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I love drinkin’ in the city: Portland’s best places to imbibe — that aren’t bars

I love drinkin’ in the city: Portland’s best places to imbibe — that aren’t bars (photo)

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(Photo courtesy of Pouregon)

One of Portland’s 800 nicknames is Beervana, and it’s not just because there are more breweries in this city than churches. Boozing is as much a part of the culture here as bicycling, urban chickens and hating Californians. And we don’t just drink at bars, either. In Portland, just about every activity young folks enjoy is infused with alcohol; seriously, at Bishops Barbershops, you can sip a Miller High Life while getting your haircut. It’s really only a matter of time before the reservoirs get replaced with Pabst Blue Ribbon. Until that happens, here are a few ways in which the city has already made it possible to not walk two feet without having a microbrew shoved into your hand.

Theater Pubs

Second-run movie houses that also serve alcohol is such an ideal concept it’s strange that, to my knowledge, it isn’t a widespread phenomenon in all major cities. An oft-heard refrain among my friends and I, usually when scanning through upcoming movie trailers on OnDemand, is, “Oh, man, that’ll be awesome to see at the beer theaters!” If there were a separate box office chart measuring only the grosses from Portland’s multiple theater pubs, certain flicks–mostly of the broadly humorous, stupidly violent or, strangely enough, sweetly innocent variety–would find a whole other life. Granted, “Tree of Life” doesn’t really lend itself to pitchers of IPA, but “Horrible Bosses”? “The Expendables”? Shoot, even “The Muppets”? Basically, any movie that causes involuntarily high-fiving and/or silent, joyful weeping is perfect for a theater pub viewing. Even classics you’ve seen a million times–“Robocop,” “Back to the Future,” “Jurassic Park,” etc.–are enhanced by the surroundings. (Be forewarned: Mixing beer with nostalgia leads to audience members yelling lines of dialogue at the screen. It’s just the nature of the beast.) And if you’re worried that, say, “Follow That Bird” won’t hold up to your childhood memories at age 21-plus, trust me: Everything from your childhood holds up after a few pints of Ninkasi Total Domination.

There are almost too many theater pubs in Portland to list, but among the most notable: the Bagdad and Kennedy School, both repurposed McMenamins properties, the former a gorgeous, well-preserved , 1920s cinema with a towering screen, the latter part of an old elementary school-turned-hotel whose theater is outfitted with couch seating; the Academy, which has the distinction of serving up the best pub pizza, courtesy of Flying Pie Pizzeria; and the Hollywood Theatre, which only recently started selling beer, a startling fact considering its programming–obscure martial arts flicks, schlocky B-movies and grindhouse trailer reels, along with current art-house fare–is the most booze-friendly of all.

Record Bars

Admittedly, combining a bar with a record store doesn’t seem like a great idea on paper. Think downing a few glasses of wine then cruising eBay is dangerous? Imagine tossing back a couple porters as you flip through racks of vinyl. All of a sudden, those Kajagoogoo and New Radicals records might start looking and sounding worth a space in your collection. Beer goggles (or should that be beer-phones? Beer-buds?) aside, it’s surprising the record bar trend–which in the last year has spawned two such establishments on opposite ends of town–took so long to hit Portland. This is one of the last great record-shopping cities left in the country (just ask ?uestlove) and maybe the reigning drinking capital of the United States. Why didn’t someone think to put the two together sooner? Probably because that someone was too busy homebrewing their own Imperial stout while scouring the Internet for Merzbow bootlegs.

Although it would seem like overkill to have a pair of record bars open so close in relative succession, the two existing boutiques serve distinct clienteles: Southeast Portland’s Hall of Records focuses on soul, funk and jazz records, and as such is geared toward the cocktail crowd, with such offerings as the Motown Mojito and the Soul Sister Peach Tea; the Record Room in North Portland is more rock’n’roll, with a layout more akin to a coffee shop than a bar and a streamlined selection of quality microbrews, wine and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Ground Kontrol

Even if you’ve never been to Portland, chances are you’ve heard of Ground Kontrol. Along with Powell’s Books, Kennedy School and the shrine to Colin Meloy’s glasses (one of these things is made up), it’s a standard tourist destination. And with good reason: Nothing exemplifies Portland’s celebration of suspended adolescence better than an arcade that starts carding at 5 p.m. It’s sort of a cruel joke on actual adolescents, who get ejected from the building as soon as the booze begins to flow. Y’know what, though? It ain’t about them. Stocked with 60-plus classic games from the ’80s and ’90s, with an entire floor dedicated to pinball, Ground Kontrol is for the 30-year-old investment banker who just can’t move on with his life until he finally beats “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Back when that guy was dropping every quarter he could scrape up into the machine at the back of his local pizza parlor, a combination of Mr. Pibb and Now & Laters kept him going. Today, it’s cans of Rainier. That’s the only difference, though. In addition to last year’s snazzy remodel, the bar just recently began serving mixed drinks. Few things say “I live in Portland” more than holding a rum-and-Coke in one hand while playing “Centipede” with the other.

OMSI After Dark

“Who wants to get ripped and learn stuff?!” Not sure if that phrase has ever actually been shouted by anyone before, but that hasn’t stopped the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s monthly late-night soiree (well, it ends at 10 p.m., but that’s pretty late for science geeks) from being a consistently well-attended affair. Each month offers a new theme that typically revolves around the science of getting hammered–i.e., how beers are made, why cheese and wine go together so well–with samples (free with admission) from local breweries and wineries. All of OMSI’s usual hands-on exhibits are open as well. I don’t know if it’s scientifically accurate to say that messing around with a Van der Graaf Generator enhances your buzz, but it sure seems like it. Pro-tip: Go upstairs and watch a bunch of tipsy people struggle with the logic games. And you thought drunk Jenga was fun.

Zoo Brew

Again, file this under ideas with potential for disaster. An ale festival at a zoo just seems like a setup for a tiger mauling, but in the five years the Oregon Zoo has hosted Zoo Brew nobody has yet to pick an inebriated fight with any of the animals. As you might expect, Portland has a ton of beer festivals throughout the year. Needless to say, few of them offer the opportunity to chug a microbrew in the presence of a ring-tailed lemur. Just remember to behave yourself as you would in any bar: Don’t poke the bears, don’t insult the elephants, and if you think that hippo is trying to step to you, bro, believe me, it will destroy you.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.