The 17 Most Important Bars in Portland


The 17 Most Important Bars in Portland
The 17 Most Important Bars in Portland

Drew Tyson/Thrillist
Drew Tyson/Thrillist

As Portland rapidly grows to accommodate all our new transplant friends and visitors, it’s time to take a look back and thank those bars that helped us get here. From classically weird to innovatively novel, these 17 bars have shaped who we are as people and as a city. They’re not necessarily the best bars in Portland. But they’re certainly the most important.

Multnomah Whiskey Library

At barely two years old, this fancy, yet relaxed spirits library has proven to be an instant classic, and one of the finest whiskey bars in the country. Bar cart service has spread far and wide, and generated such a buzz here at home that waits can be up to three hours on peak nights for non-members to get in the door. Don’t want to cough up the dough for a membership or Hall Pass? Then just go like a pro and drop by on a Monday when it doesn't take reservations. Plus, the new Green Room has really taken the bite out of the wait. And yes, the wait is worth it.

Flickr/Laissez Fare

Clyde Common

No other PDX bar’s creations are featured on the national scene like Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s barrel-aged and bottled cocktails at Clyde Common. Sure, the small hotel bar can get crowded, but when your cocktail is pre-bottled your service is that much less of a hassle and perfect for your post-work drink.

Mary’s Club

Are there better strip clubs in Portland? Probably. Are there any more iconic than Mary’s? No. The place is an institution, a place that led the charge on having great beer paired with naked ladies who feed the jukebox on their own, eliminating the need for a DJ. Even better, it’s a beacon of skeeze on a fancy strip of hotels. For nearly 50 years, Mary’s hasn’t changed. Let’s hope it never does.


Rum Club

If you want a great, innovative cocktail, then you gotta go to where the bartenders go on their nights off. Even better, it’s not a shrine to the pretentious “mixologist” grandstanding that typically gets associated with a “bartender’s bar.” Instead, it’s actually where our best and brightest bartenders let their hair down and do Becherovka shot-skis.


Teardrop Cocktail Lounge

Pearl District
If Rum Club is where bartenders go on their nights off to relax, then Teardrop is where they go to show off. Always on top of the latest new trends or experiments, head here to show off the best of Portland’s cocktail scene to your out-of-town friends with a great big bowl of punch.


Did you enjoy that charcuterie board on your last date? How about that tangy saison at the beer fest? Well, you can thank Higgins for popularizing both delicious boards of meat and Belgian beers here in Portland. So, basically every bar and restaurant in Portland owes this joint a beer. Probably a Belgian one.


Bailey’s Taproom

Bailey’s was an early adopter of DigitalPour, the electronic system that greets you when you first walk in the door, which helps you choose your beer based on different criteria like freshness. Don’t let the high-tech system put you off, though. This isn’t some San Franciscan haven in PDX -- it’s the most no nonsense beer-lover’s bar in town. No distractions, just you, your friends, and beer. Pro tip: if you want to go deeper down the foamy rabbit hole, find your way to the Upper Lip, the kinda-sorta secret bar upstairs.

Andy Kryza/Thrillist


You know you’ve found a great bar when it can stand on its own next to its Top Chef-run kitchen (that’s owned by an Iron Chef champ, no less). It doesn’t hurt that this bar helped start a trend that really took off -- special ice programs. Whether you want to escape our crazy heat wave or just rub it in a Californian’s face that we have so much water we only drink sculpture-quality ice, drop by Imperial’s bar to enjoy two innovative cocktail trends at once: a tapped cocktail, like a Vieux Carre, served over ice hand-carved just for the drink (which drops to $5 during one of the city’s best happy hours).

Flickr/Christopher Porter


APEX is the Eastside’s answer to Bailey’s, complete with some of the best-maintained pinball machines and a surly, cash-only attitude. The size of the beer menu is only matched by the huge seating capacity, making it the best daytime drinking bar in town, not to mention the ample bike parking. 

CC Slaughters

Old Town
As one of the biggest LGBT clubs in town, CC Slaughters really embraces the “big tent” mentality and hosts a weekly country night in addition to the regular drag shows and ladies’ nights. Not feeling like dancing to either country or the spots more traditional disco? Relax in the martini lounge, where you can express yourself with words instead of dance and make new friends.

Whiskey Soda Lounge

Whiskey Soda Lounge

Whiskey Soda -- originally conceived as a sort-of waiting room for Pok Pok -- bottles up intensely flavored drinking vinegars that are just as popular in cocktails as they are with your sober driver, but the real gem is the jelly beer that you can now find in bars all the way across the country. As the frozen beer melts, it starts rushing out of the straw. Better drink it before you waste precious beer -- it’s a drinking game you can play by yourself!

