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May 8th, 2013 MATTHEW KORFHAGE | Bar Reviews
 

Cardinal Club: Direction Unknown

clublist_cardinalclub_3927CARDINAL CLUB - IMAGE: rosnaps.com

While the world around it bathed in filthy lucre, now-defunct dive bar Chin Yen was a dimly lit, dirt-cheap holdout of turpentine drinks and oil-slick Chinese food, home to old men who fought their livers and won. Cardinal Club (18 NE 28th Ave., 348-0763, cardinalclubportland.com)—named after the four cardinal directions because the bar putatively sits at Portland’s exact center—is a noble rehabilitation. The new owners, fresh from the tough streets of Philly, have diligently brightened the corners in what we assume is documented with an ’80s music montage, and now offer a small array of bar snacks (including a massive pile of fried calamari for a mere $6) and midpriced meals, plus a fine bourbon and housemade ginger syrup concoction called the Pedestrian in a pint glass for $5. Still, the bar may have gone too far in smoothing out the edges: Its hodgepodge of old vinyl, letter-magnet bar slate, corporate-deco signage, neutral walls and scattershot menu leave a diffuse impression; it feels like the new owners haven’t quite moved in yet. (A batch of overboiled, herb-choked deviled eggs didn’t help.) Though it may be at the center of everything, it might help if Cardinal Club picked a direction and ran with it.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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