Bar scene the toast of downtown Vancouver

Varied and vibrant, it’s helping bring new life to the city’s core

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
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Vancouver’s downtown bar scene has cleaned up and become varied and vibrant in the past few years.

New sports bars, Irish pubs and upscale wine venues are appearing.

If you haven’t checked it out in a while, now is a great time to get out there and discover a new hangout spot that suits your taste.

“If you haven’t checked out all the bars downtown, you really should,” said Trey Washington, manager at Top Shelf Grill. “There’s a lot there.”

Workers and owners at many downtown bars have friendly relationships and will even recommend each other’s locations to patrons. And the buzz is starting to draw visitors in from that city across the Columbia River to our south.

“The scene has definitely grown, and it’s getting better,” said Richard Bridge, bartender at The Atrium Lounge. “I grew up here in Vancouver, and I feel like people didn’t want to come to downtown even a few years ago, but now they’re even coming here from Portland.”

Cleaning up

And with city beautification, the First Friday Art Walk and efforts to improve the safety of downtown visitors, the city is in a great position to keep growing as a hopping spot for nightlife, said Deborah Kertzman, owner of Malibu Restaurant and Lounge.

“I see downtown cleaning up, and I like it,” Kertzman said. “I think the city is really cleaning up the transients. That’s a lot better.”

And even though some venues, such as O’Shansky’s and Fat Tuesday’s, have recently shut down, more are already lining up to take their place, said Steve Hilken, bar manager at Main Event Sports Grill.

“I think downtown in general is getting busier,” Hilken said. “We’ve had a few places close down recently, but there are more coming in and planning to open up soon.”

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://www.twitter.com/col_suevo or sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.

DOWNTOWN BARS

Want to give downtown’s night life a shot? Here are some suggestions

Quay Restaurant and Bar

Where: Red Lion Hotal Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St.

Telephone: 360-750-4940.

Web: Quay Restaurant and Bar

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Entertainment: Live bands from 9 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Theme: The Quay Restaurant and Bar is on the river and has a nautical theme, with sails flying above.

Signature drinks: Full bar with 20 beers on tap.

Gray's At The Park

Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St.

Telephone: 360-828-4343.

Web: Gray's at the Park

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

Theme: Casual hotel restaurant bar with a view of Esther Short Park. Frequented by downtown office workers and the business crowd.

Signature drinks: Hand Made Mojito, with rum, soda and mint muddled at the bar. “Not only is it a great drink, but it’s a great show as well,” said Steven Nelson, assistant general manager. Pomegranate Martini, with Absolute Citron, pomegranate liquor and fresh lemon; and a Pomegranate Smash, with Hendrix gin, pomegranate liquor, basil, lime juice and a splash of soda.

More: About 55 wines, with around 65 percent from the Northwest, six beers on tap including local and seasonal varieties.

Top Shelf Grill

Where: 600 Main St.

Telephone: 360-699-7106.

Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.

Entertainment: Pianist Jim Fischer on Wednesdays, DJs on Thursdays and Saturdays, live local bands on Fridays.

Theme: Martini bar, with more than 40 martinis to choose from.

Signature drinks: Strawberry Starburst, with strawberry vodka, strawberry purée and lemon syrup; Chocolate Espresso Martini, with vanilla vodka, espresso, Godiva dark chocolate liqueur, Kaluha and half-and-half.

More: The martini has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. It’s not the classic James Bond-style drink anymore, said Trey Washington, manager at Top Shelf: “Technically, back in the day, it was vodka or gin, but now it’s kind of anything that can be served in a martini glass,” he said.

The Atrium Lounge

Where: 606 Broadway St.

Telephone: 360-980-8370.

Web: The Atrium Lounge

Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, closed Sundays.

Entertainment: Karaoke on Mondays; open mic night on Tuesdays; live DJs Thursdays through Saturdays.

Theme: Martini bar for a younger urban crowd. Also serves mixed drinks, beer and wine.

Signature drink: Apple Jacks, with Absolute pear vodka, cinnamon and an apple garnish.

More: The Atrium recently added brick oven pizza to its menu. Minors are allowed in the restaurant until 9 p.m.

Malibu Restaurant and Lounge

Where: 115 E. Seventh St.

Telephone: 360-553-7910.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.

Entertainment: Karaoke on Sundays and Mondays, DJ on Wednesdays, live entertainment Thursdays through Saturdays.

Theme: “We’re kind of a Southern California atmosphere,” said Deborah Kertzman, owner. “We’ve got surfboards, umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, a variety of food and drinks.”

Signature drink: Malibu Delight, with Malibu mango rum, triple sec, sweet and sour mix, cranberry juice, Cruzan’s 151 rum and Malibu passion fruit rum, served in a small bucket.

More: The bar has several mixed drinks that use Malibu rum. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. visitors can buy a beer called “Malibu Brew” for $1 a pint.

Main Event Sports Grill

Where: 800 Main St.

Telephone: 360-448-7146.

Web: Main Event Sports Grill

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.

