3326 SE Belmont, 555-1234
The bar that drove ol' Dixie down. The block of SE 33rd and Belmont may not have been itching for yet another watering hole, but considering that Sweet Hereafter replaced Portland's infamous confederate-flag waving mattress company, I'm not sure neighbors have cause to complain.
Sweet Hereafter is the sister bar of NE Alberta's Bye and Bye, and patrons of the latter will find much familiar, from the art on the walls to the mason-jar cocktails to the soy White Russians. A long marble bar winds its way through the space to a beautiful wooden patio area out back.
Drinkers will find a menu of "updated takes on classic cocktails" (which is starting to feel like pretty standard fare, not that I'll complain about a well-made Sazerac), a pretty extensive selection of liquors, and 12 beers on tap.
The all-vegan menu might throw some for a loop, but even for the non-dietary restricted, it's a step up from most bar food. I ordered the buffalo sub which packs buffalo sauce-drenched soy curls, miso-chive "cheese," lettuce, and tomato in a french roll ($8), and is served with chips and salsa. The texture of the bread was enough that the faux chicken's consistency was hardly on my radar.
Just to head off knee-jerk commentators: yes, hipsters; yes, beards; yes, rock 'n' roll music; and yes, young people. Maybe those things will get under your skin, but I'll take some 24-year-old patron broadcasting his ironic affinity for Hall and Oates over a grimy furniture store proudly exhibiting its euphemistic convictions about "state's rights."
720 SE Sandy, 467-2469
The reemergence of tiki-bar chain Trader Vic's might have made the loudest splash in mai tai circles (assuming those exist), but those with a more refined taste in fermented molasses ought to cross the river. Rum Club is a collaboration between Mike Shea and Kevin Ludwig of Beaker & Flask (which occupies the same building). Like its neighbor, Rum Club's focus is on classic cocktails, but—as one might expect—it leans a little more heavily on its namesake spirit.
The house daiquiri is a little like something Hemingway would have sipped in Cuba while he channeled the Spanish Civil War. In addition to aged Bacardi, lime, and sugar, Rum Club's version of the drink includes absinthe, bitters, and maraschino. I'm a fan of the Quarterdeck Cocktail—Black Seal Rum, sweet sherry, Scotch, and orange bitters. Cocktails are $8 across the board, and there's a small list of beers in the can and bottle.
Unlike Beaker & Flask, Rum Club's food menu doesn't aspire to be anything grander than a role player (it's a small bar, and even smaller kitchen). Most of it reads like a Betty Draper cocktail party—deviled ham salad sandwich, shrimp cocktail, pickled eggs, wedge salad... even the Olympic Provisions salami is served with Ritz crackers. While it might sound a tad campy, all kitsch is understated, and enjoyability is never compromised for the sake of schtick.
Same goes for the space. While there's some distinct tiki touches—birds of paradise on the wallpaper, paper umbrellas—Rum Club avoids looking like it vomited a Jimmy Buffett concert all over the jungle cruise (lookin' at you, Vic).
Dig a Pony
736 SE Grand, 971-279-4409
Dig a Pony is going to do very, very well. Owners Jacob Carey, Aaron Hall, and Page Finlay have hardly reinvented the wheel—if you frequent Inner Eastside bars, you won't exactly be disoriented—but they've managed to create that rare place that feels charming and cozy for a Tuesday evening date, but can also accommodate 100 odd revelers and a dance party come Friday. You can celebrate anything you want (oooh!).
If you ever ate at Niki's, the former occupant of the space, you might be surprised at the original wood, brick, and tile that had been covered up all those years. The restoration is simply beautiful; they've added huge new windows, a 40-stool horseshoe-shaped bar, and an antique piano.
There are 10 beers on tap, and another 20 in the bottle, but I've been particularly impressed with the cocktails. The dark horse, at least for my relatively quiet tastes in liquor, is the Sam Isaacs ($8), made with bourbon, mint, lime, and fresh blackberries. Berries and liquor, to me, evoke Bartles & Jaymes, but this drink never verges on too sweet. I'm pretty sure I drank it in three sips. For you traditionalists, I've also had excellent martinis and negronis.
The food menu, designed by consulting chef Greg Gourdet of Departure, takes budget food a long way. There's a good mix of snacks—roasted sweet potatoes ($5), fried plantains ($4), and seared spinach with raisins and pine nuts ($5)—and entrées ranging from a burger ($9) to chicken thighs with stewed tomatoes and almonds ($9).
If crowds aren't your thing, maybe avoid Dig a Pony on the weekends, but don't avoid it entirely.