Oysters & Bubbly

Tis true the economy is downtrodden of late, but pampering oneself even in lean times is essential to fortify the spirit. There’s nothing more luxurious than oysters and champagne, and with a little research, this posh duo can be surprisingly affordable, so you won’t even have to hock your Bentley to pay for them. For some much needed decadence on the half shell, head to these Portland eateries.

American Local

americanlocaloystersChef Chris Whaley and front of the house gal Jenny Nickolaus’s izakaya-inspired Division Street dining hall dishes an eclectic menu in a fun, energetic, comfortably casual atmosphere where you just may find yourself sharing your honey-drizzled bacon beignets with your new friends at the communal table (we did). Lots of shared small plates is the way to go here, and there are so many tempting choices, like barbecued Netarts Bay oysters, crispy grit cakes heaped with salmon tartare, a spunky watermelon radish salad with black garlic, and skewers of octopus blanketed in harissa. Sip everything from local pale ale, organic sake and Sokol Blosser’s excellent Evolution sparkly to craft cocktails, and please don’t leave without downing the banana pudding parfait.

Andina

andinabarsquareAndina’s glossy copper-topped bar is not just an altar to the almighty mojito, it’s also got a dedicated chunk of real estate just for raw oysters, making it an exceptional place to a) start a date (nothing sets the tone like oysters), b) end a date with the hope of it not really ending (nothing sets the tone like oysters), or c) park yourself after work and unwind with some stellar happy hour specials–$1.50 oysters and discounted cocktails and wines from 4-6pm daily. Andina’s top notch wine list has a handful of sparklies by the glass and a dozen or so by the bottle, Gruet for everyday, and if there’s something to be celebrated (engagement, new house, new puppy, Tuesday), let the Ruinart flow freely.

Angel Face

angelfacecollageA sultry French mistress for neighboring Navarre restaurant, this beautiful little bar is a sexy spot for late night lingering when making the 28th Avenue Restaurant Row rounds. At first glance you’ll want to compliment the proprietor’s taste in upscale wallpaper, but look closer–all those flowers were laboriously hand-painted right onto the peachy pink walls. The wine list is short and sweet, the spirits list long and serious, and don’t bother asking for a cocktail menu, in the interest of maintaining Portland quirk credentials, there isn’t one, you just tell ace bartenders Kelley Swenson or Tim Davey your drinking whim and they’ll concoct something on the spot. Bites are simple and elegant–start with raw oysters, nibble a flawless salad Niçoise, and most definitely explore the egg meurette, a poached egg swimming in the richest of red wine sauces.

Bar Avignon

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 3.35.57 PMThis classy little Southeast wine bar is equally charming in the warmest of times and the coldest of times–and considering that we have far more of the latter than the former here, one of my favorite fall, winter and spring pastimes is to curl up in a cozy booth with someone special, wistfully sipping rosé and watching the rain pelt the front windows. The bar shakes and stirs consistently excellent cocktails, the wine list is beautifully curated, and the menu moves seamlessly from nibbles like oysters on the half shell and mix-and-match artisan cheese and charcuterie boards to heartier fare like stuffed sardines and roast chicken with basil pistou. Beware the bewitching happy hour—it’s disconcertingly easy to arrive at 5pm for the $7 Washington mussels in tarragon cream sauce and $5 Aviation gimlets and end up lingering until last call, because once you’re under Bar Avignon’s spell, it’s rather painful to return to the real world.

Bar Mingo

barmingoextStrolling NW 21st Avenue on a warm summer evening, it’s easy to spot Bar Mingo. Bright orange chairs surround the sidewalk tables, and every single one of them is full of people chatting, toasting, gossiping, playing footsie, lamenting their mother’s nosiness (that would be me), and of course, sipping wine and eating cheese, among other things. Bar Mingo has an excellent wine list, tasty antipasti like lamb meatballs and oysters on the half shell, a half dozen or so housemade pastas, and hearty mains that include grilled flat iron steak and cioppino. From 4-6pm daily, there are $6 bellini, martini and wine specials, which will fill you so full of happy hour spirit, you’ll soon be calling your Mom right from the restaurant to tell her how much you love her, nosiness and all.

