Hotel Haunts 

Portland's Classic Hotel Lounges

Sure, all anyone is talking about these days is the mod new Jupiter Hotel and its trendy rock 'n' roll bar/restaurant, the Doug Fir. But what of the old ways? Let's not forget about those cushy hotel bars of yore, filled with mysterious out-of-towners and crusty local regulars, their voices mingling with the clink of bucket glasses and din of piano music in the air. A few of these classics still exist in Portland, and if you're out for an evening of romance, relaxation, or just some quiet anonymity, here are a few old world hotel bars that have managed to stick around. KS

The Driftwood Room at the Mallory Hotel
729 SW 15th, 228-8657

If it weren't in a hotel, I would call the Driftwood Room a dive--but somehow its location gives this tiny lounge a unique sort of elegance. Dark, narrow, and smoky, the bar is old and quirky, with wood walls and fancy but weathered furniture. The bartender on duty couldn't have been sweeter, cuter, or friendlier, actually smiling at the prospect of going in back to make my friend and I a turkey sandwich. This is the sort of place I'd feel comfortable going to alone, a spot I might choose if I wanted to catch up with an old friend, or a bar where I'd tell my boyfriend to meet me if we were role-playing an illicit affair. KS

Heathman
1001 SW Broadway, 241-4100

With a cool old sign and gritty urban surroundings, the Heathman promises an elegant, old-fashioned entertainment experience. But while its cozy rooms and suites live up to the expectation, its restaurant and bar have some catching up to do. The dining/drinking area's high ceilings were probably cool at one time, but at some point the whole interior was remodeled and coated in shades of bland, corporate-feeling beige. While the chairs are still deep and comfortable, the retro charm has been diluted--and replaced by the sterile, air-conditioned sort of environment frequented by Republicans. The advantage, however, is that you can drink scotch, smoke cigars, and plot world domination in peace and quiet. JWS

Windows at the Red Lion
1021 NE Grand, 235-2100

Windows is probably one of the most beautiful bars in the city, and in the right hands, it could be packed to the gills every night. With a long bar, dim lighting, a view of the city, and a patio where you might be tempted to propose marriage, Windows has almost everything... but it's in the Red Lion. I wouldn't suggest eating there, and it's not a great spot to scope for hotties, but if you want a romantic evening drink, give it a try. Just make sure you call first--every time I've tried to go lately, the bar has been closed for a private party. (And come to think of it, if you have the money to reserve a space for a special soiree, I would certainly recommend this one.) KS

The Benson Hotel
309 SW Broadway, 228-2000

The Benson has the only hotel bar in this infernally casual town that truly does what a hotel bar should do: provide a mellow, fine-dining experience in an elegant, old-fashioned setting. The Benson has chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, servers in starchy tuxedo shirts, and classic live jazz played by senior citizens. The drinks are strong and tasty, and come with a miniature refill carafe, which makes the Benson's higher prices a little more palatable--you're basically getting two drinks in one. But the real star here is the food. The hotel's restaurant, The London Grill, offers a luscious and varied bar menu with gourmet food that isn't nearly as expensive as it could be. We got the flourless chocolate cake, a smooth, almost jelly-like concoction that was--and I promise you, I am not saying this lightly--THE BEST PIECE OF CAKE I'VE EVER TASTED. Just don't order yours with a gin martini. Trust me. They don't mix. JWS

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