Historically, Portland was part of a temperate Pacific coast that stretches from British Columbia down to Baja California, with winters rarely below freezing and enviably mild, sunny summers. Consequently, few older homes and buildings — including many that house restaurants and bars — have air conditioning. Over the last decade, Portland summer weather has increasingly reached unprecedented, sometimes dangerous highs, making the too-few establishments with AC that much more precious. When the mercury creeps towards the 80s and 90s (or above), seek refuge in these bars and restaurants that will keep you cool inside and out.Read More
17 Air-Conditioned Portland Restaurants and Bars to Beat the Heat
Perfect spots for dinner or a drink when the Pacific Northwest is hottest
Chef Miguel Sosa keeps diners’ palates stimulated with plenty of elemental earth, fire, and water in his menu, so it’s appropriate this Vancouver fine dining spot is comfortably air conditioned on hot days. Sosa keeps things seasonal and mixes up specials frequently, so count on creative, cool options like the beet, watercress, and pistachio salad or a watermelon steak with peppers, tomatoes, and summer squash. Save a little room for desserts like lemon cheesecake and banana cream pie.
Thursday through Sunday this Northeast Killingsworth restaurant dedicated to natural wines also offers a variety of pastas and Italian staples, including cold dishes like wagyu beef carpaccio and marinated olives. Monday through Wednesday Dame transforms into Chelo, a recurring, seasonal Mexican pop-up. Dame is passionate about its wines, but the bartenders will mix refreshing summer cocktails with equal enthusiasm.
While Zilla isn’t the only air-conditioned sushi restaurant in Portland (uncooked fish and hot dining rooms are a dire combo, of course), there are few that feel as dim and cool a refuge from the sun as Zilla. And since Zilla expanded into the bar space next door, there’s even more space for last-minute drop-ins for heat-weary Alberta wanderers. Chef Kate Koo’s sushi offerings include both Oregon’s freshest fish and some of the more delicious sea fauna flown in from Hawaii and Tokyo. Zilla’s sake list is peerless in Portland — don’t hesitate to ask servers or bartenders for cold sake recommendations.
Dream House bar
While every pandemic era departure was a blow, some of the hardest to replace were the beloved neighborhood watering holes. In Portland, new exciting cuisine is always around the corner but a familiar, nurturing space with years of happy memories inherently takes time. Longtime patrons of Northeast Portland’s sadly departed Beech Street Parlor were thrilled to see the team behind Dream House bar grasping for Beech Street’s patented funky casual glory. After a brief iteration as a Spanish fine-dining spot, Dream House has restored the affordable cocktails and frequent DJ set model that made its predecessor so inviting. Settle into one of the cool nooks and crannies upstairs in this 115-year-old house with decidedly modern AC.
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After a hot, trying week, treat yourself to a dazzling Mexico-centric prix fixe dinner in República’s cool, high-ceilinged dining room. Mesoamerican staples like the three sisters, squash, corn, and beans, harmonize here with seasonal produce and proteins and cutting-edge culinary techniques in a one-of-a-kind fine dining experience. And on sweltering days, the unrushed presentation of the 7 or 10-course dinners — with optional wine pairings and refreshing cocktails — will be even more welcome.
Perhaps most memorable for its hanging basket-style seats in its front window, the air-conditioned Eastburn is plenty cool upstairs, but even cooler in its cozy basement taproom. Eastburn bartenders mix both specialty and classic margaritas with aplomb, and the whiskey list is sneakily one of Portland’s finest — though remember mint juleps are especially time-consuming for bartenders, so go for a simpler cocktail on a busy hot night. Later in the evening, the Eastburn can have a bit of a party atmosphere, particularly on comedy nights, so vibe check accordingly.
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The “spinoff” on Han Oak’s creative Korean fare has made Toki a downtown favorite for Pearl and Goose Hollow residents, concert-goers, and longtime fans of power couple owners Sun Young Park and Peter Cho. With refreshing-but-not-blasting AC, and a menu featuring cool offerings like kimchi and ice cream sundaes, and innovative cocktails including slushies, Toki is hard to resist on a hot-weather day. Keep an eye on Toki’s Instagram for updates on themed nights and menu specials.
When the sun flips from friend to foe, there are few better places to escape than the eternally dark and cool Driftwood Room, the stylish house bar at Hotel Deluxe. The 1950s décor, leather-edged bar, plush seats, and expertly-crafted classic cocktails are make the Driftwood a go-to downtown date night, regardless of the season, but the hotel’s powerful central AC makes it especially inviting on sweltering summer afternoons. The Deluxe is a popular wedding location, so prepare a backup plan if the bar is swamped with tuxedoed out-of-towners.
