639 SE Morrison St., 503-232-5533, star-bar-rocks.com. 4 pm-2:30 am daily. Happy hour 4-8 pm daily: $4 Tater Tot nachos, $3.50 craft beer, $6 burger with blue cheese.
Established: September 2010.
Though the rising tides of development have hunted venues and practice spaces to extinction, the big-budget reboot of Puddletown's lower east side hasn't endangered musicians' favorite watering holes. Star Bar is doing fine. Other bars might claim a special kinship with the devil's music, but Star Bar's crowds dress up for the show. Any given night, millennials dressed as '60s mods, '70s punks or '80s rockers fill booths and mingle around tables.
While the barroom decor hints the prevailing ethos in ways both cool (the New Wave-era Trouser Press pages glued to restroom walls) and endearingly High Fidelity (a Ramones-themed Blitzkreig Bop, $8, blends Kahlúa and espresso vodka with porter), the bar is perhaps best understood from outside its walls, amid the sidewalk-flooding overflow during the occasional rock show by bands who'd usually play to five times the capacity. Star Bar, like the very best nightspots, fosters the promise of aspirational bonhomie—it is a safe space that feels dangerous, feeding the delusion it's an ongoing private party thrown only for you and your presumptive new friends. We are all of us drinking near the gutter, but some bars are looking at the stars.
Bar story: Though Star Bar's furnishings include a number of artifacts from bygone establishments—including a painting donated by the Matador—the most celebrated aspect of its decor came about independently. Since Star Bar opened doors about six months after nearby Velveteria skipped town, folks generally assumed the array of velvet paintings hung throughout the barroom held some connection to the dearly departed LoBu kitsch museum. In truth, owner Josh Davis acquired his first batch of paintings (26 for $2 each) four years earlier from a downsizing friend. Davis' collection has since tripled in size and includes works from several different artists and eras—his oldest, the red velvet nude, dating back 60 years.