Portland's Best Bars, Pubs & Microbrews
Top Places to Enjoy All Those Great Beers
There's a party in Portland in its pubs and fun bars.
Portland is the home of the home brew. The microbrewery was practically invented here long before the concept was adopted in other areas across the country. Some of the microbreweries have their own pubs where their beer is served exclusively (McMenamins take this to the extreme with 20 of them in Portland alone). At other pubs and clubs, most of Portland's fine selections are available.
Bridgeport, Full Sail, McMenamins and Widmer are among the choices. There are a variety of flavors within these choices. No wonder people run so much here; it's a challenge working off all this terrific-tasting brew!
Portland's nightlife is an interesting mix between the laid-back pubs, upscale bars and dance clubs. For the best in pubs, read on. For the creative club scene, click on this clubs link. Pubs are most lively between 7-10 p.m.; afterward, Portland's hot action can be found in its clubs.
Portland's Best Pubs & Beer Bars
The city's many quaint pubs are what makes this town so cool – places like the East Bank Saloon, a brick-and-wood building with a bartender who calls her patrons "honey." Or the Old Market Pub, where the beer quality varies from week to week because the brewmaster is always experimenting with his craft. Or Produce Row, a super-casual pub where the beer choices far outnumber those on the food menu and where one can sit inside or outside with a book and a cold, locally made brew.
The pubs are not beer-slamming, loud music joints. Rather, they are simple places to read the latest purchase from Powell's Books, gather with friends or perhaps meet new ones. The people arrive in hiking boots with uncombed hair looking as if they just got through climbing Mt. Hood. The pubs can be lively, especially during major sporting events, (which in this town means any televised Blazers game), but primarily they perfectly reflect the English definition of a Public House.
The East Bank saloon pours beers for its loyal patrons.
The East Bank Saloon, located at the foot of the Morrison Bridge across the river from downtown, is one of Portland's purest pubs. If features keno, poker machines and is a THE place to watch college and pro football on fall Saturdays and Sundays (at least according to the regulars. Seems the chair at the far end of the bar has a view of six TVs, enabling one to take in a half-dozen games at the same time). It also features surprisingly good food – the French toast is supposedly the best in town – and other fare ranges from pasta to prime rib.
Around the corner, almost under the bridge in fact, is Produce Row. It has every Portland beer on tap, features a popular jazz quartet on sunny Sunday afternoons and has pool and darts for those who prefer to be inside. It's located in the middle of an industrial area, but with a view of the river on a beautiful day or night, it's impossible to be aware of anything but the positive. The crowd varies from the leave-me-alone-to-read to the lively young and friendly drinker. Mondays it features jazz jam sessions – great music for a mere $2 cover.
Portland's most popular brewery is Bridgeport Brewing Company (14th and Marshall on the edge of the Pearl District). It's the largest of the brew pubs, located in a warehouse-sized brick building with long wood tables that are shared by strangers and friends. Tere's an upstairs area that tends to attract the more lively set. Serving only beer and huge, tasty pizzas, and now featuring a new on-site bakery, it's filled on weekends.
Kel's Pub is a good place to hang to start the night or finish the night.
No good beer-swilling town is complete without a good Irish pub, and Portland has a pair of them. Kells Pub (2nd and Pine downtown) is an exception to the mostly sedate atmosphere of Portland's pubs. This is one place where things can get a bit wild. People here are in a more social frame of mind than at some of the other pubs. It's about the only show in town on Wednesdays and is also lively thru the weekend when it features live Irish music. The food is good enough to bring you in for dinner and the bar action is lively enough to keep you there.
For those who can't decide where to go or what to do in Portland, Kells is the place to start the night. And, perhaps, finish it, as well.
Across the street from Kel's is a fun, underground-type bar with hip hard-to-pinpoint music, candles and really, really cheap drinks. We're talking $2.50 for premium beer, $3 for cockatails and just $1.50 for a round bottle of Olympia (not bad tasting, really). It's Shanghai Tunnel and this is a reall drinker's bar with a kick of coolness.
