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The interior of Reel M Inn, a cozy and dark dive bar.
Reel M Inn is one of Portland’s most beloved dives
Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

The Ultimate Guide to Portland's Iconic Dive Bars

Unearth some of the city’s best watering holes for cheap drinks

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Reel M Inn is one of Portland’s most beloved dives
| Molly J. Smith/Eater Portland

The word “dive” gets thrown around a lot in the Portland drinking scene — often when debating whether a bar is or isn’t one. It’s a term more art than science: to some it’s not a dive if there aren’t strips of crime scene tape fluttering in the parking lot, to others it’s anywhere the crudite isn’t farm to table. Portland, dirtbag timber town that it once was, boasts some of the most storied dives on the West Coast, from graffiti plastered hole-in-the-walls to dilapidated old beer halls still bathed in the warm glow of light-up Schlitz ads.

Cheap drinks, exposed wiring, a bathroom door that either traps you inside or won’t lock at all: These are signs you might be in a dive, but they’re not what make the great dives great. The strength of a dive bar is the regulars that fill its sticky halls year after year, the neighborhood pilgrims who gather at the rail to exchange barroom truisms, neighborhood gossip, and observations about the wider world that may or may not have any basis in reality. Fixtures get broken and might get fixed, but hardly anything gets replaced. The food might be good or it might be legally mandated frozen pizza rolls, but it’s there to soak up the stiff pours from the well and lite beer from the taps that flow most hours of the day and night. A good dive is an oasis of simple pleasures — beer, pool, conversation — in the encroaching desert of gentrification and app-based loyalty programs. Below, find a tour of the city’s quintessential dives.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Marie's

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Many of the establishments on this list feature some kind of durable hard-wearing industrial carpet, but none can match the sumptuous Airport Hilton-level on display at Marie’s. Indeed, most of the surfaces in this spacious St. Johns watering hole are some kind of fabric, from the scalloped plush booths to the eclectic assemblage of lounge chairs to a small carpeted stage in the back. St. Johns is known for its working class watering holes, and previous entries on this list, Your Inn and Perch, are still perfectly viable; however, Marie’s edges ahead thanks to its prominent spot on the main drag and an expansive back patio complete with even more overstuffed armchairs and a cozy new firepit.

Ship Tavern

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Multnomah Village occupies an odd sort of bowtie intersection along Capitol Highway, and features a handful of intriguing saloons just off the main drag. Wander down the steep slope of 35th and you’ll encounter a tavern seemingly carved into the landscape of a jaunty nautical mural. This ship isn’t of the cruise liner variety — everything has been worn down over the years and the decor is mainly Pirates of the Caribbean swag and old beer signs — but there are touches of elegance in the cracked marble back bar and framed sepia-toned photographs of handsome old schooners. There are fancier bars on the West side, and far less nice ones too, but there’s no place quite like the Ship.

Joe's Cellar

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Follow Northeast 21st past the trendy boutiques and mod bistros and you’ll find the welcoming fieldstone walls of Joe’s Cellar, a mostly above-ground time capsule of Old Portland grime. Joes has two big rooms: a small one and a big one, and the energy in each tends to match. The veterans behind the wraparound bar know how to keep the line moving during the after-work crush, but in the quieter moments Joe’s is a welcoming haven amid the austere trendiness of 21st Avenue.

Classic dive bar Joe’s Cellar.
Joe’s Cellar in NW PDX.
Alex Frane/Eater Portland

Mousetrap Tavern

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Lombard hosts a murderers row of seedy watering holes, but few match the battered charm of the Mousetrap Tavern, which marries the worn-out linoleum of a roadside diner with the woodgrain fixtures of a well-loved rumpus room. The menu leans into the dive vibe with a “charcuterie board” of deep-fried morsels, which you can pair with a couple bottles of house bubbly to really make a night of it.

Low Brow Lounge

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If David Lynch had an unlimited budget to design a dilapidated tiki bar, he couldn’t do much better than what’s already here in Old Town. Black vinyl booths meet devil red stucco, with nearly every vertical surface covered with Rococo knickknacks and various bumper stickers. Every nook and cranny offers some kind of unexpected experience for the eyes, and the adventurous cocktail menu belies the name on the sign.

Yamhill Pub

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Someday archaeologists will take core samples from the walls of this downtown Portland drinking den to chart the course of Portland underground culture. A compact pillbox of a bar just off the MAX tracks, the Yamhill has been slinging stiff drinks to shift workers on smoke breaks since before the nearby Morrison Bridge was built. Owner and bartender Kevin Hill estimates the current crop of sticker graffiti is about six layers deep, and that’s only likely to increase as each new generation strives to make their mark on this Portland icon.

