Every year when Halloween rolls around, I’m reminded how Portland lacks a solid lineup of themed bars. Luckily, last month, seemingly overnight, an old Victorian house on North Mississippi (recently home to a short-lived sandwich shop) got all dressed up in black and neon red and took the name Psychic.
Luckily for us, the new getup isn’t a costume, and Psychic will wear its occult wallpaper and creepy art year-round—plus serve its menu of tasty, mildly spooky drinks and India-inspired food. The huge patio is currently being winterized, and will be covered and heated by the time the rains hit in full force.
The only thing they don’t currently have is an actual psychic. Word is that may change sometime soon, too. ’Til then, the drinks and food are reason enough to visit.
A small but eclectic draft list includes Ablis CBD soda and beers in 16- or 20-ounce glasses, a distinction I’ve never understood—though I admit its effect of making me feel like I’m better with money the more I drink is something close to the manipulative-mentalist end of the definition of “psychic.”
The cocktails, meanwhile, are evidence of something truly unnatural and mysterious: delicious, semi-savory cocktails that you don’t have to pretend to like to seem hip and open-minded. A turmeric-infused Moscow mule (named for the Tom Waits record Mule Variations) is bright and complex despite its relatively few ingredients. But the bourbon-y Wild at Heart, led by a “beet/carrot/mustard seed brew” and lemon juice, is the star. It looks like a dark bloody mary, but with sweet and sour on top of vegetal spice and earth, it’s the rare drink that checks every flavor box and manages not to overwhelm or flatten out.
Almost all the cocktails are $10 or under, and a rotating special punch is available in a small size for around $6. That means you can have a couple drinks and still afford food—which is great, because Psychic is churning out a lot of food.
Bar snack standouts include sweet potato vada pav sliders with a sweet tamarind chutney ($6, $5 at happy hour) and roasted Brussels sprouts topped with a crispy fried murukku crunch I never knew I was missing in other Brussels sprout dishes ($8, $6 HH). The bar nuts are surprisingly underseasoned and the black-eyed pea samosas are dry enough to demand the two chutneys they’re served with (neither of which quite stands up to the funky chili sauce they’re served on), but between the fries ($8, $6 HH)—cut just thick enough to carry the massaman curry, cheese, and bacon they’re topped with—and the sliders and sprouts, Psychic’s is one of the happier happy hours on Mississippi.
Dinner runs the gamut from house basmati rice bowls to sandwiches. Don’t miss the Kerala-meets-Nashville hot chicken sandwich—spicy and crispy, tem- pered by a tangy, cool yogurt raita ($12, with fries). Maybe the least probable fusion items on the menu are the chicken tikka masala “tandoori tacos,” which are huge and loaded with paneer and cilantro ($9).
When the sun goes down and the neons blaze, Psychic completes its just-weird-enough vibe with a few late-night-only items: a bacon and egg sandwich (loaded with avocado, fries, and two kinds of cheese) and a $5 bowl of “kids’ cereal,” with just about every classic option from Cheerios to Lucky Charms, served with milk or almond milk and a side of toast and a piece of bacon.
Not since Creepy’s landed on Southeast Morrison has a bar felt this comfortably unpredictable. The low-key strangeness of late-night-only breakfast is why Psychic works: It’s vaguely themed on darkness and the occult, but its actual defining quality is a barely connected hodgepodge of features—Indian-ish food, trippy infinity mirrors, Tom Waits references—that nonetheless cohere into a solid bar. Hip and homey, peculiar but unpretentious, Psychic convinces you it knows what you want... by offering something you didn’t see coming.