Portland's Nightlife Party Guide
Nightclubs Turn Up The Heat
Nightlife in Portland isnot like one would expect in a quaint Pacific NW city.
Portland may a bit short on the number of dance clubs by big-city standards, but the ones it does have are lively and present everything from New York to Vegas funky.
Modern martini-type bars are prevalent here. The most popular part of town is the Pearl Distrrict conveniently located about a block from one another.
The city's hot/hip hangout is BlueHour. Located roughly at 13th and Burnside in the Pearl District's Weidon & Kennedy building, it's where Portland's beautiful people go to spend their money. The classy restaurant/bar is not cheap – dinner and drinks can easily set one back a C note – but neither is the crowd.
Along the same lines is Oba (12th and Hoyt). Best for Friday Happy Hour, it continues well into the evening. Oba is classy with a twist of casual. Dimly lit with colored lights, it has an upper 20s-30s professional crowd who are just dyin' to meet ya. A bonus is that the bartenders remember each patron's favorite drink.
Portland's Pearl District has cool restaurant/bars popular on weekends.
The bar hopping begins round 10, when the crowd departs Oba and turns the corner to Paragon at 13th and Irving. The same type of bar as Oba, Paragon features good music and a super-friendly crowd. Like Oba, Paragon is an upscale people-meeting bar.
A fourth area option is Touche (15h and Gleason). Classy and casual, the upstairs bar is good during the week or weekends for playing pool or just hanging out.
Sauce Box (Broadway and Burnside), is the closest thing Portland can produce to a New York martini bar. Or' italia, next to the Westin Hotel, is famous throughout the city for its exotic drinks. Many go just for the Mandarin Bull, an orange martini worthy of its name.
For high-end sipping, Huber's (3rd and Stark). is unparalleled. A favorite haunt of Blazers' players, it serves a flaming Spanish coffee poured right at your table; please don't spill! These keep the well-dressed crowd happy well into the night. Huber's is the oldest, most elegant bar in Portland. The owner works the door and the waiters are in tuxedos. If you want to impress someone, go to Huber's. (Psst: for those having dinner, the roasted turkey is legendary.)
Santorini (1st and Main) is a dressy dance club with a huge dance floor, popular among the city's Russian and Arab population.
Polyester is in style at the near-national chain Poly Esther's. The crowd is a bit younger at this 70s fever club than across the street at Greek Cusina – early to mid 20s – who don't mind paying the hefty $10 cover.
Cobolt, across Burnside on 3rd Street, is an alternate dance club that's always packed. Earlier, it's a cool place to hang because it has a bunch of board games. The 1201 in the Pearl District is a small but hip dance club.
The Crystal Ballroom (13th and Broadway) is a causal dance club featuring some of Portland's hottest bands. Bar 71, across from Kells pub,has an outdoor dance floor that is popular for strippers on their off nights. Since everyone in Portland know this, Bar 71 attracts a good deal of men but it has no shortage of women, either.
Portland's cutting-edge club is the Lotus Cafe. It's easy to like a place where one can get a slice of pie before paying the doorman the modest $5 cover charge. Inside, the Lotus Cafe is like a hip London club without all the fanfare. The crowd is a mix of everything – casually-dressed professionals, wildly-dressed punkers, you name it. Lotus is wild, crazy, off-beat and laid-back, all at the same time.
The scene changes according to one's location in the club. The long bar, bracketed by a tables and a diner-style counter, is great for having a drink and chatting with friends. Enter the Card Room, however, and it transforms into a dance club that's part Euro and part New York with a touch of Vegas. A laser-light show creates an active dance scene, a glitter-covered girl grooves on top of the bar and male and female dancers in all white move wildly in an second-story cage lit by black lights (right).
Berbat's Pan – not to be confused with Berbat's bar and restaurant noted in our "pubs" section – has good food, great drinks, is awesome sometimes and sucks other times. The crowd is modern young.
On Thursdays, most of Portland's clubbers divert themselves to Fernando's Hideaway (hidden away on 1st Street at the Hawthorne Bridge). It's a two-level, upscale club with a large, open bar on the first floor and a high-energy dance floor up the stairs. By 10 p.m., there seem to more people waiting in line than there are inside. To avoid this, arrive by 9:30.
Thursdays are also good at Jimmy Mak's (10th and Everett in the Pearl District). A fine Greek Restaurant by light, it's a lively jazz club by dark. The crowd is upscale but fun, meaning they dance in the aisles. Then again, the music is so good, it's hard for anyone to be restrained.
One of Portland's great secrets, even among many locals, is Andrea's Cha Cha Club. Located across from the East Bank Saloon across the Morrison Bridge, it is accessed via The Grand Cafe, a tacky karaoke bar where one can get half-priced food and drinks by sitting at the bar and saying you are staying at the hotel. There is, of course, no hotel, but this identifies one as a local in the know. Downstairs is a different world. The Cha Cha Club is a tiny, dark bar featuring Latin music and Salsa dancing. Illuminated largely by a blue light, it's almost as if you walked into Spain. Andrea is a huge Marlyn Monroe fan and the starlet's photos cover the walls.
The Candlelight Room (at the end of 4th before it turns into the 405 on-ramp) is a live music bar featuring jazz, alternative music and more. Everyone in Portland eventually makes it into this place. It has a "small but effective" dance floor, according to locals.
For a totally different scene, Billy Reed's (MLK in the NW area) features jazz on Sunday afternoons and bands Thursday-Saturday nights. It has good food and a deck to enjoy it all. The place isn't in the best area of Portland but it's a good place on its own. The best view with a cocktail in town is at Alexander's at the top of the Hilton (6th and Salmon). The talented pianist seems to know every song ever written.
It's outside of town – about 15 minutes down I-5, in fact – but that doesn't stop the 21-to-25 crowd from packing into R.J's Wichita Pub (Tualatin exit, right and right again at the second light). It's a casual pub/club with dancing, buckets of cerveza specials and a smilin' staff (be sure and find Francine on Thursdays and Saturdays for fast and friendly service). Thursdays, girls drink for 50 cents and this packs in people of both sexes.
They start young in Portland. The city has a few under-21 spots, the most popular of which is Quest (2nd Street, next to Kells Pub). It has different music themes each night, Wednesdays-Sundays, and really packs in the crowd on weekends.