Block + Tackle

blockandtackleoystersFruits of the sea rule the menu at this cute, casual fishhouse along the increasingly tasty shores of SE Division Street–the smoked mackerel with watermelon, watercress, inky cured olives, mint and cayenne is mesmerizing, their Niçoise salad is one of the best, the hearty halibut fish and chips will satisfy even the most fundamental diner in your party, and gourmands will want to investigate the “seafood charcuterie” region of the menu, with its unusual marlin rillettes, ono confit, and pimenton-cured cuttlefish with orange and sherry. Desserts are few and simple, and refreshingly, never too sweet or cloying, like the apricot cobbler in a pool of warm milk, berry shortcake, and salted butterscotch pudding beneath Chantilly cream. It’s also perfect course to chart for happy hour–among other great deals, oysters on the half shell are half off.

Bluehour

bluehourdiningroomA perennially hip and swanky Pearl District mainstay, see-and-be-seen hotspot Bluehour is the perfect place to get your sleek on and celebrate a big birthday, anniversary, promotion, the sale of your Internet company, or lottery win. Start with Chivas Regal-kissed Blood & Sand cocktails in the sexy mirror-lined bar, then settle into your patch of white tablecloth-draped dining room real estate, order a bottle of Argyle Brut, and move onto raw oysters with rhubarb–verjus mignonette, beef tartare with salt and vinegar chips, SuDan Farm’s lamb chop with farro, grilled fennel and blackberry sauce, and for dessert, perhaps a decadent chocolate torte with buttered popcorn ice cream, or, just a visit from the ever-so-glamorous cheese trolley.

Café Castagna

cafecastagnaextsquareOne of the Hawthorne’s most beloved neighborhood joints and just the place for a casual but quality dinner with friends, Café Castagna can always be counted on to serve some of the freshest and best-shucked bivalves in town. A half dozen Netarts Bay beauties on the half shell with champagne mignonette and rye will set you back $16, $15 during their twice -daily happy hour, from 5-6pm and 9pm to close. And since the wine list is widely regarded as one of the city’s best, you’ll have no trouble finding a loveable sparkling Vouvray or Prosecco to pair them with.

Church

churchbarsquareEmbracing the philosophy that a bar should be named after some other place you ought to be instead–i.e. the Office, Library, Court Hearing–this crystal decanter and priest portrait-lined house of whiskey worship is feeding and watering the Kerns flock with Fernet-blessed Hang Your Cross cocktails and Southern-style eats, like fried green tomatoes with pickled ramps, shrimp ‘n grits with corned beef, and oysters four ways–on the half shell, and as angels, devils, and hipsters on horseback (the latter involving a sweet beer glaze, green tomato and pancetta). So now when someone asks what you did on the Sabbath, you can truthfully say you were filled with soul food and Old World Prayer–nobody has to know the latter is made with Monopolowa and Green Chartreuse.

Dan & Louis Oyster Bar

danandlouisBeloved Dan & Louis has been around since 1907, so they know a thing or twelve about oysters. Their menu reads like the Who’s Who of Pacific Northwest bivalves—you’ll find Fanny Bay, Kumamoto, Sinku, Totten, Olympia, Hammersley, Yaquina Bay, and more. Wines on the Pacific Northwest-centric list are chosen for their oyster compatibility, and if you’re not keen on their sole sparkly, the Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut ($48), you might have to venture into the whites territory instead. Bargain hunters, from 4-6 pm on weekdays, in the Old Shucking Room bar, you can get a dozen oysters on the half shell for $15.95, and for your friends who want to spend quality time with you in dark, cozy downtown places, but refuse to eat slimy raw sea creatures, a few Cajun pan fried Yaquina oysters for $2.95 each.

Davenport

davenportscallopsChef Kevin Gibson’s new East Burnside restaurant, formerly home to June, allows him a far roomier setting in which to craft his simple, impeccable supper fare. Evoe devotees will miss the intimacy of sitting 12 inches from Gibson’s knife skills, but the tradeoff is that in lieu of Evoe’s 7pm closing time, you can eat his grilled beef heart with black olive salsa, seafood chowder, and perfectly seared scallops and duck breast all the way up until bedtime. A full dessert menu remains elusive, but fortunately, Pix Patisserie is right next door, so sweet teeth should plan on a progressive dinner.

