Our favorite new bar neighborhood in town is a sudden invention—filling in the gaps between the Florida Room and Saraveza.
The Florida Room
435 N Killingsworth St., 503-287-5658.
Every neighborhood has something like the Florida Room—the kind of place that makes bad decisions feel inevitable, even if your original intention really was just to drop in for a can of Hamm's and a Camel Light on the noisy enclosed patio. The mysterious backroom pool table and photo booth, the vending machine full of $2 pregnancy tests and "spirit animal" grab bags, the kitschy painted tables…it's all unabashedly raunchy and juvenile, but with the bar's infamous marquee ("DIE MIXOLOGIST SCUM" or "MY RENT IS HIGHER THAN YOUR ROOMMATE."), you can't say you weren't warned. The unfailingly friendly bartenders will pimp the menu of excellent-looking bloody marys incorporating various house infusions (bacon, pepper, cucumber), but the siren call of the $1 cans of Olympia is strong, especially after spending all your cash on fart-themed temporary tattoos from the vending machine.
825 N Killingsworth St., 503-206-8483.
Pop Tavern, like the rug in The Big Lebowski, really pulls the neighborhood together. Like the Florida Room, it's got a sign board—but theirs is inside, facing the bartender, quietly mourning Prince or Dead Moon's Andrew Loomis. But amid '80s knickknackery, Grace Jones glamour shots, records glued to the ceiling, posters for old Wire shows, and a spartan rear patio, Pop Tavern has the bones of a great hangout bar. The tap list is way more decent than you'd expect, with $2.75 Coors Banquet joined by the Commons Urban Farmhouse and Pfriem IPA. And the burger—a mere $6.50—is juicy and beefy and comes with maybe the city's finest crinkle fries, salted just so.
832 N Killingsworth St., 503-234-5683, killingsworthdynasty.com.
Killingsworth Dynasty is an all-vegan, queer-friendly, North Portland take on Rotture with PVC-pipe light fixtures, a warm-wood bar, a capacious dance floor and cool-kid bangers spinning on the decks, from throwback hip-hop to post-punk to queer nights devoted to "house, disco, magic and sharing bathroom stalls." To the right of the door, it's a New Portland affair dressed up in wood slats, with a chamomile whiskey cocktail and an open kitchen turning out plantain chips, arepas and black-eyed pea curry. To the left, it's an unfinished-concrete dance bunker, with a long bar table in the middle to split the difference, and a DIY VIP section behind the DJs that smells impressively of fresh cedar.
1004 N Killingsworth St., 503-206-4252, saraveza.com.
"What should I have next?" we asked on a fall evening. Tyler Vickers, the bearded, no-nonsense bartender at beer bar Saraveza, didn't hesitate: "Another Pliny." And that's what we love about this place. Whereas other too-nice Portland bar backs will ask you the finer points of your flavor profile, what kinds of "beers you like" and so on, the folks at the Wisconsin-themed Saraveza will give it to you straight. Between bartenders like Vickers and Kate Vincent, beer buyer Clark Prather and owner Sarah Pederson, the bar is run by excellent palates. When ordering, it's always best to take their advice. Especially when they're the only ones who know just how fresh that keg of Pliny is.
Ardor (at Red E Cafe)
1006 N Killingsworth St., 503-852-1125, ardornaturalwines.com.
What the living fuck is this place doing in here? Less a wine bar than a cafe with a wine pop-up after 7 pm, Ardor is nonetheless an absolute wonder, with wine takeovers from new local chardonnay superstar Statera every Friday since it opened, stabs at wine dance parties, and a list devoted entirely to natural wine—which, if you didn't know, is the punk rock of wine, funky and goofball and often revelatory. From a jammy-ass syrah that you'd never think is syrah to three-way Italian collaborations priced at a mere $16 a liter, they've got you covered here. It's the weirdest and definitely best wine bar to open in Portland this year.