15 Happiest Happy Hours

By Jon Shadel

Let psychologists debate the best way to measure happiness. Here in Portland, we’ve found our answer in the hundreds of bars, restaurants and brewpubs serving happy hour — many with deep discounts on tasty bites and craft beverages sure to please your wallet as well as palate.

From swanky rooftop bars to low-key cocktail lounges, we’ve spent far too many middays (and late evenings) sipping and noshing our way around Portland’s late-afternoon (and late-late) social scene. Our mission seemed simple enough: find the best spots to chill out in the city. But, boy, was it a challenge given the sheer quantity of offerings. 

What was our methodology, you wonder? Well, we settled on these top picks by asking ourselves a few simple and completely subjective questions: How good does this taste? Do we jive with the ambiance? Do our wallets feel too thin afterward? Yes, we realize this is totally unscientific, but we’re confident we’ve found 15 stupendous happy hours sure to lighten moods, lift spirits and lower inhibitions.

Aalto Lounge

Aalto Lounge by Curtis Perry
Photo by Curtis Perry/Flickr.

Where: 3356 S.E. Belmont St., aaltolounge.com

When: 5-7 p.m. daily

Why Go: To enjoy crusty $2 grilled cheese sandwiches while sipping $2 cocktails (the Dandy — made with cucumber-infused gin, lemon, lavender and simple syrup on the rocks — ranks as a favorite) while enjoying the Scandinavian-chic interior, which is decked out in mid-century styles. Please tip your bartender well, and show up early if you expect to lounge on the patio on a sunny day.

Best Deal: Four cocktails priced at an amazingly inexpensive $2.

The Scene: Consciously hip baristas, indie fashion designers and $2 cocktail enthusiasts.


Clyde Common

Clyde Common by Ellie LoNardo
Photo by Ellie LoNardo/Flickr. 

Where: 1014 S.W. Stark St., clydecommon.com

When: 3-6 p.m. Monday-Sunday

Why Go: Bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler wrote the book on craft cocktails (no, really), and he’s received nods from the James Beard Award and countless critics for Clyde Common’s drink program. Better yet, the food is knockout good, and the cozy dining room gets packed at all hours for the crave-worthy European-inspired farm-to-table fare.

Best Deal: Pair a $6 cocktail (the Bittersweet Symphony will have you humming The Verve) with the to-die-for Clyde burger, which will stuff you for eight measly greenbacks.

The Scene: Classy, but not too classy for finger food.


Lúc Lác Vietnamese Kitchen

Luc Lac by Jon Shadel
Photo by Jon Shadel.

Where: 835 S.W. Second Ave., luclackitchen.com

When: 4-7 p.m. daily

Why Go: To gorge yourself on finger-licking Vietnamese small plates (many priced at $2 for happy hour) and sip craft cocktails in this happening downtown hotspot. If you have a group, or don’t want to wait for ages, show up early, as this takeout box-sized restaurant fills up fast once nearby offices let out.

Best Deal: The always different, always delicious Dealer’s Choice cocktail for $6.

The Scene: Teams of young professionals who slipped out of the office a little early.


Driftwood Room

Photo courtesy of Hotel deLuxe. 

Where: 729 S.W. 15th Ave., hoteldeluxeportland.com

When: 2-6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.-close daily

Why Go: Step into this landmark bar, located in the posh Hotel deLuxe, and you instantly take a trip back to 1950s Hollywood — the cushy, timeless space might incite a fever dream of nostalgia for cinema lovers. And as you sip your fizzy cocktails and nosh on the signature plate of sizzling forest mushrooms, don’t be surprised if you find yourself eyeing candlelit strangers, looking for the face of some long-lost star of the silver screen.

Best Deal: Reduced-priced champagne cocktails.

The Scene: Comfy, classic and a little on the posh end of the happy hour spectrum.


Vault Martini

Vault Martini
Photo by Will Vanlue/Flickr.

Where: 226 N.W. 12th Ave., vaultmartinibar.com

When: 4-7 p.m. daily, all day Sunday

Why Go: To flip through a big bound menu boasting a staggering selection of martinis served in a luxe, dare we say kitschy, setting. Plus, bartenders don’t skimp on the size or booziness of their happy hour drinks, meaning you could get pretty sloshed in this cushy bar for a crumpled Andrew Jackson.

Best Deal: Martinis ranging from classic gin and vermouth to froufrou fruity for around $5 a glass.

The Scene: Hip (but not too hip) singles likely chatting about their love life.


Departure Restaurant + Lounge

Rooftop view from Departure Restaurant + Lounge. Photo by Joe Gooding.

Where: 525 S.W. Morrison St., departureportland.com

When: 4-6 p.m. daily, 10 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Why Go: You could liken a trip to Departure, which crowns downtown’s trendiest hotel, as an elevator ride to L.A. — once the door slides open, you’re greeted by a mirrored hallway that leads to the bar and restaurant. Nowhere else in Portland will you find such a perfumed crowd of tanned professionals mixing and mingling. But look past the showy décor and modelesque clientele and you’ve got one of the best rooftop venues for enjoying a sunny day (complete with panoramic views of the city from above). Former “Top Chef” finalist and James Beard Award nominee Gregory Gourdet rules the kitchen, and his menu of pan-Asian small plates matches the flamboyant character of the restaurant — big flavors and bold creativity.

Best Deal: While nothing comes cheap here, happy hour deals include tasty small plates and discounted cocktails.

The Scene: L.A. meets Miami in Portland for a rooftop reunion.



The stuffed Siberian Pelmeni dumplings off the happy hour menu. Photo by Kari Young. 

