"It's a pre-Prohibition-era museum that you can drink in," says Ryk, the man behind the newly opened Bible Club, one of the most unique bars/restaurants/social clubs—museums?—to ever open in Portland. Inside, almost everything, from the portraits of presidents to the juicers and corkscrews the bartenders use, is American-made before 1930. It's sort of like stepping into your great grandparents house—if your grandparents drank craft cocktails out of hand-etched crystal glassware, ate food prepared by Anthony Cafiero (Racion), and stayed up until 1 a.m.
The team behind the Bible Club includes Ryk's better half, Brandi Leigh, who runs the front of the house, and veteran bartenders Nathan Elliot and Jessica Braasch (Kask). In the kitchen, Cafiero, previously known for his modernist cooking at now-closed Racion, makes an about-face: a menu of reimagined American heritage dishes (see cocktail and food menus below).
If there's one thing you can say about The Bible Club, it's that it goes all the way. Ryk is a jeweler who has designed restaurants in Los Angeles and shows around the globe, and he's always wanted to push his designs further. "People'd say, 'It doesn't have to be right, it just has to look right,'" he says, and nothing about the Bible Club suggests cutting corners.
"Everything in here has a story," says Brandi. The house itself was built in 1922 and is owned by "an old rock star" who played guitar on the famous song "Louie Louie," according to Ryk. Much of the ceiling was painstakingly created using hundreds of three-inch-square sheets of 24-carat-gold leafing. There are matching paintings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, because, as Ryk explained, "If you look at old photos, you always seen a matching set of images of Lincoln and Washington." Then there's the massive wooden bar, which was shipped from Indiana, where Ryk has a buddy named Doc who specializes in bar salvage.
Located inside of an unassuming 1922 yellow house at 6716 SE 16th Ave, Sellwood, The Bible Club has a speakeasy vibe, with a soundtrack from the 1880s to 1920s. There's no sign outside, and inside, Ryk aims for an unhurried atmosphere with a staff who makes sure "you're taken care of" and "goes the extra mile." If you see the green light on in the upstairs window, you know it's open for business.
The Bible Club is now open Wednesday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday, from 3 to 10 p.m. Due to its size, The Bible Club can only seat a few large groups a night, but otherwise, there's no secret knock or anything. Just show up and prepare for a fully American experience.
And the name? Ryk says Prohibition-era names for bars were always spoofs, and the "Bible Club" is tongue-in-cheek. Ryk also calls the space beneath the 24-carat-gold ceiling near the bar "The Holy Land," and its happy hour, which runs 10 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday, is called Reverse Happy Hour, aka "Holy Hour."
The Bible Club Cocktails:
The Bible Club Food & Beer Menus: