Want to keep raging after a day of sampling local craft beers and chasing food trucks? Heed the advice of local bartender Adam Robinson.
In Portland, creative chefs graduate from street cart pods to brick-and-mortar prix fixe destinations, and trend-setting bartenders make drinks with spirits produced just across the neighborhood. It’s a great city to spend a few days filling your belly and challenging your liver. But in addition to all the new hot spots, it’s worth trying to catch a glimpse of where the locals hang out.
Our guide is Adam Robinson, who Bombay Sapphire recently crowned the Most Imaginative Bartender in the Pacific Northwest. Robinson has shaken cocktails around the world—including long stints in the Caribbean and Taipei—but he always returns to PDX, where he has worked at some of the city’s best cocktail bars. I like to visit him at Expatriate, a charming cocktail lounge where the music’s always good and the drinking snacks come from Beast’s Naomi Pomeroy. But to taste Robinson’s own cocktail creations, your best move is a Monday night at Deadshot, a once-weekly cocktail bar popup he runs in collaboration with the team at Holdfast.
After all those fancy drinks are stirred and strained, Robinson seeks out a low-key postwork hang; the kind of place where neighbors gather and chat with whoever happens to be on the next barstool. “I just want to go somewhere with a chill vibe, good food, and bartenders who are happy to see you, which isn’t always the case when you walk in at one in the morning,” he says. Here are his favorites.
Holman’s Bar and Grill
It’s hard not to love this place, which has been around in one form or another for more than 80 years. Holman’s serves bar food and diner-style breakfasts from 8 A.M. until 2:30 A.M., with a chance to win a free meal by spinning a wheel on the wall. While Robinson has never won, he knows enough people who have to keep trying. Alongside a Tecate and a pour of whiskey, he usually orders a big plate of clam strips, a childhood favorite. “The ones at Holman’s are delicious,” he says, and in general, he loves the casual atmosphere of the place: “It’s just a solid neighborhood bar with friendly bartenders and a huge outdoor patio.”
“Stammtisch gets the best selection of German beers in Portland—often brands and styles that I have not ever seen on tap in the United States,” says Robinson. Along with a beer or three, Robinson recommends snacking on the housemade sausages and stellar pretzel bread, served with schmaltz, mustard, and obatzda, a Camembert cheese spread laced with paprika.
Brooklyn Park Pub
The reason to visit this dive bar: “So much whiskey, and at very good prices.” If you’re going to be in town for awhile, Robinson recommends becoming a member of the whiskey club—once you’ve sipped your way through 30 different brands, you get access to rarities that aren’t offered to everyone. “The owner is a collector,” Robinson explains, “so you never know what random hard-to-find bottles might pop up.”
Robinson believes that the horseshoe-shaped bar in this cozy spot (open till 2 a.m.) encourages conversation between guests, “something that doesn’t happen as much these days as it used to.” While it’s a serious cocktail bar, it’s not a snobby one: “You’ll feel comfortable whether you’re ordering a cheap beer, a dealer’s choice Daiquiri, or having a expensive flight of old and hard-to-find rums.” He became such a frequent regular shortly after the bar’s opening that he figured he might as well just work there—which he did for the next four years. His late-night eating advice: Don’t skip the kimchi dumplings or the “midnight sandwich” stuffed with ham, swiss, and pickles.
“If you can’t find something you’d like to drink at Bithouse Saloon,” says Robinson, “then you shouldn’t be drinking.” With a vast selection of cocktails (including spiked slushies), plus boilermakers, unusual sherries, and single-barrel spirit selections, as well as beer on tap, you’re not likely to go thirsty. Or hungry, either: Chef Ricky Bella offers killer house-made barbecue potato chips, smoked chicken wings, and fried bologna sandwiches (with many dishes available in two sizes, in case you don’t really need a whole order of fried chicken when the clock strikes midnight). “Plus,” notes Robinson, “the place is huge, so you can always find somewhere to sit, whether it’s in a cozy booth where you can hide and not be bothered, or back on the huge back patio near the fire pit.”
Reel M Inn
This busy Portland institution is always full of an assortment of hipsters and neighborhood regulars (plus an out-of-towner or two), but Robinson swears the fried chicken is worth the wait. It’s a beer-and-a-shot kind of place, but since Portland is a sort of Beer-vana, the pints are likely to be better than average. The chicken comes with the local potato specialty: massive jo-jos, which are seasoned and fried in the same oil as the bird.
LucLac Vietnamese Kitchen
While Robinson’s favorite pho in town is at Pho Oregon across the river, it’s LucLac that stays open till 4 A.M. on weekends, so Robinson often finds himself here after work. “After a long shift, there is nothing better than a large bowl of noodles with that restorative broth,” he says. “There are very few places in Portland, if any, where you can get a better meal at three in the morning.”
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