Woodlawn's weeks-old Grand Army Tavern (901 NE Oneonta St., 503-841-6195, grandarmytavern) is the most beautiful Cinderella story we've seen in a while, as far as bars go. Formerly sparse cider bar Bushwhacker, the once-awkward elbow of space has been made stylish. It is now an elegant wood-slatted hall of refreshing, citrusy cocktails and nose-to-tail, whole-pig butchery, with a rear wall fashionably papered in decorative flamingos whose necks overlap in lovingly baroque abundance.
When we arrived, the two customers in front of us admired the transition. "The Bushwhacker people literally chased us out of an empty bar," they complained, after they'd checked in to see whether their kid was welcome. "We'd never seen anything like it." Grand Army Tavern, named after the square in New York City where its two owners met, is characterized instead by hospitality and solid execution. And children are welcome until 10 pm.
The $9 Paloma—often degraded in Portland into acrid grapefruit soda and tequila—is here a silky, refined quaff gussied up with campari and agave. And the nose-to-tail sliders ($4 apiece) are decadent and terrific, from a truly excellent spicy kielbasa to a deep-flavored butt roast, served with fatty butter, house pickles and live lettuce.
Still, the sliders have nothing on the greatness of the spicy ranch-flavored pork rinds ($4)—a detente between hot and cool in the Dorito world—served warm and still a little chewy, with the savory richness of skin fat still present. Also good: a generous $5 bowl of smoky black-eyed peas and dark greens, and a $4 tray of fried hummus with the texture of panisse.
The beer list, meanwhile, is a beautiful complement to Breakside across the street—offering $5 IPAs from pFriem, and Belgians from Modern Times and Perennial. Few in the neighborhood seem to have found the place yet, but when they do, it's hard to imagine them leaving easily.