It’s tough to open a bar with the goal of being a “neighborhood bar.” Yet not two weeks after 5 & Dime opened in Foster-Powell, a neighborhood about as far away from mine as you can get, it already felt like the bar I’d pop into when I was in the area. The drinks are great (and cheap), but more importantly, there’s something about the dark green and gray and slightly weathered gold accents everywhere that gives the bar a lived-in feeling even just weeks after opening.
It helps that the Blazers are on TV and a huge portrait of Rasheed Wallace hangs on one wall, while near the kitchen, Anthony Bourdain’s twinkle-eyed scowl reigns, and at the other end of the bar, Nina Simone glares seriously over the record player.
Even the menu pays homage to a badass of yet another creative field, with a list of house cocktails named for characters from Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods, which pleases the middle-school version of me to no end. These range from a heavyweight “bartender’s daiquiri” called Mr. Nancy, to the novel’s New Gods (TV, internet, etc.), represented in cocktail form by tequila with kombucha and CBD, to a Mr. Jaquel and Mr. Ibis, a rye whiskey and egg white cocktail made with dates, local Townshend’s chai-influenced Kashmiri amaro, and grains of paradise. Crucially, none of these cocktails costs more than $11, and the vast majority of two additional pages of “classic cocktails (that people actually drink)” come in under $10. Even among those classics, the menu encourages some experimentation, like swapping Cynar in for Fernet in a Toronto cocktail, for instance (a godsend during the tragic Fernet-Branca shortage Portland is currently living through).
There are also classic cocktails on draft: currently a Manhattan and a negroni, which are even available in a shot-and-beer combo with Olympia. Honestly, I’d support a ballot measure making a shot of negroni and a frosty mug of Oly the national drink of the Pacific Northwest, especially paired with 5 & Dime’s seafood board of pickled shrimp, smoked scallops and mussels, and trout lox ($14). The rest of the food menu is roasted veggies, salads, skewers (a fairly simple Wagyu beef skewer is a standout, though at $10 it feels like splurging because the menu is so affordable), and a solid cold-cut and provolone sandwich for $8. But a door in the back of the bar leads to a just-opened location of Atlas Pizza, for heartier fare. Your drinks are welcome in the pie shop (which also houses a pretty killer little lineup of pinball machines), and your pizza is welcome in 5 & Dime.
With Gaiman joining Bourdain, Nina, and Sheed as paragons of protest and rebellion (and technical fouls), 5 & Dime wears its allegiances on its sleeve. That attitude is mirrored by a marquis visible from the bar’s picture windows along Foster. The sign, above a furniture store across the street, urges the people of Foster-Powell to stand up to “the city” over taking Foster down to two lanes. The argument over that project is neither here nor there, but it certainly makes for a risky time to open a new bar on Foster, when the locals are already vocally resisting their changing street.
Which is why it’s not my opinion that matters, nor does any other opinion west of Creston Park or east of Lents. And during my very first visit, I witnessed what I’m told is a not uncommon occurrence. See, 5 & Dime’s building used to house a neighborhood haunt, O’Malley’s Saloon and Grill. So, as I sat at the bar nursing a shot and a beer, I watched a husband and wife come into the bar and look around appraisingly. Maybe they knew 5 & Dime was the brainchild of two fancy Portland cocktail guys (Trifecta Tavern alums Colin Carroll and Alex Gessler), or maybe they didn’t, but they were clearly there to make sure the place was worthy of their neighborhood.
The following is, I swear to god, a direct quote from the husband: “We’re O’Malley’s people. We used to come to O’Malley’s all the time. We loved it, that was our spot. So you’re gonna have to—HOLY SHIT IS THAT RASHEED WALLACE? THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAR!”
And to that, I raise my tiny, tiny negroni and say, “Ball don’t lie.”