Long before Portland was hyped for its cocktail scene, there was Local 188.
Open since 1999, originally located across the street from its current location, this laid-back eatery is one of the original farm-to-table trendsetters in the area with owner Jay Villani at the helm creating an innovative menu that draws on Spain and the Mediterranean.
Local 188 is known for its cool, bohemian vibe with mismatched lounge furniture, including big, comfy couches and retro chairs. It’s a spacious restaurant that can accommodate a variety of needs – dinner, drinks, appetizers, late-night munching – and a mix of patrons.
While there is definitely a cool vibe here, perhaps one of Local 188’s greatest achievements in nearly two decades has been its ability to bridge gaps and cater to a wide audience. Music and art enthusiasts thrive here with weekly live music and DJ sets, as well as local art on the wall. But this is also a very reliable place for a special dinner or a glass of wine before heading to a show. Young or old, Local 188 strikes a great balance.
As mentioned, Local 188 has been one of the trailblazers for the local drink scene. There are 14 drink infusions on the menu – large glass jars filled with an array of colors line the bar – including blends such as ginger whiskey, cilantro vodka, pineapple tequila, lavender lemongrass gin and fig and vanilla bourbon.
These mixes are thoughtfully incorporated into 20 different cocktails (three of which are non-alcoholic) created by bar manager Jeremiah Davis. With seven years of mixology experience, Davis offers truly unique drinks, such as the heart of sage ($11) made with hornitos, sage liquor, agave syrup, lime juice and rhubarb bitters. The result is a balanced sweetness with a pleasing amount of herby sage and citrus.
Local 188 is also offering house kombucha, a fermented tea with natural carbonation. Flavors include ginger and strawberry rhubarb for $5 – a cheap and delicious alternative, if you’re off the booze.
The wine selection is wide-ranging with an exceptionally intelligible menu that’s broken into tasting note categories (e.g. “light and bright,” “savory and earthy,” “spicy and rich,” etc.). Primarily from Spain, Italy, France and Portugal, the by-the-glass price ranges from $7 to $10, and there are reasonable bottles for as little as $24 and as much as $125.
Beer takes up an entire page here, too, with 12 beers on tap, including cider, and four 4-ounce pours of any local beers on draft for $10. There’s a laundry list of bottles and cans – as cheap as $3 and no more than $11 – including gluten-free and international varieties.
Happy hour is from 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close Monday through Friday, featuring $4 red or white wine, $4 rotating IPA, $5 fresca and $4 olives, bravas, garlic and deviled eggs small plates. Monday nights are half-priced bottles of wine with a silent movie projected starting at about 10 p.m.
Expect a relaxed, local atmosphere at Local 188 every night of the week. Weekends are packed but cool and collected.
WHERE: 685 Congress St., Portland
HOURS: Dinner starting at 5:30 daily; bar and lounge open 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily; happy hour 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday
AMENITIES: Outdoor seating, lounge seating, two countertop options, street views and kitchen views, clean bathrooms, live music, weekly entertainment.
PARKING: Free parking lot
BOTTOM LINE: Local 188 has been a fixture in Portland’s West End for nearly two decades serving up Spanish-inspired tapas, one-of-a-kind cocktails, local beer and a comprehensive wine list that caters to everyone. Lively, relaxed, eclectic and fueled by the local art scene, Local 188 has helped create the city’s foodie foundation.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes