The Herbivore’s (Ramen) Dilemma
One Woman’s Search for the Best Vegan Ramen in Portland
I try to be a glass-half-full kind of person. By which I mean, when someone complains about something, I tell them to take a sip of my cocktail and shut the hell up. Yes, it’s still cool outside, and no one has yet devised a little hat for the tip of your nose, but within the confines of the glass of rum and tropical fruit in my right hand, it’s 80 degrees and sunny.
Tucked into a back room down the corridor from the Woodlark Hotel’s lobby is the hotel’s bar: Abigail Hall. Subtler but by no means less interesting than Bullard—the Woodlark’s streetside restaurant with a Texas-sized personality—Abigail Hall was named by owner Jennifer Quist for the Portland suffragette and novelist Abigail Scott Duniway, and the space still shows off many of the features it did when it was a women’s reception hall in what was then the Cornelius Hotel.
It’s difficult to describe the design of Abigail Hall. Like any good novel (Duniway wrote the first novel ever published in Oregon), it pulls together its historical legacy with touches of midcentury and decidedly contemporary materials, and its idiosyncrasy feels timeless, like a throwback to itself. The actual bar is small, almost like a coat check, while the fireplace is full of candles and framed artifacts.
The drinks follow the same recipe as the design, something like the inverse of irreverence: An amaro-driven cocktail called Ghost Write the Quip makes me professionally jealous as a writer; the L’Aventura is a beautiful mound of crushed ice, rose petals, vodka, vermouth, and amaro; and the Marcy is a small shot of tequila, a tiny beer, and a slip of paper with a dirty joke on it (most cocktails here are $12-14; the Marcy is $6).
There are multiple straight-up versions of long drinks—like a vodka gimlet made with a Red Bull reduction, or what we really came here for: the Dog Will Hunt, a Fernet and Coke in a martini glass. Starring a charred pineapple infused Fernet-Branca and undefined “cola spices,” it tastes like Fernet and Coke, but drinks like a sable coat.
Across the river, another supergroup is in action: Thai food star Earl Ninsom, Matt’s BBQ pitmaster Matt Vicedomini, and Shipwreck cocktail popper-upper Eric Nelson have finally opened the hotly anticipated Eem and are slinging Thai barbecue and Tiki drinks to the North Williams corridor in Jenn Louis’ old digs at Williams and Going.
The cocktails are lavishly presented, often in so-goofy-it’s-elegant ceramic blowfish or shell-shaped glasses, and they all rely on big flavors to stand up to the spicy curries and smoky meats flying out of the kitchen. While many are delicious, it’s hard not to recommend the banana blendy as long as we’re on a tropical fruit kick: A solid frozen daiquiri with that potassium kick you know you need, it looks like a milkshake and hits the spot like one, too.
Expecting you to come thirsty and with thirsty companions, Eem serves certain cocktails in double-sized two-straw situations. Of these, the Abracadabra is a favorite: funky Jamaican rum, smoky scotch whisky, some pineapple, tamarind, and even a little coffee makes for a complex, spicy, bitter, sour, and sweet cocktail that can stand up to any dish on the menu.
Speaking of bananas, another splashy new spot is bringing some serious cocktail game to the Beaumont neighborhood: Wonderly seems to have made its home by plastering a spread from Kinfolk magazine over a storefront on Fremont, and serves up classics in extra-large formats (see the Manhattan-and-a-half and the Martini-and-a-half) alongside some weirder fare.
Bananas make an appearance in the Banhattan, a drink whose name we forgive only because it tastes like what your grandpa wishes bananas Foster tasted like: a bourbon Manhattan with banana liqueur and a torch-caramelized banana on top.
If it’s too early for dessert, consider the Smith and Cross negroni, which pairs that heady Jamaican rum with a house blend of vermouths and Campari for a bracingly intense but wholly delicious drink. I’ve tried and tried to find another description, but it recalls exactly the experience of pool water rushing up your nose after the perfect cannonball. See? It’s always summer.