PDX downtown happy hour guide

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Illustration by Shannon Kidd

I hate Portland. Finding a decent brunch spot is nearly impossible, you can’t walk anywhere, and there’s just not enough coffee in this town of stumps. On top of that, being able to drive to the coast or Mt. Hood in a little over an hour—talk about lame. Anyways, I hate hating things (not sure if you got that from the above dialogue), so naturally, I turned to Google for help. When I keyed in my search “Portland happy…”, four of the five top suggestions involved happy hour. (The fifth suggestion had something to do with “happy endings.” I chose to avoid that route for the time being—save it for another Vanguard travel guide, I thought.)

As chance would have it, spring break was just around the corner—aka a solid ten days of happy hour debauchery scientific research. What follows are the restaurants/bars I managed to explore over the spring break timespan.

Disclaimer: Obviously you need to be 21+ to enjoy the happy hour drinking scene, but even if you’re not 21, you can still partake of the delicious happy hour food deals. (At least I think you can. To be safe, I’d recommend calling ahead.) There are hundreds of happy hour spots in Portland, and these are the few I had the opportunity to explore. Most of these are in the downtown area due to the fact that I live downtown, near Portland State (so please do not lament the exclusion of your favorite happy hour spot—that’s what comments are for). With that said, I hope you enjoy and, above all, please drink responsibly!  

Hours listed are for location’s happy hour menu. Graded on an A–F scale based on atmosphere/deals/overall experience.

Little Bird Bistro (A+): 215 SW 6th Ave. Mon–Fri 2:30–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–Midnight.

Cocktails were expensive but some of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of imbibing. With $3 off said cocktails during happy hour, they’re well worth the splurge. Double brie burger for $7 was out of this world. Cozy atmosphere, friendly staff, great food: highly recommended.

Imperial (A+): 410 SW Broadway. Mon–Fri 2–6 p.m., weekends 3–6 p.m., Sun–Thur 10–11 p.m., Fri & Sat 11 p.m.–Midnight.

Great atmosphere—make sure to walk through the hotel lobby on your way to the restroom. Imperial’s select $5 house cocktails are an amazing deal. Food was great, but portions were on the small side.

Phat Cart (A+): 420 SW College St. Mon–Fri 4:20–7 p.m. and all day Sat & Sun.

Another great spot near campus. Cozy location, and the food is phenomenal. I believe there’s a $2 drink minimum to take advantage of the happy hour menu, but is that really a concern? Teriyaki glazed chicken dumplings and the larb poke tuna bento are Where It’s At.

Nel Centro (A+): 1408 SW 6th. All week 4–6 p.m.

Located a couple blocks away from campus, this is a spot you should immediately take advantage of. Solid happy hour prices and portions, and they have an outdoor lounge area.

The Big Legrowlski (A+): 812 NW Couch St. Mon–Thur noon–5 p.m.

One of my favorite places to grab a beer in the downtown area! What’s that? You think beer is disgusting? Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. The place is decked out in Lebowski nostalgia, and they serve White Russians and finger foods. Also, if you haven’t watched The Big Lebowski, re-evaluate your life.

Clyde Common (A-): 1014 SW Stark St. All week 3–6 p.m.

I’m not sure why this place has 3/5 stars on Yelp. Food and drinks were great, and prices were what you’d expect for happy hour. Staff was friendly and the location had a minimalist design that seemed to work. Located across from the Living Room Theaters (which by the way has a great Mon/Tues $5 movie special and free live music on Fridays and Saturdays).

Lechon (B+): 113 SW Naito Pkwy. All week 4–6 p.m.

Jellyfish tank! Yep, a tapas restaurant with a jellyfish tank behind the bar—enough said. Braised brisket empanadas are a must.

Portland City Grill (B+): 111 SW 5th Ave. Mon–Sat 4–7 p.m. and 9–closing, Sun noon–closing.

Located on the 30th floor of some hip office building, this place has fantastic views of the city. Unfortunately the place was absolutely swamped when my friend and I walked in, so we took off for more friendly climes. Recommended for a late night date spot.

RingSide Fish House (B): 838 SW Park Ave. Mon–Sat 3–6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close, all day Sun. Dollar Oyster Day Mon 3 p.m.–close.

Located right next to the Regal Cinema Fox Tower, RingSide is definitely an upscale seafood restaurant. Solid happy hour/oyster special, but if you find yourself there outside of those hours prepare yourself for a rather expensive affair.

Hubers Cafe (B): 411 SW 3rd Ave. All week 4–6:30 p.m. and 9:30–close.

“Established in 1879, Huber’s is Portland’s oldest restaurant.” That should be reason enough for you to pop in for their famous Spanish Coffee. Make sure to walk to the bar in the back and not fall into the trap of sitting down as soon as you walk in. Be safe though, that Spanish Coffee is made with 151; in fact you should probably split this thing with a friend.

McMenamins Ringlers Annex (B): 303 SW 12th.

Known more commonly as Al’s Den, the downstairs sub-basement at McMenamins Annex is definitely worth exploring. I missed happy hour, unfortunately, but stuck around for the live music, which typically takes place earlier in the evening due to the fact that there are guests staying in the McMenamins hotel upstairs. Great spot for catching some early music.

Southpark Seafood (B-): 901 SW Salmon St. All week 3–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–midnight.

Atmosphere felt a bit expansive and not as cozy as a few of the other locations, but overall a solid happy hour. Pizza was blah, but I’ve heard good things about the grits and clam chowder—will earmark for future review.

Barlow (C+): 737 SW Salmon St. Mon–Sat 3–6 p.m.

Very hipsteresque type of feel. Artisanal grilled cheese was fantastic, but the portion was also fantastically tiny. Decent drink prices. Worth checking out, although not my favorite downtown location for happy hour.

Henry’s 12th Street Tavern (C-): 10 NW 12th Ave. Mon–Sat. 3–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–close, all day Sun.

I may have built this place up too much before my visit. I was told they have an “ice bar,” which ended up being more of an ice strip. Also, most of the 100+ taps which Henry’s touts are beers I’d expect to find at Buffalo Wild Wings. Pool tables are in poor repair, or at least the sticks are. Tons of TVs though, if that’s something you appreciate.

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