This 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 in Portland, one of my favorite fall, winter and spring pastimes is to curl up in one of Bar Avignon’s cozy black booths with someone special, wistfully sipping rosé and watching the rain pelt the front windows.
Once you’re ensconced in a cushy booth and under this dreamy wine bar’s spell, it’s rather painful to return to the real world.
Under the watchful eye of Nancy Hunt, co-owner and former bar manager of the late Café Azul, the bar shakes and stirs consistently excellent cocktails, and the wine list is beautifully curated and always intriguing, not surprising considering co-owner Randy Goodman once reigned as iconic Wildwood’s longtime wine director. Pair your libations with a dozen sweet, briny Kumamoto oysters or a mix-and-match artisan cheese and charcuterie board, as an appetite-whetting preamble to Chef Jeremy Eckel’s Mediterranean-influenced dinner menu.
Cheekily categorized as “for sharing–or not,” small plates include a wild boar ribs swimming in a spicy peach barbecue sauce, autumn vegetables with chanterelles and fig-walnut salsa, and Washington mussels bathed in a rich tarragon-infused cream sauce that pleads to be sopped up with fresh baguette from nearby Little T American Baker. A handful of hearty mains like roast chicken with braised baby artichokes and cod, clam and calamari-choked seafood stew warm weary bones on a frigid night.
Bar Avignon likes to keep things interesting with featured wine tastings, wine dinners, and special dining events like Dungeness crab dinners and Draper Valley fried chicken nights (watch their Twitter and Facebook pages for up-to-date announcements), and their happy hour is one of the best—it’s disconcertingly easy to arrive at 4pm for the $4 house smoked salmon rillettes and $5 Aviation gin gimlets and end up sipping and nibbling until last call, because once you’re ensconced in a cushy booth and under this dreamy wine bar’s spell, it’s rather painful to return to the real world.
Executive Chef: Jeremy Eckel
Owner: Nancy Hunt and Randy Goodman
Atmosphere: Sophisticated, modern decor with a European feel, feels animated but still intimate, the sort of place you could hang out for hours with a good friend, or a lover, or a good friend whom you’d like to be your lover
Outdoor seating: Sidewalk tables facing SE Division & SE 22nd are put out in nice weather
Best Seat: A booth
Noise Level: Energetic
Dress Code: Portland Casual
Bring the Kids: No
Bathrooms: In the back, straight past the bar, to the right of the large table
Parking: Free and easy to find on surrounding residential side streets, on a busy night you may have to walk a couple blocks
Cocktails: Full bar and a signature cocktail list ($7-$9)
Beer: A good selection of local, domestic and foreign beers
Wine: Excellent selection of predominantly European and West Coast bubblies, pinks, whites and reds by the glass ($6-$11) and bottle ($24-$195)
Corkage: $20 per 750mL bottle
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Good for the following occasions: Romantic Date, After Work Drinks, Out With Friends
Group/Private Party Details: The semi-private table for 12 is a great choice for a wine-centric dinner with your supper club
Reservations: There is a semi-private table for 12 that can be reserved, otherwise it’s walk in only