There is always an emotional transition when one longstanding bar transforms into another. The Eastbank Tavern was a stalwart on the industrial east side in Portland, at least for as long as I can remember. One of those bars along Grand that you’d pop into after heading back across the river from a show downtown for a nightcap. The smell of smoke and fried food, lingering in the air engrained into the DNA of the establishment, like a good, working class bar should. Times though, they are a changing. The neighborhood is now looking to appeal not just to the growing group of more astute imbibers, but to the younger, newer Portland crowd. A population that values aesthetic over quirk perhaps, and sees the quality of their surroundings as important as the quality of their drinks. A trend happening not only in that MLK/Grand corridor, but all over the city. Evolve or get left behind as it were. While there are many venues I’ve visited in town, I feel too many of them aim for a wine bar feel for those with a champagne budget, too easily classified as gentrificated snobbery which is totally out of place to many who have watched Portland transform over the last twenty years or so.
The beauty of this new iteration is that is still holds much of the Eastbank’s character, but has helped move this saloon into the new age of more discerning quaffers. This newer, hipper, fancier version of Portland that has followed in the wake of the boom over the last decade has asked these venues to offer up a bit more ambiance. What I love about the Bit House Saloon, is that it has taken the rough, grimy portland, and like many of its longstanding residents, gone from damp carpet, PBR and flannel, to wood, whiskey and leather, and well, $1 High Life Ponies for those of us looking for a back, or no frills option. I’d always seen Portland as a working class town even if Fred and Carrie have shown us that retirement can be achieved early as long as we’re willing to not do much of anything, and it’s good to see that there can exist a bridge between this new era of craft cocktails and earlier, perhaps simpler times. Change doesn’t have to happen entirely overnight…
What do you do when you’ve become one of the most popular libation destinations in the Pacific Northwest? Build a satellite bar, that’s what. For those who’ve tried to get a table at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, you may have found it difficult over the last two years since it has opened. I’ve been in there a few times as a photographer, but never as a patron, much to my chagrin. While the apparent exclusivity seems a bit off putting, what is really going on is a bar that has chosen to seat fewer people in order to provide a far better experience, assuming you can get in to experience said experience. Still doesn’t help those of us incapable of waiting for an hour or more to have a drink and bite to eat, that is until now. The Green Room offers a pared down selection from the library, with some signature design holdovers, all while providing an entirely unique space in its own right. The Green Room gives us a palate whetting for what we are in for, but may just end up being a destination in and of itself. C’mon in for more shots…
I’ve written about the shoot we did for ELK at the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library, the award that it won for best new design via Eater.com, and now it has garnered national attention via Hospitality Design Magazine. The article is short and sweet, and gives a little insight into the aesthetic and design approach by my friend and ELK Co-founder, Kelly OG. Come on in… Continue reading
Authenticity is a difficult thing to create from scratch. Too often a good idea is hindered by budget or lack of total vision by its collaborative creators. When harmony is achieved in the process, and vision meets up with knowledge, skill and competent execution, beauty can be born. I introduce to you, one of the coolest spaces I’ve seen created from the ground up, the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library.
***Update, MWL is up for best new bar/restaurant design on Eater.com here in Portland, if you have 10 seconds, please go HERE and give us your vote.
Portland has become a Mecca for young, inspired chefs. The relatively affordable overhead alongside a genuinely interested food culture makes for a ripe proving ground. Aesthetics and spacial design can be the difference between one restaurant’s success, and it’s failure as there are so many quality venues boasting inventive, unique or simple, well done fare. Scott Snyder the owner and chef at Levant recognized the need to design his space around his vision, and ELK obliged in spades.