Davis Street Tavern

davisstreettavernsquareMy most poignant memory of this classy brick-walled Old Town eatery’s raw oyster offerings was the result of attending a champagne tasting upstairs with my friend Jacose, then moving downstairs to the bar, and there is a huge fuzzy spot in my recollections between the second dozen oysters and second bottle of bubbly, and waking up at noon the next day to soft knocking from my neighbor informing me my keys were hanging from the doorknob (the freezer and oven doors were also wide open, and a package of Trader Joe’s taquitos had clearly been mauled at some point). That said, I recommend you also go and enjoy the oysters here, but perhaps with slightly less gusto. They’re $14-$18 a half dozen during dinner, but if you stop in for happy hour, they’re $2 each, and glasses of cava are but $5 (be careful, or at least hide the taquitos before you go).

EaT: An Oyster Bar

eatoysterbarintsquareThis relaxed New Orleans-style North Portland oyster bar’s menu is dotted with briny Pacific Northwest and East Coast beauties, be they on the half shell, within the five kinds of oyster shooters, baked beneath spinach and watercress puree or mushroom béchamel, or fried and embedded in a po’ boy. Pair with a bottle of house bubbly (ringing in at an affordable $28) or sparkling Riesling, and follow with the housemade dried Bing cherry-studded bread pudding. While there, keep your eye out for info on their annual Oyster Fest and oyster farm field trips.

Heathman

heathmansquareThe Heathman Hotel is one of downtown Portland’s fine dining mainstays, if you’re seeking a French-influenced, white tablecloth affair a baguette’s throw from SW Broadway’s major theatre and event spaces. I’m more of a Heathman Happy Hour girl myself. The food is excellent and quite affordable, raw Pacific oysters with lemon and mignonette are but $2 each, is served in the restaurant’s less formal adjoining bar, which can be quite the scene on a busy weekday evening. Once, UTTWJ Special Correspondent April even saw Jennifer Aniston there. And since the Heathman’s happy hour goes from 2pm all the way until close, if you work up a late evening appetite while watching Flight of the Conchords perform, you can revisit after the show.

Imperial

imperialexteriorsquareThose seeking a classy joint worth getting dolled up for are jazzed about Vitaly Paley and Ben Bettinger’s sensibly swank new Broadway Street eatery in the Hotel Lucia, where seasonally-driven Northwest fare fuels a convivial downtown crowd. And if you end up getting the proverbial room after a few too many of the dangerously affordable signature cocktails, come morning, the Imperial pastrami hash and crab croque-madame are but an elevator ride away—the dining room serves three squares a day, starting at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on weekdays.

Jake’s Famous Crawfish

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 12.22.26 PMOysters and old money make a lovely couple, and you’ll find this well-heeled duo fraternizing at this perpetually popular drawing room-esque downtown landmark. Mostly sourced from the Pacific Northwest, the bivalves on the half shell range from $14-$16 a half dozen, and also make an appearance on the twice daily happy hour menu in the form of the $2.95 oyster shooters. Order a bottle of champagne, loosen your ascot/slip off your Prada loafers, and exchange details about your Gearhart beach houses with your equally posh companions as you sip and slurp. Note to the single and searching: From what I can tell, this is the place to hang out with your oysters and bare ring finger if your Mom’s been pressuring you to marry a doctor or lawyer.

North 45

north45squareBig bowls of steaming hot mussels, a Chimay Grand Réserve, and a seat at the bar makes for a pretty good game day at this popular Alphabet District “travel pub.” The internationally-influenced menu runs the gamut from raw oysters on the half shell and spicy oyster sambal glazed green beans, to seven kinds of mussels, to robust pub grub like the smoked gouda burger, accompanied by an exceptional selection of Belgian beers, and a lot of whiskys. And since they are open every night until at least midnight, you’ll have plenty of time in which to sample them all.

