The top floor of Elvis Room (203 SE Grand Ave., 503-235-5690) looks less like Graceland than a bachelor lounge at Monticello: It's a white-painted, French-Colonial hall of gilded mirrors and painted naked ladies.
With Sandy Hut and the Alibi, owners Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby have become the unofficial caretakers of the Portland classic bar—and with Elvis Room, they’re reviving the space of former punk haunt East End, which burned in a fire a few years back. But the aesthetic in the two-story space is now a lot closer to the building’s rumored original purpose as a brothel. The E-Room is a winking quotation of luxury—a belt-buckled pelvic thrust of budget extravagance stacking liquor to the heavens.
As at pretty much all of the owners' non-Alibi spots, the burgers are great, but don't ever order those $9-$10 menu cocktails: Most of the rocker-scene bartenders seem a lot more accustomed to making drinks with their ingredients in the name. Still, the Elvis-approved peanut-butter-bacon-pickle Graceland burger ($8) is classic in its decadence, and the bun was toasted just right.
The overall effect at the bar is less Elvis than Elvis' drunk nephew taking over the place, hanging up a beer sign and kicking out the Stooges on Spotify. The crowd so far isn't Elvis-obsessive or rockabilly, but a Portland for whom Elvis is less music than a symbol of gaud, irony and sweat-stained excess. If the upstairs is relentlessly sunny kitsch, the downstairs is a pitch-black ode to Elvis' quaalude years—a dank, carpeted hole with bar glass, deep booths, velvet paintings of cats and a whiff of ammoniac must illustrated by a naked Cupid eternally pissing under the stairs.
Trapped halfway between the stacked bar scenes of Burnside and Morrison, Elvis Room is also interestingly trapped between theme bar and drinking dive—a little bit country glam, a little bit rock 'n' roll.