When did McMenamins become McMenamins? Back in the '80s the brothers opened the first modern brewpub in Oregon; by the '90s they were turning churches and schools into bars, and people were very excited. Remember? Well, now that business model is very familiar. And so is North Portland's new 5,000-square-foot Victoria Bar (4835 N Albina Ave., victoriapdx.com). The owners have merged the aesthetic of their freeway-off-ramp nightclubs (Jackknife, Dig a Pony) and vegan whiskey patio bars (Bye and Bye, Sweet Hereafter) into a plausible template for citywide, upper-middlebrow dominion.
They've knocked down a wall at the high-ceilinged former Trébol space to re-create the cocktail menu, Southern-cuisine fetish and bright-tiled luxe feeling of downtown's Jackknife. But it's also got Dig a Pony's DJ-friendly dance floor and Bye and Bye's picnic-table patio. For cred, there's art inside from Atlas Tattoo's Cheyenne Sawyer. Along with a big, sloppy $13 half chicken on gravy-covered grits, former Jackknife chef Russell Van der Genugten offers surprisingly decent gluten-free vegan hush puppies and a rotating vegan po'boy.
Bar owner-manager Lisa Victoria Hare—also from Jackknife—offers a dangerously chuggable $8 gin-strawberry-basil cocktail and a $6 happy-hour Moscow mule that tastes like an aggressive ginger snap, plus a healthy collection of tallboys and an ambitious tap list. McMenamins was once New Portland. Now Victoria Bar has become New Portland. And you know what? It's nice. You'll only have to wait a couple months for Century, a multistory sports bar from the same people. And God help you, you'll probably like it.