Five Portland Bars Over 100 Years Old

You know, they say 90 percent of bars close in the first 100 years…

Huber’s, founded 1879
411 SW 3rd Ave., 503-228-5686, hubers.com.

Huber's_RanaYoung_WWRG_08

Huber’s was first founded as the Bureau Saloon in 1879, on Southwest 1st Avenue and Morrison Street—and every drink came with a turkey sandwich. They’re still serving plenty of turkey sandwiches at their new location, where they’ve been since only 1910, a mere 106 years ago. But you’re here for the Spanish coffee, which the fanciest of the bartenders like to light on fire while they’re still pouring the coffee—scarily, tableside—from great height. Huber’s didn’t invent the drink, as falsely rumored, so much as the flair, and pours so much of it they’ve got plaques from Kahlua. Sit at the Turkish-windowed bar, home to a cash register older than anyone alive, and try not to get your eyebrows lit up.

Kelly’s Olympian, founded 1902
426 SW Washington St., 503-228-3669, kellysolympian.com.

(Emily Joan Greene)
(Emily Joan Greene)

Video poker has replaced the card room, an entrance once housing a shoeshine and a smoke stand now leads to an adjoining music venue, and their turn-of-the-millennium overhaul replaced day-drinking seniors with nightlife tourists ordering craft pints below the new owner’s airborne motorcycle collection. But still behind the bar, a hidden hatch leads ice-gathering staff down the rickety staircase to an expansive basement holding traces of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Staff recently discovered a rudimentary flush system, lending credence to long-standing rumors of a urine trough carved into the foot of the bar so that rough-hewn working men could unzip and let flow amid rounds of shots. But customs do change over time. If 22nd-century archaeologists sift through the remains of a long-abandoned Kelly’s, what would seem weirder—evidence that patrons once pissed at the bar or parked on the ceiling?

White Eagle, Founded 1905

836 N Russell St., 503-282-6810, mcmenamins.com.

(White Eagle FB)
(White Eagle FB)

By the late 1990s, this moldering dive showed its age solely through broken toilets until McMenamins impresarios exposed original ceramic flooring and brought along era-appropriate furnishings to match the oaken bar—a comforting middlebrow blur of vintage fixtures and a franchised future. The White Eagle now primarily serves as a venue promoting the suede fringe of adult-contemporary roots pop, while the former brothel quarters upstairs have become legendarily haunted hotel rooms, the restless spirits mystified by what the place has become.

Virginia Cafe, founded 1914
820 SW 10th Ave, 503-227-0033, virginiacafepdx.com.

(Cameron Browne)
(Cameron Browne)

Virginia Cafe has survived 102 years and three downtown locations embodying the soul of the hospitality lifer with a heart of gold. If the Virginia could talk, it would always call you “hon,” with a friendly sass to its hipper patrons and friendly familiarity to its regulars, whom it knows by their first names. Virginia’s onion rings ($5.75) are some of the best in town, with a recipe that tastes like it has taken 100 years to perfect. Order whatever, they’ll know how to make it.

Dan & Louis, founded 1907
208 SW Ankeny St., 503-227-5906, danandlouis.com.

Dan & Louis Oyster Bar
(WW Staff)

Old Town’s Dan & Louis is Portland’s most hallowed oyster tradition—and perhaps the only one that matters, owned by the fifth generation of Louis Wachsmuth’s family. The space is cavernous, but if you hit the bar at the Ankeny alley entrance, you’ll catch a Blazers game on TV and a bartender who’s been at her trade for 40 years and is enthusiastic about all things meat, whether barbecue or the bars’ own wide swathe of oysters from briny Virginica to heavenly Sea Cow.

Pix Patisserie

Pix Patisserie needs a user’s guide—there’s a bull on top of the bar that sort of matches the bull in front of nearby burrito shop Ole Ole, the menu is so long it has a table of contents, and there are three different places where you have to order stuff—one station for Spanish-style tapas, one for pastries, and one for drinks. But the funny, amber-red-lit bar is always packed, and there are reasons. Specifically, the sherry and Champagne lists are two of the best not only in the city but in the entire country, and there are always odd deals to be found. As a tip, start with the sherry flight and start drifting through the menu until you discover your druthers; you’ll find it’s a surprisingly cheap high. Also, vermouth prices are weirdly low here, and holidays almost always involve giveaways you’d never expect—like, literally, diamonds.

HAPPY HOUR: 2-4 pm and midnight-2 am daily. Wine discounts, oyster special, $1 off cocktails, free tapas with each drink.

ENTERTAINMENT: Pétanque court. Patio.

