3341 SE Belmont St., theliquorstorepdx.com, 503-754-7782, 4 pm-2:30 am daily. Happy "kinda magical" hour 4-7 pm: $2 mini-mug filled with draft of your choice, $2-$7 bar snacks.
Established: February 2015
On weekend nights, Southeast Belmont Street's Liquor Store may be so packed that a wall of young, hip revelers actually calcify into an impenetrable shield around the bar, glued together by cigarette smoke. The place is actually too cool for you to get a drink, sometimes. Maybe it's the upstairs DJ spinning selections from the hundreds-deep wall of vinyl—where owner Ray Morrone regularly stands behind the 1's and 2's—or the house gig eternally raging in the basement venue, but something at the heart of this cozy-but-not-too-cozy everyman bar and sometime-nightclub encourages debauchery. It's like partying at the parental home of a rich friend who doesn't give a shit. But while it's still light out, Liquor Store's happy "kinda magical" hour offers a wholly different array of comforts—including, apparently, a trophy with a plastic purple-crystal-and-gold plaque reading "Dance Magic," which I won while waiting for my enormous skillet of nachos ($7). What I'd come back for is the cornbread mac 'n' cheese ($6)—cheese-enchilada flavor in pasta clothing—and the Really Good Gin and Tonic ($9), with Beefeater and housemade tonic that's soft, round and kissed with fragrant orange on the nose and swirling fuchsia in color, thanks to the aromatics that float atop the glass.
Bar story: Sam Elliott, the actor who played countless cowboys and the Stranger/narrator of Coen brothers hit The Big Lebowski, often frequents the Liquor Store's happy hour. Our bartender told us he came in once, to her horror, missing his famed horseshoe mustache.