The Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society

The Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society

Thirteen of the City's Finest Places to Drink, or Just Plain Exist

The Trap: From Soft-Serve Ice Cream to Bloody Marys

Foster-Powell Bar Is Monument to Everything Right About a Dive Bar

The Ship Ahoy: Where Living Happens

A Neighborhood Place to Drink Away the Workday

Blue Diamond: A Sparkling Gem

Man, Those Cats Sure Like to Boogie

Tavern on Denver: No Bullshit and the Coldest Beer in Town

Kenton Landmark Has Lifeblood of Neighborhood Running Through It

The (World Famous) Kenton Club: World Famous for a Reason

A History of Bikers, Raquel Welch, and Punk Rock

Checkered Flag: A Bar Where Everybody Knows Your Name—for Real

This 82nd Avenue Clubhouse Has Not a Single Yelp Review

My Father's Place Is (Almost) Always Open

Not Even Snow Can Stay This Bar from Its Appointed Round

Slim's: A 105-Year History and Some of Portland's Best Bar Food

Come in a Suit or Covered in Paint—the St. Johns Haunt Welcomes All

Reel M Inn: An Oasis in a Desert of Development

Fried Chicken, Jo-Jos, and an Escape from 2016 Portland

Watertrough Saloon: Dusting off a Time Capsule

Edging Out of the 1970s at the SE Hawthorne Dive

Lariat Lounge: Comforting Simplicity, with a Side of Suspicion

Regulars Are Always Welcome. You? Not So Much.

Further Drinking: 75 More Places to Wet Your Whistle

The Portland Mercury's Favorite Places to Pop in for a Cold One

WHEN MICHIE NAKAMURA first brought her mother into Slim's, the elderly woman, visiting from Japan, saw the wooden booths, pool table, and beer memorabilia and gushed: "It's just like an American movie!" After cooking for respected chefs in Portland and France, Nakamura was following in her chef mother's footsteps by running the kitchen at Slim's, the 105-year-old St. Johns restaurant and bar she and a partner bought 10 years ago.

Jesse Orris, a longtime Slim's regular and third-generation St. Johns resident, says he remembers Slim's as "a country-western bar, for sure"—the kind of place where his dad, "kind of a hippie," probably wasn't welcome. Nowadays, Slim's is a true dive bar, where at happy hour you can drink a dirt-cheap beer—$1.25!—no matter who you are.

Nakamura and her partner say that when they bought Slim's, the clientele was mostly white, and that seemed to be by design. They replaced the NASCAR signage with vintage beer ads and soccer scarves. (Slim's is an Arsenal bar, and will extend its already extensive hours—many St. Johns bars open at 7 am for longshoremen—to show early morning matches.)

Nakamura, with her pedigree, couldn't keep serving the frozen food Slim's had been offering. "It's not good for you, to drink all this beer and then eat that stuff." That's why the menu at Slim's now features some of the best dive bar food in the city: edamame, beef teriyaki, chicken satay. "We knew we had to keep everything under $10, and offer the fried food people want, but we tried to introduce some new dishes," Nakamura says. Patrons were dubious of "yuppie food," so at first they gave the new dishes away for free.

Is the new development in St. Johns affecting Slim's? Sure. But Nakamura owns the building, and the point of a dive bar, according to her, is accessibility: "Prices are low and you can come in a suit or you can come covered in paint." Of course, that dive attitude means occasional fights. It also means there's video poker and Keno.

There's an unexpected sense of altruism at Slim's. Nakamura is proud to say the bar offered its employees health insurance long before businesses were legally required to. Many employees have worked at Slim's as long as she's owned it, and some even longer.

While I'm at the bar, a breakfast cook finishes his shift and takes a stool nearby. His name is Skylarr ("with an A and two R's. Apparently I'm a pirate"), but he says everyone calls him "the Legend of Lombard." For some reason, I believe him. He tells me about his daughter and mother and grandmother; about when Slim's was still a country-western bar, but he impressed the old-timers with his David Bowie karaoke because "Bowie transcends"; about his plans for Slim's open mic night and where to get Chinese food in North Portland. That's the beauty of Slim's—you can't sit long without getting a life story. Quietly, tucked away up north, they're making legends here.