There is no shortage of dimly illuminated dive bars for those who like something a little less polished. It could be said that many a US city is built on the shoulders of their beloved neighborhood dive bars—the ones where the floors are stained, and the windows are covered with blacked-out graffiti.
Many modern cocktail bars pay homage to the old-school dive, but this post focuses on those establishments that are truly and authentically dive-y, here are the best dive bars in Portland, Oregon (in no particular order)...
1. Perch Bar & Grill – for great drinks, food and a friendly atmosphere
Many of St. Johns’ dive bars appear to be bucking the trend of “hipsterfication,” widely reported. Take, for example, the Perch Bar and Grill on Lombard (also known as Perch Tavern), a hip hangout that’s been serving the community for at least 40 years, providing affordable drinks, showing Blazers games on small screens, and even having a beautiful terrace with a roof.
As far as the cuisine is concerned, you can expect to find things like chicken wings and burgers on the menu. But the Perch has a passionate and loyal customer base that has been coming there for years and years.
Address: 7505 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97203
2. Reel M Inn – a small, fishing-themed joint known for its food in a wood-paneled space
Even without its trademark fried chicken, Reel M Inn is one of Portland’s most cherished drinking establishments. Old notes, wood paneling, an inch of dust caked on permanently over layers of frying grease, a pool table, and many local flavors are all found in this dive bar’s interior.
However, Reel M Inn, a well-known Portland establishment, attracts a wide range of customers from all walks of life, even those who aren’t looking for a greasy watering hole. On the surface, it appears to be a full-fledged dive. While this may be the case, it’s hardly what you’d anticipate from an establishment with a name like “Reel M Inn” (or at least be nautical-themed).
Address: 2430 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
3. Kelly’s Olympian – one of the oldest and most famous dive bars in Portland
One of the most famous and oldest dive bars and performance venue is the awesome Kelly’s Olympian. Originally established back in 1902, this place is seriously cool with an intimate and funky atmosphere. The decor is a bit like an old but very cool mechanics shop filled with awesome automobile memorabilia.
They offer beer deals in a happy hour, friendly servers, bar food including burgers and late closing.
- Address: 426 SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97204, United States
4. Yamhill Pub – an unpretentious bar with graffitied walls has a punk rock vibe and a jukebox
The Yamhill Pub is an old-fashioned watering hole hidden downtown between the train tracks and close to the shore, as any true dive should be.
An inexperienced person may find the bar frightening, but those who have been there before will find it charming and appealing. Fortunately, the bartenders are kind and efficient, and the digital jukebox accepts credit cards. In addition, there is a new COVID-era patio for those who don’t like the retro New York subway interior of the 1970s.
Address: 223 SW Yamhill St, Portland, OR 97204
5. Bar of the Gods – a lively bar with a Greek temple theme, several pinball machines and pool tables
Bar of the Gods lies within the Hawthorne neighborhood. You may find restaurants and bars in plenty in this region of Hawthorne compared to other neighborhood parts.
Of course, every pub has its share of dim lighting but a functional AC when the temperatures are above average, and you live in a community where deodorant isn’t a big deal is the tiebreaker. There’s also a pinball machine, a few scratch cards, and a pool table.
Bartenders at this bar have all it takes to deserve a 5-star rating. They know their stuff about drinks, keep the place spotlessly clean, provide outstanding service, have exceptional time management and recall skills, and have a keen sense of the surroundings.
Address: 4801 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97215
6. Yur’s Bar & Grill – a local neighborhood dive bar in the heart of Northwest Portland
Few things are more typical of a local dive than cheap beer and a semi-dingy establishment. However, due to its owner, a former Washington Redskins player, the bar has become a local hangout on game days. The jukebox and pool tables are the main attractions on other nights of the week.
Its style includes; half-circle booths that comfortably accommodate eight people, a pool table, and complimentary popcorn. It’s easy on the wallet, and the food, which includes cheesesteaks, tatties, wings, and tots, is rather good, as is the drink selection. In addition, it offers daily dinner specials, such as Taco Tuesdays and Prime Rib Thursday. Those who don’t feel at ease drinking in the bar can use the temporary outdoor seating area instead.
Address: 717 NW 16th Ave, Portland, OR 97209
7. The Slammer Tavern – a straightforward local dive bar serving beer and cocktails
As a result of too many Big Buck Hunter games, many nights end in the Slammer. For those who live in Southeast Portland, it is a haven because of its proximity to the Rum Club cocktail club, which serves up some of the best cocktails in the city. It’s hard to miss the dive’s charm despite the bar’s odd lighting and televisions lining the walls. Even during the winter months (and probably even into spring if no one has taken the effort to remove the decorations), its light display is unparalleled.
A frequent inquiry at The Slammer is whether the lights will ever go off. In addition to arcade games and low ceilings, there is a skee-ball console and a jukebox (occasionally busted). It’s possible to enjoy the sunset over the west hills while sitting at one of the outside tables, which have been enclosed to keep you safe from the winter weather.