Where: 720 S.E. Grand Ave., kachkapdx.com

When: 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight daily

Why Go: For world-class Russian cooking and an endless variety of infused vodkas served in a Soviet-inspired eatery — propaganda never tasted so, well, delicious. A word of advice from one comrade to another: Kachka ranks among the city’s best eateries, so don’t even try to grab a table for happy hour; show up early and head to the bar, throwing back shots as regional folk tunes hum from the speakers.

Best Deal: Choice of house-infused vodkas for $9.

The Scene: An unpretentious but unapologetically food-obsessed crowd.



Photo by Janet Lackey/Flickr.

Where: 600 E. Burnside St., rontoms.net

When: 5-7 p.m. weekdays

Why Go: Paying homage to the mid-century modern styles and social culture of the ‘60s, this hip bar on E. Burnside Street features a warehouse-sized hangout that’s furnished with comfy couches and a fireplace. But the real attraction is its year-round patio, which teems with activity in summer months and stays warm during the rest of the year thanks to a cozy shelter, overhead heaters and a blazing fireplace. Oh yea, did we mention the ping-pong table?

Best Deal: Select draft beers are $1 off, and the humble $2 chips and salsa won’t disappoint.

The Scene: Hipsters, bro-sters and, well, Portlanders.

Altabira City Tavern

Photo by Jon Shadel.

Where: 1021 N.E. Grand Ave., altabira.com

When: 4-6 p.m. daily

Why Go: The stunning view of downtown on a sunny day. Sitting atop the recently opened Hotel Eastlund, this rooftop tavern has a fine menu and reasonable draft list, but its key attraction is the inviting outdoor patio, where you can lounge on a couch, nurse a drink and watch the sunset light up the glass spires of the convention center.

Best Deal: Sharable, thin-crust pizzas for $8 and craft beers on tap for $4.

The Scene: A professional-ish crowd of visitors, nearby office workers and rooftop bar lovers.


Oven and Shaker

Photo courtesy of Oven and Shaker.

Where: 1134 N.W. Everett St., ovenandshaker.com

When: 2:30-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 10 p.m.-midnight daily

Why Go: Get pizza cravings in the early hours of the afternoon? Then head to this Pearl District hotspot for early-bird happy hour deals, which include four of the kitchen’s most popular pizza pies as well as discounted cocktails (concocted by bar star Ryan Magarian), a craft beer on tap and two house wines.

Best Deal: $7 Margherita pie paired with a cocktail (or two).

The Scene: Youngish, professional and crowded — but not too noisy.



Photo courtesy of Saucebox.

Where: 214 S.W. Broadway, saucebox.com

When: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10:30 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday, 11 p.m.-close Friday and Saturday

Why Go: Saucebox has been a mainstay of downtown’s dining scene for nearly two decades — that’s essentially a century in foodie years. Founded by pioneering restaurateurs Bruce Carey and Chris Israel, this swanky spot has garnered media attention and kept crowds coming for a simple reason: it puts as much emphasis on its delicious pan-Asian fare as it does on its creative bar program, and this makes it a great happy hour spot when you’re as hungry as you are thirsty.

Best Deal: The $5 cocktail of the day.

The Scene: Classic, glamorous and a wee bit froufrou.



Photo courtesy of Interurban.

Where: 4057 N. Mississippi Ave., interurbanpdx.com

When: 3-6 p.m. weekdays, 10 p.m.-close Sunday

Why Go: If you fetishize the pre-prohibition American west (or if you love handlebar mustaches), then you’ll feel right at home in this cozy two-story saloon. The happy hour features an alluring selection of craft cocktails and small plates perfect for sharing with your bearded pals.

Best Deal: An impressive menu of $5 classic cocktails.

The Scene: Hip North Portland residents, many with eccentric facial hair.


Crush Bar

Crush Bar
Photo by Mike Krzeszak/Flickr.

Where: 1400 S.E. Morrison St., crushbar.com

When: 3-7 p.m. daily, till midnight on Monday

Why Go: The exterior signage of this queer-centric, anything-goes bar — which depicts gay, lesbian and straight couples holding hands — makes its mission clear: this is a low-key hangout where no one’s judged and everyone is welcome. There’s no clearer demonstration of this than its generous happy hour menu that includes deep discounts on drinks and cheap pub grub. Set on an idyllic corner in Southeast, it’s a great sunny day spot for sitting on the sidelines of the sidewalk to people-watch.

Best Deal: $3.50 microbrew drafts and $4 martinis.

The Scene: Sticky, flamboyant ... and the occasional drag queen.



imperial 1
Photo courtesy of Hotel Lucia.

Where: 410 S.W. Broadway, imperialpdx.com

When: 2-6 p.m. daily, 10-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 p.m.-midnight, Friday and Saturday

Why Go: Few restaurants epitomize classic Pacific Northwest dining better than Imperial, which is operated by James Beard Award-winning chef Vitaly Paley. Getting a seat for happy hour, which is served at the bar, can be a challenge, but it’s worth the hustle. Tip to the wise: show up early, and order the happy hour burger, a glorious example of the simple wonders of a toasty bun with grilled beef and cheddar. 

Best Deal: $5 special cocktails and the $6 Imperial Flat Top Burger.

The Scene: Business-casual, which in Portland translates to fleece, flannel and Danner boots. 


3 Doors Down Cafe & Lounge

Photo by Mark Mardon.

Where: 1439 S.E. 37th Ave., 3doorsdowncafe.com

When: 5 p.m.-close Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-close Sunday

Why Go: For a more romantic happy hour in the otherwise-Bohemian corner of Southeast, head to this cozy Italian eatery to share simple small plates, such as the stuffed peppers with prosciutto and provolone or bread with white bean sauce. Better yet, happy hour is served at the bar until closing every night, except for Friday and Saturday.

Best Deal: Delicious small plates starting at $2.50 with $5 glasses of house wine.

The Scene: Low-key, mature and classic.

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