Billy Ray’s Dive

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A tottering red barn seemingly held aloft by the massive commercial refrigerator at its core, Billy Ray’s Dive has been trading shots for cash (and only cash) since the early aughts, and possibly quite a bit before (the actual provenance of the bar is a subject of fierce debate). Some of the fixtures inside might be called industrial chic out of context, but you get the sense that there were some old pipes lying around at some point and now they’re footrests. Downstairs you’ll find an improvised patio and a bartender watching Jeopardy at full volume, the upstairs houses a game room with a respectable number of pinball tables illuminated by an antique iron chandelier.

Speakeasy Tavern

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Grafted onto the side of a nondescript Buckman apartment building and boasting a formidable steel door complete with sliding peephole, “The Speakeasy” certainly looks the part. The insides are more punk rock than prohibition though, with chalk graffiti on nearly every vertical surface and some parts of the ceiling. Seating seems to be a mix of whatever’s filtered down from the apartments above, including at the moment a swinging ’70s conversation pit, and Christmas lights wrapped around exposed piping. Despite the foreboding front portal, bartender Mattie says this is basically a family bar (her folks happen to own it, after all) and despite the obvious potential for noise complaints, most of the upstairs neighbors are regulars themselves.

The Slammer Tavern

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What can be said about the Slammer that the Slammer does not say about itself. An imposingly precarious edifice overlooking one of Sandy Boulevard’s stranger intersections, draped year round in Christmas lights and concertina wire, there’s nothing quite like it in city limits. Inside the cramped-yet-labyrinthine interior seasoned bartenders sling beers and shots with ruthless efficiency, knowing all too well that the drink line is a traffic jam waiting to happen, especially during the holiday party rush. A true economic melting pot, it’s not uncommon to see Wieden + Kennedy execs slamming shots next to the neighborhood crust punks under the unwavering glow of approximately one million LED Christmas lights.

Yukon Tavern

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The Yukon changed ownership a few years back, but new owners managed to slap on a new coat of paint (and some under-bar charging outlets) without disrupting the dogeared charm of the old joint. Framed covers of old mountie magazines stand at attention along the handsome wood-paneled walls, while at the rail old timers tell tales of the Sellwood of old elbow-to-elbow with fashionable party people pre-gaming for the night to come.

The Standard

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Just off Burnside, hidden behind a mixed use development and Ole Ole, resides the grand old Standard Tavern. More of a warehouse that wished it was a bar, the Standard is cavernous, cluttered, and seemingly held together by the will of the experienced bartenders. The bathrooms are plastered with signs insisting that only one person is allowed in at a time, presumably from bitter experience. But despite the stern warnings and corrugated sheet metal this is a remarkably warm neighborhood bar, with a devoted clientele and an expansive front patio it can be hard to snag a spot on in the summer months.

Reel M Inn

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Food at most of the spots on this list range from a pretty decent pub burger to a freezer-burned Hungry Man reheated with a scowl, but this fishing-themed chicken joint proves the exception to the rule, with a legendary reputation for frying the best battered birds in the Portland metro area. It’s got plenty of dive bar bonafides as well, from the fishing lures shellacked into the bar itself to the chalk graffiti on the unnervingly exposed rafters. Just be prepared to wait, as the cramped quarters only allow for a single bartender to take drink orders while wrangling the single overworked fryer behind the bar.

Ship Ahoy Tavern

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One of several nautically themed entries on this list, the Ship Ahoy on Gladstone has the battered charm of a reliable old trawler that doesn’t know how to sink. The bar is densely packed with knicknacks, improvised shelving, and an impressively sized card table, as well as featuring a modest patio and the usual barroom entertainments like pool and pinball. Food is of the “we can heat up a Totino’s for you but we’d rather not” school, but if grog is what you’re after and Gladstone is what you’re on, the Ship Ahoy can oblige.

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Day drinking commences!

A post shared by Erin Adams (@writeonerin) on

Lutz Tavern

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A Woodstock institution dating back to the Truman Administration, Lutz Tavern is both a museum piece of an old art deco soda fountain and an eclectic neighborhood lounge. The decor includes illuminated vintage beer lamps as well as less categorizable stuff like a framed portrait of John Goodman and a taxidermy deer wearing sunglasses. The clientele is a mix of big-bearded dudes in black bar hoodies and the occasional Reedie finishing out their dissertation on one of the squat red vinyl diner stools that run along the languorously curved formica bar.

