PORTLAND IS CHANGING. Maybe you noticed.
The significant and speedy growth of our city has been unavoidable, from the influx of traffic on our freeways to the towering mixed-use buildings casting new shadows over our neighborhoods. And while these changes bring good things along with the bad, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate an element of Portland culture that has been an integral part of the city for decades—lifetimes, even. It's a part of the city that's highly resistant to change, but not quite immune. It's a part of the city that doesn't draw attention to itself, yet is perhaps our finest emblem of fellowship. It's a part of the city that's woven integrally into the fabric of thousands of Portlanders' day-to-day lives, giving us comfort in exchange for small amounts of cash. It's where acquaintances become neighbors, where neighbors become friends, where all are created equal under the neon glimmer of the promotional beer sign.
The Dive Bar.
The cozy, down-home corner bar is just as much a part of our communities as coffee shops, churches, food co-ops, and dog parks. The local dive is modestly appointed and lacks any notion of pretense; it requires neither membership fee nor tithe; it does not ask you to dress up or dress down; it sells you refreshment, sustenance, and society for a very modest price.
Portland's lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat. While extinction seems unlikely, it felt like the right time for the Portland Mercury to put together this very special Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society issue.
We've collected 13 of our very favorite dives around town. This selection process was not democratic or scientific or even remotely comprehensive. What we quickly discovered, to our surprise and delight, is that despite a few casualties, Portland has TONS of dive bars that are still going strong, still offering cheap brown shots and yellow beer backs for mere dollars—places that are untouched by trends or fashions or fads.
So we asked writers to rhapsodize about their neighborhood haunts and favorite watering holes. These are the places where unforgettable memories can be forged, and just as many painful memories can be buffed out with the fog of alcohol. We wanted places that have served as focal points of their neighborhoods for more than a decade (and, in some cases, more than a century). And we tried to avoid dives that had been redone into newer, fresher, hipper—and in some cases cleaner—drinking establishments, although the dive bar, like humankind, is ever evolving.
What we've ended up with is a baker's dozen of Portland's very best. These are places of modesty and homespun charm, where bullshit, like a bad drinker, gets chucked out on its ass. Maybe you'd like to pay one of these particular places a visit. Or maybe this will inspire you to head down to the dive in your neighborhood, before it's too late. We promise, there's a barstool and a drink waiting.
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