Bar of the Year Runner-Up
Story by Martin Cizmar, Photographs by Molly Woodstock, Willamette Week
Recently it’s become vogue for Portland’s trendier drinking establishments to offer a selection of fine old books to peruse while one sips. Among the tomes at Expatriate: Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Kingsley Amis and a 1922 edition of National Geographic featuring an article called “A Caravan Journey Through Abyssinia.”
The stacks provide a nice welcome to Expatriate, the bar Beast chef Naomi Pomeroy and her husband, shaker-mover Kyle Linden Webster, opened across the street from that prix-fixe dinner house last summer. It’s a self-consciously worldly affair, the sort of place you expect people to swap stories about traveling by camel as they munch on Burmese tea leafs.
True, you could drop $100 on drinks and snacks. But the cocktails are some of the finest in town. The six I’ve sipped were all stiff and balanced, especially the No. 8, a tonic of Pierre Ferrand 1840, Dickel rye, génépi, Italian vermouth and Regan’s orange bitters. Also enjoyable is a cocktail called the Dorleac, which is quite a bit sweeter, though not out of balance, with vodka, Aperol, lemon, honey, elderflower and Angostura bitters. In an era when so many Portland bars endeavor to make their own bitters with mixed success, Webster says he remains a defender of the classics, and makes his case well.
The food menu is diverse and playful, with everything from corn dogs (crumbled Chinese sausage encased in supple breading) to a Burmese coconut noodle bowl built from wheat noodles, coconut sauce, cilantro roast chicken, duck confit and a gooey half-egg. Best of all is a Brussels sprouts plate that finds Napa cabbage, Szechuan pepper vinaigrette, and caramelized squash with a little smoky ground lamb.
Among the city’s new wave of reservation-recommended watering holes, Pepe Le Moko and Multnomah Whiskey Library might be fun for an hour, but Expatriate left a lingering impression. Walk through the green canvas tent that separates this little world from the big world around it, and you feel privileged to live such a smart and fashionable life.