The Shaku Bar proves that great things come in small packages.
The year-old spot on Northeast Sandy Boulevard has a long bar and just a few tables (but the dog-friendly patio is vast). It has a neighborhood-bar vibe, thanks mostly to the infectious good cheer of Mark Tucker, one of the three owners, who smiles and chats while whipping up elegant cocktails with ingredients like hand-squeezed tamarind juice (for his spicy margarita).
Friendship is in the name. Pronounced “SHAY-koo,” the business’s moniker is a shortened form of the Japanese word for handshake, handoshēku. Growing up in San Jose, Calif., Tucker and fellow owner (and chef) Matt Odama shared a secret handshake. Tucker taught it to Trent Brown, the third owner, after they developed a friendship while managing Trader Joe’s stores in the Portland area.
“We opened just as the world was coming out of COVID, and we wanted a symbol of something that brings people together after being isolated,” Tucker says.
The cocktails alone are worth a visit. Close your eyes and sip just about any of them, and you’d swear you’ve been transported to a 1920s Hemingway bar in Montparnasse, Paris, or a sleek spot in Tokyo’s Ginza district, circa now.
The Princess Peach ($13) is a mix of local Aria gin, Aperol, St-Germain and lemon juice topped with a half-centimeter of creamy-white Fee Foam (Google it!). The Lychee Fizz ($14) features a puree of its namesake fruit, ginger syrup (housemade), muddled mint, Roku Gin and soda water.
We’re definitely coming back for a Kvothe the Bloodless ($12)—pickle juice, hot sauce, lime and a secret sauce. Shaku calls it a bloody mary “without the blood.” (The founders are all proud nerds who’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for years and, as the drink names attest, love fantasy and sci-fi. For those who haven’t reached their level of geekdom, Kvothe is the wizard hero of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle).
Come for the cocktails but stay for the food. Start with the sesame chile garlic edamame ($6) and then move on to the battered tofu bites ($9). Both are crisp with little hint of the oil that made them so. And for God’s sake, don’t miss the tempura kimchi ($9). It sounds sort of impossible, but Shaku proves it’s not, and it comes with a chipotle aioli dipping sauce that would be good on anything.
And here’s a bonus: Every Saturday, Shaku opens a Starfleet Bottle—an expensive whiskey, say—and offers shots at cost (one per customer per day), until the bottle is gone, usually later in the week. A $50 shot can be had for $10. The name, Tucker explains, is a riff on Star Trek’s utopian society, which eschews money.
Live long and prosper!
DRINK: The Shaku Bar, 3448 NE Sandy Blvd., 971-346-2063, theshakubar.com. 4 pm-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 4 pm-1 am Friday-Saturday, 3-10 pm every other Sunday.