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Posts tagged ‘Bar/Wine/Pub’

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Clinton Hill Times Three

Soco red velvet waffle and chickenSoCo I’ve been spending time in Clinton Hill recently, trying to assess the livability of the neighborhood (I would say the prognosis is good; we put an offer on a condo yesterday). I’m not a total stranger to the area since I did work at Pratt briefly in the late ’90s (my first-ever, full-time salaried job [$22,000] which I left to work at a food website–yes, they existed 13 years ago–for $3,000 more. Everyone got laid off six months later…) but Myrtle Avenue has ten million more bars and restaurants than in my day. SoCo was the craziest (well, the booming sit-down Chino-Latino place with the name I always forget technically was) in that there was a huge crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk. More club than restaurant. But the next afternoon, the post-brunch crowd seemed mellower so I joined in, lured by the promise of fried chicken and red velvet waffles on the window menu. It’s the most popular dish, too, I was told. I would estimate that at least half of the tables had at least one plate of red waffles on it. The mash-up was far less breakfast/dinner than dinner/dessert hybrid. The sweetness was there, and pumped up by the maple syrup, but the cocoa flavor almost grounded it. You really didn’t feel like you were eating chicken and cake, just a tasty new form of fat and carbs. Lovers of unnaturally colored food and nonsensical flavor combinations will be pleased.

Speedy romeo dick dale pizza-001Speedy Romeo I love processed cheese, not just Velveeta and Cheez Whiz, but thickly sliced deli cheese, too, all extra creamy and salty. I also love Hawaiian pizza, so it’s almost as if Speedy Romeo’s Dick Dale was custom made for me. Using popular-in-St. Louis Provel cheese (a melty, processed cheese that combines cheddar, swiss and provolone) plus pineapple and smoky speck ham on a wood-fired pizza is pure genius. Adding a spoonful of pickled chiles, the restaurant’s condiment of record, provides a sharp contrast against the smoother, sweet flavors, and makes this pizza one of my all-time favorites. That is not say, all will love it, especially considering ham and pineapple is a scourge to purists, never mind the utterly un-artisanal cheese. Oh, Slice covered this very pizza this week with a nice slide show and everything–I had no idea it contained béchamel.

Putnam’s Pub It’s a gastropub, nothing out of the ordinary, but good to know about if a late night roasted bone marrow or devils on horseback (not bacon-wrapped dates here, which is the usual interpretation, but fried oyster topped deviled eggs) craving strikes.

Sunset park diner & donuts grilled cheese sandwichSunset Park Diner & Donuts I never ate here once when I lived down the street, though that’s not really a judgment of the restaurant but more about my rarely eating at diners. It’s slim pickings for post-2am dining in the area, and they do a grilled cheese with bacon deluxe, i.e. with fries, as good as anyone. The restaurant is even on Seamless, which is surprising. It almost makes me wish I still lived over there just so I could have french toast and jalapeño poppers delivered to my door at 3am.

Junior’s Supperclub

Junior's whiskey sour

I thought Spain was the last hold-out and even that nicotine-riddled dream was quashed on my visit around this time last year. Holy moly, smoking is alive and well in bars (well, some–I don't fully understand the rules) in Oklahoma. As a member of that wretched class, the social smoker, I very much enjoy the rare moments in life when I can indulge (I hate words like sinful and indulgent in relation to food, but it truly feels that way with cigarettes) in a indoor cigarette with an alcoholic beverage.

Junior's in the oil center

And if you're going to do it anywhere in Oklahoma, it should be at Junior's Supperclub, a dark, smoky subterranean lounge that goes one step further by being in such a wackadoo location. It is in the basement of a towering office complex called the Oil Center, along the expressway that also housed our hotel, with a Hooters and Sonic providing the padding in-between.

Door to junior's

Would you guess there was a piano bar and restaurant behind this door?

