is a spacious beer market with thousands of to-go bottles along with around 15 taps available for on-site consumption in the spacious food cart pod that’s just outside. Here you’ll find favorite up-and-comers Jojo, which serves comically large fried chicken sandwiches alongside its namesake, and Holy Trinity Barbecue, which is giving Matt’s a run for its money as the resident siren for authentic ‘cue-deprived Texans, along with a handful of staples that sell tacos, falafel, and the like.
How to order: Jockey for seating while waiting for your food cart order to finish, then grab a beer at the window on the eastern side of the market
The most local of locals dearly miss the departed Cardinal Club that formerly occupied this cozy shotgun bar space near Burnside and 28th, but the pair of proprietors who took over deserve plenty of credit for keeping the dream of casual luxury alive with Nightingale. Inspired by a night out in Oaxaca, Nightingale brings both humor (former Kask bartender Chris Mateja sprinkles alt-rock references into his side of the menu a la cocktails named “Drive-By Body Pierce” and “Heaven is Whenever”) and high-end culinary delights courtesy of chef Luna Contreras, whose portfolio includes stints at Portland’s Bistro Agnes and San Francisco’s Padrecito.
How to order: Table service at the outdoor seating plaza; open for limited indoor seating as well
Stem Wine Bar
The explosion of casual wine bars that spur sommelier culture in favor of a freewheeling pub vibe continues to yield dividends for wine drinkers across Portland, this time with an approachable sidewalk cafe in the middle of all the action that Mississippi Street has to offer. Stem is a one-stop shop for parties that include first-wave pinot stans, Bota Box-swilling noobs and just about everyone in between, which private wine tastings available in a chill and approachable format that leaves no wine lover left behind.
How to order: Reserve a dine-in spot or a private wine tasting through stemwinebarpdx.com
While the irony of new-school Portland bars imitating old-school claptraps in the towns we left behind is impossible to ignore, the comfort and familiarity offered by Tinker Taver more than makes up for the posturing. This is a neighborhood bar in its peak form, with hearty handhelds like beef on weck and an Italian hoagie highlighting the food menu, and a variety of stiff whiskey- and rum-based cocktails alongside local beers on draft to wash it down. Anyone who misses the dimly lit bacchanalia of their nearby watering hole that shuddered due to COVID-19 will find plenty to love here, and the chance of finding a less expensive place to live nearby is certainly a perk as well.
How to order: Check in at the door for a table, then wait at your spot for table service