7 Great Bars in Portland

These PDX bars offer great cocktails, craft beers and experiences.

By Nathan Isaacs, ContributorSept. 8, 2017
By Nathan Isaacs, ContributorSept. 8, 2017, at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

7 Great Bars in Portland

Bible Club

For a vintage bar experience, check out Bible Club PDX in the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood.(Kimo Easterwood)

Portland, Oregon, is home to a bar scene that rivals that of other major cities. Whether you're looking for the perfect artisanal cocktail in a trendy speak-easy or a beer in a hole-in-the-wall dive bar, there's a great bar that will fit your taste.

"There is certainly something for everybody here in Portland," says Alex Dawes, general manager at Embassy Suites Portland – Downtown. "One of the best things I ever heard about Portland was that there is actually nothing here for people to see. People come here because they want to do what the locals do."

To learn where in-the-know Portlanders like to grab a drink, U.S. News asked local experts for recommendations. Here’s what they said.

Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library

Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library(Dina Avila Photography)

"The Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library is a beautiful old building that has … a whiskey library in it," Dawes says. "It's on two levels and has a list of whiskeys from around the world. And when I say around the world, it has shelves, and shelves and shelves of whiskey … it's incredible."

The library, with its overstuffed leather chairs and fireplace, features about 1,700 distilled spirits, which are prominently displayed on the exposed brick walls.

The bartenders will come to your table to make your drink. "All their mixologists are unbelievably good at what they do," says Marcus Hibdon, director of communications and public relations for Travel Portland, the city's tourism organization.

Bailey's Taproom

"Bailey's Taproom is a draft beer mecca," says Dawes.

Bailey's is conveniently located in downtown Portland, close to many popular hotels. While there are other bars that feature dozens of taps of draft beer, what makes Bailey's different is its focus on Oregon brews. It aims to cater to beer connoisseurs as well as uninitiated beer drinkers.

But beer enthusiasts beware: Craft beers may have a higher alcohol content than what some visitors are used to. "One of the things we have to warn visitors to Portland is to be aware of the alcohol content of the beer that you are drinking," Dawes says. "If you were like me when I first moved to Portland, I was drinking beer not realizing how much alcohol was in it, and got into my third one and almost fell over."

Teardrop Lounge

Teardrop Lounge was one of the first local bars to focus on perfecting the handmade cocktail, and even makes its own bitters and tinctures.

"When you're talking about handcrafted cocktails, you're not going to find anything better than Teardrop anywhere," Hibdon says. "I haven't, not in any city I've been to. It's wonderful. If you like cocktails, go to Teardrop, you'll like it."

Jordin Heath, front office manager at The Heathman Hotel, loves Teardrop's circular bar. "It's just one of those super hip craft cocktail spots. The drinks are always really solid, and it's nice for people-watching."

Shift Drinks

Shift Drinks(Courtesy of Shift Drink)

"Shift Drinks is probably one of my favorite spots right now," says Heath, who loves the all-day happy hour. "They do a featured spirit and then build cocktails around it that are generally $5 to $7."

It doesn't have a full kitchen, but it does offer bruschetta, salads and sandwiches. "They make it all right there in front of you," Heath says. "[You get] this experience of watching someone make your food. You know it's good, you know it's fresh, it's really simple and delicious. I think it's one of those perfect neighborhood bars to give you a nice, local feeling."

Pépé le Moko

(Natalie Puls)

A hidden gem is Pépé le Moko, named after a 1937 French gangster movie. You go down a bending flight of stairs into a dark and mysterious bar that features classic cocktails.

"They do a Grasshopper, a traditional Grasshopper, that comes out on a pewter tray, and it is like a boozy milkshake," Hibdon says. "It is so delicious. But you might want to bring somebody to split [it] with."

Katie Gallagher, front office supervisor at Hotel Lucia, says, "It is probably one of the best date night bars I could recommend. You are very close to the bartender. You can watch them do everything, which is great. But it's also very romantic with dim lighting. A really good place for conversation and friends."

Kelly's Olympian

Kelly's Olympian(Courtesy of Kelly's Olympian)

Kelly's Olympian, founded in 1902, is one of Portland's oldest bars and one of its best dive bars. Located in an older part of downtown, near the Willamette River, the establishment is rumored to have been one of the entrances to the Shanghai Tunnels. Local legend has it that these passages were used to abduct unsuspecting drunk sailors and force them to crew on waiting ships, but the spaces were probably used for other purposes. As a dive bar, it boasts the right amount of neon, motorcycles and old road signs. It also has regular live music and comedy open mics.

"Kelly's Olympian is one of the longest-standing bars in downtown with great music and plenty of local beers on tap," says Lucas Lee, general manager at Hotel Rose - A Staypineapple Hotel.

Bible Club PDX

Bible Club(Kimo Easterwood)

Bible Club PDX is a speak-easy-style bar located in an old house in Portland's Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood. It focuses on pre-Prohibition drinks and features vintage decor, including 1930s solid brass deco-style beer taps and "Repeal the 18th Amendment" signs.

"The cocktails are amazing," Hibdon says. "It's a really, really great spot."

To experience more of what Portland has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.


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