6 Dark Bars in Portland

After a long, hard day working under fluorescent lights, sometimes you need a place to unwind with a shot of bracing liquor. And often the best place to toss back that post-work drink is a dark, moody bar. The same could be said for various situations; sometimes alcohol tastes best when you can't really see it. So whether you're looking to set the mood on a second date or fade into the background like an erstwhile movie star, find your escape in Portland's darkest bars.

Updated: October 14, 2009

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El Gaucho

319 Sw Broadway, Portland, OR 97205

Just off Broadway's main drag, this upscale dining room and bar attracts a moneyed crowd in search of old-guard steakhouse fare, legendary tableside service and dim lighting that encourages canoodling and clandestine rendezvous. Couples have no qualms about cozying up in a booth in the darkened bar with a ginger-infused cosmo in hand while they wait for a candlelit table in the dark-wooded dining room located just steps beyond the bar.

Ringside Steakhouse Downtown

2165 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97210

Steakhouse-loving diners and West Burnside wanderers slink into this dimly lit bistro and bar and enter a world where old-school fare and tuxedoed service live on. The cave-like ambience might depress eternal optimists (or fans of bright, cheery restaurants) but regulars know this veteran steakhouse as the best place in town to brood over a glass of tawny port in a low-lit bar.


525 Sw Morrison, Portland, OR 97204

Hotel guests and in-the-know couples compete for seating in this clubby hangout at the elegant Nines hotel. The somewhat secret space is located just off the hotel lobby and Urban Farmer restaurant, and serves as a strikingly dark retreat to an otherwise light-filled hotel. Guests can order classic or contemporary cocktails from the restaurant's drink menu, then pass time playing pool and perusing the library's extension collection of books.

Driftwood Room

729 Sw 15th Ave, Portland, OR 97205

In stark contrast to the cream-hued lobby of the Hotel deLuxe, this tucked away lobby bar is utterly seductive with its wood-paneled walls, old-school atmosphere and dark as night ambiance. It's the sort of setting a liaison would take place, though more often the tiny space fills cocktail cognoscenti eager to watch the master mixologists perfect the craft.

Gold Dust Meridian

3267 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97217

Hawthorne hipsters drown their sorrows with classic champagne cocktails and shareable appetizers at this mod cocktail bar. There's no trace of its former life as a CPA office left; the interior got a complete refresh when it opened complete with dim lighting, teak ceilings and black banquets.

Vault Martini Bar

226 NW 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97209

The sophisticated set have turned this velvet-bedecked martini bar into an after work gathering place for well-heeled women and men in power suits. The late-night hours promise hookups in the candlelit dining room, no doubt fueled by martinis ordered from the extensive cocktail list.