Beech Street Parlor
412 NE Beech, 946-8184
Gutting an old house is hardly news in the Boise-Eliot neighborhood, but this beautiful 1906 home just off MLK isn't being flipped to some Californian. The people behind Tiga have transformed a big Portland foursquare into the Beech Street Parlor, splitting the difference between neighborhood hangout and upscale cocktail bar. The front porch can feel a bit cramped, but inside there's room to spread out. The bar area spills out into the living room—a few tables and chairs, and a couple Victorian couches. The foyer features a pair of turntables, where guest DJs spin each night. If the records aren't to your liking, you might find a quiet corner upstairs.
Beech Street makes more than adequate cocktails—I've opted for a traditional martini, though more adventurous types might try the fennel vodka variety—but the selling point might be their infusions. The ginger bourbon gussies up a standard whiskey ginger, and their flavored tequilas allow you to order a raspberry margarita without worrying that it'll be mixed with Torani syrup. Ninkasi, Double Mountain, and Stiegl anchor their tap list, but you have 10 draft beers to choose from on any given day.
Henry Kibit (Noble Rot, DOC) developed the menu, which features items like a pierogi plate ($9), herbed gnocchi ($9), and a house-made veggie burger ($9). If you're just looking for a snack, I recommend the roasted padron peppers, which will only set you back $4 for a surprisingly generous portion.
Beech Street Parlor has potential to be a destination spot—it's a great after-dinner date option—but even more so, it's a nice addition to a neighborhood.
1215 SW Adler, 241-7163
Grüner had a hell of a first year. Our local critics gushed about the alpine eatery, GQ anointed it one of the best new restaurants in the country, and Chef Chris Israel was nominated for a James Beard Award (and hailed, by Elle magazine, as the "Cabbage King"). Your wait for a table, then, is hardly surprising. It was a wise move for Israel and partner Kurt Huffman to open up a bar around the corner.
But Kask is anything but a glorified waiting room; its identity is all its own. Instead of alpine chic, everything from the wine list to the woodwork celebrates small-scale American craftsmanship. Bartender Tommy Klus—back in Portland after a jaunt studying Scotch production—makes some of the best cocktails in Portland; his collection of vials (obscure bitters and tinctures and essences) puts most chemists to shame. While cocktails are on the expensive side, they stand up to any in town. But if you are on a budget, there's a nightly $5 punch that should manage to get you economically sloshed.
For a full meal, you'll need to head next door, but if cheese and charcuterie's your thing, Kask will take good care of you. The particulars vary from week to week, but their selections are obviously chosen with care, and accompanied with fruits, nuts, mustard, and preserves (and, thank god, Grüner's excellent pretzel bread).
Moonshine Kitchen & Lounge
1020 NW 17th, 943-2780
There aren't a whole lot of bars that keep me up in Northwest Portland after work. Even drinks with coworkers tend to drift eastward. I took it as good news, then, when I saw that Sepal Meacham—a long-time veteran of the Clinton Street Pub—was opening up a place in the Slabtown neighborhood. A cement-block building that used to house—and still retains the sign for—Paymaster Checkwriters, Moonshine Kitchen & Lounge is a casual neighborhood bar that should be greeted with open arms.
The interior is simple (a few booths, a pinball machine, and a couple dozen clay moonshine jugs on display) but comfortable, and outside a few picnic tables line the sidewalk.
Though I'll be more likely to skew toward a beer and a shot, the bartenders are more than capable of mixing a good cocktail (most of which fall in the $5 to $6 range!). I tried the Marshall Street, which is essentially a Tom Collins with basil, shaken and served up. A touch sweet for my taste, but I'd drink it again.
I'm told that tamales will be soon be a pillar of the menu, but for now burgers and chili are central (their first annual chili cook-off takes place Sunday, October 2). Burgers start at $5 (cheese, bacon, and avocado will set you back a couple more), but for $6.50 they'll load it up with a spicy beef chili. Gourmet? No. But Moonshine's the kind of place that could tempt me to linger in the area.