IMAGE: Anna Ottum
Discreetly stowed above Toro Bravo, with windows spying down on Northeast Russell Street and an adjacent parking lot, The Secret Society Lounge (116 NE Russell St., 493-3600) fits its name quite nicely. While it’s only a narrow staircase (lined with portraits of notable Prince Hall Masons—the building was home to that organization between 1940 and 1995) removed from a steady stream of traffic and the occasional Wonder Ballroom crowd, Secret Society seems worlds away from aughties Portland once you’re settled in. Shades of deep walnut and burgundy line the tiny room, which supports well-preserved books and elegant artifacts from the ’40s and ’50s, primary-color paintings of Oregon lumberjacks and mixed drinks with histories all their own (the Moscow Mule—a vodka, lime and ginger-beer concoction served in a worn copper cup—is “one of the earliest vodka cocktails, created in Hollywood post-World War II,” the drink menu informs us). Theme-busting giveaways aside—the friendly waitress’s hip tattoo and serviceable panini menu (panini are the new hamburgers, aren’t they?)—it’s hard not to feel as if you’re in a cozy, hidden corner of some vaguely bygone wartime era…or at least stuck in a Decemberists song. Either way, it’s a calming break from the buzzing neon signs and video poker that decorate most Portland watering holes, and it’s a great place to bring a date.