Junior's bar

We secured the last two plush chairs (it's not a standing type of venue and a hostess will seat you) at the far end of bar, just out of sight of the live performance (Michael Jackson covers sung by a woman wearing and playing a washboard bathed in the blue and pink lights, out of camera-shot) and abutting a large multi-generation party of the type I'm not familiar with personally but I imagine are  fixtures in lesser, maybe more southern cities around the country: very white yet tan, seemingly wealthy, preppier than the setting calls for, and used to being accommodated.

Two young men spilling over from their tables into my comfort zone shouted, "barkeep!"  and while I snickered at the antiquated term (and mentally shot daggers to keep their chairs from wheeling into mine) it got immediate service and cigars from the bar top humidor. Then again, no hipsters. One must pick their battles.

I only regret not having sufficient time to return.  They don't make them like this in NYC, and it makes me sadder for the demise of Bill's Gay Nineties, the closest facsmilie, which wasn't really that close at all the more I think about it.

Junior's Supperclub * 2601 NW Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK

Eaten, Barely Blogged: How Do You Like Them Apples (and Andouille)?

Donovan's duo

Donovan’s Woodside on St. Patrick’s Day is like marching into the belly of the beast, though far more family than the fratty scene I envision at the Irish pubs of Manhattan. We waited an hour at Donovan’s for a table where we were serenaded loudly by drums and bagpipes (that’s me pretending not to notice the ruckus) as one does. Corned beef, cabbage, and a single boiled potato should’ve been on my plate (I do love that meal and am surprised so many dislike it) but you know, Donovan’s is famous for its burger and I wasn’t changing my usual order just because it was a holiday.

Sripraphai quad

Sripraphai All the usual suspects: crispy pork with chile and basil, duck curry with eggplant, crispy watercress salad (which I love so much that I recreated it at home the following weekend but forgot to photograph because I was in a hurry to get it made before The Walking Dead season finale aired) plus a rarely ordered larb and never-before Thai mojito. Remind me again, to never go to Sripraphai on a Saturday night (and kick me for pretending to be Thai-knowledgeable with never having tried Centerpoint on the next block). Beyond the insane crowds and weirdo orderers who eat dishes like individual, non-sharable entrees, the spice just isn’t there. Thai-wise, I’m looking forward to the new Chao Thai branch, and I suppose Pok Pok, as well, but as a Portland transplant I have weird feelings about fellow Portland transplants.

Toby's pizzaToby’s Public House “Weird but good” was my honest response to “How was the special? The cook wants to know.” Both pizzas we picked were oddly sweet. I happen to be a freak for sweet-savory mash-ups so that’s not a knock. The special in question paired andouille with green apples, a not-unpleasant though untraditional combo. The surprise was more from the asparagus pizza that was nearly candied sweet from caramelized onions, and I don’t know, there had to be something else at work. I want to say that the stubs of asparagus were cooked in balsamic vinegar? If it were up to me, I might combine the apples with the onions, add a little bacon, and pretend the pizza was a tarte flambee. I’d also sprinkle some blue cheese, thought that would dilute the Alsatian theme.  At that rate, there was no way I was going to opt for the much-lauded nutella-ricotta calzone.  Who needed dessert?

Blue Ribbon In my 20s, I never understood it when friends a decade older would say “I can’t drink like I used to” or genuinely old folks might have to forgo spicy or rich food, i.e. “I like butter, but butter doesn’t like me.” What? Shut up. As I approach middle age, though, I’m afraid some of this is becoming a reality. Thankfully, painfully hot food is not a problem…yet. The night after a night of over-imbibing I was still feeling too rough to handle the roasted bone marrow at Blue Ribbon. The pure fat coupled with a rich oxtail marmalade was wreaking havoc. Weird as it may have been, I just had it wrapped up and ate it the next day no problem. Why  not eat bone marrow on toast for breakfast? As the regular Blue Ribbon and the sushi version next door morph into one, they’ve begun offering raw fish preparations at the original. The small plate of sashimi was a welcome relief from the intended appetizer (which would’ve been better for sharing, except that Lent is still a thing) though I still think everything at Blue Ribbon is overpriced and yes, the crowd leans heavily Bay Ridge/Staten Island even if that characterization (not by me) offended a Chowhound four years after the fact.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cuttlefish, Tripe & Chinese Crawfish

