Technically Westmoreland if you talk to the people who mow their lawns here—if you don't mow your own lawn, the joke goes, you actually live in Eastmoreland—the Sellwood-Moreland stretch of Southeast Milwaukie Avenue from Tacoma Street to Holgate Boulevard is known to the rest of the city simply as "Sellwood." Though a pile of new restaurants have kerplunked down on the neighborhood, the bars have remained remarkably well-preserved—indeed, it's one of the best drinking spots in the city for the old dives.
1. Yukon Tavern
5819 SE Milwaukie Ave., 503-235-6352, yukontavern.com.
The Yukon Tavern, taken over by the owners of the Mock Crest a couple years back, is a wood-paneled old-man bar full almost entirely of the Old Portland that long ago left Old Town: 30-something rockers and tatted beardos bellowing out bar trivia on Sundays. The beer has 16 taps, but those are also a bit of a time capsule—with a lot of Lagunitas and Ninkasi. Its food specials, meanwhile, are both obscure and legendary, morphing day to day into something utterly new. Want a $5 Fireball and $5 lunchtime fish 'n' chips? Come Friday, because if you show up Tuesday you'll be drinking $5 Jameson, with the improbable pairing of $1.75 tacos.
2. Cosmo Lounge
6707 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Cosmo Lounge is a world-beating gem you forget about until you arrive again—and after about three Jell-O shots that run as stiff as some tumblers, you remember again why you forgot. You can ease into this place with the comfort of an old beer-soaked sweater, or the snuggliness of women and tigers painted onto felt in a rear-wall kitsch gallery as dense as it is extensive. Of all the bars nearby, it strikes the perfect grace notes: just dim enough, warm enough, cheap enough and stiff enough of drink that you could be here for hours at a time and not know time ever passed.
3. Limelight Restaurant & Lounge
6708 SE Milwaukie Ave., 503-235-5797.
Sellwood has a mule fetish. Kay's across the street has a many-deep menu of mules, and so does Limelight—which worries enough about its legit copper Moscow mule cups that it'll insist on holding your card if you order one, with a threat of charging you $30 if you steal it. But it's worth the trouble, because the $8 mule combines ginger beer with ginger-infused vodka, for a depth of warm root flavor but hardly any ginger bite. The food's a bit overpriced, but at happy hour you can score Limelight's trademark fried artichoke hearts for $5.50, to go with a stiff $3.50 well.
6903 SE Milwaukie Ave., 503-232-4447, kaysbarpdx.com.
Eighty-three-year-old Kay's claims to have ghosts haunting it, but mostly what it's got is spirits—not to mention bar spirit, with a long bar leading inevitably to the wall-sized mural of all the people Kay's has loved before. A black-and-white-painted snapshot taken a decade or two back, the entire back wall memorializes Kay's longtime regulars in slightly better shape than they are today. "None of them are here tonight," our bartender told us, "but you see them come in." Still, the bar's much more famous for its mammoth build-your-own burgers, with options on tens of toppings that can swell the thing into a Dagwood.
5. Bible Club
6716 SE 16th Ave.
Bible Club is a paradox, both a consummate Sellwood bar and its opposite. It's a highly skilled, high-priced, nouveau-mixology bar like all those spots downtown—except more obsessed with the old than antiquers on a grand night out. Consider it a wax-record vision of swankness, a bespoke antidote to the decay brought on by actual old age. In a neighborhood of divey drunk bars, take your Penicillin ($14) here, an elegant drink mixing two Scotches to scuttle the senses.