4601 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-889-0943, thecavernpdx.com. 3 pm-midnight Monday-Thursday, 3 pm-1 am Friday-Sunday. Happy hour 4-7 pm Monday-Friday: $1 off wells and drafts, food specials.
Aside from the Alhambra Theatre ceding to retro barcade Quarterworld, the bar scene in the 4000 blocks of Hawthorne—known colloquially as "the Barmuda Triangle"—has existed in a state of relative stasis for years. The Cavern is just the shot to the arm the area needed—an old rocker bar that's dignified, cozy and a just a wee bit punk. It is a dimly lit corridor with deep red walls and a menagerie of macabre paintings above the booths. With a soundtrack of Misfits and Bikini Kill played at levels that linger tastefully below conversation level, it's an unpretentious locale ideal for a Dante's or Lovecraft regular to enjoy some peace without the quiet. The whiskey list is divided neatly into region, and includes rare Japanese offerings like a Yamazaki 12-year ($20) and a Hibiki Harmony ($17) alongside domestic go-tos like Buffalo Trace ($8) and Four Roses Yellow Label ($8). The food is unfussy fare courtesy of Shig Matthews, a former Harlow chef whose adeptness with animal protein went underutilized during his time at the popular vegetarian spot. Paired with a smoky and sweet Cavern Manhattan ($12), flickering candles and a soundtrack of heavy music from a bygone era, the Cavern offers a much-needed respite from the put-on charms of newer bars and the grizzled attitude of the old.