Dive bars, Portland.
October 26, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

I need to find a dive bar to become a regular at in Portland, OR.

After 15 years of living in Brooklyn, I've been offered a job in Portland. I am a great admirer and consumer of bar culture, specifically in dive bars (as an e.g., I spend a great amount of time here: Red Hook Bait & Tackle). In order to make mine and my wife's transition to a Brand New City more easy / seemless, I'd like to know about any good divey bars in various neighborhoods in Portland. We'll be in corporate housing in the NW for the first month, and haven't yet decided where we're going to set up house, once the corporate housing runs out, so I'm open to all over the city, as exploration is going to be a big thing for us. Ideally, I'd like to be able to become a regular, as I like drinking with the same people.
posted by jivadravya to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Matador. Slabtown. Ash Street Saloon. These are all "downtown" area.
posted by shownomercy at 8:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like the Goodfoot Lounge in SE Portland. Maybe not super dive-y, but definitely has a laid-back, casual, neighborhood feeling where you can easily become a regular. Has an upstairs and a downstairs so you can have your choice of different vibes too. I also like nearby Beulahland, but it's maybe slightly more hipster-y.
posted by aka burlap at 8:35 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't been there since smoking was banned in bars, but Low Brow is in NW and unexpectedly dark and divy for the location. I am a little perplexed about the review that says there was no discernable smell, though- so maybe things have changed since I was last there!
posted by Secretariat at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not a particular recommendation, but BarFly will give you lots of places to try.
posted by xil at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Low Brow in the Pearl, or you could try the Ship in Multnomah Village (whispers - you can still get a game of pool for $0.25 there...)
posted by nicktf at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you're in NW, I say Wimpy's.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Reel M Inn.
posted by Angus Jung at 9:40 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live off Foster Road, it's basically Dive Bar Avenue.

Or just look for the Oregon Lottery signs.
posted by medeine at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

How do you feel about karaoke? My favorite dive bar is the Candlelight at 73rd and Glisan in NE. Karaoke there is relaxed and fun on Friday and Saturday nights. The place is usually free of hipsters. There's a distinct regular crowd and the drinks are cheap.

I like Thatchers and Roscoe's on Stark near 80th in SE.

If you like darts and pool and cheap drinks, try Sewickly's at SE 49th and Hawthorne.

Sorry I can't help you with suggestions for the other side of the river. I live in SE and I don't cross the river to drink.

If you want a meta-friend to introduce you to the crowd at The Candlelight, send me a message.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:52 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Triple Nickel was my friend's local dive bar when she lived in Portland a few years ago. However, if I recall correctly, it is truly divey - none of that ironic diveyness many bars have affected in recent years, which may not be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:56 AM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I came in to suggest the Good Foot as well; I've been a regular for over a decade. Let know if you want to shoot some pool sometime.
posted by Specklet at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for the information and offers to connect. Much appreciated, and I'll definitely take you up on them. I do like shooting pool, and also darts. And beer.

Truly divey is a good thing for me - I'm not necessarily into the post-ironic drinking establishment vibe.

Again - thanks! This is all great information.
posted by jivadravya at 10:37 AM on October 26, 2011

jivadravya: "Truly divey is a good thing for me - I'm not necessarily into the post-ironic drinking establishment vibe. "

Holman's on 28th.

The Nite Owl on Interstate.

George's on Interstate.
posted by idiopath at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bless you, idiopath. And I'll meet you there for the bloody mary bar there any day (or well, any Sunday). But Holman's has an bit of a post-ironic vibe.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:39 AM on October 26, 2011

Yeah. Dive bar versus "dive bar" is an important distinction. The Spare Room was a mix of senior citizens and younger first wave gentrifiers and so bad it's good lounge music a few years ago and was always good for a group. Might be hipsterized by now.

Sloan's Tavern is a blue collar enclave in an unexpected locale, in as much that it's attached to a metal shop and has a truck cab for one wall that grants it +1 invisability from the Prius and bikester crowd.

Working class bikesters tended towards the Jolly Roger a lot of the time.

Virginia Cafe was forced to move to nicer digs but still carries a lot of its authenticity.

Kelly's Olympian is a downtown motorcycle bar that only gets trendsters on the weekends. Marathon Taverna on Burnside is similarly two-sided but has great, cheap gyros.

I always imagined the Candlelight Room was blues for people who actually have reasons for it, but never had a chance to check it out. Compare and contrast to the Cheerful Tortoise, which is an annoying undergrad dive but has a great deal on omelets.

