1. Ponderosa Lounge & Grill
10350 N Vancouver Way, 503-345-0300, jubitz.com/ponderosa-lounge-country-bar. 9 am-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 9 am-2 am Thursday-Friday, 8 am-2 am Saturday, 8 am-midnight Sunday.
In WW’s 2018 Bar Guide, we called the Ponderosa the “crown jewel” of Jubitz, which is more of a miniature city than a truck stop in far North Portland. The lineup of country music performers is as solid as it was back then, and now the rowdy lounge is hosting a six-week Battle of the Bartenders, in which teams of two will go head to head March Madness style every Wednesday beginning Oct. 18 (7-9 pm). Judges will score competitors based on their signature drinks and knowledge, but audience support is also factored in. Sounds like the makings of a scene from Cocktail, so consider us in. This week, watch live music or the cornhole league.
2. Sandy Hut
1430 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-235-7972. 11:30 am-2:30 am daily.
We should all aim to be this much fun when we’re 100. The Wolf’s Den, the Sandy Hut, or the Hut of Huts is an idealized version of a midcentury bar and restaurant. The restored Hirschfeld mural, cozy booths and padded bartop add vintage flair, while a slushy machine, Big Buck Hunter and pinup calendars keep things from getting too fancy. The crowd is a mix of folks who’ve managed to survive the bar’s zhuzhing up by new ownership in 2015 and whatever counts for a hipster these days. No matter the name or the state of the interior, the bartenders will not stand for any of your lip but will be generous with the pours of liquor, essential for any top-tier dive.
3. Great Notion Brewing
Various locations, greatnotion.com. Hours vary.
Halloween has definitely evolved into a monthlong celebration, much like Christmas, so you better get your themed drinking on right out of the gate. And we’re not talking about pumpkin beers. Great Notion has produced its largest lineup of brews with spooky season names to date, including Orange Screamsicle, similar to the Creamsicle IPA only stronger and sour; Possessed, a strong tart ale with flavors of pineapple and black cherry; and Boo Berry Muffin, which tastes like the breakfast cereal its named after. You can find those beers in Great Notion’s four area taprooms, as well as unique scary-themed drops every Friday through October.
4. Holman’s Bar & Grill
15 SE 28th Ave., 503-231-1093, holmanspdx.com. 8 am-2:30 am daily.
Holman’s is one of those bars where everyone knows your name—not because you are a regular, but because they are all off-duty bartenders and servers from other places you frequent. During our visit just days after it reopened following a long renovation, there was a murderer’s row of alcohol distributors, brewery reps and bussers lined up on the stools like they never left, even though the place closed for more than three years, initially due to the pandemic. The remodel may have slightly elevated the aesthetics, but the drink specials are still dive-bar cheap, including $2.50 well whiskey pours and tallboys during Tightwad Tuesday and $4 tumblers of Jameson every Monday.
5. Taiji Teahouse & Cafe
310 NW Davis St., 503-997-3261, taijiteahouse.com. 11 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday.
There is at least one entrepreneur who believes peace and tranquility can be found in Old Town Chinatown. In mid-August, Eric Arthur opened Taiji in the space that used to house Pearl Zhang’s Red Robe Tea House, which we long praised for serving “one of the finest Chinese pots of tea on either side of the river.” Zhang retired in 2021, but before she did, Arthur broadened his knowledge of gongfu tea through her and the shop—and he’s essentially reviving the essence that she brought to the establishment along with her exceptional and detailed tea ritual.