2930 NE Killingsworth St., 503-227-2669, damerestaurant.com. 5-10 pm Wednesday-Sunday.
Established: Sept. 14, 2016
As a wine bar, new Northeast Killingsworth Street spot Dame is a pretty good restaurant. And as a restaurant, it's one hell of a bar. Either way, it's easily the most heatedly anticipated wine locale to roll into Portland in years—with a sommelier and co-owner, Dana Frank, named one of the best sommeliers in the country by two national food magazines last year. The warm-toned, hardwood-floored front room is split just about evenly between bar and tables—decorated with bright white-and-blue trim, Old World tchotchkes on the wall and lush, patterned wallpaper on one side that's the approximate color of midnight.
In terms of decor, it's a cross between the nostalgic midcentury France of Amélie and a northside cousin to Southeast Clinton Street mussel spot La Moule—and from mahogany clams ($1) to oysters ($3.75) to a pungent snack of cured smelt ($7) and a balanced fig-coconut-turmeric halibut entree ($19), the flavors across much of the menu tend toward a triad of brine, acidity and earthiness that reads, roughly, as "wine food." Each bite of grilled fontina-stuffed pepper carries a faint premonition of the wine that seemed meant to follow it, a feeling you should indulge.
The beer and cider are adventurous and often European and the cocktails beautifully restrained, but it's wine you're here for, and it spans Europe and hyperlocal Oregon; wild and weird natural wines and high-end pinot; adventure and luxury. Combined with Expatriate across the street, it's probably the best one-two neighborhood booze hit in town.
Bar story: If you happen to travel to the International House of Pancakes in Tokyo, you will find amid the decor a travel-magazine cover shot of Dame co-owner Dana Frank, forever pouring wine outside at Ava Gene's, in a Portland that is forever sunny.