Portland Monthly's 10 Best Restaurants of 2013
Turntables, spicy drinking snacks, and six perfect drinks. Portland’s best new bar isn’t just business; it’s personal.
HE IS A BUDDING BAR STAR, a Reed grad, and a fiend for old records and classic Hollywood movies. She is queen of the kitchen at Beast and a Top Chef Masters vet. Together, Kyle Linden Webster and Naomi Pomeroy are captains of ambience and ingredient geeks searching for the interesting moment, the unforgettable drink, the groan-worthy bite. The couple found it at Expatriate. Their 30-seat bar is unlike any other, dancing on the edge of gritty and glamorous, high-quality and highly personal. In this joint venture, she cooks and he shakes old-school cocktails—four or five ingredients only, one full-flavored experience.
The first thing you notice is the blackness, the shadows, the “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” vibe. Expatriate is darker than a planetarium, and it works. Flickering votives and fat red candles oozing wax on brass holders spotlight what matters here: vintage records, two turntables spinning moods throughout the evening, six nightly cocktails, each balanced like the scales of justice, and a collection of crunchy, herbaceous, heat-packing Asian snacks dispatched with ornate gold silverware. Lost and found objects stand in for décor, each encapsulating a personal story—the copy of The Air-Conditioned Nightmare by famed expat Henry Miller, the elaborately carved arch reclaimed from a Chinese restaurant, the pile of French Vogues on the bar.
Ambience aside, what really caught my attention were Pomeroy’s corn dogs—corn dogs!—remodeled as super-delicious cylinders of dainty corn bread and spicy Chinese sausage, with hot mustard and sweet chile sauce on the side for dunking. That was before the Korean fried game hen arrived, blistered beneath pickled watermelon ranch dressing, and after a Scandinavian daiquiri, deep with licorice tones and generous acidity. You can request any drink from the bar, but the six nightly sips are the focus, meant to pair with Pomeroy’s loose take on Southeast Asian street eats, with the occasional nod to James Beard (a simple onion and butter sandwich). It all could feel pretentious if weren’t so damn good and this much fun. So pull up a plush white bar chair and say hello to your neighbor. Expatriate is the meeting place of the year.
- Chinese sausage corn dog
- Shrimp toast
- Drinking Snack No. 1—market vegetables with spicy pork and tomato curry
- Korean fried game hen
- Daiquiris in any form