Pepe Le Moko407 SW 10th Ave Portland, OR 97205 Downtown Portland
(503) 546.8537 - Visit Website
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BarFly's Review of Pepe Le Moko
At first, it all seems a joke – some pastiche of craft cocktail culture, conceptual art installations, and louche divertissement begging a new reign of terror.
Open an unassuming door hidden along the west end's dreariest avenue, step into a phone-booth-sized alcove where one impeccably mannered gentleman estimates seating arrangements, while another busily shucks oysters.
The fortunate few are directed south through beaded curtains, to snack upon aristanal corn nuts in a not-appreciably-larger subterranean lounge, and page through the menu of haute suburban hors d'oeuvres (deviled eggs, cocktail franks, pecan cheese balls), and a drinks list dedicated to the least loved tipples this country has ever produced.
The name, which sounds like a nom du mime, and actually references a '30s gangster flick, hardly helps, but there's a method to Pepe le Moko's mawkishness.
If the curlicue insignia demurely stenciled upon a pastel-lit front door suggests a pre-war lingerie shop, guests have little choice but to abandon whatever expectations would've otherwise clung to the interminable gestation (some eighteen months) of the de facto Ace Hotel lounge, and latest concoction from celeb-mixmaster Jeff Morgenthaler.
In the weirdest way, his fanciful interpretations of comfort drinks dovetail precisely with the showily-understated, faux-Gallic design.
However well-orchestrated, the staff insouciance, gleaming zinc bar-top, and naughty Polaroids festooned upon distressed concrete walls, must surely be intended as less honest mimicry, than a precocious child's notion of Old World elegance imagineered from old movies, and musty Manhattan restaurants-- Paris a la Wes Anderson.
And, really, isn't the whole point of a Blue Hawaiian, or an Amaretto Sour, to tempt uncultured palates with a sweetened dollop of urbanity?
They still offer all the classic cocktails, of course, and proper sandwiches befitting owner Nate Tilden's other concerns (Clyde Common, Olympia Provisions), though the cost rather dissuades any extended debauch.
Beyond the simple practicality of ensuring seating given architectural constraints, the elevated prices also remind patrons that the house specialties are treats to be savored and shared.
After all, the $14 Grasshopper (cremes de menthe and cacoa, Fernet Branca, sea salt, and a few scoops of vanilla), as easily arrives on its silver tray with two straws – thickened paper straws, the sort with a single ribbon of color spiraling along a rough-hewn curvature reminiscent of the bar's rounded ceilings.
As for the $11 Long Island Iced Tea, that may well be a joke, but rather a good one, n'est-ce pas?
Pepe Le Moko's Hours of Operation
|Monday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Tuesday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Wednesday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Thursday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Friday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Saturday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
|Sunday||4:00pm to 2:00am|
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