If you don’t apperceive Palomar, you apparently apperceive its building. The five-story, close Southeast Division Street anatomy boasts a 70-foot-tall spray-painted mural of a woman, her updo fabricated of active plants. And if you’ve looked closely, you ability accept spotted a trogon — the civic bird of Cuba — perched on her shoulder.
That bird is a attenuate nod to Palomar, a Cuban-inspired bar and restaurant from Ricky Gomez, the New Orleans-born, Portland-trained bartender whose parents larboard the island nation afore he was born. Seven nights a week, Gomez and his aggregation agitate and alloy near-perfect daiquiris as the bar’s neon shines out assimilate a still automated amplitude of close-in Southeast Portland.
Gomez ability not be a domiciliary name in Oregon, alike amid the cocktail savvy, admitting he absolutely should be. After joining the aperture aggregation at New Orleans’ admired Cure, he confused to Portland for a job at Teardrop, the Pearl District’s acclaimed bartender finishing school, afraid about to advice accessible Ox afore being crowned U.S. Bartender of the Year at the better cocktail antagonism in the world. Afterwards touring abaft that win as a cast ambassador, he alternate home, area he helped set up the bar programs at two of the best acclaimed New Orleans’ restaurants of the accomplished few years: Compère Lapin and Saffron NOLA.
Gomez insists he could accept opened Palomar in New Orleans, a burghal that has amorphous to embrace a added aficionado of all-around flavors, including the Indian dishes at Saffron. He’s not so abiding about Miami.
“Every summer, we would appointment ancestors in Miami, so that was Cuba to me,” Gomez says. “But I’m second-generation Cuban-American. I don’t apperceive if I’m Cuban abundant to accessible a Cuban bar in Miami.”
Instead, Portland agilely poached one of New Orleans top bartending talents, the bartending agnate of the Trail Blazers signing Anthony Davis. Last year, a affiliation Gomez fabricated during his bounded bartending canicule accomplished out to him about the ground-floor amplitude aperture up at the new Solterra address on Southeast Division Street. He flew out and had a handshake accord by day’s end. (While there, he additionally met Fin DAC, the Irish artisan abaft the affecting mural, who anon added the ablaze bird to his design.)
The bar Gomez congenital blends all of his acquaintance and claimed history: Palomar is a Miami air-conditioned bar with a birr of New Orleans accommodation and an intensely Portland acknowledgment for ability drinks. It’s additionally our 2018 Bar of the Year.
The bar opened in April with a abounding card of Cuban booth aliment from above Interurban sous chef Patrick Kille, abundance aliment that has bigger over time (try the medianoche sandwich, a circuit on the archetypal Cuban served on a soft, candied roll). In added words, you can accept dinner, though you won’t be faulted if you never accomplish it accomplished the aboriginal folio of drinks. There, Gomez and longtime Portland bartender Brandon Josie pay admiration to Cuba and the allegorical old Havana angle abode El Foridita with a half-dozen daiquiris, including a Hemingway, an añejo with cacao and the best arctic you’ll acquisition in Portland. Stop by some brilliant Friday afternoon for a Hotel Nacional, a daiquiri cousin with apricot liqueur and pineapple abstract called for addition Havana institution, and you ability acquisition yourself staying for three.
Flip the folio on the attractive hard-bound card (designed, like all the graphics, by Josie) to acquisition 20 added abstract from beyond the cocktail pantheon, from swizzles to spritzes to cobblers to old fashioneds, anniversary with its own abode spin, anniversary altogether constructed. The acerb ability be Palomar’s most photographed drink, a tequila-based cocktail with a peppermint-colored EKG decrepit into its egg white froth. And Palomar does all this afterwards a aroma of snobbery. At night, you’ll apprehend blenders whirring up piña coladas. No one gives you acknowledgment for acclimation a mojito.
“Our appearance is approachable, flavorful, unpretentious, and yet if you appetite to beatnik out about broiled attic masala syrup, you can,” Gomez says.
The allowance is advised with the aforementioned absorption to detail. One of Palomar’s biggest opening costs was its furniture: gold-flecked tabletops modeled afterwards a discontinued band of G.E. coat (“it reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen table”), costly 1950s appearance stools and chairs adipose in ketchup and mustard-colored Naugahyde. “I charge accept looked at 30 bank sconces,” Gomez says. The black-and-white encaustic asphalt attic comes from Portland Asphalt & Marble, a adjacent business that happened to accept been founded by a Cuban family. Bartenders can change the lighting abaft the quartz bar with the bang of a remote, admitting so far they’ve mostly ashore with a very South Beach shade of teal.
At night, Palomar shines neon ablaze assimilate a sidewalk wet from baptize bottomward bottomward from the mural’s active hair. Laughter beckons from Palomar’s mezzanine. Yes, Palomar could accept opened anywhere, but Gomez chose to accessible it here, for abounding of the aforementioned affidavit he aboriginal confused eight years ago.
“In Portland, you can beatnik out about annihilation culinarily,” Gomez says, “coffee, beer, wine, spirits. This is the abode to be.”
What you’re drinking: If you’re alone blockage for one, consider a hand-shaken mulata daiquiri, addition El Floridita appropriate fabricated with añejo rum and cacao.
Details: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday; 959 S.E. Division St.; 971-266-8276; barpalomar.com
— Michael Russell
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