Be a rock star, or just drink like one
by: ©2008 GREG WAHL-STEPHENS, Will it be a Shocking Blue or a Fall Down Jenny Brown? Friends decide in the basement bar of the East End, open since December and already a rocker (and cocktailer) favorite.

The former Rabbit Hole (and, more recently, Noir) has reopened as the East End, and, if the impressive and instantaneous initial reaction is any indication, it looks like Portland's rock community has a new favorite hangout.

With two levels and multiple rooms, there's plenty of space to see and be seen - not to mention a performance room that already has hosted some excellent shows by Danava and Wreckless Eric.

The bar's fancy art deco logo and the broad stripe of frosted glass that provides privacy on the street level give off the wrong impression.

Even smelling of fresh paint, the East End feels like an established rock hangout. Maybe it's the thick layer of cigarette smoke that quickly collects as the bar fills up.

The broad staircase in the middle of the room takes up minimal space in the brightly lit upstairs bar but creates a cozy hideaway in the dim downstairs.

A second bar is tucked away in the performance space - handy, since the bar has been doing bustling business since it opened and the staff is still finding its sea legs.

If you're feeling adventurous, check out the East End's extensive rock-inspired cocktail list. The Slade Alive (Flaming 151, Kahlua, Bailey's, coffee and whipped cream) is delicious on stormy evenings - just be warned that it's strong and goes down far too quickly.

If you're in the mood to name-drop, order the Keith Moon (brandy and ginger ale), Harry Nilsson (brandy and cream), John Lennon (brandy toddy) or Dennis Wilson (a sidecar.)

The Party Boy - muddled lemons and lime, vodka, Apple Pucker and soda, served in a pint glass - was a crowd favorite; less so was the Caramel Apple Martini, an overly sweet concoction of Stoli Vanil, Apple Pucker and Buttershots liqueur that tasted like a tepid mixture of maple and Karo syrups.

For sheer impact, try a Shocking Blue (muddled lemon, vodka, triple sec, sour, soda and blue curaçao in a pint glass) or the Fall Down Jenny Brown (champagne, orange juice and a float of Southern Comfort, delivered in a vessel that looks like it could comfortably house a handful of goldfish).

At its heart, though, the East End is more dive bar than cocktail lounge. You're probably safest sticking to the basics: Grab an East End IPA, a Monopolowa and soda, or a Jack and Coke if you want to fit in.

If you're hungry, the East End serves an assortment of snacks. Standouts are the tacos (made with stewed Cascade natural beef) and the bacon sandwich (loaded with Applewood bacon, lubricated with garlic aioli and served with deliciously warm homemade potato chips).

With a calendar full of events ranging from art openings to DJ nights and live music, the East End has plenty to offer. Much like the Doug Fir Lounge, it seems destined to become a destination on its own.

- Barbara Mitchell

203 S.E. Grand Ave., 503-232-0056,, 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily, happy hour is 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily with $1 off food and drinks

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