Bar of the Gods

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The Greek pantheon notably drank ambrosia, but if they ever descended on Upper Hawthorne in search of Pabst on draft they’d find themselves quite welcome at BOG. The golden pillars at the entrance give way to the kind of boozy laser tag aesthetic of the interior. Almost everything except the handsome blonde bar is either matte black or video poker neon, though the back patio offers some classy Greek frescos, and the LED grape clusters strung along the rafters are a subtle improvement over the standard issue dive bar Christmas lights. But the real draw are the veteran bartenders, some of whom have been slinging lagers in the so-called Bermuda Triangle for more than a decade.

Lay Low

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No list of Portland dive bars would be complete without an entry devoted to Club 21, the legendary tchotchke-cluttered Kerns punk venue. The only problem is that the old Russian Orthodox church it operated out of was demolished in 2017. But all the stuff from Club 21 wound up at the Lay Low in South Tabor, and the good news is that this has been a working retirement. The walls are no less overflowing with midcentury beer memorabilia and the food still garners one dollar sign on Google maps, welcome signs of continuity in this often uncertain world.

Mad Hanna

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An oasis of well-worn elegance on an otherwise residential stretch of Fremont, this venerable neighborhood spot boasts the kind of hammered tin ceilings most often seen in sepia-toned photos of 19th-century San Francisco. Modernity intrudes in the form of a wall of video poker and a plywood DJ booth, but on an average Wednesday afternoon the space fills up nicely with the sounds of clinking pool balls and animated chatter.

Starday Tavern

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A punk rock clubhouse on one of the more chaotic stretches of Foster, Starday Tavern packs a lot of punch in a space smaller than some people’s garages. There’s a stage, there’s a bar, there’s a window where you can see a raccoon that lives on a neighbor’s roof. Along with its rotating cast of local musicians at the rail, Starday boasts two important partnerships that elevate it above the typical punk dive: delivery from the neighboring Atlas Pizza, and the owner’s dog, Sydney, who hangs out there on occasion.

Montavilla Station

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Montavilla feels like a small town unto itself and features a couple of other venerable dives, but none can match the faded elegance of the Station’s lion-embossed back bar. Rich walnut woodgrain and cracked white marble combine with neon signage and blinking video poker screens to create an ambiance that’s equal parts 1880s and 1980s. There’s three distinct areas of the bar, with boozing and pool on either wing and an efficiently laid out venue space in the middle, adorned with several decades worth of LP sleeves on the wall, including the smiling faces of Robin Williams and Wham beaming from behind the stage lights.

A wooden back bar glows with a light saying “The Station.” The bar is stocked with many spirits.
The bar at Montavilla Station.
Alex Frane/Eater Portland

Rumpus Room

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The main draw of this Division dive bar, just east of I-205, is its shuffleboard setup: multiple lengthy tables at the heart of the space, surrounded by round vinyl booths and the customary neon. Shuffleboard nerds have been frequenting this bar for years, housing jalapeño poppers between rounds. Occasionally, the small corner stage hosts a live act or two, as well as karaoke.

Marie's

Many of the establishments on this list feature some kind of durable hard-wearing industrial carpet, but none can match the sumptuous Airport Hilton-level on display at Marie’s. Indeed, most of the surfaces in this spacious St. Johns watering hole are some kind of fabric, from the scalloped plush booths to the eclectic assemblage of lounge chairs to a small carpeted stage in the back. St. Johns is known for its working class watering holes, and previous entries on this list, Your Inn and Perch, are still perfectly viable; however, Marie’s edges ahead thanks to its prominent spot on the main drag and an expansive back patio complete with even more overstuffed armchairs and a cozy new firepit.

Ship Tavern

Multnomah Village occupies an odd sort of bowtie intersection along Capitol Highway, and features a handful of intriguing saloons just off the main drag. Wander down the steep slope of 35th and you’ll encounter a tavern seemingly carved into the landscape of a jaunty nautical mural. This ship isn’t of the cruise liner variety — everything has been worn down over the years and the decor is mainly Pirates of the Caribbean swag and old beer signs — but there are touches of elegance in the cracked marble back bar and framed sepia-toned photographs of handsome old schooners. There are fancier bars on the West side, and far less nice ones too, but there’s no place quite like the Ship.

Joe's Cellar

Follow Northeast 21st past the trendy boutiques and mod bistros and you’ll find the welcoming fieldstone walls of Joe’s Cellar, a mostly above-ground time capsule of Old Portland grime. Joes has two big rooms: a small one and a big one, and the energy in each tends to match. The veterans behind the wraparound bar know how to keep the line moving during the after-work crush, but in the quieter moments Joe’s is a welcoming haven amid the austere trendiness of 21st Avenue.

