2600 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-206-8962, churchbarpdx.com, 4 pm-2 am daily. Happy hour 4-7 pm daily.
Established: April 2013
The penumbral zone between happy hour and true dancing hours—after 7 pm, before 10 pm—is often a witching hour that sees otherwise popular spots turn into morose ghost towns. Not at slightly Southern Gothic-themed Church on lower Northeast Sandy Boulevard, where a Friday night visit at 9 pm saw every table full, revelers pouring in and out of a phone booth labeled "Confessions" and double-occupancy DJ booth in front of a corridor that leads to a cozy rear patio. Most were drinking from a quirky rotating party-cocktail selection that recently included a refreshingly vegetal cucumber mojito ($8), a slushie ($8) with cold brew, vodka and coconut that was not unlike a Starbucks Frappuccino, plus a punch ($7) that tasted like vodka-soaked SweeTarts. Or it's possible that Church's popularity comes from its unusual geography—staring both ways down an empty stretch of Northeast Sandy Boulevard makes the spot feel like an outpost despite being within a mile of both Belmont and the inner east side. Whatever the reason, Church has graduated into a happy-hour spot/neighborhood joint/late-night triple threat that serves as a waypost on a city-spanning bar crawl or the final destination.
Bar story: Church almost didn't make it into this year's bar guide because it was closed for a remodel in March and April. It installed a handsome wooden DJ booth, refinished the bartop and "did a huge deep-clean of the whole place," said our bartender.