Teardrop Cocktail Lounge

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And here it is, Tuesday and once again the most happening spot in the area. The folded windows draw back in a fan and the heavy, all glass entryway is pinned open. I’ve got to try this place; it’s constantly crowded with people of all ages and you can hear it from a block away.  Today it’s a little more calm and the perfect time to try it out.  Walking in is like the scene of a movie.  The ceiling opens and draws back wide with the bar as a central point ahead. Seats are sparse, conversation is boisterous and hip jazz in the background is making everything a little more dlightful.

I make my way up to the bar and am happy the primary menu turns out to be nothing but drinks.  It’s a slick trifold with options: House, Classics, Friends. The House concoctions are created here and strive to hit areas of your taste buds you’ve long since forgotten. Succulent flavors, cooling effects, acidic bites and sometimes texture get’s brought into the mix.

The Classics come from different historic time frames.  Browsing the list shows recipes dating from 1888-1954.  So this is what my great, great, grandparents had?  Cool. Deshler, Rittenhouse rye, Dubonnet Rouge, Cointreau, bitters… wow!  Served with a twist of lemon. Some of these drinks should be revived as modern comebacks.

Image courtesy of Delta Sky Mag

The Friends portion, while last, was truly my favorite.  In a nod to greatness they’ve borrowed unique drinks created by specific bartenders at specific bars in other areas of the country.  I can only imagine these are the favorites of lengthy travels.  Is Brooklyn, San Diego, or Las Vegas your favorite? Mine was from Atlanta, GA called the El Rosario from Paul Calvert at Victory & Paper Plane. Nova Fogo cachaca, lime, Fernet Branca, and agave nectar combine with a mint leaf and topped with pepper for some serious spice that finished cool.

Ready for a (disgustingly) awesome fact?  Each of the trio has a party bowl option which serves “4-6 people” for an easy $54.
As for the environment… The mood is mellow and would be a great spot for a date if it weren’t quite so loud and busy.  Perhaps the weekdays are the ideal time to go. Silent movies are projected onto the wall above you and it seems to most certainly be some cheesy 70’s/80’s flick you’ve never heard of.   Depending on who you are, be wary of the somewhat trendy crowd.  Depending on the night they can be extremely pleasurable or just a hair pretentious.  One thing to be said is the varied styles of folk though.  The group of 80 yr olds are laughing it up just as boisterously as the 21+ crowd.  A perm the color of a freshly painted fire hydrant sat next to me, rocking some bright gold-plated earrings that say “BOSS”.  Radical.

Lastly, let’s talk bites.  The selection spans only 10 items (Yes, that includes appetizers and desserts) and ranges from $4-16.  I was happy paying that for this food.  The tuna tartar looks as great as it tastes; plated with sesame oil and fruit crisp that’s crisp and fresh. The Italian meatballs are nothing short of amazing, holy cow! Every bite is sweet, savory, and bold.  Be careful sharing because there are 5 meatballs and that means you’ll be fighting for the last.  Of course I’ll save the best for last… this gazpacho is simply the absolute best I’ve tasted.  It was the favorite of everyone at the table.

-Tizz

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The most understated Manhattan

rontoms2You’ve probably passed by Rontoms and not even known it.  There are no flashy signs, banners or neon flickering.  In fact, there’s no sign.  The only sign even signifying the fun within? A shadow of a man with an umbrella.  The walls are painted a drab green and it’s easy to saunter by on your way to Sizzle Pie (review to come), the delicious pizza joint doors away. It’s understated, yet stylish when you take notice.  That goes for most things at Rontoms.  The drinks, food, and attention to detail present themselves in a way that feels like silk to the senses.

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The walls have been torn back to the basic structure, with exposed beams and open cement and metal frame climbing up the wall.  With just a few splashes of color the room is brought alive along with lighting that is always just a hair too dark.  The gaping room is open and comfortable.  And this is all you’d know, really, if it’s your first or even second time here.  That’s because behind the bar there’s a walkway which leads back to what you’d think is the kitchen.  Instead it leads you outside to one of the most beautiful outdoor Portland patios available.

rontoms3 There is a ton of space out back.  There are more than a hundred people outside on a Friday night and it’s all hidden from the street.  The bamboo island lends a nice touch, as well as the rock beds surround the outdoor seating.  I know what you’re thinking… this is Portland.  It rains.  Rontoms has that covered, literally, with enough space for everyone protected under an architectural brilliance.  The fire pit keeps you warm, the exterior bar makes it convenient and did I mention the ping pong table?  Prepare for a challenge.