Celestino quad

Celestino. It's that time of year again when I play along with the boyfriend's Lent thing even though I don't get why it's a big deal to not eat meat one day a week (pizza’s not punishment, right?). You're not even restricted to vegetables. Sea creatures are totally fair game. So, Celestino, where the only meat is in the meatballs on the kids' selection of two items, was fitting. Super cute, whitewashed and hiply nautical (I still need to see Littleneck for comparison) with very good prices, it's the kind of restaurant that would be packed in Carroll Gardens, but was only a quarter full on a Friday night. A juice glass of a tart Italian white wine that wasn’t the Chardonnay or the Pinot Grigio was only $5 and bracing with oysters from Massachusetts and a kale salad, crunchy and oil-slicked with anchovies draped on top of the pile of greens. I wasn't expecting something so dense and stewy from the grilled cuttlefish with peas and polenta description–the peas played more of a prominent role than anticipated–though the damp, drizzly evening called for something savory and rib-sticking.

Rocky Sullivan's. After being traumatized by the sheer volume of under-26s at both places–Fulton Grand and Hot Bird–where we attempted to have a drink after Celestino (Hot Bird is a large space, and you literally couldn't get one foot in the door it was so packed) I sought solace in a no nonsense bar bar the next evening (this is not me being a grandma–in my 20s I didn't enjoy claustrophobic situations with 20-minute-waits for drinks either) and a Sixpoint Brownstone Ale and jalapeno poppers did the trick.

El bohemio duo

El Bohemio Jarocho. I have all but given up on house-hunting. After seeing a nicely designed, overpriced co op in Clinton Hill next to the projects that already had four all-cash bids (seriously who the fuck are all these Brooklynites will millions to spare? The crank in me says all of the 20-somethings now filling the neighborhood bars in ten more years) then a so-so whole house in Sunset Park, in hopes of less-trodden neighborhoods being less competitive, I just needed a taco…or two. I’ve never head a peep about El Bohemio Jarocho, but it happened to be on the block we parked on and had more customers than the empty alternative across the street. Sometimes you need some crispy tripe and pineapple-sweetened al pastor with Monkey Trouble playing on two TVs and no English interactions. The steak el huevo advertised on the chalkboard turned out to be a massive plate of everything (maybe a Mexican garbage plate?): steak and eggs, obviously, but also a slab of white cheese, grilled bulbous green onion, nopales, jalapeño, avocados, tomatoes, refried beans, chips, rice, and potatoes. Phew.

New world food court

New World Mall. This is the fanciest of the subterranean Flushing food courts. I didn’t encounter crawfish in New Orleans (we were about a month pre-season) but they were selling the ma la-style for $9.99 at Sliced Noodles. I was tempted, but tried the beef soup with hand-pulled noodles since it was the original craving that drew me there (though I was thinking of Hong Kong-style, which this super-greens-filled Henanese version is not).

Duck and pork buns

The dollar peking duck buns from across the street are a bargain, but pale in comparison to the not-much-more-expensive gua bao ($4.95 for two) from the Taiwanese stall. My favorite item of the afternoon: big fat soy-braised slabs of pork belly placed on fluffy buns and garnished with a pile of cilantro and pickled mustard greens, and given a crushed peanut finish. I saved one for breakfast the next day and wish this part of my daily first meal regimen instead of almonds and clementines.


Drinking In Berlin

BierIn Berlin you can drink on the streets, subways, pretty much anywhere you please, day or night. The beer of choice (and it’s always beer—though I did spy a group of possible Brazilians [there aren’t a lot of black or Portuguese-speaking people in Berlin] sharing a bottle of Jack Daniel's on the subway platform) is Berliner Kindl, not this generic bier that I couldn’t resist buying for the label.

You can also drink that green beer, but I didn’t get the chance to. While killing 20 minutes before my 10pm reservation at an American-ish burger restaurant (it had to be done) I stopped into a nearby bar and ordered the first beer I saw on tap. Only after I settled in did I notice Berliner Weisse, rot oder grün scrawled at the very bottom of the chalkboard above the bar. I never encountered those sweet words again.


