Off-the-beaten-path bars offer a few unusual gems
Bread and Brew
I try to keep up with all the newest bars, but sometimes things get a little out of control.
This summer brought some really big openings, including the Grüner spin-off Kask, a Trader Vic's in the Pearl District, and a major new McMenamins venture, the Crystal Hotel, with two bars, Al's Den and the Zeus Café.
But you probably know that already, so I decided to look into some of the more off-the-radar spots that I've been hearing about lately. One, in fact, just celebrated its first anniversary, although I only discovered it a few weeks ago.
• Palace of Industry (5426 N. Gay Ave., 503-477-7313, www.palaceofindustrypdx.com) opened last summer on a side street just off North Killingsworth Street, and it's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen. It's a vintage clothing store by day, with a café counter and a pretty courtyard out front. On weekend nights, DJ's are invited in, and the place becomes a bar with wardrobe-enhancing possibilities. There's no hard alcohol, but there are clever cocktails made with sparkling wine and sake.
• Another adorable spot with good music is the Rum Club (720 S.E. Sandy Blvd., 503-467-2469, www.rumclubpdx.com), next door to Beaker and Flask. Cocktails are refined and exotic and, obviously, many contain rum. The gin-based Joan Collins is a refreshing summer drink, and the Avondale combines cachaça, Cynar and egg whites, among other things, for a taste that puts you somewhere south of the Equator, sometime before World War II.
But it's the rum-based Ti' Punch, a recurring special, that is the real winner. Combining rhum agricole (rum made with fresh cane juice), raw sugar syrup and lime, it is the best cocktail I've had in a really long time -brisk, potent, memorable.
The Rum Club's wallpaper is a deep blue, stamped with hummingbirds, and the ceiling is paneled in wood. The horseshoe bar makes the place sociable. And the freshly made potato chips are heavenly.
• Speaking of heaven, Southeast Belmont Street's version is dark, loud and vegan. The Sweet Hereafter (3326 S.E. Belmont St., no website) looks like an instant hit. The big main room echoes with voices, music and laughter. In back there's seating in a breezeway that is partially open to the outside, and behind that is a little yard for smoking.
It's all fueled by large Mason jars full of iced tea, spiked with whiskey and vodka. This is front-porch drinking, for sure, but the sazerac I ordered was surprisingly sophisticated. Using the old-time recipe, which includes brandy, plus rye, absinthe and bitters, it was finely tuned -just the right color, just the right temperature, just the right taste.
• Cocktails look promising at Northwest Public House (2327 N.W. Kearney St., 503-228-5553, www.northwestpublichouse.com), especially the rosemary-cucumber gin and tonic. I stuck with beer, though, because during happy hour, you can get your choice of micros, a burger and fries for $10. It's a respectable burger, too, made with Painted Hills beef, although - and I can't believe I'm saying this - there was a little too much cheese on it.
You can also get a veggie burger here, or one on a gluten-free bun, or one made with ground turducken (turkey, duck and chicken).
The space is beautiful, an old house with two floors, a front porch and a balcony. The second story holds a 'sports lounge' with numerous flat screen TVs, which are thankfully turned off when nothing good is on.
The place still feels new, like it doesn't quite have a personality yet. And, of course, parking requires both luck and skill.
• In a much more low key part of Northwest, the Moonshine Kitchen and Lounge (1020 N.W. 17th Ave., 503-943-2780) glows quietly. Rows of stoneware jugs line the walls, and a sign from the location's previous occupant, Paymaster/Swingline, still hangs outside.
There are picnic tables out front, pinball in the back and burgers and chili cheese fries on the menu. In other words, it's a nice, simple bar in a part of town that has room for one more.