Olympic Provisions NW

opmeatboardPortland is full of interesting secrets—secret catacombs, secret kebabs, secret gardens, secret creperie-speakeasies, and Secret Society, to name a few. Then there’s Olympic Provisions Northwest, which isn’t technically a secret, but unless you’re a particularly thorough wanderer, prone to getting lost, or have business in the industrial wilds of Northwest Portland, you’d be hard-pressed to stumble upon it. Walking through the deli’s front doors, you’re immediately confronted by one of the finest meat counters around—brimming with fresh sausages, frankfurters, patés, rillettes, Sweetheart hams, bacon, and a full range of Olympic Provisions’ acclaimed salami–all housemade on site. Orbiting the deli case is an intimate kitchen-facing marble bar, a few tables for two, and two boisterous communal tables—so you’re covered, whether you’re having salami sandwiches and cold microbrews for lunch with friends, or sharing one of the peerless rotisserie chickens with Schmaltz potatoes and a bottle of rosé with a hot date. Read full write-up>>

Paley’s Place

paleyssteakIt should come as no surprise that this revered Northwest Portland den of deliciousness grills a mean steak. Set the tone with chilled oysters on the half shell and a bottle of Bollinger, move on to the legendary steak tartare–American Kobe Beef finely chopped and served with all the traditional accompaniments, then dig into the star of the show–a tender Highland Oak strip steak with schmaltz potatoes, which can be ordered as a half portion for smaller appetites and budgets. End with the chef’s selection cheese plate and a 10-year Tawny port or snifter of Clear Creek’s Williams pear brandy, and you are officially living the good life.

Raven & Rose

ravenandroseinteriorsquareSet inside SW Broadway’s gracious historic Ladd Carriage House, this lavishly-remodeled downtown eatery has dual personalities. Downstairs, dolled up couples-about-town delicately slurp oysters on the half shell with their champagne and dig their forks into Park Kitchen alum David Padberg’s steak tartare and “rabbit two ways” in the elegantly appointed dining room, while upstairs, liberated office mates unwind over bartender Dave Shenaut’s craft concoctions in the Rookery Bar, a lofty wood beam-thatched space that’s part shiny cocktail lounge, part flat screen and billiards-endowed man cave.

Ringside Steakhouse

ringsidePerhaps Portland’s most all-around popular steakhouse, the esteemed Ringside is stodgy enough to please the classic steakhouse afficionado and friendly enough to please anyone else who might happen in, even if they are wearing khaki shorts and a slightly sweaty lavender t-shirt. Start your swanky old school supper with the NW Oyster Medley–a half dozen oysters on the half shell with cucumber & ginger mignonette or a classic shrimp cocktail, get your greens with an iceberg wedge, then move onto the endless surf and turf possibilities. If you’re on a budget, but want to feel like a high roller, opt for the quite-affordable Supper Menu–your choice of soup or salad and an entree of surf ‘n turf, prime rib, pork chop, or jumbo prawns for $33.50. Finish up with Bananas Foster and another dirty martini, and then head out for a cigar and maybe some jazz. You’ll be in that kind of mood.

Southpark Bar and Grill

southparkoysterssquareWhen you’re alone and life is making you lonely, take Petula Clark’s advice and go downtown…to cheery Southpark Bar and Grill, where you can plop down with a friend at a bistro table in the charming little European-style bar and share a platter of icy-cold Pacific oysters with red wine mignonette or champagne gelee (half dozen $15). Hopefully your kind boss will help and understand you–and let you skip out of work in time to take advantage of Southpark’s daily 3-6pm happy hour menu, where a half dozen oysters is just $10, and the house sparkly is $5 a glass. With happy hour specials like that, you can forget all your troubles and cares in no time, just like Petula told you.

Tanuki

tanukioysterssquareIt may take you a while to find these chilly treasures on Tanuki’s menu because you’re too busy goggling the enticing list of bar snacks and kushiyaki that precede them, but once you have, you’ll zero in on them immediately the next time you visit–icy cold Netarts Bay oysters on the half shell with a ruddy, wince-inducing (in a good way), light-as-frozen-air kimchi shave ice, paired with a bottle of equally refreshing sparkling sake.

