Review – McMenamin’s Zeus Cafe (Portland, OR)

McMenamin’s Zeus Cafe

303 SW 12th Ave

Portland, OR 97205

Visit: March 16, 2018

We stopped by the Zeus cafe to grab a drink and meet up with our friend Caitlin downtown.  The cafe is located on a long block as part of the adjoining Palace Hotel.  The McMenamin’s have a pretty neat thing going in Portland – they buy up properties and turn them into music venues/breweries.  I did not get a chance to try any of there beer, but I did get to try a few tasty beverages while we were there.

Anna and I both snagged a cocktail.  I went for the Zeus’ take on a Vieux Carre.  While I enjoyed it, I cannot say it was as tasty as the one I had at Pepe le Moko the night before (that one was near perfect).  It was, however, quite tasty and I left no alcohol behind.

Zeus' Vieux Carre cocktail

Zeus Cafe’s take on a Vieux Carre


During our drinking and chatting, I happened to notice that there were two bottles of nice van Winkle bourbon sitting on the bar shelf – Old Rip van Winkle, and Pappy.  If you know anything at all about either bourbon, you will likely recognize the Van Winkle name.  To say it commands a hefty price is an understatement.  Most places I see it at home, a glass will run you a minimum of $25.

So, it being my vacation and all, I figured I would at least ask how much they were charging a glass.  This being a bar, some 1500 miles from home (and bourbon country) I figured the price would be a bit astronomical and I would file the info away and order a beer.

Surprisingly, the server came back and told me a glass would be $12.50.  I asked him to double check.  He did.  I ordered one.

Granted, I wasn’t sure *which* one I had just ordered, but either way – it would be worth it.  A few moments later, it arrived.  I inquired about the pricing (I know, I know, a gift horse and all that)…  Apparently, the bar manager likes to snag rarities, then *not* charge an arm and a leg for them since he makes up for it on his margins elsewhere.  I couldn’t argue the logic (and had no wish to curse my good fortune), so I thanked the bourbon gods and giddily explained what had just happened to Caitlin.

10 yr old Pappy

10yr Pappy

Anna complimented my veracity in ordering this wonderful beverage at such a reasonable price.  I have to admit, it is excellent stuff.  At first, the server told me it was 25yr old, but I had my suspicions and later the bill said 10yr old.  Either way, I never expected to travel to Portland for my first glass of this rare bourbon.

To say I enjoyed it was the understatement of the year.  I had every intention of stopping in again at some point for another glass (at $12.50 per you really can’t say anything other than yes) but sadly I never made it back in.

We left for other environs shortly thereafter, and I took the warm happiness along with me in my belly.

Thanks, Zeus, I will be back again to see what other rarities you have on offer!