1036 NW Hoyt St., 503-226-0200, 3 pm-2:30 am Monday-Saturday. Happy hour 5-7 pm daily: $1 off drafts and wells.

Established: 1998

The Low Brow has never fit its neighborhood. Upon first encountering the deceptively spacious lounge packed with mismatched vintage furnishings, locals found the not-not-ironic sensibilities of decor and waitstaff too precious for a desperately underdeveloped area withering from urban blight. And as their Pearl District neighborhood transformed beyond recognition, the lords of Low Brow changed nothing about the kitsch-chic decor or amiably dismissive service. If happy hour now fills with the shiniest fringe of afterwork creatives, those old men perma-circling the bar with deranged chatter haven't taken notice. Listen long enough as aggro-techies proclaim houseboats the safest investment, and it's easy to imagine the new crowd aging seamlessly into the nearby senior circuit.

(Hilary Sander)
(Hilary Sander)

The Low Brow's true miracle has been lingering just long enough that what seemed like garish excess in the '90s now feels like an authentic holdover from Portland's industrial past. They may still pour a stiff shot ($4.50) of well whiskey, their signature dish ($7) remains corn dogs and Tater Tots—the menu rather sniffily claims they introduced Tots to PDX saloon culture—but folks attending Wordstock events on the premises are sampling the hummus veggie plate and ordering craft beers from a decent tap list.

Bar story: In 1988, when blue-collar tavern Petticoat Junction still occupied the Low Brow space, acclaimed local playwright Christopher Deemer chose the location for world premiere of his Cocktail Suite: three overlapping environmental plays ("The Contract", "A Chateau for Mort," and "Lonely and Horny in the City") staged simultaneously across the booths and stools of a barroom continuously serving actors, audience members and regulars who were perhaps unaware of the performances.

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