This area has a bit of everything—from glam to grime—so a cruise through it requires a certain adaptability. I began at the Aalto (3356 SE Belmont), a chic bar popular with clothing designers and other creatives. The non-smoking room, smoking room, sidewalk tables, and back patio offer plenty of options; the stuffed mushrooms are delectable, and the bartenders terribly handsome. Tearing myself away, I moved across the street to the Belmont's Inn (3357 SE Belmont), its large, no-frills capacity brimming with nondescript and mostly male patrons having a collective bro-down. The bartender, Brett, was heroically fast. Relegated to a tiny table next to a pool table, facing the wall, I constantly had to get up and move so players could take their shots. One of my companions then spilled a beer in my lap, signaling the need for a change of wardrobe and of setting: on to Morrison.
At Holocene (1001 SE Morrison), psychedelic metal band Danava was playing. Deservedly enjoying a place on the cool kids' it list, their crowd looked great: My gaze rested on tight black jeans over waify boy thighs, outlandish virgin-whore mini-dresses, and editorial eye make-up. Two conspicuously plain-looking people were behind me in line for the bar. As minor local celebrities and hipsters drifted attractively around them, one said to the other, "If there were ever a scene I would imagine you not in, it would be this."
Time to pop over to Sassy's (927 SE Morrison), where a mellow crowd watched a tiny tattooed dancer wag her ass, and when I tipped her, she called me "hon." A gaggle of unlikely customers requested a lap dance for their friend, a girl—weeeee! Just up the street, Hal's Tavern (1308 SE Morrison) might as well have been on the other side of the world: Customers quietly drank (a particularly inebriated man getting food to go buys my booze—cha-ching) and played shuffleboard in the dim lighting. An old ex-junkie let me snuggle his aging pug, a pet he acquired while undergoing rehab. They were obviously in love.
Speaking of love, it was on to Crush (1400 SE Morrison) for last call, where the bar was lined exclusively with well-heeled gay male couples. The night was winding down, and everyone here was quiet and reserved, wrapped up in conversation. I slid right under the wire to get my drink, and the cozy, romantic atmosphere made bed seem like an attractive option.