My Father's Place

Central Eastside
If you manage to find a native Portlander, they’ll tell you to no end how things have changed since all these dang transplants and their shiny jobs, money, and non-Subaru cars came to town. But My Father’s Place, or MFP, is one thing that has remained constant. Play some pinball, eat some fried comfort food, and get a nice, oddly sticky feel for old Portland at MFP.

Andry Kryza/Thrillist

Horse Brass Pub

Unlike some of the hipper beer joints on this list, Horse Brass doesn’t have any flashy new tech or toys to attract patrons. Regardless, it has served as a place of inspiration for many popular local brewers. You don’t have to take our word for it: there’s a whole book detailing all the great beers your dad-bod owes called The Brass. And if one of the city’s best tap selections isn’t enough, the British pub food ranks among Portland’s best fried deliciousness.

The Rooster Bar at Nostrana

Been wondering why every bar seems to have a Negroni on the menu these days? Wonder no more, friends, and instead raise your Campari-tinted cocktail to former bar manager Douglas Derrick and The Rooster Bar at Nostrana. Although the epic Negroni Social has gone national, the biggest bash is still here in Portland. Make sure to get a ticket next year (who doesn’t love to drink for charity?) or just drop by Nostrana for a Negroni of the Month.

Flickr/Jim Ellwagner

McMenamins Kennedy School

McMenamins may not be the most cutting-edge craft beer around these days but you can’t deny it knows how to show a guy/gal a good time. The beautifully preserved and restored buildings offer a host of activities including movies and soaking tubs. And at Kennedy School, there’s a whopping four bars, ranging from a tiny cigar lounge to the Boiler Room, which looks like it was designed by Freddy Krueger on a bender. Is it a tourist spot? Yep. But it didn’t get famous for being shitty, and is a paragon of the Portland knack for making something new out of somebody else’s garbage. In this case, it just happened to be a building.

Huber’s Café

Nothing says “old Portland” like Huber’s Cafe. Stories about this legendary bar reach all the way through Prohibition -- when it operated as a speakeasy -- to the late 1800s, when it rocked spittoons. Yeah, yeah, yeah, history is cool but the cool part is the fire, right? Huber’s embraces its widely known reputation for popularizing the modern iteration of Spanish coffee by preparing it tableside with lots of fire and flare. Guaranteed to wow your mom when she visits from back East.

Flickr/Curtis Perry

The Alibi

You may consider Alibi a guilty pleasure, but it’s a pleasure all the same. Now that Chopsticks II is closing, where else can you belt out karaoke classics without shame? Surely not in those modern little private karaoke boxes where only your friends can hear you. Shame is best when spread out and decentralized among strangers. Plus, anyone who has ever been on N Interstate Ave will tell you that it just wouldn’t be the same without those stunning pieces of neon art. It’s a landmark, and a damn fine one.

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1. Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library 1124 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

If you're a whiskey fan, Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library in Portland is worth a trip. One of the best whiskey bars in the country, it has more than 1,500 whiskeys stacked along a huge brick wall, and in true library fashion, they're accessible by a sliding ladder. Roaming bartenders serve drinks from bar carts, and they know more about whiskey than you ever will, so trust them. You can buy a membership to the semi-gentlemen's club to reserve a table ahead of time, otherwise you'll have to wait a few hours for a seat on peak nights with the rest of the non-members. You can always buy a one-time "Hall Pass" to skip the line though.

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2. Clyde Common 1014 SW Stark St, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

Clyde Common's rocking Prohibition era-themed cocktails are crafted by top-notch mixologists, plus this spot also offers European-inspired eats in its casual space Downtown. The trendsetting tavern has communal tables and small plates. Snack on truffle popcorn while you wait for your Heavy Petting cocktail, made with vodka, quinine syrup, lemon peel and grapefruit.

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3. Mary's Club 129 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

Operating for almost 50yrs, Mary's Club is perhaps the original Portland bastion of boob-baring. Stop in for a drink at this iconic PDX club.

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4. Rum Club 720 SE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97206 (Buckman)

This place, as you might've guessed if you saw the name, is all about the rum. They've got nine specialty rum-centric cocktails, but if rum's not your thing there's always the nine other cocktails mixed with different liquors. The menu of pub grub features classics such as Braised Short Ribs and the Shrimp Cocktail. The casual vibe makes Rum Club a "dive cocktail bar," if such a thing exists.

