It's sad to me when a concept that should stand out in a town like Portland remains such a well-kept secret that I fear for its survival. Many features of NW Portland's The Bent Brick should make it a destination—it's gorgeous, for one, with its namesake red building matter the primary element of an open yet cozy dining area, an inviting bar, and some of the most original cuisine in town (they also offer the most reasonable priced tasting menu in town, a mere $55 for a taste of every single dish on the menu). Their bar is unique, as well, in the sense that only domestic spirits live behind the bar—a limitation that precludes an authentic Negroni from starring in the mixing repertoire, but one that seems to inspire bar manager Connor Mansager to be constantly creative and downright innovative in compensating for missing liquor standards. Playing with similarly domestic beers, wines, shrubs, and other craft ingredients to create familiar flavors, the cocktail menu itself is a marvel in resourceful balance. And most importantly, the drinks taste really good.
This week's favorite is Make it Work, a refreshingly basic blend of House Spirits white Whiskey, Ruby rhubarb liqueur, and Vya sweet and dry Vermouth. Served neat, the drink doesn't look like much, but stands out for its clean, dry flavors and essential component quality—a feature that shines throughout the menu, as many of the drinks are composed of slightly obscure but always thoughtfully sourced elements. If you haven't been to or haven't even heard of this gem tucked away outside the Pearl District, give it a shot—you can sit at the bar and learn so much about domestic spirits, and enjoy them at their finest. It's downright patriotic.
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