Restaurant Guide 2011: Beyond Tater Tots

Ten bars where the eats are as good as the drinks.


The former Taste of Europe grocery is now a soccer bar, its walls adorned with the flags of favored teams, from FC Bayern to the Timbers' green and yellow, but owner Muhamed Mujcic-Mufko is still turning out great Bosnian bar food: Lepinja flatbread is a half-inch thick and fluffy as a baguette, with a sweet outer crispness that comes from being baked in olive oil. The šiš (rich, spicy sausage patties, pronounced "sheesh") and cevapi (beef-lamb patties akin to mini hamburgers) are served with it, plus sweet-bitter yogurt sauce and ajvar, a spicy pepper and eggplant relish. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

1739 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 238-3693,

Matchbox Lounge

Many bars in Portland advertise a happy-hour menu that is cheap, convenient and delicious, but few actually live up to the hype. But let me tell you, the $5 happy-hour burger at Matchbox is the real deal: a third of a pound of Painted Hills beef, served with a tangy aioli and your choice of cheese (go for the Manchego) for just a dollar more. It's easily one of the best burgers in town, so good that ordering the full version as an entree is totally worth the price. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

3203 SE Division St., 234-7844,

Nel Centro

Although David Machado's sleek Hotel Modera bistro will feed you morning, noon and night, the best deals are to be found on Nel Centro's long bar menu—a cheaper, abridged version of the restaurant's Northwestern/Mediterranean offerings. Try the excellent pizza, topped with everything from caramelized onions and Italian sausage to super-fresh pesto and lots of cheese; or a big, zesty salad and pasta. The star of the show? A tall, aioli-slathered chicken-and-bacon sandwich on just-baked focaccia featuring a juicy bird that was roasted rotisserie-style only yards from your table. KELLY CLARKE.

1408 SW 6th Ave., 484-1099,

Reel M' Inn

Cheap beer, nice regulars and the best fried chicken in the known universe—is there anything more you could possibly ask from a bar? It might take a while to show up, but a plate of Reel M' Inn's chicken and jojos is worth the wait: A measly $7.75 gets you three fist-sized hunks of juicy bird flesh with crisp, brown breading and four potato halves, battered and fried to a mouth-scorching crunch. When you've licked every last salty crumb, order another round of beers, throw some Sam Cooke on the juke and feel the grease start to seep out your pores. Life is good. BEN WATERHOUSE.

2430 SE Division St., 231-3880.

RingSide Steakhouse

A 2010 remodel has done nothing to make the RingSide feel more a part of contemporary Portland culture; it's still all Nob Hill money. Yet it's kind of neat to find another city inside the city you know—like a Russian nesting doll that contains Howard Cosell. This is the best dedicated steakhouse in Portland, with piped-in Tony Bennett standards, candlelit boxing photographs, and servers who feel like personal butlers. The side barroom's happy hour is a classic discovery, with steak bites, potato skins and Dungeness crab cakes ranging from $2.25 to $4.75 after 9:30 pm. AARON MESH. 

2165 W Burnside St., 223-1513, 

Rum Club

Michael Shea, the co-owner of Rum Club, describes his new bar as geographically and philosophically at the midway point between Beaker & Flask and the Slammer. I don't think I can do better. The bar serves Hemingway-class cocktails at reasonable prices in a tiny triangular room almost completely filled by a horseshoe bar topped in glowing African mahogany. Rum Club encourages long, pisco-soaked conversations that drift on until last call, so fortify your stomach with deviled-ham sandwiches and pickled eggs (beet- or turmeric-flavored) and settle in. BEN WATERHOUSE.

720 SE Sandy Blvd., 467-2469,

Spirit of 77

The cheering crowds at this Trail Blazers-themed watering hole order cocktail ribs and fried baked potatoes by the bucket to go with their $6 imperial pints of Double Mountain Vaporizer, but the pickles and roasted vegetable salad are so good that you'll forget about the game. And there's free Pop-A-Shot! MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.

500 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 232-9977,

Sunshine Tavern

The new venture from Lincoln's Jenn Louis and David Welch offers just four entrees, plus a handful of inventive pizzas, sandwiches, salads and burgers. Order anything you want so long as it's the fried chicken dinner. You'll be rewarded with perfect, juicy, boneless hunks of bird on fat semolina waffles drizzled with honey. Kids are running wild all over the place. The crowd is adult-looking, but they're sipping margaritas dispensed from a slushy machine behind the bar. In short, Sunshine Tavern is a place where you can be a parent and a child at once. BECKY OHLSEN.

3111 SE Division St., 688-1750,

Victory Bar

The Victory, with its half-curtained windows, flickering tabletop candles and rounded-leather bench seats, is better known as a place to explore an adventurous, international beer list than a dinner spot. But don't leave without trying the spaetzle. Pronounce the word how you like; this rich and creamy baked pasta and cheese made with Gruyère and topped with crispy shallots will fill you up and keep you coming back. Want something meatier? Try the venison burger with blue cheese and fried leeks. CHRISTINA COOKE.

3652 SE Division St., 236-8755,

Whiskey Soda Lounge

Andy Ricker's Thai bar and de facto Pok Pok waiting room is a cheap Southeast Asian vacation. Score a seat in the wood-paneled space and order a tableful of Thai drinking bites such as salty little deep-fried anchovies, sugary fish-sauce wings, turmeric-laced meatballs, and deep-fried pig intestines served with black vinegar sauce, which taste like sweet-and-sour churros. KELLY CLARKE.

3131 SE Division St., 232-0102,

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