Suburban Safari

It’s a sad truth that when faced with the prospect of drinking out in the sticks, most people opt for a soul-crushing night of T.G.I.Friday’s hopping. Call us naïve, but we prefer to believe that in every subdivision, there lies a hidden gem, the kind of last-stand bar that Willy Loman would have called home. The kind of joint that doesn’t remind you that you’re in the suburbs, so much as help you forget.


TOP SHELF


TILLICUM CLUB
What you’re drinking: A Jack Daniels on the rocks
Thank God there are no windows here. Nobody wants to gaze out at the used car lots, the seedy loan shops and all the other reasons not to leave the city limits that threaten to beat down the Tilly’s rusted metal door and smother the joint’s soul. It’s worth a journey through the wasteland, though, if only for the chance to enjoy a drink made fast and well by a pretty, down-to-earth bartender who loves her job. And to lean back near the J-shaped bar above a tiny sunken stage, where music is cranked out by blues journeymen and 9-to-5 guys who play for tips, sharing the space with anyone who cares to dance before they continue their journey home. (8585 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, 503-292-1835)


THE ELBO ROOM
What you’re having: Second thoughts
What’s with all the faux brick and dated Lichtenstein prints? Get over it. Fact is, you found a place with a solid martini—in Gresham! Damn it, you think, ordering another, they’re trying. And for a town that always ends up on the news for the wrong reasons, that counts for a lot. (124 NE Third St, Gresham, 503-665-5704)


HELVETIA TAVERN
What you’re drinking: Budweiser
Yes, it’s the building that looks like a barn. Go through the rickety screen door closest to the parking lot. Sit at the long, rectangular bar. Say hello to your neighbor—a laid-back country-folk kind of a guy who’s just ambled across the worn wood floor to sit next to you. Basking in the light of neon beer signs, the 25-cent pool table looks lonely, but open to suggestions. On every table, pints of cheap beer accompany an equal number of cheeseburgers, and from behind the bar, you can hear the sizzling of patties—the crackle of grease serving as a delectable siren calling out: Tarry just a little longer. (1025 NW Helvetia Rd, Hillsboro, 503-647-5286)