Classic dive bar Joe’s Cellar.
Joe’s Cellar in NW PDX.
Alex Frane/Eater Portland

Mousetrap Tavern

Lombard hosts a murderers row of seedy watering holes, but few match the battered charm of the Mousetrap Tavern, which marries the worn-out linoleum of a roadside diner with the woodgrain fixtures of a well-loved rumpus room. The menu leans into the dive vibe with a “charcuterie board” of deep-fried morsels, which you can pair with a couple bottles of house bubbly to really make a night of it.

Low Brow Lounge

If David Lynch had an unlimited budget to design a dilapidated tiki bar, he couldn’t do much better than what’s already here in Old Town. Black vinyl booths meet devil red stucco, with nearly every vertical surface covered with Rococo knickknacks and various bumper stickers. Every nook and cranny offers some kind of unexpected experience for the eyes, and the adventurous cocktail menu belies the name on the sign.

Yamhill Pub

Someday archaeologists will take core samples from the walls of this downtown Portland drinking den to chart the course of Portland underground culture. A compact pillbox of a bar just off the MAX tracks, the Yamhill has been slinging stiff drinks to shift workers on smoke breaks since before the nearby Morrison Bridge was built. Owner and bartender Kevin Hill estimates the current crop of sticker graffiti is about six layers deep, and that’s only likely to increase as each new generation strives to make their mark on this Portland icon.

Billy Ray’s Dive

A tottering red barn seemingly held aloft by the massive commercial refrigerator at its core, Billy Ray’s Dive has been trading shots for cash (and only cash) since the early aughts, and possibly quite a bit before (the actual provenance of the bar is a subject of fierce debate). Some of the fixtures inside might be called industrial chic out of context, but you get the sense that there were some old pipes lying around at some point and now they’re footrests. Downstairs you’ll find an improvised patio and a bartender watching Jeopardy at full volume, the upstairs houses a game room with a respectable number of pinball tables illuminated by an antique iron chandelier.

Speakeasy Tavern

Grafted onto the side of a nondescript Buckman apartment building and boasting a formidable steel door complete with sliding peephole, “The Speakeasy” certainly looks the part. The insides are more punk rock than prohibition though, with chalk graffiti on nearly every vertical surface and some parts of the ceiling. Seating seems to be a mix of whatever’s filtered down from the apartments above, including at the moment a swinging ’70s conversation pit, and Christmas lights wrapped around exposed piping. Despite the foreboding front portal, bartender Mattie says this is basically a family bar (her folks happen to own it, after all) and despite the obvious potential for noise complaints, most of the upstairs neighbors are regulars themselves.

The Slammer Tavern

What can be said about the Slammer that the Slammer does not say about itself. An imposingly precarious edifice overlooking one of Sandy Boulevard’s stranger intersections, draped year round in Christmas lights and concertina wire, there’s nothing quite like it in city limits. Inside the cramped-yet-labyrinthine interior seasoned bartenders sling beers and shots with ruthless efficiency, knowing all too well that the drink line is a traffic jam waiting to happen, especially during the holiday party rush. A true economic melting pot, it’s not uncommon to see Wieden + Kennedy execs slamming shots next to the neighborhood crust punks under the unwavering glow of approximately one million LED Christmas lights.

Yukon Tavern

The Yukon changed ownership a few years back, but new owners managed to slap on a new coat of paint (and some under-bar charging outlets) without disrupting the dogeared charm of the old joint. Framed covers of old mountie magazines stand at attention along the handsome wood-paneled walls, while at the rail old timers tell tales of the Sellwood of old elbow-to-elbow with fashionable party people pre-gaming for the night to come.

The Standard

Just off Burnside, hidden behind a mixed use development and Ole Ole, resides the grand old Standard Tavern. More of a warehouse that wished it was a bar, the Standard is cavernous, cluttered, and seemingly held together by the will of the experienced bartenders. The bathrooms are plastered with signs insisting that only one person is allowed in at a time, presumably from bitter experience. But despite the stern warnings and corrugated sheet metal this is a remarkably warm neighborhood bar, with a devoted clientele and an expansive front patio it can be hard to snag a spot on in the summer months.

