Last August, a 92-year-old downtown Portland joint called the Lotus Cardroom closed to make way for a new boutique hotel.
The bar had been a saloon, a lunch counter, a gambling hall, a nightclub, a den of bootleggers and, according to legend, the front for a brothel. Madonna partied at the Lotus, and so did Hall and Oates. George Clinton threw up in the restroom. At happy hours, staffers for Mayors Tom Potter and Charlie Hales pickled their bureaucratic dreams. The city poured out its sorrows on Facebook and the evening news.
Portland, more than most places, stores its history in bars. In a transient city with very little shared past and a predilection for harmless vice—a town where everyone seems to have just arrived, or is just about to leave—bars are where Portlanders come to feel part of their city.
And so in this guide to our favorite Portland bars and happy hours, we've kept the stories intact—from the time a car tried to drive onto a bar's patio to a long-lost love story that forms a Northwest Portland bar's founding myth (page 60).
In a city where food and drink are so bound up as to be inextricable, many of the best Portland bars twine the two together—whether in the front of fine-dining restaurants or our stunning 2017 Bar of the Year, which brings a decades-old dream of Spain to fruition with a hearth-warmed room serving sherry cocktails and chorizo-rubbed octopus in the space once occupied by a classic Portland music venue. Others, like revived punk club the Know and Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor's new wine bar, preserve the history of the city itself—including the classic mirrors from the Lotus.