With so many cookie-cutter bars in the entire country, Portland is blessed with a world-famous arcade-cum-bar in the form of Ground Kontrol.
511 NW Couch St.
This is a no-brainer, really. With so many cookie-cutter bars in the entire country, Portland is blessed with a world-famous arcade-cum-bar in the form of Ground Kontrol. It’s such a Portland staple that it’s been featured in TV shows and celebrities stop in all the time when they’re in town (Patton Oswalt, Mos Def, Brian Posehn, Wil Wheaton, etc.). What does this mean for you? Two floors of classic gaming goodness, lots of beer, tons of pinball tables, kick-ass DJs and more. They just dumped $200,000 into the place, so now it looks as awesome as it should.
2880 SE Gladstone St.
C Bar is truly a great bar. Its staff is second to none, the drinks are amazing and the food menu is truly great—especially for a bar. What’s more, when you follow the ramp through the back, you’re surprised by several great, well-maintained pinball tables. OK, you might not have been that surprised if you approached C Bar from the west, ‘cause there are a ton of windows in the pinball room. Either way, the Southeast Gladstone location might be a little low and outside for those without cars or bikes, but don’t let that stop you. It’s definitely worth the trip.
14 NE 22nd Ave.
An oft-overlooked spot, The Standard sits right across from E Burnside’s Olé Olé. You’ll find its patio tucked between Meat for Cats and Dogs and a big ol’ house. Inside, however, is a bar which would fit fine in the dive bars section, but since it has a bunch of pinball, it goes here. Now, I realize I’ve talked a lot about pinball so far, so instead I’ll talk about The Standard’s weird lottery room. It’s kind of jury-rigged into the side of the bar and provides just the right degree of seclusion for when you lose your life’s savings. What’s more, you can blow all that cash while enjoying a whole lot of brews and some tasty food!
Greek Village Tavern
301 NW Murray St.
Foosball: check. Air Hockey: Check. Pool? Yeah, they have everything. This includes lottery, pinball, arcade games and whatever else you can think of. Everyone is super nice, and you get the feeling that this bar has tons of regulars who all have nicknames for each other. It reminds me a lot of home, really, with all the local business sponsorship all over the walls and the little inside jokes everywhere. Food is your standard bar fare—fried everything. Worth noting: Greek Village has a “Twilight Zone” pinball table, but it’s broken! Please fix it, it’s a classic.
Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive
2216 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.
You may have seen this barn-esque building on MLK. It has a sign that says “tavern” but no other signage anywhere around it. This leads to confusion on how to search for it, and the whole thing’s a mess. Well, yeah, this is what it’s called. Billy Ray’s features giant mugs of beer, which look like they could easily hold 24 ounces or more, a sometimes-broken ATM and a rickety staircase that leads to a surprisingly awesome game room with plenty of pinball and pool. And yes, due in part to its name (and the ATM), you know exactly what to expect.