Produce Row Cafe
When the industrial inner Southeast gets sweltering, Produce Row Cafe is an inviting respite. A Portland institution since 1974, Produce Row at its heart is a whiskey and beer bar, with one of the best selections of American brown liquors in town, but also offers a solid food menu, with plenty of salads and vegetable bowls for those looking to avoid cooked food on a hot day. Produce Row has joined the booze slushy bandwagon, for those looking for a fruity alternative to whiskey. And even rarer in Portland, Produce Row’s fully covered patio reaps the benefits of the air conditioning.
With 99 Oregon beers on tap, and a décor heavy on steel and dark wood, the vibe — and the air — inside Loyal Legion is downright frosty, even on hot days when patrons are packed elbow to elbow. Bartenders will guide beer nerds and neophytes to a brew that fits the mood: crisp and bitter, mellow and subtle, or sour and zesty. The food menu is no slouch, with a specialty in locally made sausages, but visitors will find plenty of cooler options like falafel wraps, salads, and a hummus plate. Grab a bite, nurse that beer as long as necessary, and soak in the AC until the sun sets. Burrow even deeper away from the heat in the underground speakeasy Voysey.
For Portlanders confined to un-air conditioned, hot, sticky apartments, sometimes nothing short of a rejuvenating blast of arctic air will do. In moments like these, head to Side Street just off of Southeast Belmont. An HVAC engineer’s error is Southeast Portland’s gain, as this modest bar is blessed with the cooling horsepower of a much larger venue, making the hot Sicilian pizzas appetizing on even the most scorching heat dome days. Other highlights include an ample tap list, reasonably priced cocktails, a pool table, and some vintage pinball machines.
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Perhaps no Portland menu is as perfectly suited to a hot day as Kachka’s. The celebrated Eastern European restaurant features the cuisine of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and elsewhere, with savory delights like chicken liver pashtet, strawberry and sumac soup, and the beloved herring under a fur coat: a seven-layer cylinder of herring, potato, carrot, beet, egg, and more. Add in a decadent array of roe and caviar and dozens of ice cold vodkas, and Portlanders will find it hard to leave Kachka on warmer evenings.
Oma’s is no stranger to regular Eater readers, but another wrinkle that makes this smashingly successful spinoff from Gado Gado even more special, is its heat wave menus on triple-digit days: both compassionate to kitchen staff and a creative treat for frequent patrons. Even when the temperature is merely hot and not sweltering, Oma’s more typical menu features plenty of scintillating cold appetizers and entrees that go far beyond the typical salad, including things like chilled asparagus curry, gado gado (the peanut-y salad), and little gems tossed in an avocado raita. House specialty cocktails are laser-targeted to accompany the night’s menu, often balancing fruit and herbaceous notes without any becoming dominant; and yes, that includes a frozen drink or two.
Not too long ago, it was considered safe to eat oysters only in month that ended (in English) with the letter “R.” Today, thanks to the gifts of modern refrigeration, cool-water oyster farms, and rapid transport, summer shucking is perfectly safe, making Southeast Clinton’s premier oyster house, Jacqueline, a tantalizing destination on hot Portland days. Bask in the AC with a crisp bottle of white and a dozen local oysters (just $1 each during happy hour), or make an evening meal of it, with uncooked items like hamachi crudo. Jacqueline’s bright and cheery dining room can book at dinnertime on busier days, but the restaurant typically sets aside a couple tables for drop-ins.
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Spacious and utilitarian, the Hopworks pub on Southeast Powell is all about efficiently giving Southeast Portlanders what they want on hot days: cold air and colder beer. Paper beer menus give handy notes on the two-dozen of ales, lagers, porters, sours, and ESBs on tap. The pub food menu won’t offer any surprises, but the salads and wraps are reliably made with fresh ingredients and hit the spot on warm days.
CORE - Collective Oregon Eateries
Once relegated to undeveloped blocks or crammed in the corner of strip mall parking lots, Portland’s celebrated food carts are increasingly clustered around a permanent brick and mortar core. Southeast 82nd Avenue is home to a colossal — and comfortably air-conditioned — indoor dining space, anchoring a half-dozen popular food carts, including Biscuits & Gravy, Sou’s Salt ‘n Pepper Squid, and Mama’s Peruvian Bowls. The cool indoor space is also host to frequent indoor markets, board game and comedy nights, and other events.
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Part of the blossoming scene of no-nonsense neighborhood bars along Southeast Foster, Bar Maven raised the stakes in 2022 by adding air conditioning. Patrons looking to skip hot burgers and kabobs will find a handful of nourishing salads, along with baba ganoush and a hummus plate. The house specialty is boilermakers and Old Fashioneds, including a highly recommended mezcal version, and the all-day Sunday happy hour is one of the city’s best, with $4 well drinks. Adding to the appeal is the Portland-rare kitchen that’s open late, making Bar Maven an enticing place to camp out for hours until the evening heat breaks.
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