For most of us, it’s easy to forget about hotels in our own city. Except for those indulgent stay-cations that never manage to save our marriages, we rarely have a reason to sleep in a rented bed. But during the holidays, you have a choice to make: Welcome your family into your own home, or recommend a hotel with a nice bar where you can get drunk before, during, and after facing your uncle’s unironic MAGA hat.
There are those hotel bars that don’t quite become a bar, remaining more of an addition to the lobby: Lo Bar at the Hi-Lo Hotel, with its swinging plush benches, or even Gather Food & Drink at the Hilton Doubletree, for convention-goers who want to feel like they never left the airport. At the other end of the spectrum are those city classics that transcend their hotel homes: Imperial, Clyde Common, the Driftwood Room.
But family relationships come with unique pressures, so here’s a very specific scenario-by-scenario guide to putting your family up without putting up with your family this holiday season.
Your Daddy’s Rich and Your Ma is Good Looking: The Palm Court at the Benson Hotel
If your folks have the kind of money that only feels at home amid a palate of mahogany, red leather, crystal chandeliers, and total subservience, the Palm Court is the spot. The staff are the only thing more old-fashioned than the cocktails—which are still great, especially the myriad house takes on the Manhattan, and mostly served with the kind of overinvolved presentation that makes even a borderline hippie like me feel like I’ve somehow earned being called “sir” by a guy twice my age all night.
Your Uncle Isn’t Smoking Outside like a Chump: The Chamber at 9900
I enjoy a cigar now and then, especially when certain uncles are in town, and frankly, there’s something satisfying about lighting up indoors. One of the only places where you can still do that is the Chamber at 9900, upstairs in the Shilo Inn in on Highway 8 in Beaverton. It’s a big square room, decorated hilariously with huge photographs of cigars, and surprisingly for a cigar bar, not one of the handful of TVs is tuned to Fox News. The cigars aren’t marked up too shockingly, and the food menu features steakhouse bar fare (burgers, fries) plus a bevy of unexpectedly mouthwatering daily specials (viewable on Instagram).
Bonus: If your uncle has very, very specific tastes, he can get one of the weirdest dishes I’ve ever been served at a hotel—“chile fire chicken,” which is basically Chinese-ish spicy fried chicken bites with bell peppers over a bed of styrofoamy crispy rice noodles... with a side of tzatziki. It’s an unfamiliar fusion, and a totally baffling (if not actually bad) one.
Your Cousin is Literally iCarly: W XYZ at Aloft
There is nothing like walking into the W XYZ bar in the lobby of the Aloft hotel at Cascade Station. Correction: There should be nothing like walking into the W XYZ bar in the lobby of the Aloft hotel at Cascade Station. The décor appears to have been bought from a Disney Channel warehouse sale, all bright colors and pulsating lights, huge flower sculptures, and paintings of corgis that say “chill.” The cocktails are sweet enough to be geared toward people who last week were too young to drink legally, so grab a beer and marvel at the incongruity of an unedited news ticker spelling out the headlines of the day’s horrors under pink and teal lights.
Your Sister’s Sorry, but She Has to Take this Call: Altabira at the Eastlund
Something about the views from Altabira’s patio—not the downtown high-rise views from Departure, but a low-flying bird’s-eye view of SE MLK parking lots, a Denny’s, and the ever-more obscured downtown skyline across the river—seems tailor made for scowling mundanely downward while hissing expletives at an assistant through a cell phone. Everyone has this family member; you might as well make them comfortable. Sipping a richly smoky and bracing Saint Amand cocktail—mezcal, sherry, sage, and black walnut bitters—completes the image (or gives you something to do while she talks).
Your Grandpa’s only Here because He’s No Longer Welcome in Vegas: The Sky Jockey Sports Lounge at the Red Lion
If Grandpa’s the kind of gambler who can’t stay in a hotel more than a minute’s walk from the ponies, the Red Lion is basically next door to the airport and offers not only plenty of hot machines (half the pictures on Yelp are of video poker winnings), but even off-track betting. (From the top of the hotel on a clear day, you can probably actually see Portland Meadows, but the five-minute Lyft out there would be five minutes without video poker.) Grandpa will be comfortable here, too, because Sky Jockey’s the only place on this list that combines the frozen-in-time hotel bar with the young-at-heart attitude of a ’90s sports bar—there’s enough Midori and blue curaçao here for you to color-match your drink to your video poker machine. Which has to be worth some luck.