Portland's great love for Huber's might be the result of autohypnosis.
The 130-year-old restaurant and bar, decorated with wooden panels and brass fans, is packed to the rafters even on a Tuesday, and not just for the open-faced turkey sandwiches. If you order a pair of Huber's famous Spanish coffees, the bartender will choreograph your elegant glasses of 151 and Bols triple sec into a ritualistic fire dance every bit as impressive and intricate and culturally fraught as Salome's dance of the seven veils or the backup moves in Madonna's Truth or Dare.
Portland's oldest restaurant did not invent the Spanish coffee—in 1975, third-generation owner Jim Louie stole it from the Fernwood Inn in Milwaukie, who stole it from a bar in Mexico. But Louie invented the spectacle, and thus a Portland tradition so ingrained people think the flaming cocktail began here. At Huber's, you pay $11 for a storied drink that comes with a show—the same price you'd pay for exotic liquors and housemade shrubs elsewhere.
As blue flames swirl in the bottom of each glass, rising to lick its lip, the vested bartender rotates the glasses around each other with a sort of belly dancer's shimmy. It's impossible to look away from the flame—pepped up by nutmeg and unaffected by the Kahlua and coffee poured from great heights. The coffee snakes its way into the glass from as high as three feet above its rim—never spilling even a drop, and never dousing the eternal flame—while the bartender turns, sways and swirls.
By the time the fresh-whipped cream finally blankets the fire, you already feel a little drunk. And that's before tasting the smoothest, most satisfying Spanish coffee in town.
Huber's, 411 SW 3rd Ave., 503-228-5686, hubers.com. 11:30 am-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11:30 am–1 am Friday, 11 am–1 am Saturday, 4-10 pm Sunday.