Bar scene: Oregon

Portland is serious about its dives

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Ahhh, Portland. There’s that amazing, farm-to-table meal around every corner, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest on the horizon, great music, a funky, urban downtown and the world’s largest used bookstore.

As a city, it is at times frustratingly cool, and so hip, in fact, they made a spoof TV show out of how hip it was. (Watch Portlandia if you haven’t already).

On a recent visit, I was assaulted with Portland’s coolness when I looked up from a barstool to see a guy coming through the door in black Ray-Bans. Yes, it was night. Yeah, it was raining. He somehow still managed to pull it off.

Next time you visit, hit up Low Brow Lounge and EastBurn.

Have a beer, play some pinball or take shots on a swing set. Just don’t forget your Ray-Bans.

Low Brow Lounge

Dark, rouge-lit and a bit dank, if you come in this place, it’s probably best to be a couple of beers into your night. The music is loud garage rock. It’s more the type of hole you crawl into post-midnight, when you feel a desperate craving for tater tots in cheap ketchup, washed down with a freezing Miller High Life. They have both. Both are outstanding. The staff’s not as nice, but you really have minimal contact with them anyway. Low Brow takes its name to task, making the word “Lounge” on the end feel a tad ironic. I’m almost certain if it were legal, the help would just set up a beer buffet and let you serve yourself.

So why go? If you embrace the surly service, stay long enough to ignore the mild hint of mildew and bring a roll of quarters for the (annoying-unless-you’re-playing-it) pinball machine, you might deem it one of the best dives in America. I do.

Stake out: The large circular booths in the back and pack it with nine of your funniest friends.

Details: 1036 NW Hoyt St.; 503-226-0200.

EastBurn

After nearly a decade of writing about bars, I put the EastBurn solidly in my Top 5 for Best Patio. First, it’s huge. Second, there are small fire pits inside the tables to kill the chill. Third, it’s covered — unless it’s sunny, and then the roof retracts! Fourth, half of the seating options are giant swings, giving you a chance to feel like a kid again while also drinking beer. Food & Wine went nuts over the Happy Hour Grilled Cheese; the 16-tap craft beer rotation changes daily; and if you visit on Tuesday evenings, you can grab a pint for $2. That’s going to change in January, when they inflate to a whopping $2.50. It’s the only downside I could find with EastBurn. Fifty cents seems a low price for near perfection. Entrees $13-$16.

Word of advice: Order a bottled beer. Swinging with a full pint of draft is really difficult.

Details: 1800 E. Burnside St.; 503-236.2876; www.theeastburn.com.

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