Sure, the gay/queer dance nights at mixed-orientation bars may have become where the party and booty's at in Portland—the ever-popular indie-dance parties of Rotture's Blow Pony and Holocene's Gaycation, the beautiful genderqueered inclusivity of Beyonda's Queen night at Mississippi Studios, the bear-essential Lumbertwink at Funhouse Lounge—but the day-in, day-out gay bar is a community home base. After a long die-off of standbys on Stark Street, the local scene feels blessedly resurgent. Here are a few favorites.
412 SW 4th Ave., 505-9468, caseyspdx.net.
What a difference a quadrant makes. The old Casey's in Northwest Portland was one of those bars that made you surprised it even existed—an oft-empty haunt for Edward Hopper types. The new one is infinitely livelier, with a surprisingly bumping sound system, a shirtless bartender, a sunny-day patio and a wall of pinball and arcade games that seem far less interesting than the downright useful semi-privacy offered by the back corners of the zebra-chaired upstairs balcony. Not to mention that its happy-hour, buy-one-get-one, well-drink special seems positively designed to encourage fraternization.
1400 SE Morrison St., 235-8150, crushbar.com.
As the sign on the door—two man symbols holding hands, two women symbols holding hands, a man symbol and a woman symbol holding hands—indicates, Crush welcomes everybody, of every persuasion, whether with burlesque or boylesque twice a month, a house and techno night, or a drink menu that comes with such tongue-busting-through-cheek, house-infused selections as "Male Order Bride," "Bitter Bitch", and "French Whore." You needn't choose only one: After all, the night is long.
The Fox & Hounds
217 NW 2nd Ave., 243-5530.
"Just know where you are," says a lone, visiting sailor at the bar to the seven other Rose Festival sailors filing in. "We were just at CC's!" they say. "Oh," says an older man at the bar. "It's much tamer in here." And it is. The Fox & Hounds is in its own way a treasure, a gay bar that feels like a Midwestern sports bar except for the preponderance of rainbows within and the 20 or so drag queens taking up the rear tables—with three years of first-place softball trophies on the mantel, a wiry bartender who seems like he's won a few fistfights and TVs behind the bar likely to be showing the NBA Finals.
1125 SW Stark St., 227-5887, scandalspdx.com.
Scandals touts itself as "Gay Cheers," and it more than lives up to it, full of years-long regulars and yet immediately welcoming to the red-headed stranger wandering through. It feels like the friendliest place in town, from its always-packed landing strip of a patio, to a bar lined with flirtatious singletons, to its tiny, Timbers-watching TV corner tucked away to one side. Expect every-damn-body to be at its weekend-long Pride block party, now a Portland institution. As everything around it goes retail and restaurant, Scandals is holding up the Stark Street legacy all by itself. And with the bar's near-stunning pyramidal collection of flavored vodkas and rums and Red Bulls, you can rest assured: You're going to stay awake here, and it's going to be sweet.
318 SW 3rd Ave., 224-4493, silveradopdx.com.
Silverado is Portland's classic go-to spot for vacationing gay men, even if the vacation lasts only a night: Observe an elderly man placing a tip into the bright-red Spanx of chiseled-torsoed Michael. One of only a few all-nude, male strip clubs in the country—Wednesdays are Latino night, but that doesn't mean they don't still play "It's Raining Men"—Silverado serves food to the backdrop of gyrating genitalia, with a main stage in eyeshot of everywhere in the room just like a big-screen at a sports bar, and smaller stages that include one fashioned like a cage.
See bar review, here.
2913 SE Stark St, 230-7980, starkys.com.
On the other Portland Stark Street, Starky's is a nearly 30-year Portland institution, a patioed mountain chalet with homestyle food that seems as domestic as Grandpa's house, with busy Thursday karaoke, "bottomless" mimosas at its essential Sunday brunch, and a charmingly dirty-avuncular bartender who seems to have an answer for everything. Asked about one of the cameras that seemed to be down, he smiles: "Oh, that one's in the basement. The queens are always doing something down there, and they cover up the lenses. Itâs not fair.â