You'll seldom see throngs of revelers streaming through Portland's streets as they might in Seattle's Pioneer Square or New York's Times Square. Well, unless it happens to be the occasion of a Rose Festival parade. Still, Portland's got its nightlife going on. It just happens to be in the form of alcohol-fueled hipster knitting circles or in teensy bars where a pool table takes up much of the joint. A trio of new nightspots illustrates the odd diversity of after-dark pursuits in Stumptown.
East Chinatown Lounge
Make your first visit to East during the week, when it's actually possible to grab a seat in one of the white molded-plastic egg chairs or high-backed, upholstered bar stools; arrive late on a Saturday and you'll seem the nightlife neophyte with nowhere to park it. Small, dark and designed to a T by Skylab, East radiates an in-the-know sensibility that fortunately manages to be more friendly than off-putting. Strategically placed mirrors give the illusion of a bigger bar while rustic, exposed beams balance the slick red lighting. In addition to a full lineup of house cocktails, East courts customers with satisfying curries, salads and pot stickers. The creamy, medium-spicy yellow curry pairs nicely with fat grilled prawns and a refreshing cucumber salad. Stop by during happy hour (5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday) and you can get a $2 Pabst pounder to wash it all down.
322 N.W. Everett St., 503-226-1569
The most surprising thing about Nocturnal isn't the wide range of pastimes it nurtures under one roof (tango lessons, indie films, crocheting and drinking), rather the fact that no one thought to open such a place sooner. 'It's so Portland!' you'll exclaim, after one visit Ñ especially if you stop by for the gratis craft-making bazaar every Wednesday night (bring your own project). This new multipurpose nightspot incorporates an expansive, freshly laid dance floor upstairs for all ages, and a subterranean bar, where the DJs, drinkers and knitters hang out. Belying its name, Nocturnal currently only serves alcohol until midnight, at least until it proves that it can be a good neighbor to the nearby residents. Light fare, including the salty-sweet sensation of Tater Tots with chocolate fondue, also is served downstairs.
1800 E. Burnside St., 503-239-5900
Momo isn't as high-concept as East and Nocturnal, but come spring it will boast a charming little garden patio. In the meantime, Momo keeps it real with a room-dominating pool table and a marathon happy hour that runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. With cherry-red walls, generous plates and plenty of TVs, Momo makes for a fine midday refuge. The compact bar fills up come nightfall, when DJs spin wax and barflies spin tales.
725 S.W. 10th Ave., 503-478-9600