ON THE RARE occasion that I travel outside Portland’s city limits, I’m always surprised that I can’t buy a beer at a movie theater. Can I really enjoy the latest J.J. Abrams blockbuster without a well-lubricated suspension of disbelief? Is Andy Samberg funny if you’re stone-cold sober? I hope to never find out. While the rest of the country is just now discovering that people need beer at the movies, Portland pioneered it.
The [everyday activity] + drinking combo may be the actual best thing about living here. It’s one of those quick and easy clues that our culture is morally responsible. I travel frequently to Idaho, where the air is crisp with religious sobriety, and recently spent some time in Florida, where a bottle of gas station wine in a paper bag is the state bird. In places like those, having a sip at the theater or clothing store implies some illicit degeneracy.
Do we sometimes take it too far? Sure. My eye doctor used to give me beers in the waiting room, then test my vision. (That can’t be something they teach you in medical school, right?) But for the most part, we’re still the champions of responsibly drinking while doing stuff. Here are a few of the city’s best also-a-bar activities. (Note: These are actual bars where you can buy a drink, not spots like salons or optometrist’s offices where they just give you free beer for no reason.)
Games + Weird Science:
(4811 SE Hawthorne)
While Chinatown’s “barcade” Ground Kontrol’s all-black everything and slick operating procedures feel very put together and grown up, Quarterworld’s bright lights, odd layout, and haphazard feel give me quasi-happy flashbacks to a childhood spent in seedy Wunderland nickel arcades. But through adult eyes, Quarterworld recalls the teen punk hideout in some ’80s near-future flick—down to the musical Tesla coil. Nicknamed Tessie, Quarterworld’s mad science experiment plays songs and shoots bolts of lightning twice a day Tuesdays and Sundays. For nostalgic reasons, you should get a soft pretzel with cheese sauce ($5). Naturally, the amazingly cheap ($6-7) cocktails are named for video games, including a Princess Peachaville (Malibu and various peach flavored ingredients) and a baffling vodka/Fernet/grenadine drink appropriately named for the weird and kind of gross Metroid villain Mother Brain.
Stylish Sports Shopping:
(200/210 SE MLK)
Technically, this bar’s not in Evo, but you can freely walk between via an open shared wall. The food and drink is as fancy and time-tested as the merchandise: Revelry is an offshoot of beloved Seattle spot Revel. Enjoy a Kimms Cup, a tall drink of gin, Pimms No. 1, and ginger beer, livened up with a cucumber-ginger shrub and a couple of fragrant shiso leaves to give it some herbal bitterness ($11). This is a serious late contender for drink of the summer, and it pairs great with Mrs. Yang’s Fried Chicken ($14). Just leave your food and drink in the bar if you need to go ogle some gear—most of Evo’s wares are probably waterproof, but that doesn’t mean they want your fish-saucy fingers touching everything—and careful you don’t bump the DJ booth on your way over.
(1969 NE 42nd)
If “biker bar” didn’t have certain connotations, it would be an apt description for the Hollywood District’s Velo Cult. Probably the most Portland spot on this list, Velo Cult is that rare wild hare idea that turns out to be the dream of many. The bar that grows organically around a shared interest is basically the history of bars across the country: the sports bar, the social club, even the biker bar. But it seems unlikely that many American cities could support a beer bar in a bike repair shop. I don’t even own a bike, but it’s good to know Velo Cult exists.
Ogling Stuff You Don’t Need:
The Wayback at Tanner Goods
(4719 N Albina)
If you’re looking for a place to go on a hot date with your checkbook, the Wayback at Tanner Goods’ new Albina store is a good option. You can drop almost $50 on a heavy-ass pint glass or buy what I think was a porcelain apple bong (didn’t check the price because my doctor says I’m so out of shape I could potentially die of sticker shock), or just some leather doodad or a leather holder for your leather doodads. Luckily, the drinks in the back room are reasonably priced. You’re probably not eating here (I’m terrified of dripping anything on their furniture), but don’t sleep on the draft margarita ($8, $7 at Happy Hour).