The Alibi Tiki Lounge
4024 N Interstate Ave., 503-287-5335. 11:30 am-2:30 am daily.
What happens at the Alibi is sacred. This isn’t Vegas, although the extravagant Polynesian kitsch could give you that impression. The musical performances offered here don’t always stay here: A video of David Byrne singing Prince went viral several years back. But what happens at Italian cathedrals is on any given day filmed by thousands of people. That doesn’t mean it’s not sacred. Anyway, if you’re willing to stipulate that karaoke is Portland’s civic religion—and after downing a Vicious Virgin No. 2, you will—then the Alibi is the choir loft. It’s also a killer party, jammed to the gills each night with a young crowd waiting for a performance that will hold the room’s attention. (On a recent Saturday night, it was a young man spitting every line of Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference.”) This is the place you go when you want to hear something special, or sing something that means the world to you. It’s where I went the night Damian Lillard hit the 0.9 shot, and it’s where I’ll go when the Blazers win a championship. It is our tower of song. AARON MESH.
George’s Corner Tavern
5501 N Interstate Ave., 503-289-0307, georgescornertaver.wixsite.com/my-site. 10 am-2 am daily.
At the corner of North Interstate and Killingsworth Street for nearly a century, George’s is like the longtime character actor you are always happy to see. And like a good ensemble player, George’s has a little something for everyone: a solid whiskey list, a killer back patio rebuilt after a fire damaged it in 2021, Jell-O and pudding shots, and super-friendly service. And perhaps George’s best (un)kept secret is its fried chicken and jojos, which give Reel M Inn a run for its money. A three-piece basket with a jojo upgrade will run you $18, and arrives hot and juicy. The proportions of potato and bird aren’t as freakishly gargantuan as those at our Southeast Portland fave, but they’ll arrive in minutes, rather than hours. Grab a cocktail that’s less than $10, watch some soccer or, randomly, episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, on one of the many TVs, and relax. George’s has got ya. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
Mock Crest Tavern
3435 N Lombard St., 503-283-5014, mockcrest.com. 11 am-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 am-1 am Friday, 9 am-1 am Saturday, 9 am-midnight Sunday.
In the Portland of my memory, every neighborhood has a watering hole with a single room the size of a railroad apartment, containing a long lunch counter and swivel stools, two TV sets showing the Beavers game, and a jukebox playing a Stevie Nicks rock block. In Portsmouth, one still exists on North Lombard. Upon entry, it’s easy to slip out of that geographic orientation: This could be Newport, Rhododendron or Southeast Milwaukie Avenue. The time is a little hard to pin down, also: Nothing appears to have changed since 1987, except there’s a Pride flag in the front window, the taps feature new releases from Double Mountain and pFriem, and next to the juke are three charging stations for your phone. Glitzier destinations exist, but I’m not sure there’s a better local in the city—certainly not one with a grassy yard just out the back door behind the restrooms. In short, this is a good place to go in search of lost time, maybe once a week or so, then stroll home in the neon-speckled dusk, thinking of a city you once knew and maybe still do. AARON MESH.
The Perch Bar & Grill
7505 N Lombard St., 503-286-9541. 10 am-1:30 am, Monday-Saturday, 10 am-midnight Sunday.
If you start a North Portland bar crawl in St. Johns and make The Perch your last stop, it will feel like the right choice. The Perch is tenacious and gritty. A sign above the restroom notes that you can’t bring a backpack in there, and the doors on the stalls only go down to your shins. The pilot light will be out on the stove, so no chicken tendies to soak up your several vodka sodas. But the bartender will be friendly, you will get a super-stiff pour, the patrons are all in fine fettle, and you’ll also get a cherry-lime Jell-O shot for your troubles. If you want a strong, cheap drink and a place to down it, The Perch is, and probably always will be, there for you. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
8935 N Lombard St., 503-286-3854. 7 am-2:30 am daily.
Slim’s walks the line between diner and dive bar, but with features like a bubbly, light-up Miller High Life bottle and a closing time of 2:30 in the morning, Slim’s is definitely a dive. That being said, it’s the only bar in town I can think of that serves a pretty decent agedashi tofu—lightly fried, soft tofu resting in a pool of slightly sweet soy dashi sauce—as well as a standup burger and a better-than-average BLT. Slim’s crowd skews younger than you’ll find in most bars in St. Johns, but the clientele ranges from bearded 30-somethings to wizened retirees, with a stiff whiskey soda lubricating them all. Smokers and the smoke-tolerant can’t do much better than order a draft beer and post up at the picnic tables out front that face Lombard—it’s the ultimate St. Johns meet-and-greet. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
5242 N Lombard St., 503-283-5091. 11 am-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11 am-1 am Friday-Saturday, 11 am-10 pm Sunday.
The T Room contains multitudes. During the school year, it’s a hangout for students from nearby University of Portland, but this stalwart draws plenty of neighbors, too. It’s a massive space, with a vintage stained-glass display above the bar bearing its name. At happy hour, $7 earns you a disturbingly large pile of popcorn chicken or an equally huge basket of fries, while the rest of the regular menu holds it down all day and night. If you’re looking to unwind, the heated back patio allows dogs (where the cutest corgi was chilling the last time we went), or hang in the main lounge for trivia or pool. The Twilight Room has a slushy machine and 33 taps, along with a full bar of goodies—plenty to graduate your night into a raucous one, whether you’re 21 or 51. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.
The World Famous Kenton Club
2025 N Kilpatrick St., 503-285-3718, kentonclub.com. Noon-2 am Monday-Friday, 10 am-2 am Saturday-Sunday.
That “world famous” accolade refers to a brief, dank appearance in a 1972 Raquel Welch roller-derby B-picture called Kansas City Bomber, posters of which grace the wood-paneled walls. Such decorations suggest the slightly sad nostalgia of an athlete gone to seed, but they’re deceiving. Few bars in Portland have rebounded from the pandemic with as much dexterity as the Kenton Club, which emerged as an eclectic venue where the night’s $10 cover charge could mean the main stage is filled by touring heavy rockers, a honky-tonk jam session or Twirl, a dance party billed as “NoPo’s queer disco.” All of which means sipping a Maker’s Mark and beer back under the club’s enormous metal chandeliers is one way to test out a new subculture (and perhaps take advantage of the emcee’s offer of free earplugs). The eclectic calendar makes the Kenton Club a living thing instead of a drunkard’s museum—and, if any given night’s acts aren’t to your taste, the parking lot patio out back is enormous and dotted with booths for private conversations. AARON MESH.
Your Inn Tavern
7004 N Catlin Ave., 503-285-0420. 10 am-10 pm, Monday-Thursday, 10 am-11 pm Friday, 9 am-11 pm Saturday-Sunday.
It’s cliché to say that walking into an old dive bar feels like being in someone’s living room, but sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason. Your Inn Tavern is tucked into a side street in a quiet St. Johns neighborhood, and when approaching the circular bar that dominates the space, it’s an experience that’s reminiscent of walking in on family. And I don’t mean that in a forbidding way: Everyone seems like a regular, but they’ll chat you up about the $11 taco salad on special like you’re there every day, too. My friend Becky, a native Minnesotan, tore into a Reuben that (1) was made with housemade corned beef on rye, large, juicy and delicious, (2) cost only $11.50, and (3) prompted the remark that Your Inn reminded them of home in the best possible way. Can’t beat that. ANDREA DAMEWOOD.