Saturday, August 20, 2011
Three Perfect Days in Portland: Night One, Secret Society / Toro Bravo
Two reasons to stay: The Secret Society & the food.
The Secret Society is the creaky, 1907, former fraternal hall upstairs from Toro Bravo. I rank it as the best bar in Portland because of a combination of great cocktails, cozy, unique atmosphere, and fun people who frequent there. The ballroom hosts musicians, who often play 1940s music. At times, some patrons will dress the part. In the past, we’ve been there when it looked like we walked into a WWII movie. Tonight, the crowded place bumped us into other friendly folks, one of whom took the picture at top.
Toro Bravo serves really delicious, creative food on small plates to share. I hate to use the word "tapas," because they are better than the tapas you've eaten elsewhere. The atmosphere is great: High ceilings, common tables, regular tables, and seating on bar-like stools. The noise from a roomful of convivial conversation and background musical downbeats allows for private conversations even when sharing a common table. Willamette Week, Portland’s venerable entertainment weekly, ranked it Restaurant of the Year in 2007, and Toro Bravo continues to please. It started with an free appetizer of padrone peppers as we selected our plates to share with each other. It finished with two desserts: Churros to dip in chocolate and baked summer fruit with ice cream. In between, little taste bombs exploded in our mouths.
After dinner, we drove across the Willamette River, with the city lights twinkling, toward the Pearl District, where Rob met us for a drink at Teardrop.