General theme is anything that is generally well attended on work nights but not talked up a lot. There are also clues to how it's described: "in the pearl!" --> no... "in old town/chinatown" --> yes. Basically the same locations but two different realities.
posted by Skwirl at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Triple Nickel is old-school. 2nd-ing that one.
posted by Angus Jung at 11:50 AM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd also venture a hypothesis that there's a high correlation of true dives on ODOT managed highways versus PDOT managed streets. Sandy and Barbur and 82nd come to mind. (Basically anything ODOT is innoculated against Portlandia-ization by the more conservative state politics.) Your Inn and Red Room also looked promising at times but I never had the chance to check those either.
posted by Skwirl at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2011

One thing that was interesting to me as a NYer visiting, was the requirement (I believe) that bars serve food if they want to have a happy hour. Is this true?

Also, can Skwirl, can you explain the difference between ODOT managed roads and PDOT? Is there some geographical distinction where the city ends and the rest of the state begins? I hope to walk to whatever bar I'll be regular-izing, the concept of driving anywhere is really foreign to me, even more-so from bar to bar.
posted by jivadravya at 12:16 PM on October 26, 2011

I believe in Oregon all bars have to serve food. It might not be good food, or food you want to order, but there will be food. I have heard of places steering their patrons away when it came to food- like, "Seriously, why don't you go get something at the taco place next door and bring it back? This is just going to be microwave teriyaki from Costco that I am legally required to sell."
posted by Secretariat at 1:06 PM on October 26, 2011

Slabtown - closer to NW Trendythird area

Lowbrow - in the Pearl

Ash Street Saloon - Skidmore Fountain area

The Slammer - close-in East Burnside

Cassidy's and Virgina Cafe I think of more like old drinking establishments: the charm has faded, but they're kept up out of run-down.

Bars that want to be dive bars, not quite desperately, but you can tell they're trying: BUNK Bar, Rum Club.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 1:36 PM on October 26, 2011

I believe in Oregon all bars have to serve food.

This is corrrect. State law. It makes for a lot of interesting/cool happy hour menus...and a lot of bad food too.
posted by Angus Jung at 2:04 PM on October 26, 2011

The B-Side on E Burnside was always my favorite - plenty of regulars, great bartenders, strong drinks, and a fantastic jukebox (though I sadly moved away from Portland about a year ago, so if it has since been overtaken by jerks, feel free to disregard).
posted by dialetheia at 2:26 PM on October 26, 2011

Check the Sandy Hut on 16th and Sandy. It became hipsterish as the rest of Portland did, but it is genuinely shitty. That's not affected.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Wilshire on NE 42nd. I feel like you should make a list of these and then propose them as monthly meetup destinations.

I've been to most of the ones listed above, and most have their divey charm still somewhat intact.
posted by togdon at 7:43 PM on October 26, 2011

Low Brow, Candlelight, Holman's, The Nite Owl, Sandy Hut, My Father's Place, That's what I'd try.

Since you asked, if I were moving to Portland and didn't want to drive anywhere. I wouldn't live west of 25th in NW, nor west of 16th in SW, nor south of the 405 in SW, nor south of Powell in SE, nor east of 49th in SE, nor east of 33rd in NE, nor north of Alberta in NE, nor anywhere N Portland. There ARE dives outside of this area for sure, but less things within walking distance and definitely less of an urban feel outside of these boundaries.
posted by pwb503 at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

dialetheia - The B-Side on E Burnside [..] if it has since been overtaken by jerks
The B-Side is still a good dive bar (can't believe I forgot it). They have a smoking porch in back now, too.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 12:55 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you're in NW, I say Wimpy's.

A former dweller of 23rd, I say that Wimpy's is unequivocally the best dive bar in the NW. QED.

Holman's is fantastic, and has a rul good peanut butter bacon burger.

I also stand by Sassy's. It's a dive strip bar, but it's neighborhoody, all regulars, and has some 30 or so local (mostly) beers on tap for $2 a pint all goddamn day (and all local, organic food on the menu, whoot pdx).
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2011

The Ship doesn't serve liquor anymore and it is cash only.

I'd stay away from The Hut food as they hired my cousin and he's not the most hygenic in the kitchen. :)
posted by miss meg at 8:49 PM on October 29, 2011

I forgot to mention Club 21. Not sure if it's open anymore, but it's the most depressing place on earth. You'll love it. Near the corner of NE 21st and Stark and looks like your grandmothers house from the outside. Really.
posted by pwb503 at 10:27 AM on October 30, 2011

The state managed roads in Portland are always those five lane monstrocities (4 lane + turning lane) that define 90% of America and that attract big parking lots and strip malls. They stand in sharp contrast to Hawthorne, Mississippi, 23rd, Alberta, etc... Joe's Place on Alberta is a great case study. One of the last hold-outs of the pre-arts district King neighborhood. That is to say, it was mostly serving people of color... Now it's The Nest, which is all vegan corn dogs and American Spirit cigarettes. MLK Blvd, on the otherhand, has resisted several heavy handed attempts at "urban renewal" over the years and is just now finally becoming gentrified due to the latest attempt + traffic calming.
posted by Skwirl at 2:07 PM on November 2, 2011

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