Shanghai Tunnel – Portland, OR

If you have ever been to Oregon, you know that it’s a very laidback state with a lot of people who wear stuff from REI even if they don’t like camping. The state motto is “She Flies with Her Own Wings” which, translated, means that Oregonians are into their own thing—whatever it is this week.

This dive bar is a good example of the Oregon lifestyle. Once a traditional dive bar located in an historical area of Portland, Shanghai Tunnel has gone through more makeovers than all of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills combined. Located near the city’s popular waterfront park, Saturday Market, Voodoo Doughnuts, and Roseland Theater, Shanghai Tunnel is right smack in the middle of it all.

This is not one of those dive bars where you have to drive on a dirt road and ask directions from a kid playing the banjo on a bridge. It’s not remote at all, which means you can start or finish your day/night at Shanghai Tunnel.

The history of the bar is fun and full of lore. “Shanghai” is when someone is forced to help out on a ship that is short on crewmen. There are plenty of tales in which a young lad gets drunk at a bar and wakes up the next day out to sea. There is still a series of tunnels underneath the bar that was once used to hide gangsters and kidnap drunks. They run through the basements of many hotels and taverns to this day and empty out right at the Willamette River.

Shanghai Tunnel offers a funky collection of house specialty cocktails and seasonal micro-beers. The bartenders don’t like to call themselves mixologists, but some of their cocktails may include fresh squeezed juices, house infusions, bitters, and purees.

They feature a full menu with their “roll your own” customizable noodle bowls, street tacos, over-the-top fried rice, peanut chicken, and a bunch of cool snacks like edamame, garlicky fries, pot stickers, egg rolls and signature house-made chips. When you’re not drinking or eating at Shanghai Tunnel, there is entertainment galore, with classic pinball, arcade games, poker, video slots/lottery, a pool table, ping pong, and dart boards.

This is not your traditional dive bar, but nothing is conventional in Portland. The new owners have worked hard to retain that dive bar feel while also catering to tourists. For that reason, it’s a different place—with tourists during the day and the local partying crowd at night. This bar proves that just because you have cool food and crafty cocktails, it doesn’t mean you can’t qualify as a dive.

You won’t get shanghaied at Shanghai Tunnel, but you will have a great time at this unique dive bar. It’s got history behind it and great new ownership running the show, so give it a try and get to back to us with your own review.

Located in: Portland, OR

Be sure to try: a fancy shmancy cocktail and a “roll your own” noodle bowl


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