Now that Fall is officially creeping it’s way into Winter, it’s ripe time we crawl back into those dark, familiar corners of our trusty ol’ favorite dive bars for some much needed liquid warmth.
The key necessities of a dive are simple: booze-on-a-budget, dim lighting (the fewer windows the better), tastefully tacky decor, and some form of cheap entertainment, be it arcade games, darts, pool, video poker, yard games, etc. Beyond those basic elements, each dive bar takes on its own personality. A strong drink and a pinball machine may go a long way, but in Portland, enough is never enough. Whether you’re looking for vegan dining, live underground music, or some wisdom from a bartender who’s seen it all, any of these Portland dive bars have got what you need and more.
Portland’s Best Dive Bars
4024 N. Interstate, 97227
Open Daily 11am – 2am
Start the night off not with a whimper, but a bang! The tiki decor outside is your aunt’s seashell collection on acid, and the inside doesn’t disappoint either. Grab a table near the karaoke stage, down a shot or two, and before you know it you’ll be ready to sing your rendition of “Copacabana” (based on real events). If there’s no amount of alcohol that can get you on stage, head to the seating areas on the other side where you can chow down and make fun of the loser singing “Copacabana” with your friends.
2035 NE Glisan, 97232
Open Daily 11:30am – 2:30am
Four words: build your own burger. I’m not ashamed to say I gave my Freshman 15 a run for its money when I first stumbled upon Club 21. The burgers are killer, the drinks go down easy, and have I mentioned the patio? It isn’t summer in Portland until you’ve spent the day splashing around at Sauvie Island and the evening replenishing at Club 21. If it’s too hot to handle outside, you’ve got plenty of entertainment options indoors to keep your inner gamer at bay. With a plethora of arcade games on the inside and a dog-friendly patio on the outside, Club 21 really has it all.
3954 N. Mississippi, 97227
Open Daily 3pm – 2am
If you’re in NoPo and not sure where to go, Crow Bar will pry you out of a tight spot. Its location is one of its best features; you’ve got Salt & Straw, Por Que No, and a hub of food carts all within a few short blocks. Not to mention that it’s directly across from Mississippi Studios, making it the go-to joint for locals pre and post concert. Crow Bar is a page straight out of the dive bar handbook. With its low lighting and low-cost drinks, it makes the list with ease.
1937 SE 11th Ave, 97214
Open Daily 12pm – 2:30am
Regular live music featuring underground and up and coming local bands all over the spectrum from indie rock to psych to folk and jazz, pizza by the slice, and a patio roomy enough for dancing with your friends (or your pizza) keeps the Firkin high on my list of late-night hangouts. Strong drinks, chill bar tenders and an unassuming atmosphere keep the regulars coming back. During my many trips to Firkin over the years, it has proven itself through and through to be the quintessential dive bar.
6800 NE MLK 97211
Open Daily 4pm – 2:30am
A covered patio and delicious vegan cuisine have bought this bar a spot in the hearts of PDX locals far and wide. The strong drinks and regular live music (mostly of the metal variety) don’t hurt either. The picnic benches on the patio are covered with heartfelt messages left by patrons over the years; my favorite being “Too many dudes here”. Though the decor might seem austere, the live music, weeknight karaoke, pinball, pool, ping pong, and a killer happy hour all make the High Water Mark the place to be any night of the week.
213 SE 12th, 97214
Mon – Fri 3pm – 2:30am
Sat – Sun 11am – 2:30am
Baskets overflowing with vegan corndogs. Garlic cheese fries waiting to fulfill their destiny on your taste buds. SOFT PRETZELS. With a late night menu this adventurous, there’s really no reason for said tiger to be hungry. Don’t worry, you can work off the calories in the game room, armed with a pool table and a plethora pinball machines. Tall, stiff drinks paired with a snug patio and tiger adornments as far as the eye can see, really brings out the animal in you. Welcome to the jungle.
523 SE Grand Ave., 97214
Open Daily 6am – 2:30am
Guys, this bar has so much room for activities. It’s equipped for open mic, Ghostbusters pinball, skee-ball, one of those old creepy chicken-lady psychic prize machine, pool-playing, television-watching, and most importantly, eating & drinking. I indulged myself in a classic cheeseburger, which came highly recommended due majorly in part to its side of crinkle cut fries (a childhood delicacy that you just don’t see anymore). I washed it down with some notable signature drinks, the Deal Breaker and the ¡Que Lastima! Pity I didn’t drink enough to muster the courage to jump onto stage for open mic.
2430 SE Division, 97202
Mon – Sat 10am – 2:30am
Sun 10am – 1am
The dive bar with a heart of gold. If Hell’s Angels had a Cheers, this would be it. The traditional dive bar stereotypes like neon signs, hunting arcade games, and drinks with a commanding “cheap” to ”strong” ratio meet an unexpected feeling of family at this diamond in the rough. The bartender knew everyone’s name as they walked in, offered them their “usual,” and made recommendations on certain ales or to steer away from their red wine selection (Franzia Mystery Fruit Punch?) There’s something about Elton belting “Saturday Night’s Alright” on a summer Wednesday evening while you’re mowing down on this bar’s famous fried chicken and jo jos that just says “Welcome home.”
5532 SE Center St., 97206
Open Daily noon – 2:30am
The Havarti and Onion Burger saved my life. Without it, I never would’ve had the strength to finish a screenplay, down a few cocktails, and have my usual Wednesday evening existential crisis all in one night. I’m serious, this burger was gone in zero to sixty. It wasn’t only the cuisine that left a special place in my heart for this bar. The friendly wait staff and community of regulars streaming in all night made me feel welcome and not at all judged for wolfing down the burger of dreams. And like any dive bar worth its salt, pinball, pool tables, and even a photo booth are readily available.
8031 NW Skyline Blvd., 97229
Open Daily noon – midnight
Don’t let the lack of liquor or the commute deter you from going to this rustic getaway. With a fire pit in front of you, a beer in your hand, and a plate of pork sliders on your lap, you’ll feel like you’re camping with your best buds. Even as I write this, the continued itch of the mosquito bites I earned at the Skyline are only a reminder of the good time and great beer I had there. Darts, horseshoes, a pool table, and a collection of unique installations by local artists all set the Skyline apart as a must-see Portland dive bar.