2225 E Burnside St., 971-271-7166, pixpatisserie.myshopify.com. 2 pm-2 am Friday-Saturday, 2 pm-midnight Sunday-Thursday

Reel M Inn

The secrets behind Reel M Inn’s success are as open as its “kitchen”—i.e., that eternally percolating deep fryer just behind the bar. For generations, this unreconstructed dive has churned out the city’s finest dirty birds at relative pennies a serving (breast, thigh, leg, wing and four mallet-sized jojos for $9.50) by relying on the freshness of poultry delivered thrice weekly and hand-breaded daily, the crackerjack timing required to pull each order from the oil at the moment of peak succulence, and a loyal clientele willing to wait an hour or two amid thickened clouds of second-hand cholesterol. Far more than the workmanlike seasoning or accompanying six-pack of sauces, Reel M Inn’s not-so-original recipe is patience. 

Happy hour: “Every hour is happy but the prices don’t change.”

Entertainment: Pool, video poker.

2430 SE Division St., 503-231-3880. 10 am-midnight Sunday-Friday, 10 am-1 am Saturday.

Renner’s Grill

Multnomah Village has a way of feeling like a friendly meeting point between city and suburban culture. And in no place is this more evident than Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room Lounge. This hole in the wall off Capitol Highway has been serving drinks and pub food in the village for over 70 years, and you can feel every one of them. You’ll see old men telling stories of going to Renner’s in the ’60s, rambunctious dudes in cowboy hats swapping jokes, and 20-somethings coming in for a Rainier at the only genuine watering hole in the neighborhood. And they’re all on a first-name basis with the bartender, who is slinging drinks and dancing to the music—playing Macy Gray for the third time in two hours—behind the counter. It’s just a good, old-fashioned dive that reminds you of the days before Portland was Portland. There’s no pretension, just cheap beer, greasy food and a feeling that you belong, whoever you are. 

Happy hour: Noon-1 pm power hour, $2.25 wells. 3-6 pm and midnight-2:30 am, $1 off draft, wine and wells. $2-$8 food specials. $1 domestic drafts Tuesdays, $1 wells Mondays.

Entertainment: Bingo Wednesdays, dance parties after.

7819 SW Capitol Highway, 503-246-9097, rennersgrill.com. 7 am-2:30 am daily.

Produce Row Cafe

Before it closed in 2014, Produce Row was a 40-year tradition of beer and music—home to multiple generations of Portland’s music scene, going from the de facto homebase of Portland’s pre-millennial indie-rock crowd to an unlikely IDM/EDM hang in the 2000s, before being revamped in 2008 into a New Portland beer hall and unlikely patio DJ hub—hosting international hip-hop night the Do-Over. But when owner Alan Davis suddenly shut it down, it seemed like forever. It wasn’t. It’s back from the dead (again). This industrial eastside institution has new ownership, and a few newer beer taps. Produce Row was one of Widmer’s original accounts, but on the last visit the Brothers had given way to Caldera, No-Li, Crux and Migration. The interior that was refurbished during the second-to-last temporary closure is very nice, but the action is on the massive patio. 

HAPPY HOUR: 4-7 pm and 10 pm-close daily, all day Monday. Discounts on select food, wine, beer and cider.

204 SE Oak St., 503-232-8355, producerowcafe.com. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday.

Portland Cider House

Portland Cider House is the cider bar to rule them all. The cedar room is so tarted up with merchandise and kitsch it looks like a Portlandified Wall Drug. But with its computerized keg system, fast-rotating 24 taps, and helpful staff offering recommendations all across the panoply of ciders (including a few English ones and a house-made high-alcohol scrumpy), Portland Cider Co.’s Hawthorne taproom has essentially made itself the Bailey’s Taproom of cider bars. There’s always something new to try, and a self-selected taster of five will set you back a mere $7. Perfect. The Southeast Bushwhacker still has the best cider bottle selection in the city, but if you want to hang, you’ll be here on Hawthorne.

HAPPY HOUR: 3-6 pm and 9 pm-close daily. $1 off all cider pints.

3638 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-206-6283, portlandcider.com/portland-cider-house. 11 am-10 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11 am-midnight Friday-Saturday.

Pope House Bourbon Lounge

Pope House has a generous happy hour—everyday from 4 to 7 pm, $6 gets you a well made brown derby or jackalope. And yet, when you post up on the front patio of this Victorian, spend the extra cash on the regular cocktails. The $10 house Old Fashioned is a marvel—Buffalo Trace, brown sugar and bitters in perfect proportion and with more than double the booze of the discount drinks. We like it with the pimento toast, and maybe a cheapie $4 bourbon pour from the happy-hour menu to chase it. 

Happy hour: 4-7 pm daily. Food specials, cocktail specials, beer specials.

Entertainment: Watching neighborhood construction from the patio.

2075 NW Glisan St., 503-222-1056, popehouselounge.com. 4 pm-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 4 pm-1 am Friday-Saturday.