Entertainment: A wide variety of sports on 10 TVs. “If you come in here and we don’t have the channel that your game is on, we’ll find a way to get it for you,” said Steve Hilken, bar manager. “If somebody requests the ping-pong championship, we’ll get it.”

Theme: Sports grill with a wide variety of food options and a full menu available until 2 a.m.

Signature drinks: Main Event does several of its own flavor-infused liquors, such as the peach bourbon and strawberry vodka used in its Fruit Loop Martini, which comes with crushed Fruit Loops around the glass rim as a garnish.

More: Main Event has 16 beers on tap, almost all of which are brewed in the Pacific Northwest. It also has 20 different wines and a variety of mixed drinks.

Dublin Down Irish Pub

Where: 813 Main St.

Telephone: 360-695-6712.

Web: Dublin Down Irish Pub

Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Entertainment: Open mic night on Thursdays, live music Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Timbers games on an 11-foot screen and special events on Saturdays.

Theme: Irish pub and sports bar focused on Portland Timbers soccer. Wide variety of Irish food and drinks.

Signature drinks: Irish Roots, with Jameson and root beer; Irish Bloody Mary, a bloody Mary with a float of Guinness on top; and, of course, Guinness beer on tap.

More: The pub has every type of Jameson Irish whiskey, five TVs for sports and serves a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Patrons can also play shuffleboard, pinball or video golf.

Chronis' Restaurant

Where: 819 Main St.

Telephone: 360-690-0032.

Web: Chronis' Restaurant

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Entertainment: Karaoke on Fridays and Saturdays. Sports games on several TV sets.

Theme: Old-school sports bar run by Chuck Chronis, a former Vancouver baseball star. The bar is frequented by sports figures, judges and other notables from the city’s past.

Signature drinks: Four beers on draft and many more bottled varieties, full bar, mixed drinks.

More: Chronis’ is the city’s oldest sports bar and has been in business since 1968. The crowd is generally age 30 and older, and the menu includes a Reuben sandwich, several Greek items and prime rib on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tommy O's

Where: 801 Washington St.

Telephone: 360-694-5107.

Web: Tommy O's

Hours: 3 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 3 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.

Entertainment: Live music most nights.

Theme: Pacific Rim bistro with island foods using local ingredients.

Signature drinks: Margaritas and Mai Tais, other island drinks.

More: Rotating selection of draft beers, with Longboard Lager always available.

Niche Wine & Art

Where: 1013 Main St.

Telephone: 360-980-8352.

Web: Niche Wine & Art

Hours: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Entertainment: Live music on Saturday nights starting at 7:30 p.m.

Theme: Niche, which is attached to the Angst art gallery, is both a wine retailer and wine bar where visitors can try more than 30 types of wine by the glass. “Our focus is on quality wines from all over the world,” said Leah Jackson, owner.

Signature drinks: 170 wines available by the bottle and an ever-changing lineup of wine varieties by the glass.

More: Niche is also a restaurant and has poetry readings on various nights each month. It serves a wide variety of cheeses and also occasionally teaches patrons about pairings of food and wine.

Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub

Where: 108 W. Evergreen Blvd.

Telephone: 360-993-1827.

Web: Salmon Creek Brewery and Pub

Hours: Closed for remodeling and will reopen this summer. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, subject to change, said new owner Dave Nunez.

Theme: Classic brew pub with 18 local and regional beers on tap, including five made on site.

Signature drinks: A variety of unique beers made by brewmeister Tomas Munoz.

More: Salmon Creek was founded in 1994 by Larry and Ana Pratt, who recently retired. Nunez, who with his wife Arlene owns By The Bottle next door, plans to reopen soon with new beer varieties and several healthy menu items made from locally grown food, including vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Brickhouse Bar and Grill

Where: 109 W. 15th St.

Telephone: 360-695-3686.

Web: Brickhouse Bar and Grill

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Entertainment: Live music Wednesdays through Saturdays, including unplugged Thursday night.

Theme: Family- and community-friendly pub that shows the work of local artists and includes a kids’ play area. Minors welcome until 9 p.m. “Us having kids, we noticed there weren’t a lot of places where you could have the kids with you but still have a beer, so that’s what we did,” said manager Stephen Deans.

Signature drinks: Twenty beers on tap, with 16 taps that rotate through craft beers from Pacific Northwest breweries.

More: The Brickhouse has 17 varieties of spiced chicken wings, along with a variety of typical pub fare.

Boomers Sports Bar and Grill

Where: 611 Main St.

Telephone: 360-693-7300

Web: Boomers Sports Bar and Grill

Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.

Entertainment: Karaoke Thursdays, Fridays and Sunday afternoons. Pool tables.

Theme: “Our theme goes along with our name, Boomers -- Baby Boomers are our customers,” said Bob Pontius, co-owner. “It’s kind of like a Cheers bar, everybody knows each other. It’s a fun place.”

Signature drinks: Twelve beers on tap, full liquor bar. $1.50 beers during happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m.

More: Boomers moved into the space once occupied by the Gold Rush, which had a bad reputation for fights. The new owners have cleaned it up and are focused on serving retirees and older Vancouver residents.