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…All of which might lend to how delicious this drink tastes in my hand.  That, or the quality ingredients.  That needn’t matter. What does is what a great spot this is to come and relax.  Just know, you’re now in the heart of East Portland, so non-hipsters beware – there’s a lot of flannel and mustaches here.  Worth it? Worth it.

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-Tizz

Eastburn: Hip without the Scene

Roaming around Portland can sometimes be an interesting experience – Hipsters wear their wool-knitted caps on an 85 degree day, a homeless man with $5,000 worth of tattoos drags along four dogs while on a skateboard, and what would be an attractive woman is staring at you through glasses so big your grandma wouldn’t be caught wearing them.  That’s kind of what makes Portland the unique town it is though – unique styles mixed into one.  Eastburn continues that tradition to the tee, and now I’m hooked.

Sitting on the inner East side of 18th & E Burnside, it’s right where you’d imagine an eclectic joint would be.  This is within walking and bicycle distance of all the scenesters after all.  Walking up you’ll find a number of outdoor tables and about 30 spots for bicycles which are usually completely full.  Walking in the door you’ll have to decide on one of two avenues – Upstairs with the laid back yet classic feel that leaves you between restaurant and bar, or down the stairs to the pub which is lit with an uber classy neon sign.  In reality, you’re probably going to want to visit both so be prepared to spend some time here.

Upstairs is a classy area.  There are bird cage chairs in the window, live local music playing every Wednesday-Sunday, and a beer selection to die for.  To keep it Portland you’ll find a number of unique microbreweries on tap, some of which you’ve never heard of.  Speaking of, let me recommend the Crux Fermentation Project.  It’s a brewery I’ve never seen elsewhere, yet they’ve been highlighting it here at Eastburn and even had it win a beer tasting competition this month.  The bartenders know the brews well and can give you enough background on each to make you start planning your next trip with friends.  Need this to sound even better?  How about $2.50 Tuesdays where a number of 5-8% microbrews are only…. yep, $2.50.  That’s better than a PBR any day of the week (sorry, hipsters).

Downstairs is where the hip kids probably are.  The lighting is dark and the booths have fish tanks where you’ll be mesmerized by the jellyfish floating in the same environment as the fish – Don’t they get stung?  With an entirely different selection of beers from the upstairs, they also have old school arcade bowling games.  My top score thus far – 280.  There are likely screams coming from the new 4 player Pac-Man where you’re pitched not only against ghosts but also each other.  Get the food first to super size and gobble up your opponents.  Why does this game cause so much stress yet I can’t stop!?

The real secret to Eastburn is the place you probably haven’t been to your first few trips – the back patio.  You’ll have to walk out the door upstairs past the bar.  You wouldn’t really think to look back there.  An outdoor-but-indoor backyard with roofing, tables with miniature fire pits in the center, and likely the best tables ever await:  Ones with swings.  Say what?  Yep, swings.  Now, likely not a good idea to go full bore since you’ll probably piss off one of your neighboring bad-asses.  There is one swing (by experience) that will turn on a water faucet if you go back to far.  This makes for a hilarious time for your friends, though your pants will not be as happy.

But what would all this atmosphere be without scrumptious grub to eat?  Not much, and thankfully Eastburn does not disappoint.  Pan crusted Steelhead with edamame ganache, red beet salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts and sprouts, calamari that’s only ever so slightly breaded and served with a pesto aioli and pickled peppers… the list goes on.  Needless to say the food provides an outstanding pairing to the choice beers on tap.

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So it’s a Wednesday evening and you’re looking for a place to hang out, have some fun, enjoy your food and do it all at a good price in a good atmosphere… there’s really no need to bicker back and forth over where to go.  Eastburn has everything you’re looking for and probably a bit more.  The only thing I can say is to make sure you’re not taking up all the swings, because I’m on my way down and want to relive my childhood.

-Tizz