You can drink Glühwein spiked with rum (or kirsch) from a little ceramic boot at one of the gazillion Christmas markets. You could also drink schnapps from strangers, but they might dose you with liquid ecstasy. Maybe that’s your scene?


If not, you’d better stick to talking, animatronic moose.


At Christmas markets you can also drink hot caipirinhas. Santa and heated Brazilian cocktails make perfect sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if hot mojitos existed somewhere in Germany, as well. From what I gathered caipirinhas are having a moment in Berlin, and bottles of cachaça (Pitu brand) were behind most bars. Good for them. In Puerto Rico I kept getting served caipirinhas made with rum because no one stocked cachaça, so no one should assume that geographical proximity has anything to do with authenticity.

You can also drink at a houseboat-like structure jutting out over a river. You can also eat quesadillas there, now a global bar snack, with a blanket on your lap while smoking in the heat-lamped but still freezing back room that’s open-air in the warmer months. New Yorkers are way less resilient to rain and chill.

Ankerklause front

Ankerklause menu

WatermelonYou can drink something called a Watermelon Man, which as a melon-hater wound me up unnecessarily. I thought it was a fluke when I first noticed it on a menu at Ankerklause, then realized it clearly a standard when it also appeared at a chicer café and was mentioned in club reviews in around town guide in the hotel room. The vodka and watermelon liqueur cocktail seems to be a ‘90s holdover much like our dated cosmopolitan. Supposedly, Bar am Luetzowplatz invented this "classic."


You can also drink at a tiki bar where they only other patrons might be a couple drinking tea and a young man nursing a beer while reading at the bar and the music is off-decade big band and ragtime. You might also get booted out at an unreasonable 11:30pm and when you order an old fashioned it will arrive in a giant tumbler gussied-up like a tiki drink. Of course, Watermelon Man is also present.


You can drink champagne bearing the name of the department store you’re in, while eating oysters. Can you imagine Bloomingdale’s champagne or a raw bar upstairs?

Becketts kopf

You can ring a bell, luck out that there are two free stools because you didn't make reservations on a Saturday night, and drink serious cocktails described only in German even though the names are all in English at a speakeasy with only a picture of Samuel Beckett as signage. You could try a classic Blood and Sand or a more unusual Scotch-based drink softened with cream, the Bonnie Prince Charles (which is nothing like the similarly named beverage at Mary Queen of Scots).  I had an apple-y Widow's Kiss.


You could drink at another serious, i.e. Watermelon Man-free, though less subdued bar, Reingold, right after eating at nearby restaurant named Reinstoff, and wonder how many Rein prefixed establishments might be in the area. I did not encounter anything particularly German about any cocktails I tried—most were very much in the American canon—so I was happy when German language covers of Ozzy and Santana came on while sipping my Martinez. Punks and their parents were welcome. And obviously, smoking was too–I just realized there's an ashtray in practically every photo here.

Cccp tadpoles

You can drink in a Soviet-themed bar next to tank most definitely not filled with fish. After a while the albino tadpole-like creature might grow on you.


And the paintings.


You can drink a Hamburg pilsner just because the label is cute. The sports bar where it was imbibed, a British chain, attached to a hostel, was less cute but maybe you acquiesced out of curiosity and to appease a boyfriend’s wish to see the Redskins game (the only American football game was Cincinnati). I bet they served a Watermelon Man. They definitely served Jager shots.

Planet Hollywood, Thinly Disguised

Libations101While I should be excited about Demi Monde, a real cocktail bar, opening kitty-corner from my office, my curiosity was also peaked by reports (ok, my boyfriend who also works in the neighborhood) of a new food court bar.

And indeed, Earl’s Court, home to a Billy’s Bakery, The Original SoupMan, and Earl of Sandwich, does have a lounge: Libations 101. Soothingly generic with  sparsely populated communal tables, mostly $7.50 drinks, and happy hour specials, it’s not any worse than the ubiquitous Irish pubs that make up the majority of nearby drinking options.

