With the way things are in Portland restaurants lately, a new bar means the next new-wave zucchini martini and an overpriced plate of fusion food. But if that's what you're expecting from The Basement, expect to be disappointed. For starters, you go to The Basement to drink beer, and you drink beer that's in bottles. With a motley collection of chairs and wobbly tables, an old-school pinball game, and a very respectable jukebox, the place really is basement-esque.
The ceilings are low, the walls are dark, and the bar's owners seem to be involved in a perpetual pinball tournament that stops only when someone needs another drink. It's easy to forget you're in a bar at all, especially when The Basement cat or dog comes around to ask for some affection.
But a more exciting feature than the atmosphere and the indifferently friendly service is the bar's Boca menu: Each dish is served for--check it--one dollar a plate. (Or, if you feel like going crazy, you can get the dinner plate for $5.) There's a slight catch: in order to get the one-dollar plate of food, you have to order a drink. But you'd probably never come to the Basement to do anything but drink anyway, so it's not much of a problem. They serve standards such as chips and salsa (pineapple or tomato) and black bean hummus. There's also the option of the simple, spicy chicken taco, served with a load of chopped onion, chilies, and cilantro. Thai noodles are also a possibility--a little heap of ramen-style noodles tossed in a peanut sauce and topped with purple cabbage and carrots.
Less successful is the arroz con pollo which is, more or less, a lump of cold seasoned rice topped off with cilantro. It's best to keep in mind that none of these dishes are culinary masterpieces, but hey! They're only ONE DOLLAR, and a welcome relief from the standard soggy fry available on most bar menus.