When you weren't looking, Beaumont Village became cool.
Though the 17-block stretch of Northeast Fremont Street between 33rd and 50th avenues has seen its share of heartbreak in the past year, with the closure of Alameda Brewing and the zombie status of Stanich's, bar owners who've acquired clout in hipper environs are finally expanding to this blue-blooded corner of Northeast Portland.
On the heels of Wonderly—a low-key cocktail hang courtesy of the owners of Southeast Belmont's Aalto Lounge—comes Hi-Top Tavern, the latest enterprise from the bar group behind Paydirt, Tough Luck and Old Gold. And while it's unlikely to emerge as the favorite of anyone who frequents any of those places, there's plenty to like regardless.
The first thing you'll notice in the old Bottles space is its bunkerlike atmosphere, which is both its biggest hindrance and its most admirable quirk. The ceilings are low and the floor plan is segmented into a variety of nooks and crannies, with garage doors and a vast expanse of whiskeys on offer. The TV room in the back and the massive patio just beyond it are certainly welcome additions to the neighborhood.
The cocktail menu has summer in mind, with a list of drinks divided neatly along levels of refreshment. The pair of Spritz Hits are a bit spendy at $12 apiece, but the depth of flavors in Sweeter Hits—which use a hefty dose of peach combier for tartness—earns the price tag. The Key West Daiquiri and the Smoke Everyday (both $10) provide opposing sides of the same coin, with a spicy bite and a smoky finish, respectively. The beer list is small, but the presence of a hazy from Barley Brown's and a Czech Pilsner (both $6) show that Hi-Top's head is in the right place.
The food menu is accompanied by a disclaimer asking customers to cut the place some slack for being new, but the soul-food DNA of the group's previous bars is already readily apparent. The smoky, drippy grilled Muenster and Swiss ($9) pairs well with a cold beer on the patio, and the pork belly banh mi ($14) is the same sticky-sweet flavor pile you'd expect from the folks who've perfected similar feats of pan-Asian bar food at Tough Luck and Old Gold.
Relative to close-in Portland, Hi-Top Tavern mighty as well be located on the moon. But in the unlikely event a rich old lady accidentally gifts you her bungalow on the Alameda Ridge, this could easily become your favorite new neighborhood bar.
DRINK: Hi-Top Tavern, 5015 NE Fremont St., 503-206-4308, hitoptavern.com. 3 pm-midnight Monday-Thursday, 3 pm-2 am Friday, noon-2 am Saturday, noon-midnight Sunday.