There was something distinctly chain-y, or possibly Asian mall and/or hotel-ish about the curtained-off room (the food court isn’t open for dinner) and I was proven semi-correct when the bill for my two blue cheese-stuffed-olive martinis was dropped off. Planet Hollywood!

I should’ve known. The Earl of the court and of the sandwich, happens to be restaurateur Robert Earl. Per last month’s press release: "As the public's taste in food court offerings evolves beyond burgers and reheated pizza we have created a modern alternative with a diverse array of progressive and innovative eateries.  There is no place I would rather debut our first Earl's Court than New York City."

Mostly I liked that despite the inoffensive electronic music lending the Asian mall/hotel vibe, that in the bathroom the Bosom Buddies theme song, a.k.a. Billy Joel's "My Life" was loudly playing.  Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone…

Taqueria Sinaloa & Flora

When I was in the Bay Area last September, I managed to squeeze in Laotian takeout in Oakland and that’s as much as I saw of Berkeley’s neighbor. This time, carless in San Francisco, I didn’t want to restrict myself to one land mass like  New York tourists who won’t branch out from Manhattan even if only for one meal (of course, they could also go to museums, shop or sit in parks, if they’d like). Luckily, my ‘90s teenage penpal Layla lives in Oakland and is now a grownup who was willing to pick James and I up at a BART station and squeeze in a bit of afternoon eating and drinking. (Also, her band The Wrong Words is playing in NYC this week—you should give them a listen.)

Oakland tacos

Taqueria Sinaloa was exactly the type of place I was looking for because it’s exactly the type of large-open-space, temperate-weather business—a whole corner with permanent outdoor seating for just two trucks?—you don’t see in NYC.

  Tacos sinaloa selection

I have been under the impression that tripa is tripe (that’s how it’s always translated here and stomach is definitely what I’ve been given) and that chinchulines are intestines (based only on meals eaten in Buenos Aires, which has nothing to do with Mexican food, granted) but at this truck, tripitas meant intestines. At $1.25, this specialty definitely had to be ordered, along with pastor and carnitas (so, I like pork).

The intestines turned out to be chopped into bits and were so tender and innocuous that you could serve a pile inside of tiny doubled-up corn tortillas to an organ meat hater and they could barely get mad at you. You would be hard pressed to pick out the tripitas from this foursome (it’s the lower left corner). I actually had been hoping for crispy-fried tubes like you see in Sichuan dishes. Which isn’t to say that these tacos were disappointing—they were very good.

Ceviche tostada

Ceviche can also be had atop a tostada.

San Francisco and environs has an abundance of tiki, old-school and revival. Unfortunately, tiki isn’t an afternoon affair and we had to get back to San Francisco before Forbidden Island’s 5pm opening time. I opted for the Tonga Room instead (photos without commentary—the experience just ended up being too weird and frustrating to go into, but involved 20+ black Muslims, a Costco cake and a slew of rambunctious children forcing us out of our quiet corner of the bar by essentially surrounding us and taking over our table—more a fault of the server who sat them, not the celebrants) so we had a drink and shared a dessert at Flora, a deco brasserie downtown.

Flora cocktails
A Bulldog Smash (Bulleit bourbon, peach, mint, lemon, curaçao) was the perfect sunny day drink, never mind that you can barely get away with bare legs during Bay Area summers (not a complaint—I just wasn’t used to not sweating). The Salt & Pepper (Miller’s gin, grapefruit, lemon, Angostura bitters) was also refreshing—no actual pepper, just black salt.

Flora salted caramel pudding

The whipped cream-topped caramel pudding with wonderful salt flakes nearly made up for not getting to Bi Rite for their salted caramel ice cream.

Taqueria Sinaloa * 2138 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Flora * 1900 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA

Cocktail Hour in Portland

There has never been a shortage of bars—or drinkers—in Portland, but I wonder if there are enough falernum and verjus lovers to sustain all the non-stop newcomers. The not-quite-week I was in town, more than a handful had either just opened or were about to. I did my best to survey the modern Portland drinking scene.