Dublin Pub in nearby Beaverton (Scholls Ferry Road and the Beaverton Hillsdale Highway, just down the street from Nike's World Headquarters), is another popular Irish bar. It draws a crowd every every night with live music four nights a week. On weekends this is a pick-up place for the college-age crowd with a so-so house band that plays tunes from the 70s and 80s. The good thing about this place is the 100 or so beers on tap, ranging from boring domestics to imports to local brews. It also has pool, Foosball and darts. It has no liquor, just beer and wine and CASH ONLY ($3 cover on Friday and Saturday nights). Earlier in the evening it's popular among young families. This is where Portland's hippies go to die.
Still hot for teacher? Ask HER to stay after school at The Kennedy School (NE 33rd, two miles North of I-84). Here, McMenamins has turned a near-century old elementary school into a pub house where classrooms have been converted into various bars. There's a pub, a quiet "honors" room for couples and a "detention" room where people go to smoke. The beer is brewed on-site in what was the girls' bathroom. There's also a restaurant, a theater with couches for seats and a pizza parlor. Here, people wander the hallways not with a pass but a cocktail!
The Blue Moon Tavern & Grill (432 NW 21st) is a McMenamins pub with sliding glass doors that make it a warm weather haven.
When the weather is good, the outdoor tables at Captain Ankeny's Pub (Ankeny and 3rd Street, two blocks from Burnside), are packed during after-work times. After dark, the youthful crowd heads to the Anchor Bar, a dive if there ever was one. By the way, if you want to get back at the bicycle messenger who cut you off earlier in the day, Captain Ankeny's is the place you'll find him. The Tugboat Brew Pub (Ankeny St. at Broadway), which is cleaner on the inside than it appears on the outside, is a good afterwork spot.
The Old Lompoc Brewery and Pub, 1616 NW 23rd (just north of Mcmenamin's Tavern) has a dozen taps with a mix of its own beers and others. It serves tavern food.
The Moon and Sixpence is an English pub in the Hollywood District, just north of Sandy Blvd. It serves traditional British beers in a friendly, comfortable atmosphere. It has a nice deck to enjoy in good weather.
A slightly older and more sophisticated crowd hangs one street over (toward Burnside) at Berbati's. This is not to be confused with Berbati's Pan, a dance club favored by the Captain Ankeny's/Anchor Bar young crowd on 3rd Street. Go down the alley and enter through that door; the "main" entrance on 2nd Street is primarily for the restaurant. This is another good meeting and mingling place, though the crowd is more casual than at the martini-type clubs.
Uptown Billiards (22nd and Everett) is the best place to grab a stick in town. On weekends, it takes time to get a table, but that's okay because in addition to the ever-present beer, it has extensive alcohol choices at the bar.
It's a chain and is one of those modern breweries popping up across the country, but the Rock Bottom Brewery makes good beer on the premises and has good food. The bar area is a good after-work mingling spot, particularly during big sporting events. In fact, it's one of Portland's best mingling spots, be it crowded or quiet.
Across the downtown bridges is The Laurel Thirst Public House (Gleason & 30th in the SE area). It has a lots of beer on tap, a good wine selection and good, basic food. The chili, for example, comes in a bowl of homemade bread. The breakfasts are awesome. The crowd is interesting – the bartenders wear pierced jewelry – but this just adds to the atmosphere.
Then there is the quirky Old Market Pub. Located at the Multnomah exit off I-5 just South of downtown, it's a one-man rebellion of sorts against the larger local brew houses. Some of the beer is very good, and some is not. The customers serve as kind of a tasting board for the brewmaster, enabling him to continually work on his passion. If you decide to eat here, you better find a beer you like because the food is very spicy.
Outside of the city center is Edgefield (84 East, Troutdale exit), another McMenamins establishment that is like a mini-pub crawl. It has 4-5 pubs on the property and a hotel for those who can't drive back to town.