Never mind just finding the ten best dive bars in Portland, Oregon: this thriving west-coast town may be the best place to find dive bars in America. Here more than anywhere, the self-consciously seedy has become a fine art.
- The Sandy Hut For a classic dive bar head to the Sandy Hut (affectionately known as The Handy Slut by in-the-know patrons and/or detractors). Unfortunately, the bartender will 86 your friend if she happens to smash a glass ashtray on the table after becoming frustrated from multiple attempts to illustrate a masterpiece on a soggy napkin. The Sandy Hut: 1430 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR 97232.
- Mary’s Club Check out the oldest and most committed dive bar strip club in Portland. If the club looks too seedy from the outside, the taqueria around the corner shares a bathroom with Mary’s where hesitant patrons can catch a glance of the stage when heading to the john. As for the panhandlers outside, donate a buck for keeping their clothes on. Mary's Club: 129 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon, 97205.
- The Realto This pool hall and bar was rebuilt in 2005 and has given up some of its dive bar street cred in the process, but Portland residents still refer to The Realto as one of their favorite dive bars in town. The two dive-esque components that remain are the pool tables themselves and the off-track betting. With the art deco redesign of The Realto it feels like Marilyn Monroe is about to run across the foyer with gangsters at her heels. The Realto: 529 S.W. 4th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97204.
- The Matador As dive bars go, the matador maintains high standards and stays true to its storied history. The bar is home to the Portland’s hair band finest, but The Matador is more than Billy Idol’s prayer for the future; the bar draws an eclectic group, including blue-collar workers, college students, and longtime residents around Northwest 23rd in Portland. The Matador: 1967 W. Burnside St., Portland, OR 97209.
- The Low Brow Lounge Situated in the heart of the Pearl District, the Low Brow lives in the midst of the high brow. With a bit of a working class chip on its shoulder, the bar tends to draw negative reviews, but its street cred as one of the best dive bars in Portland is maintained. Nouveau riche owners of half-million dollar condos, be ware. The Low Brow Lounge: 1036 NW Hoyt St., Portland, OR 97209.
- Nest Lounge Not to let the Alberta district be ignored with its low key and very individualistic “Last Thursday” art exhibitions and dive bars to match, the Nest Lounge fills the bill. Walk up Alberta Street around 6 pm on the last Thursday of the month and the galleries will be impossible to miss. Afterward, stop at Nest Lounge to experience one of North East Portland’s best dive bars. Nest Lounge: 1801 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211.
- Life of Riley For a truly bi-polar experience, try the decidedly-not dive bar upstairs and the decidedly dive bar downstairs at Portland Pearl District’s Life of Riley. Nice booths, live musicians (often jazz), soft lighting and a long wooden bar upstairs give way to a cement box with pool tables downstairs. Try the fried calamari along with both sides. Life of Riley: 300 NW 10th Ave., Portland, OR 97209.
- The Alibi The Alibi is no-one’s excuse, but it is another chance for a great night out. Beware the Tiki Kitsch, which is what makes this club make the list. The Alibi: 4024 N. Interstate Ave., Portland, OR 97227.
- World Famous Kenton Club Just down the street from a giant Paul Bunyan sculpture in North Portland, the Kenton Club, featured in the Raquel Welch vehicle, “The Kansas City Bomber” continues to provide a hip, low-key dive bar experience. Look for food, bands, and drinks at the right price. World Famous Kenton Club: 2025 N. Kilpatrick St., Portland, OR 97217.
- The Triple Nickel The Triple Nickel is truly one of Portland’s best dive bars. The sign outside advertises air conditioning, which may or may not be necessary in rainy, temperate Portland. Hit the happy hour any time between 11 am and 6:30 pm, but watch out for the bouncer’s can of mace. The Triple Nickel: 3646 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97214.
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