Openly gay mixologist Lucy Brennan, the charming owner of Mint Bistro and the adjacent 820 Lounge (816 N. Russell St., 503-284-5518), has become celebrated internationally for her distinctive cocktail concoctions, from the Bella (blackberry puree, vodka and lemo-lime served in a sugared martini glass) to the strangely delicious Avocado Daiquiri. The native of London, England has even written a cocktail recipe book, Hip Sips. Here at her restaurant-bar complex in Portland's up-and-coming Eliot neighborhood (on the east side of the Willamette River, midway between the Alberta Arts District and trendy East Burnside's restaurants and bars, and also close to the Mississippi Avenue Arts District), you'll encounter a mixed crowd of scenesters and bon vivants enjoying superb food and drink. The kitchen's well-crafted world-beat cuisine includes halibut with spring peas and fava beans, and the Anderson Valley Ranch lamb burger with mint chimichurri, garlic aioli, and sweet potato fries.
Part of an impressive group of restaurants with lively bar scenes run by gay restaurateur Bruce Carey, hip Saucebox (214 S.W. Broadway, 503-241-3393) is noted for its popular happy hours, delicious Pan-Asian cooking (hamachi and avocado with ponzu, tapioca dumplings with chicken, braised pork cheeks with fried yucca root), and ornately colorful cocktails - the Patron gimlet, SBX Volcano (with 151 rum and other rums, orgeat, citrus, hibiscus, and several other fruits as well as spices). The slick, contemporary space pulls in a young, see-and-be-seen crowd. Of Carey's other restaurants, Bluehour is another big favorite with gay A-listers.
With a refreshingly cheesy name that hints at its age (it opened in a different space along Stark Street in 1979), Scandals (1125 S.W. Stark St., 503-227-5887) moved into a prettier space a several years back and morphed from semi-tragically sullen locals joint to genuinely festive and friendly video cruise bar. It's a relatively intimate spot with a friendly staff, and the crowds here range from sparse early in the week to packed to the rafters on weekends. It's a still a notch below trendy, which means that although you will find plenty of cute guys in here of all ages, you rarely will encounter attitude. A good bet after-work or for last call. Expect plenty of back-and-forth among Scandals and its neighbors, the Roxy Diner and Boxxes.
The lovably racy and slightly scandalous Silverado (318 S.W. 3rd Ave., 503-224-4493) has been a stalwart of Portland gay nightlife for many years, and it's become even more popular since it moved in 2008 to a much larger and more impressive downtown space a 10-minute walk from its former Stark Street location (which still has a couple of popular gay bars). The bar has two sections: you enter into the main club, where a few hunky (and generally quite hung) strippers dance (they're permitted to strip down completely naked in Portland) on stage and in a small cage to one side. It's usually pretty packed in here on weekends, and even on weekdays this is one of the better-attended gay hangouts in the city, drawing not only guys who love to watch guys dance, but also plenty of others (women and tolerant heteros are perfectly welcome). The main room leads to a small but charming patio area that's a bit quieter and is also a popular place to mingle. From here, you can access a smaller, more laid-back bar (pictured here), which has a pool table, a long bar with stools, and several tables and chairs.
A cozy and inviting neighborhood bar with a mixed gay/straight following, Starky's (2913 S.E. Stark St., 503-230-7980) is close to the Hawthorne and Belmont districts, and well-regarded for its fun happy hours, video entertainment, and great comfort food - served at breakfast, dinner, and late into the evening.
A chichi, gay-owned cocktail lounge in the trendy Pearl District, Vault Martini (226 N.W. 12th Ave., 503-224-4909) is a handsome space with comfy sofa seating, a dark bar, ample sidewalk seating in warm weather, and a memorable drinks menu that features dozens of martini variations as well as plenty of other cocktails. There's also light bar food (spiced goat cheese with sundried fruits, charcuterie and cheese plates, flatbread pizzas, s'more fondue), served late. It's a short walk from downtown's Stark Street gay bars and Old Town/Chinatown's gay scene.