Tannery Bar is a cozy cocktail spot in a brick-walled bunker along the whizzing thoroughfare of East Burnside Street, huddled between a dormant volcano and a valley that descends into a freeway.
A bit over a year into its life, Tannery Bar remains a secret prized by those few who know it well. Though it stocks $3 Rainier and $2 Old German for neighborhood swillers, and craft brews for less casual beer drinkers, the bar operates as a sort of luxury boutique of out-of-the-way comforts. Couples—almost always couples—descend on the place from parts unknown to order a luxuriantly complex pennyroyal cocktail ($13) nowhere near as toxic as its namesake, with Highland Park 12-year scotch matched against a sweet-bitter-tart blend of Combier orange liqueur, maple syrup, bitters and citrus. They get the ridiculously rich Monte Cristo sandwich ($12) with its little bowl of marionberry jam, a selection of cured ham secured from Iowa or Spain ($16), or a simple oiled pasta with cured Italian pork cheeks ($13).
One suspects, though it can't be verified, that the couples all met each other here on first dates. The cozy room has record players in the back and a shelf of LPs, a rug on the floor and an occasional visiting dog who lounges there. Each comfort, from drink to cheese plate, is hand-prepared in full view. It is a curated world of rustic domesticity that one visits as if on honeymoon at a ski cabin. But it's accessible by being just a short hop down the road, in a foreign neighborhood where you will see no one you know. Which is to say, it is Portland's most perfect first-date bar.
"Can we go," your girlfriend or boyfriend will ask you later, "to the place where we first met?"