Ponderosa Lounge

If there’s a reason to go to Jubitz, it’s the Ponderosa Lounge: the ultimate marriage of the 12-bar blues shuffle and the “Cupid Shuffle,” whose stage often hosts impromptu after-hours shows from traveling stadium country giants, along with other nightly two-step. Don’t be dissuaded by the massive “No boots, no spurs, no service” banner, they’ll definitely serve you an “Angry Balls” cocktail—a toxic and steamy mix of Angry Orchard Cider and Fireball whiskey—in those flip-flops you love. The Pondo is due for a big revamp soon, but whatever its future shape it’ll remain the music hall for the beautifully red-state truck-stop empire at Portland’s northern edge, and they’ll still serve up giant burgers and showboating country. 

HAPPY HOUR: 3-6 pm daily. Draft beers are $2.75, craft beers are $4, and wells are $3.50. Nightly drink specials.

ENTERTAINMENT: Live country music and dancin’, games aplenty from pinball to pool to Pop-A-Shot to low-stakes, state-run gambling.

10350 N Vancouver Way, 503-345-0300, ponderosalounge.com. 9 am-midnight Monday-Tuesday, 9 am-1 am Wednesday-Thursday, 9 am-2 am Friday, 8 am-2 am Saturday, 8 am-midnight Sunday.

Suddenly, Everybody in Portland Wants to Be a Barfly

Maybe it’s all the money restaurateurs are dumping into 99-tap sausage bars and vermouth-focused cocktail spots. Maybe the sudden fear that the old dives are closing has caused people to take notice of places they’d long taken for granted. Or maybe it’s the influx of 20-somethings living in cramped studios who are searching for a place to be.

Whatever it is, in the past couple years, every other major publication in town launched its own guide devoted to Portland’s ambitious new monuments to drinking—ham bars, fried-chicken-and-oyster bars, mussel bars, and waiting-room bars that exist only to shake you down for $14 drinks before you can get the more sought-after $14 drinks upstairs.

In the 16 years we’ve been putting out a guide to our favorite places to get a drink in Portland, we’ve been pretty consistently devoted to the notion that a bar in Portland is like a church in Arkansas or a movie theater in Hollywood. They’re the places you come to hang out and feel like you’re part of a shared city. In godless, post-industrial Portland, the local pub may be the only place you meet your neighbors.

And so this is a guide to the 167 best of them in town—from fancy modernist temples on the ground floor of those new mixed-use communities in the sky to the gritty joints that open after third shift and serve breakfast with whiskey. We like both, given the right situation.

And yet, the bars we were most excited about this year weren’t the fancy new spots backed by big-money restaurant groups. They’re bars that, in humble ways, serve the people in their community with a cold beer, music and a place to feel human again after a long day at work.

Our Bar of the Year is a renovation of a classic, overseen by a third-generation Portlander who wanted to preserve a century-old forest cabin that would otherwise be razed for a mansion. Another is owned by two brothers who decided to help bring back jazz and blues to the fast-changing Alberta neighborhood they grew up in. A couple of uniquely talented bartenders started a bar to serve the new class of nighttime workers they’re a part of. And for the first time in a few years, Portland opened a really good bar-themed bar—a bar devoted merely to being a bar.

Meanwhile, we bear witness to a whole new bar community forming on North Killingsworth, and a huge new crop of wonderful rooftop patios, which are both the next best thing to a great backyard barbecue and maybe the only place to install a patio in newly population-dense Portland.

But if you just want a super-cheap PBR tallboy before heading home, we think we’ve found the very cheapest in town—at a goofball new McMenamins, if you can believe it.

At every place in this guide, we think you’ll find a memorable experience—sometimes because of the drinks they’re serving, and sometimes just because of who’s on the stool next to you.

Happy drinking—and tip your bartender.

The Pocket Pub

In the beginning, there were two Slices—first, the pizza shop in this innocuous residential strip of the Eliot neighborhood, then the unrelated one still at the Zipper on Sandy. But apparently Northeast Portland isn’t big enough to support two generically named pizzerias. And so the first Slice is now the Pocket Pub. Owners Kara Lammerman and Jennifer Cale clearly have modest intentions, but when you’re working with a space the size of a studio apartment, “dreaming big” isn’t a realistic option. But Pocket fills a niche the neighborhood desperately needs between blue-collar dive and something slightly more high-end. The Pocket Pub splits every difference. Cocktails are simple and fruity, the beer list is slight but won’t insult snobs, and the pizza—12-inch pies, from margherita to blackened fennel, topping out at $15—is a respite from the grease bombs at Sparky’s. It’s middle-class but not stuffy, as comfortable as your living room, and just what the area needed. 

HAPPY HOUR: 4-6 pm and 10 pm-close daily. $1 off draft beers, wines, wells, appetizers and select cocktails. $2 off pizza special. $10 off wine bottles to go.

2719 NE 7th Ave., 503-287-3645, pocketpubpdx.com. 4-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 4 pm-midnight Friday-Saturday.