The Best Bars in Downtown Portland

by Alexander Frane on Feb 27, 2018 in Roundups

 
For a while, downtown wasn’t much of a drinking destination, with just a few assorted dives and some restaurants with bars. In the last few years, though, we’ve seen an influx in great spots to drink downtown, making it a viable bar-crawl neighborhood, for whatever you’re looking for in a bar. We’ve narrowed it down to twelve, and kept it properly downtown: anything north of Burnside or west of 405 is out of bounds. Where is your favorite place to drink downtown? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter.
 
Best Place for a Slice and a Drink
For a long time, Sizzle Pie’s Quality Bar was the best place for a drink and a slice of pizza downtown. While it’s still great, that honor currently goes to The Crown, which offers a more robust cocktail menu, as well as full pies and slices. Happy hour each day sees $5 draught cocktails, and those looking for a simple drink can find a dealer’s choice shot and chaser all day for just $5. The bar stays open later than most places downtown, so guests can find a Boulevardier and slice of pepperoni until 2:30 while gazing at the incredible wallpaper. (410 SW Broadway; 503-228-7222)
 
Best Spot for Wine
The cocktails at Shift Drinks are worth the trip alone, but co-owner/sommelier Anthony Garcia has brought in an amazing variety of affordably priced wines by the bottle and glass. The organization of the menu is unique, with sections like “technique wines,” “terroir wines,” and “left coast wines” to help guide guests. An array of fun wines are available for just $7 a glass, and bottles of wine are all available to go up until the bar closes at 2:30 AM. (1200 SW Morrison St.; 503-922-3933)
 
Yamhill Pub
Best Dive Bar
This is not a place out-of-towners, or even the bulk of Portland’s bar scene, goes to. This is a place for regulars and dedicated drinkers, a dive bar in the old sense of the word, with grimy walls riddled with sharpie graffiti and pitchers filled with PBR going out by the dozens each night. As it’s Portland, you can still find a decent local beer, but don’t even think about ordering a cocktail. (223 SW Yamhill St.; 503-295-6613)
 
Best Bar with a View
Departure has some good cocktails on its menu, though prices can get a bit out of hand, especially in regards to well drinks. The clientele is a mixture of business workers, tourists, and the occasional Trail Blazer, and doesn’t really feel authentically Portland. Nevertheless, with a great food menu courtesy of Chef Gregory Gourdet, a stylish interior, and, most importantly, a nearly 360 degree view of the city from the patio, none of that matters. It’s not just the best view downtown, it’s the best view in the city. (525 SW Morrison St.; 503-802-5370)
 
 
Best Place to Catch a Show
Portland’s OG hard-rocking, biker style, music venue and dive bar, Kelly’s Olympian has been a staple of both Portland’s music scene and the downtown bar for decades. It has gone through many things in its century-plus time in Portland, but today works as a casual venue for seeing a show and grabbing a cheap drink or a bite to eat. (426 SW Washington St.; 503-228-3669)
 
Best Strip Club
Sorry, Mary’s. While the oldest strip club in the city is still a perfectly charming place to visit, it’s Kit Kat Club that reigns supreme downtown. Its burlesque-like nature truly sets the club apart: a catwalk with cabaret lights spelling out the name, specialty acts from each of the dancers, multiple stages, and a nightly MC all make the club more than just a place to see some skin. It’s a fun, bawdy night out each time. (231 SW Ankeny St.; 503-208-3229)
 
Best Beer Bar
Bailey’s Taproom is always a bit cramped, with few seats and little standing room, but the large tap-list and friendly service make up for it. Twenty-six rotating taps are displayed on a hi-def tv screen, each with its IBU, ABV, and currently volume available displayed. Bailey’s doesn’t have much, or any, food available, but that just means you can bring in food from Santeria, just across the alleyway. The taproom isn’t just the best downtown, it’s one of the best in the city. (213 SW Broadway; 503-295-1004)
 
Best Cocktail Bar
Kask has gone through a few changes over the years, mostly because of its oft-changing attached restaurant (currently the newly opened Bistro Agnes), but the bar remains consistently a great cocktail venue. Inventive cocktails are organized into categories such as “rich and stiff,” and “lively and bright”, and are served in a stylish, cozy little bar. (1215 SW Alder St.; 503-241-7163)
 
Momo’s
Best College Bar
Forget the Cheerful Tortoise—a place best avoided by all but newly twenty-one year old PSU students—the best, albeit unofficial, college bar is Momo’s, right down from the public library. It’s true that the line for drinks can get a bit long, but it’s a casual, fun watering-hole with pool, pinball, and a large, if somewhat bland, back patio that has covered, heated seating for the long winter months. (725 SW 10th Ave.; 503-478-9600)
 
Best Whiskey Bar
The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library is more than just Portland's most well-known spot for bourbon, scotch, rye, and Japanese whiskies, it’s become one of the most well-regarded places in the country. And it’s more than just the sheer volume of carefully assembled spirits, but the entire experience, from the tufted leather furniture, soaring ceilings with dangling chandeliers, roaring fireplaces, and cocktails made seat-side from a rolling bar cart. It can be difficult to find a seat here, especially on busy weekends, but the downstairs Green Room makes for a great place to get a cocktail while waiting. (1124 SW Alder St.; 503-954-1381)
 
Best Restaurant Bar
Upstairs from Raven and Rose is the Rookery, one of the original serious craft cocktail bars in the city. The cocktail menu focuses on seasonality, changing often but with an emphasis on classic drinks that can be made all year round. It also boasts a hand-selected barrel program, with bartenders selecting individual barrels for specific drinks, making sure the whiskey or rum or brandy used in a cocktail is the exact right one for the flavor profile. (1331 SW Broadway; 503-222-7673)
 
Best Happy Hour
One of the most popular cocktail menus in the city, the bar at Clyde Common can be a little pricey for some. Luckily, you can find some of the famous drinks at happy hour here for just $6 each, as well as a glass of house wine. Beers are just $5, and a number of hearty dishes are available on the cheap. Happy hour is served from 3 to 6 PM, and 10 PM to close each day. (1014 SW Stark St.; 503-228-3333)
 
Top photo via Alexander Frane; second photo via Imperial
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