Nearly all of my ‘90s haunts: My Father’s Place, Holman’s, Space Room Lounge, Dot’s (r.i.p. original Hung Far Low) are still in operation; it’s not as if the new Portland has subsumed the old. But this was not a nostalgia mission. I’m doing my Gen X best to steer clear of that emotion.

Rum club decor

Rum Club is a newcomer from the Beaker and Flask (which was the new bar on my last visit in 2009) folks and based on the opening week menu, did not appear to focus exclusively on sugar cane spirits.

More delicately ‘50s than tiki, I loved the wood paneling, predominantly black, hummingbird patterned wallpaper and ornate vintage glasses. I also loved $8 price tag. There is something to be said for being able to buy two well crafted cocktails with only a $20 bill in your wallet. It makes the whole experience more pleasurable than precious. It’s also great for fancy drink drunks. It’s tough getting trashed on $13 Pimm’s cups.

Rum club cocktails2

The Quarterdeck Cocktail (Black Seal Rum, sweet sherry, blended scotch, orange bitters) and The Rum Club Daiquiri (Bacardi 8 Aged Rum, lime, sugar, Maraschino, Angostura bitters, absinthe). The SOSAP (tequila, grapefruit, Lime, Peychaud bitters, salted rim) was the prettiest pink thing I’ve ever sipped and more tart and bracing than a margarita.

Bent Brick is really more of a restaurant, but the bar has a good number of seats and there was plenty of space on the Tuesday evening I went. Beyond being affordable—cocktails were $8 here, too—non-crowding is another benefit of Portland. I’m not sure if I just picked off times and nights, but this was far preferable to a few night’s before in San Francisco where it could take 20 minutes to get a bartender’s attention at a popular place like Bar Agricole.

Bent brick cocktails

The Stranger (bourbon, sarsaparilla, verjus, angelica) was my favorite, like an herbal whisky sour. Rise to the Occasion (apple brandy, bourbon, vermouth, black tea, bitters) was a stiff little brown drink. Beginning of the End (rye, strawberry shrub, rainier cherry, pecan) sounded the tastiest and turned out to be the oddest. I’m not wild about the whole drinking vinegar thing (I did not go there at Pok Pok) so I’m wondering if it was the shrub that gave it a twist or if the pecans were doing something unusual. I kept getting a dirt/stale bread undercurrent. I’m not saying that was displeasing, necessarily.

Bent brick mussels

I was impressed by the $4 plate of mussels because this was the closest thing I’ve encountered to pintxos since San Sebastián. (Er, does that sound pretentious? I got called a snob the other night for saying that I don't like it when people pronounce tapas with a hard A, so can't tell any more. I still don't think being a grammar/pronunciation sticker makes one a snob.) Not only were they creatively plated and priced right for a snack, a lot of thought had gone into the preparation. Each mussel sat atop seemingly aerated smoked aioli made with the bivalves’ liquid and were garnished with Tabasco mignonette, creating a perfect bite.

Dig a pony quad

I can’t really say much about Dig a Pony because it was still two days from opening when I showed up to the meet a friend who had suggested it. We did get some whiskey shots and I got a few photos. I doubt it will be this empty again.

Instead, we moved onto Belmont Avenue and another new bar, Sweet Hereafter, an offshoot of Bye & Bye where I’ve never been so that didn’t mean anything to me. My Portland life generally centered around Southeast (though I also lived in NW and NE) and so too the people I know who still live there—I just can’t get into the whole Alberta, N. Mississippi thing (my excursion to Pine State Biscuits in that quadrant was cloyingly Carroll Gardens-esque). I took no photos because it seemed like a bar, bar, a vegan bar, apparently. They did have cocktails, with bitters, I’m sure, but I continued with bourbon on the rocks.

