The Pacific Northwest is a unique environment in about every way, a fact it turns out holds true for dive bars as well, Portland’s unique characteristics infused into the dive bar selections throughout the city. Of course the city’s appreciation for all things a bit strange helps, creating the kind of patronage needed to keep Portland’s dive bar institutions afloat.
Downtown feels like a good place to start a dive bar tour of the city, Yamhill Pub
one of the holdouts in a part of town that has seen huge redevelopment. Opened in 1939, the visual appeal of the dive bar consists of a green awning on an otherwise nondescript street and not much else. Inside, a flurry of graffiti, stickers and PBR tributes cements the bar’s divey status.
Southeast of downtown, Gil’s Speakeasy Tavern
similarly opened in 1939, sharing a sensibility with Yamhill Pub in avoiding drawing too much attention to a business that in this case is painted to fit seamlessly into the building that houses the bar. The dive bar’s slogan doesn’t hurt, of course, “Nicest Assholes in Town.”
And then there’s Reel M Inn
, a dive bar with a broasted chicken reputation that may just exceed the bar’s divey appeal. Not content to fade into a city street corner, Reel M Inn is bright red, standing out under a sign that publicizes the bar’s chicken and “jo jo’s” specialty (a special kind of fried potato wedge). Be warned, the chicken wait can sometimes be considerable given the small batch nature of their preparation.
Hidden gems exist throughout Portland, each blending into a unique neighborhood in a city filled with wholly unique neighborhoods. A distinct city in this case means distinct Portland dive bars worth the hunt.