In the heart of downtown Portland sits a wee gem you could easily pass on the street without knowing even existed. The entrance is a nondescript doorway, where from the street I can spot a handsome gent shucking oysters. Popping open the door I’m greeted by a beaming hostess who stands in a tiny corner at the top of a staircase. I wink at Prince Charming who smells of a briny sea and descend to the basement. Just as I’m about to reach the last step she whispers, “prepare your eyes as it is quite the adjustment.” I spill into a dark hole and take a full thirty seconds to realize I am standing at an underground bar, filled with hipster couples sipping cocktails from the time of yore.
Pepe Le Moko is a subterranean speakeasy at the Ace Hotel offering top notch cocktails from celebrated bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. The space is petite and offers a charming venue where I suspect local lovers seeking mystery and romance meet. I hopped up on a barstool and whisked my way through the petite cocktail list. This would be my pre-dinner delight so aimed at enjoying two tipples and a nibble duo. Reading through the bar snack offering one quickly realizes Prince Charming up top working out of a wee nook by the front door takes care of everything on offer in this department. Guests can order a variety of nuts, shrimp chips, freshly shucked oysters and selection of Spanish inspired sandwiches also known as bocadillos.
The cocktails at Pepe Le Moko pack a punch. I fancy the Amaretto Sour most featuring overproof bourbon, lemon and egg white while nibbling on salty meets sweet Hawaiian Peanuts and crunching through bocadillo filled with sweetheart ham and zesty zucchini pickles.
Sips and Nibbles:
Bakersfield Picon Punch Royale
tarani amer, lemon, oregon brandy, grenadine, sparkling wine
amaretto, overproof bourbon, lemon, egg white
sweetheart ham, zucchini pickles