Not so long ago, Portland's bars and restaurants were distinct. For the purposes of our Restaurant Guide, a restaurant was a place you could happily dine without drink. A bar, meanwhile, was a place that you could swing by for a drink with no expectation that you'd so much as glance at the food menu.
There's been a shift in recent years, perhaps starting with places like Tanuki, the Montavilla izakaya where they scoff at anyone who doesn't consider sake or a pint, and continuing with gastropubs like Stammtisch and BTU Brasserie, restaurants that drink like bars and where the full experience demands both a plate and glass.
Expatriate is the best of this crossover crop. Opened by celebuchef Naomi Pomeroy and her bartender husband, Kyle Webster, it's an excellent tavern, so much so that it made our list of the five best new bars in town. It now also makes our list of favorite new restaurants.
Expatriate is a clubby space, and has no sign. From the street, look for the little canvas tent over the door, built by designer Matthew Peterson, who also installed the extraordinary back bar, which looks like a set piece from Raise the Red Lantern and plush booths that face a DJ table. It's a dimly lit, sexy room with reading material from Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and Amis and a 1922 edition of National Geographic.
Cocktails are classic—stiff, simple, perfect. My favorite is the No. 8, a well-balanced tonic of Pierre Ferrand 1840 mixed with Dickel rye, génépi, Italian vermouth and Regan's orange bitters. If you want something sweeter, try the Dorléac with vodka, Aperol and lemon, honey, elderflower and Angostura bitters.
The food menu, meanwhile, is playfully sophisticated and uniformly excellent. Take the onion sandwich made with proto-foodie James Beard's old recipe, an hors d'oeuvre of crustless white bread with mayonnaise, sweet onion and parsley. It's as simple as it sounds, but somehow feels refined. Likewise for the corn dogs made with crumbles of Chinese sausage within a supple, flavorful breading. Brussels sprouts became the new kale this spring, and yet Expatriate managed to make the city's best version, combining the dwarf cabbages and their larger Napa-bred cousin with caramelized squash and smoky ground lamb. A kingly tempura cod sandwich is paired with fries to be dipped in a sumac-flavored ranch dressing, cilantro-raita aioli or the house's odd but pleasant house curry ketchup.
Sure, a batter-fried fish sandwich is bar fare—but what great bar fare it is.
5424 NE 30th Ave., expatriatepdx.com, 5 pm-midnight daily. $$.