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5. Teardrop Lounge 1015 NW Everett St, Portland, OR 97209 (Pearl District)

Located in Portland's Pearl District, the Teardrop is a quiet and inventive cocktail lounge, creating original drinks with specialty liqueurs, syrups, digestifs, vermouths, bitters, and tinctures. The impressive drink menu, paired with a number of upped/casual appetizers, are the makings of a great night out. The atmosphere is a mix of night club and chic, so anyone will feel comfortable sipping drinks at one of Portland's first cocktail bars.

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6. Higgins 1239 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

This place puts the 'cute' in charcuterie! No, seriously though, we could kiss this Belgian haven for it's tremendous beer selection.

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7. Bailey's Taproom 213 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205 (Downtown)

This well-worn PDX favorite boasts 24 rotating taps, which're listed on an electronic beer board that updates you how much beer is left, so you can choose your next pint wisely. Pro-tip: they'll let you order in eats from nearby joints, as they're not serving any.

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8. APEX 1216 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202 (Clintondivision)

If you're into beer, you need to get to APEX ASAP. This SE Portland bar has 50+ beers for you to try, and we're willing to bet you haven't even heard of most of their offerings, like Racer 5 IPA, Omega Session, and, best of all, the 10.5% ABV Danish import Pride of Nekron. If you're not satisfied with beer alone, APEX has also got an outdoor cigar bar.

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9. CC Slaughters 219 NW Davis St, Portland, OR 97209 (Old Townchina Town)

CC Slaughters is (self-described) Portland's premier gay nightclub, located in Old Town/Chinatown. Tons of weekly events and reasonably priced drinks make this a hotspot any night of the week.

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10. Whiskey Soda Lounge 3131 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202 (Se Portland)

With tapas-style Thai and fish sauce wings on a menu that also boasts the best whiskey sour in town, you'd expect the WSL to be overrun with PDX-ers and tourists alike. Thankfully it's not, so that means no waiting in long lines of obnoxious Zagat-reading out-of-towners to get the amazing Ike's Wings.

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11. My Father's Place 523 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214 (Se Portland)

This classic, old-school dive bar with spacious booths is known for Portland comfort food -- think all day breakfast, hot and cold sandwiches, and a variety of quesadillas -- that'll keep you coming back night after night. And if that doesn't do the trick, good booze and good company will.

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12. Horse Brass Pub 4534 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97215 (Belmont)

The City of Roses has over 75 breweries that aren't Breakside, and almost every one of them is represented at no-nonsense Brit pub Horse Brass. This place has been serving up craft beer since 1976 (before it was cool) and has never not been a great place to knock back a few. It’s the best British pub outside of Britain, right down to the halibut fish & chips.

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13. Nostrana 1401 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214 (Buckman)

Nostrana is an Italian restaurant in residential South East Portland that features classic Italian food made with simple ingredients from long-standing recipes. It's also a quality spot for their wine list, dessert menu, and special happy hour deals. Plus, it's the birthplace of the Negroni Social, an industry costumed gala, which inspired the creation of Negroni Week, Nostrana is Portland’s capital of the negroni.

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14. Imperial 410 SW Broadway, Portland, OR (82nd Ave)

Imperial restaurant, located in the historic Hotel Lucia, is owned and operated by Chef extraordinaire Vitaly Paley. This spot has a modern bright interior, and all the food is dishes made with local ingredients. The menu's combination of new and traditional American cuisine can be paired with any of Imperial's fine wines, specialty cocktails or draft and bottled beers.

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15. McMenamin's Kennedy School 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland, OR 97211

Oh this place? No big deal, it's just a converted elementary school with several restaurants, bars, and a pool. It's where to go for an education in good times.

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16. Huber's Cafe 411 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204 (Sw Portland)

Located in Historic Oregon Pioneer Building, Huber's -- Portland's oldest restaurant, founded in 1879 -- really takes the cake for old-school flare and modern-American cuisine. Here, guests can enjoy a traditional turkey dinner, fresh seafood, pasta, and Huber's signature Spanish Coffee, which is prepared tableside with a bit of pyrotechnics.

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17. The Alibi Restaurant & Lounge 4024 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97227 (Overlook)

There's something magical about The Alibi, a karaoke tiki bar in Overlook where bachelor and bachelorette parties converge over a shared love of Mai Tais, poorly sung Neil Diamond, and free Kalua pork. Guests have been partaking in the frivolity since hop on the band wagon (or conga line), house-made infusion in hand