Reel M Inn

Food at most of the spots on this list range from a pretty decent pub burger to a freezer-burned Hungry Man reheated with a scowl, but this fishing-themed chicken joint proves the exception to the rule, with a legendary reputation for frying the best battered birds in the Portland metro area. It’s got plenty of dive bar bonafides as well, from the fishing lures shellacked into the bar itself to the chalk graffiti on the unnervingly exposed rafters. Just be prepared to wait, as the cramped quarters only allow for a single bartender to take drink orders while wrangling the single overworked fryer behind the bar.

Ship Ahoy Tavern

One of several nautically themed entries on this list, the Ship Ahoy on Gladstone has the battered charm of a reliable old trawler that doesn’t know how to sink. The bar is densely packed with knicknacks, improvised shelving, and an impressively sized card table, as well as featuring a modest patio and the usual barroom entertainments like pool and pinball. Food is of the “we can heat up a Totino’s for you but we’d rather not” school, but if grog is what you’re after and Gladstone is what you’re on, the Ship Ahoy can oblige.

View this post on Instagram

Day drinking commences!

A post shared by Erin Adams (@writeonerin) on

Lutz Tavern

A Woodstock institution dating back to the Truman Administration, Lutz Tavern is both a museum piece of an old art deco soda fountain and an eclectic neighborhood lounge. The decor includes illuminated vintage beer lamps as well as less categorizable stuff like a framed portrait of John Goodman and a taxidermy deer wearing sunglasses. The clientele is a mix of big-bearded dudes in black bar hoodies and the occasional Reedie finishing out their dissertation on one of the squat red vinyl diner stools that run along the languorously curved formica bar.

Bar of the Gods

The Greek pantheon notably drank ambrosia, but if they ever descended on Upper Hawthorne in search of Pabst on draft they’d find themselves quite welcome at BOG. The golden pillars at the entrance give way to the kind of boozy laser tag aesthetic of the interior. Almost everything except the handsome blonde bar is either matte black or video poker neon, though the back patio offers some classy Greek frescos, and the LED grape clusters strung along the rafters are a subtle improvement over the standard issue dive bar Christmas lights. But the real draw are the veteran bartenders, some of whom have been slinging lagers in the so-called Bermuda Triangle for more than a decade.

Related Maps

Lay Low

No list of Portland dive bars would be complete without an entry devoted to Club 21, the legendary tchotchke-cluttered Kerns punk venue. The only problem is that the old Russian Orthodox church it operated out of was demolished in 2017. But all the stuff from Club 21 wound up at the Lay Low in South Tabor, and the good news is that this has been a working retirement. The walls are no less overflowing with midcentury beer memorabilia and the food still garners one dollar sign on Google maps, welcome signs of continuity in this often uncertain world.

Mad Hanna

An oasis of well-worn elegance on an otherwise residential stretch of Fremont, this venerable neighborhood spot boasts the kind of hammered tin ceilings most often seen in sepia-toned photos of 19th-century San Francisco. Modernity intrudes in the form of a wall of video poker and a plywood DJ booth, but on an average Wednesday afternoon the space fills up nicely with the sounds of clinking pool balls and animated chatter.

Starday Tavern

A punk rock clubhouse on one of the more chaotic stretches of Foster, Starday Tavern packs a lot of punch in a space smaller than some people’s garages. There’s a stage, there’s a bar, there’s a window where you can see a raccoon that lives on a neighbor’s roof. Along with its rotating cast of local musicians at the rail, Starday boasts two important partnerships that elevate it above the typical punk dive: delivery from the neighboring Atlas Pizza, and the owner’s dog, Sydney, who hangs out there on occasion.

Montavilla Station

Montavilla feels like a small town unto itself and features a couple of other venerable dives, but none can match the faded elegance of the Station’s lion-embossed back bar. Rich walnut woodgrain and cracked white marble combine with neon signage and blinking video poker screens to create an ambiance that’s equal parts 1880s and 1980s. There’s three distinct areas of the bar, with boozing and pool on either wing and an efficiently laid out venue space in the middle, adorned with several decades worth of LP sleeves on the wall, including the smiling faces of Robin Williams and Wham beaming from behind the stage lights.

A wooden back bar glows with a light saying “The Station.” The bar is stocked with many spirits.
The bar at Montavilla Station.
Alex Frane/Eater Portland

Rumpus Room

The main draw of this Division dive bar, just east of I-205, is its shuffleboard setup: multiple lengthy tables at the heart of the space, surrounded by round vinyl booths and the customary neon. Shuffleboard nerds have been frequenting this bar for years, housing jalapeño poppers between rounds. Occasionally, the small corner stage hosts a live act or two, as well as karaoke.

Related Maps