Address: 500 SE 8th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
8. Ship Ahoy Tavern – a classic bar with friendly staff and a pool table
In addition to the oddly uneven floor and alcove rooms, Ship Ahoy’s drink specials and hot food menu are only there to comply with legal requirements. But, to be honest, it’s not bad for a beef hot dog and some fruit sweets from the vending machines for $1.
In addition, there are a few televisions, a single pool table, and a few pinball machines sprinkled throughout the premises for amusement.
Address: 2889 SE Gladstone St, Portland, OR 97202
9. Low Brow Lounge – a late-night dive bar with dark UV lighting and saloon-style decor
According to the Low Brow Lounge’s website, it’s one of the few dive bars remaining in the Pearl. Aside from the yoga studios and boutique shops, this dive has been transformed from its prior nefarious origins into something quite special. As hilarious as the Pearl has long been bougie in name, the Lowbrow uses the tagline, “It’s not for everyone.”
Low Brow Lounge is a sanctuary for low-brow dining in the generally upmarket Pearl District, serving the cheapest drinks and the most fried food in the area. Regulars and employees alike flock to the multi-chambered cafe and saloon for a night out from the Pearl. However, if you’d want to sit indoors or out, the establishment is open until 2 a.m.
Address: 1036 NW Hoyt St, Portland, OR 97209
10. My Father’s Place – an old-school spot with booth seating and brick walls
To describe My Father’s Place is to say that it’s an old pub and restaurant that’s been there for more than 35 years, covered in oil and grizzly residue.
There’s a bar behind the restaurant counter, where patrons can pass the time by scratching lottery tickets, playing Scrabble, or staring at the television. Then, with their cheap drinks and unaffected attitudes in tow, the hipsters and rockers cluster into the brown, cracked booths and behind the Buck Hunter screens during the nighttime hours while the children are escorted out.
My Father’s Place, a restaurant and a dive bar, has become an institution in the Southeast. Even though the hours are ridiculous, the establishment is great for those who want to extend their buzz or recuperate following a night of drinking. That’s something everyone can appreciate, right? Also included are pinball, video lottery, and pool tables – all of which are essential to a dive bar’s interior design and operation.
Address: 523 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214
11. Billy Rays Dive – a dimly lit, cash-only bar with local artwork, draft beers and pinball
Driving along MLK, you may think that Billy Ray’s crimson building is just another suburban house in the middle of nowhere. Despite this, the interior boasts a two-story barn for all barflies.
Hungry Man meals are microwaved to order when it comes to bar cuisine, and the patio provides the perfect spot for people-watching and smoking.
Address: 2216 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212
12. Standard Tavern – one of Portland’s last true neighborhood bars
As always, Standard does an outstanding job of implementing covid regulations. For example, when you sit down at a table, visible signs indicate whether the table is dirty or clean on the other.
The bartenders are excellent; even though they have decided to operate inside, they are particularly cautious about stepping over and advising people that they cannot be table-hopping or conversing while standing up.
As one of Portland’s last real neighborhood dive bars, The Standard is decorated with CD shards and corrugated metal. While a regular who forgot her card may be able to run a tab and the diners three seats down, a drunk with a bad mouth is out on his trail. As far as we know, this is the most idealistic depiction of a society that I’ve ever seen in Portland.
Address: 14 NE 22nd Ave, Portland, OR 97232
13. Joe’s Cellar – a family-style restaurant with a separate bar, offering comfort food and pool tables
Joe’s Cellar serves as an oasis from the congested “Trendy Third” neighborhood. Carpeted floors, oak paneling, and a pool are just some of the perks of this dive club’s amenities.
You can still stop for a hard drink till midnight even though it closes a little earlier these days, like many others.
Address: 1332 NW 21st Ave, Portland, OR 97209
14. George’s Corner – a sports dive bar known for its food, video poker and a no-cussing policy
After a fruitful search, you’ll discover a tavern on the corner. Check-in, then order a blue bacon hamburger or a bacon cheeseburger. There are some incredibly cheap drinks available too. You’ll be quite pleased with the cuisine and the service you will receive.
It’s an excellent institution with a large number of screens, several video games, and a beautiful back patio. Return when it’s not packed to eat the best-fried chicken in town. You can find the best hamburgers in town at Georges, a cozy dive bar in the heart of downtown.
Address: 5501 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97217
15. Mousetrap Tavern – a dive bar hidden gem
It’s hard to tell from the exterior, but this hidden gem off Lombard has a pool table and a restaurant dishing up “WT charcuterie platters,” including mozzarella sticks, fries, and mini corn dogs.
Drinks are fairly priced, and there are Hungry Man TV dinners in the freezer for $3.50 during weekend brunch. You can do dining and drinking indoors and outside on the patio.
Address: 2305 N Lombard St, Portland, OR 97217
All photos are owned by the bars.
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My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my rescued Greek street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Laos, California and the surreally beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.