Review – Hale Pele (Portland, OR)

Visit Date: March 15, 2018

2733 NE Broadway St

Portland, OR 97232

Hale Pele is one of those fun places you find and then keep to yourself.   It’s a dark bar with a smallish sign out front and not a lot of outside light.  From the street, you can’t really see what’s inside.  You walk in the door and see a low set bar, lots of dark wood, tables to one side, and umbrellas.  Lots of umbrellas.  What you have found is something of a dying breed.  This is a Tiki bar.

Tiki bars used to be the rage twenty to thirty years ago.  To the extent that they now have a bit of a bad name.  People scoff at them and refer to them with derision.  In all fairness, there are a *lot* of bad Tiki drinks made out there.

If you are lucky though, you find a place like Hale Pele.  Hale Pele harkens back to the good old days of real Tiki bars like Trader Vic’s.  Craft cocktails, not mass mixed cocktails.  This is the good stuff, let there be no doubt.

The drink menu is a fun bit of whimsy, with drinks broken down by liquor and strength.  Volcanos depict how strong a drink is (4 is the highest, and you can have 2 before they cut you off).  The four of us spent several minutes perusing the menu and making our choices.  Anna went with a gimlet; I ordered a Mai Tai (something I have had, but suspected I had never had made correctly).  While we waited for our drinks, we ordered some wings and Galbi for a snack.

 

 

Mai Tai

 

When my drink came out, I was suitably impressed.  Great presentation, correct ice, good glass.  I was happy.  Then I tasted it.  Yes, I had been correct – all the Mai Tai’s I had enjoyed previously were *not* made correctly.  Anna was likewise impressed with her gimlet.  Our friend Caitlin got a Saturn, which Anna and I oohed and aaahhh’ed over.  All in all, we were pretty damned pleased.

Then we got our food.

We hadn’t been expecting much.  This was really just a stop for drinks before moving on to the Ramen bar for dinner.  All we were after was a snack – something to soak up some of the alcohol we were planning to fill our bellies with.

What we got was so much more.  Caitlin got chicken wings in a sweet and spicy sauce.  She made us try them (I am definitely not a wing fan) – and even I had to admit they were magnificent.  Somehow the small plate I had ordered was actually a fairly good sized dinner plate full of food.  Galbi/Kalbi ribs, pasta salad, kimchi, and fluffy white rice.  Oh, my.  The sauce on those ribs….  Sweet and savory while also being tender. Heavenly.  We had no idea how good the food was going to be.

I would go back just for those ribs.

From there, I ordered a Painkiller.  A delicious blend of orange juice, high proof rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice.  Hale Pele (in true Tiki fashion) offers this one in 4 levels of strength.   I went for the 4.  I was on vacation.

This is a drink I have made at home.  It’s like a pina colada on steroids.  I love them.  Mine is better than the one I had at Hale Pele, but only by a hair.

In Conclusion

Hale Pele is a modern take on the Tiki bar.  They make a point of emphasizing the Craft in their cocktails – with good reason.  They make some damned fine drinks.  Without even mentioning the excellent food, I would make a visit to Hale Pele part of any trip to Portland I make in the future.

Pros:

Awesome drinks

  • Lots of options – you need to visit more than once to try everything
  • Amazing food
  • Tiki mugs you can buy!

Cons:

  • Loud
  • Dark
  • Pretty easy to lose track of time, drink half the bar, and go broke.