Walk into Beaverton's Ara Restaurant (6159 SW Murray Blvd., 503-747-4823) at 10 pm on a Saturday, and it's like watching a neutron bomb go off in reverse. By day, the strip-mall spot next to Papa Murphy's is a sedate eatery serving up classic Korean fare: bulgogi, seafood pancakes and sizzling sundubu in a stone dish.
Until 1 am on weekends, Ara is a soju-fueled drunkfest sopped up with a Korean-style stoner-food menu of spicy squid, cheese corn and Spam-loaded budae jjigae, plus banchan sides of mashed-potato salad and kimchi that'll keep on coming as many times as you ask. "Who made all the writing on the wall?" we ask. "The people who come," says our gracious server, who somehow runs the whole floor solo. The wall is so dense with names and non-sequiturs—someone has bubbled out the word INSTAGRAM over the mess—it seems impossible the place amassed that much script in the mere year it's been open.
We're downing glass after little glass of Hite beer and soju to cool the heat in our relentlessly spicy and glutinous dukboki-ramen stew, cooked up on a burner in the middle of our table. But looking over at two older men at the table next to us we feel like lightweights. Six bottles of 20-percent ABV soju sit next to them along with a massacre of noodles and grilled meat, and they're showing no signs of stopping. Meanwhile, tables of 20-somethings get up in unison to smoke next to the No Smoking signs on the sidewalk. This is the greatest bar in Beaverton, and it doesn't even have a bar.