When the Governor Hotel was reinvented as the Sentinel it was no surprise a new cocktail bar was included in the makeover. The result, Jackknife, has a pedigree of Eastside cool rather than downtown sophistication—the result of a partnership between John Janulis (Sweet Hereafter, The Bye and Bye) and Jake Caery (Dig a Pony). The place is spacious, sports a wonderful marble-topped bar as well as a blend of Art Deco-light and Northwest hipsterism (plenty of wood, quirky pictures and signs). It’s also incredibly dark. So gloomy that the only time you’ll want to be in here during the summer is if you’re nursing the hangover (or sunburn) from hell. Or if it’s dark outside—Friday and Saturday nights are, apparently, prime meat market hours.
There’s no table service, a little odd given it’s in a high-end hotel, but we’re happy to use our legs to get a drink, and besides, you really want to be sitting at that lovely bar. The cocktails are top notch (Days of Thunder—vodka, lemon, cucumber, mint, jalapeno and Mellow Yellow—is zingy and refreshing) and there’s a good, varied draught selection for $5. The wine list is meh—presumably if one of your four whites by the glass is a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc for 15 bucks, then you’re catering to the expenses crowd. (Also, splits served with a straw is the kind of gimmick that hasn't been seen since the 90’s.)
The menu is short and distinctly average on a first tasting—the vegan burger was tasty, but collapsed into a flat, soggy mush, and the waffle fries lacked a crisp finish, though the devilled eggs had consistency and flavor. It’s only disappointing given Janulis’ involvement and the great vegan food that he puts out in his bars—perhaps going full-out Portland with a vegan menu would be too much for the typical clientele... such as the guy from the Midwest sitting at the bar in his golf shirt talking about how he thought it rains here all the time. Perhaps Eastside cool and the commercial reality of a downtown hotel is an uneasy mix, but there is charm to the place and when the rains do set in, it will be a great sanctuary to wile away an afternoon.
Jackknife, 614 SW 11th