Driftwood Room. This naturally retro bar was probably the one part of the Mallory Hotel’s 2006 transformation into the Hotel deLuxe that needed the least overhauling. And at five-years-old it’s not new, but to me is. I was last there two visits ago in 2004 while my dad was in the hospital (he did not leave). My sister and I ended up drinking past the last light rail and couldn’t get back to my mom’s in Beaverton. We ended up on MLK thinking that Denny’s was still 24 hours (it’s not—where is Shari’s when you need it?) and ultimately had to flag down a cab. Portland is not friendly to last callers.

Driftwood room elizabeth taylor Since I was staying at Hotel deLuxe, I had to stop in for a happy hour drink. It was packed, very dim and was scented with truffle oil (truffle fries being a bar food standard now). I couldn’t even gauge how much revamping had transpired. Most importantly, many of their champagne drinks were only $6. The Elizabeth Taylor was the obvious choice; I will always take an opportunity gaze at a crème de violette cocktail. Too bad the mood lighting wasn’t so great for capturing the lavender bubbly.

And I just missed the opening of Portland’s Trader Vic’s and didn’t make it to Kask, Gruner’s next door offshoot, even though it was only a few blocks from the hotel. I always walked past before it was open. If I wait another two years (I suspect it will be longer—I can only take small doses over long periods of time) I will have completely lost track and be so elderly that I’ll give up and return to my decrepit old faves.

Rum Club * Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR

The Bent Brick * 1639 NW Marshall St., Portland, OR

Dig a Pony 736 SE Grand St., Portland, OR

Sweet Hereafter * 3326 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR

Driftwood Room * 729 SW 15th Ave., Portland, OR


Painkiller drinks

Painkiller on a normal weekend night is very different from the Christmas evening Saturday when my trio, the only patrons for a solid hour, equaled the number of staff. Now, they’ve revamped the menu, explicitly listing all the cocktail possibilities in a fun Chinese take-out motif. Even so, the ingredients aren’t listed. I just took a chance (I didn’t want to wait for our very nice and very busy waitress to ask the bar what this cocktail contained) on the SW8 a.k.a. Hell in the Pacific because the name was appropriately full of swagger. It appeared to be a strong rum-based drink, its force masked by the innocent  blush of grenadine. That’s an iteration of a Suffering Bastard in the stubbier tiki glass with a crafty palm tree garnish. It’s not easy capturing the cocktails’ colors in the back room with lights changing from blue to red periodically. I couldn’t decide, which unnatural hue I prefererd.

Painkiller * 49 Essex St., New York, NY

The Blues at B Flat

B flat cocktail I’m fairly certain that blue cocktails are gauche. (I know because I spent a few years in the ‘90s drinking MD 20/20 Hawaiian Blue by choice. The more coconut-flavored Windex-y malt liquor that washed through your system, the more you could envision yourself lazily swimming to the shoreline pictured on the bottle’s label. “I’m half-way there…yep, reaching the sand…Zzzz.”) Unrespectable or not, this pale lagoon of a drink that blends prosecco, yuzu juice and Calpico with a few dashes of blue curacao that looks like a secret elixir when stored in a small, transparent metal-spouted bottle, keeps it classy. The bartender at Japanese, jazzy B Flat was shaking up a number of these seemingly nameless cocktails, one for a beefy man in khakis. No one can resist the aqua liquid once they’ve laid eyes on it.

Late to the game, I was given a standard champagne flute. It looked more special when served in the taller, narrow, straight-walled glass that the earlier patrons received. The basement lounge is busy with good reason; happy hour, featuring $6 cocktails, two signatures per the standard spirits, lasts until 8pm.

I tried a Sazarac and a Manhattan, both whiskey choices (hey, I was celebrating some good fortune—I don’t know if I’ll be able to take 2011 if it all turns out as well as the first two weeks of January) and couldn’t resist also trying the baby blue drink before rushing off to Sushi Azabu–it was a Japanese subterranean kind of night. The cocktail tastes like fizzy, sweetened grapefruit juice—if asked to describe its color based on taste alone, I would say orange—and was a nice send off after the two prior stiff brown beverages.

B Flat * 277 Church St., New York, NY