Theme Bars for Every Mood

It’s a whole vibe.

Houston Blacklight (aaron lee)

For those who want to feel all eyes on them...CREEPY’S

627 SE Morrison St., 503-889-0185,

In these times of global strife and political division, there’s comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, we can all agree on one thing: Clowns are terrifying and no one wants to see them. So what explains the longevity of Creepy’s, the Southeast Portland bar that’s both jam-packed with clown ephemera and still in business more than six years after opening? Sure, the cocktails are on point, but there’s got to be a bigger reason. Is the bar an exercise in exposure therapy? A chance for new couples to stress-test their compatibility by subjecting it to clown art? A way to just feel something, even if that something is horror? Find out, if you dare.

For elevated trippiness....HOUSTON BLACKLIGHT

2100 SE Clinton St., 503-477-4738,

Houston Blacklight (Aaron Lee)

Named for a defunct company whose black-light posters graced many a 1970s basement, this recent addition on Clinton adds a psychedelic rec-room twist to the playful sensibilities of the duo whose restaurants Gado Gado and Oma’s Hideaway were near-instant favorites. Dinosaurs, lava lamps, beaded curtains, and a tactile fringed-fabric wall set the scene, while inventive cocktails include brightly colored slushies and boba-studded Jell-O shots.

For orchestral maneuvers in the bar....MENDELSSOHN’S

3955 N Mississippi Ave.,

It’s hard to find a bar that even plays classical music, much less one dedicated entirely to it, and since opening in 2022, Mendelssohn’s has been a welcoming haven for musicians and music appreciators alike. Records and instruments line the vertiginous walls of the narrow, industrial space; a lofted stage plays host to weekly performances by chamber groups and musicians from symphonies around the state, as well as to a monthly Operaoke night. The cocktail list is classic on classic, with cheekily named riffs on the dirty martini (Bach Talk) and tequila sunrise (I Play the Fifth), among others.

For a dose of witchy whimsy...RAVEN’S MANOR

235 SW 1st Ave., 971-319-6182,

Housed in a historic Old Town building, this exuberantly goth bar and lounge is perfect for anyone who loves everything about Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride except the children on it. Raven’s Manor leans into spine-tingling mad-scientist excess with cocktails and “elixirs” that customers can customize and mix themselves; visitors who prefer a more hands-off approach can opt for an absinthe cocktail. And splurging on one of the house’s specialty drinks—like The Elder God, made with Hibiki Japanese Harmony Whisky infused with black truffles— is the depth of decadence.

For fans of Six Feet Under and Fun Home....SAD VALLEY

832 N Killingsworth St., 503-432-8053,

The latest in Portland’s lineup of death-obsessed drinkeries trades goth traditionalism for funeral-parlor kitsch: With wrought-iron scrollwork, eternally wilted bouquets of silk flowers, and a menu illustrated with sad-eyed puppies and innocent lambs, Sad Valley is a vintage sympathy card come to life. Stop by the bar’s Unhappy Hour (schedule: “Every day for the rest of our lives”), to drown your sorrows, along with fried Mexican hominy and jalapeño poppers, in cocktails named for bummers both general (Beloved Daughter) and specific (Cryin’ Swaggart). Sooner or later, we’ve all gotta contemplate the brutality of the mortal coil; you might as well do so with a fruity cocktail in hand.

For Ren Faire vibes, minus the jousting...WYRD LEATHERWORKS AND MEADERY

4515 SE 41st Ave., 503-305-6025,

Thor cosplayers, LARPers, Lord of the Rings fanfic writers, lov- ers of Norse history, and meadheads can all bask in the medi- eval flair of this Woodstock drinking hall and artisan leath- er-goods shop. Wyrd (pronounced “weird”) brews its mead on the premises using Oregon honey and fruits, offering a flagship traditional mead in sweet, semi-sweet, and dry varieties along with meads augmented with apricot, vanilla bean, caraway, and more. Relax by the massive stone hearth with a mead flight, a hearty bowl of stew, and—if you’re really about that Wyrd life—a brand-new drinking horn purchased on-site.

This story is part of Taster Magazine, Willamette Week’s new guide to the best of beer, wine and spirits in Portland. It is free and can be found all over Portland beginning Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Find your free copy at one of the locations noted here, before they all get picked up! Read more from Taster magazine online here.

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