Taylor Railworks

taylorrailworksmarrowbahnmiSet in the inner Southeast’s historic Plow Works Building, so close to the tracks that your Kentucky Cardinal cocktail trembles when the trains go by, this low-ceilinged space beguiles with its wide wood beams, stunning open kitchen, sexy swanky bar, and chef/owner Erik Van Kley’s expertly prepared “Borderless American Cuisine.” Even the most sophisticated dish has a hint of both the homey and exotic, like the hearty grilled marrow bone topped with bánh mì fixings and served with warm housemade dinner rolls. Staunch pescatarians will be thrilled, the menu leans towards the sea, with  starters like two sweet scallops on a bed of cucumber and spicy mayo, mains like Oregon albacore topped with nectarine salsa, and desserts that…well, they’re just normal desserts, no fish there. Actually, I take that back, the desserts aren’t normal, they’re fantastic, especially the signature waffle with bruleed banana, smoke-laced crème fraiche, and melt-in-your-mouth pecan praline.

Urban Farmer

urbanfarmerloungeThat Isabel Marant dress you ordered fresh off the runway has arrived, you’ve squeezed all 11 toes into your new Rag & Bone ankle boots, and you’re itching for a pretty cocktail and some stylish ambiance to match your own stunning aura. Meet your girls downtown at the Nines Hotel’s Urban Farmer steakhouse for a Kitty Kat cocktail (be sure to buy your man-eating 40-something bestie an Eye of the Cougar) and a few dozen raw oysters with champagne mignonette. You’ll feel quite at home amongst the fashionably-attired mannequins, white leather furniture, attractive crowd, and luxurious glass rooms you can claim as your very own glammy see-through VIP lounge. Psst: Late night happy hour runs from 10pm to close, with $5 cocktails du jour and all sorts of liquor-absorbing small plates.

Woodsman Tavern

woodsmanseafoodWoodsman’s got a knack for memorable dishes that are both rustic and innovative—like duck drumettes with Sriracha-laced kumquat sauce, a Lacinato kale Caesar with rye croutons, whole roasted trout in “crazy water”, biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled collards, the majestic Woodsman burger, and the formidable bone-in ribeye for two, while at the bar, spirits sorcerer Evan Zimmerman crafts puckery Omaha Sours and 24kt gold-accented Bentley cocktails. Next door, the European-style Woodsman Market sells fresh produce and farm eggs, cheese and charcuterie, exceptional wine and other genteel sundries, as well as hearty housemade sandwiches and a chocolate pudding so exceptional, you will want to buy it by the barrel (you can’t though, sorry for getting your hopes up).

Yama Sushi & Sake Bar

yamasushiOne of my favorite Portland sushi experiences of all time was at this friendly, elegant restaurant in the Pearl District’s swanky Burlington building, where we nibbled Kumamotos on the half shell with spicy ponzu and flawlessly fresh sashimi while blatantly watching the first date next to us crash and burn, as she threw a passionate fit about the still-moving shrimp head on her plate, then covered it with a leaf shroud as her appalled date looked on. Amazing sushi, amazing eavesdropping = the ideal meal. The affordable lunch specials are particularly appealing for midday sushi seekers, try the seafood pot, sukiyaki, or bibimbob with organic vegetables, red pepper sauce and pan-fried egg, all under $10. If you don’t mind walking a few blocks, park on this end of the Pearl before a Portland Center Stage show at the Armory, and make this your pre-show fuel-up.

Zupan’s

zupansoystersWhat about those nights when you’re craving freshly shucked briny bivalves but haven’t the energy to frequent your favorite oyster bar or bistro? Try Zupan’s, they have an excellent selection of reasonably-priced oysters on ice in the seafood department, plus, if you ask politely, they will shuck the oysters for you, gently replace the top shell to protect the precious innards, place them on a portable bed of crushed ice, and wrap them firmly for the trip home. All you have to do is grab a few lemons and some fresh horseradish, and of course, a bottle of bubbly from, which you can chill in their quick cooler while your oysters are being shucked.