Dahlia Lounge is a promising bar in a funky neighborhood

With things humming over on Northeast Alberta Street, its neighbor to the north, Killingsworth Street, is the next place to watch. A funky mix of architectural styles suggests this street is a fledgling hotspot for urban adventurers. A new lounge that recently opened on Killingsworth may be the best place to settle in and watch it all unfold.

Nestled behind the Dahlia Cafe on the corner of Northeast 29th Avenue and Killingsworth Street, the Dahlia Lounge brings an additional jolt of vibrancy to the corner. Next door is the edgy retail space and art studio, Itisness gallery. The area's existing watering holes include Grolla, a hep wine bar across the street from Dahlia, and McMenamins Kennedy School, which is just down the street on 33rd Avenue.

The Dahlia Lounge is cozy, a serendipitous spot for an impromptu drink and bite from the bar menu. In keeping with North Portland's arts-friendly reputation, the lounge showcases the changing works of local artists Ñ displayed on walls painted olive green and chili-pepper red. A bar of rich, distinctive woodwork is the focal point of the room. The Craftsman-style booths and bentwood chairs also are inviting.

Because atmosphere isn't everything, the Dahlia Lounge also has luscious mixed drinks, great food to accompany them and a mix of music that's listenable but not intrusive. On one visit, reggae beats shared the turntable with Van Morrison and Bill Withers, causing more than one patron to sing along between sips.

A tantalizing flurry of fresh juices, good booze and creative mixology lure patrons in for a second round. The list of mixed drinks ranges from the stoutly straightforward NorWester (Kettel One vodka and ginger ale on the rocks) to the Grand Rita. This libation Ñ the mother of all margaritas Ñ is a mixture of Sauza tequila, fresh lime juice, fresh sour mix and a splash of orange juice. Served blended or mixed, a float of Grand Marnier tops it off.

Or request the house drink by simply saying, 'I'll do the Melissa.' Uttering what is quickly becoming the Dahlia Lounge's mantra rewards one with a heady mix of Absolut Citron, lemon juice, honey and Grand Marnier. It's a slurp-worthy concoction that kicks the tired Lemon Drop to the curb.

The drink list is rounded out with select local microbrews bottled and on tap, as well as a half-dozen carefully chosen wines. Columbia Crest Merlot and Argyle Chardonnay are standouts.

The lounge's ambience will improve when its primary entrance opens in the near future. As it stands, one must enter through the cafe's front doors to visit the lounge Ñ a less-than-glamorous scenario when cafe employees are stacking chairs in preparation for closing.

Odd entry aside, the Dahlia Lounge scores high marks on the elements that convince a first-time visitor to come back for more. And who wouldn't drink to that?

Contact Jill Spitznass at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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