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Ask Eater: Where Can I Spend a Quiet Happy Hour?

A reader is looking for a mellow place to have a drink in the early evening, ideally with a deal involved

The bar at the Driftwood Room.
The Driftwood Room.
Dina Avila/Eater Portland
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.
Welcome to Ask Eater, an Eater Portland column where the site’s editor and reporter answer questions from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form with the subject line ‘Ask Eater.’

I have fairly severe hearing loss that is helped some by hearing aids. Hearing aids only amplify ambient music and other sounds, so it’s difficult for me to follow conversation at a table for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in most bars. Do you have a list of relatively quiet happy hour bars?

— Ed

Hi, Ed. We receive a good number of requests for quiet spaces to eat and drink, and unfortunately, I’ve found that volume can be somewhat inconsistent at bars and restaurants around town, occasionally varying based on time of day, manager or shift lead, and changes in business model. So, with that caveat, I’ll try my best here.

Of the spots on our actual happy hour map, I think you may have some luck hanging out in that first room you encounter at Radio Room — the one with the fireplace — in that early evening window. It definitely gets louder as the night goes on, but I do think the noise tends to hover around the patios, as opposed to inside the actual bar. Happy hour runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with things like $5 fries and eggs remoulade, plus cocktails with single-digit prices.

Driftwood Room, within the Hotel Deluxe, is often nice and quiet. The vibe there is subtle and sleek, with hardcore midcentury modern vibes — think: leather banquettes, candles, lots of wood paneling. During happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m., the bar offers food discounted by $3, including things like house focaccia and bone marrow, as well as discounted drinks. Driftwood Room would be my choice for a date, if you’re into that. Not with me, Ed, but you get it.

The Box Social on Williams also comes to mind; Personally, I think this bar is really reasonably priced whenever it’s open, but the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour here is a particular deal: $5 cups of soup or parmesan popcorn, $6 pimento spread, $9 margaritas and daiquiris. The bar typically keeps the music pretty low, and earlier in the night it tends to remain fairly muted.

If you’re not specifically seeking a happy hour menu but would enjoy an inexpensive place to snack and drink, a few neighborhood spots come to mind: The Pocket Pub on Northeast 7th is often quiet earlier in the day, and the prices there feel pre-pandemic in certain ways. Cocktails tend to live in the $6 to $12 range, wine glass pours are like $8 or $9, and appetizers are around $10. Also in Northeast Portland, the very model of the Rose City Book Pub — part bookstore or library, part bar or restaurant — lends itself to a subdued atmosphere. And the last time I was there, nothing on the menu exceeded $20.

Over in the Pearl, Olive or Twist doesn’t have a formal happy hour to my knowledge, but it does have carpet and soft furniture that helps dampen sound; it typically stays fairly quiet, especially in the early evening. Cocktails remain fairly inexpensive — $11 or $12, ish — and the food menu feels old school in a fun way, with things like baked brie and bruschetta.

Finally, I’m putting in a shout-out for just a lovely, mellow cocktail bar with really remarkable drinks and food: Scotch Lodge. In the beginning of the night, the volume stays pretty low, and the cocktails here are world class, often incorporating really high quality global whiskies. Also, I would do unholy things for their fried brie sticks. Definitely not happy hour-vibed in terms of price, but you know, Ed, I think you deserve to treat yourself.