A new bar called 5&Dime opened on Southeast Foster Road and 65th Avenue last month. It's a joint venture of bartenders Colin Carroll and Alex Gessler, who infuse the place with the spirit of bygone general stores and mix specialty and classic cocktails at unfussy prices ($7) in a comfortable atmosphere.
"The name comes from the old markets and general stores selling anything and everything," Gessler says. "We're not a cocktail bar or a beer bar or a dive bar, but we're kind of all those things, too. We want to serve the neighborhood what they want at reasonable prices, and we want to be here for everyone."
Both are veteran bartenders. Gessler, whose nickname is Goose, grew up in Silverton and tended bars in San Francisco and Brooklyn, New York, before returning to Oregon. Carroll, who sports French braids and big rings on his fingers, last worked at the inner Southeast Portland bar Trifecta.
Asked what gives a bar soul, Gessler says it's about being real, not putting on airs. "Gimmicks and certain attitudes will only get you so far. Just be genuine and you'll probably be OK," he says. "Never underestimate anyone. Minus geographical differences, people are pretty much all looking for the same thing from any bar: to have decent drinks and a good time."
Such was the case on a recent Friday. A pair of senior citizens enjoyed a drink before venturing, a bit tipsy, into Atlas Pizza, located next door to 5&Dime and accessed through a swinging door. Atlas recently became the meet-up spot for the Foster/Powell (FoPo) Neighborhood Association meetings, which could make attending meetings about boring topics like parking and traffic sort of fun.
FoPo ... well, it's changing. Street-facing signs in the windows at Euro Classics, an 80-year-old locally owned furniture business across the street, lash out at recent street changes and take aim at the city of Portland and real estate developers with equal enthusiasm.
5&Dime has a darkish green interior with a touch of luster. Big windows bring in plenty of light. Emerald green banker's lamps sit atop the bar. The large, horseshoe-shaped booths are reportedly packed at night, but it's just me and the seniors on a recent Friday afternoon.
A pen and ink drawing of the late chef and writer Anthony Bourdain and an acrylic painting of former Trail Blazer Rasheed Wallace hang near each other on a back wall. The British writer Neil Gaiman's underground novel "American Gods" exerts a major influence on the cocktail menu. Asked about the disparate heroes who hover over the place, Gessler simply says, "Rasheed Wallace is the greatest Trail Blazer of all time. Other than that, we just wanted to surround ourselves with things that we appreciate and enjoy."
Asked what role he hopes 5&Dime will play on this changing street, Gessler says he simply wants to create "a place for people of all strata in the neighborhood to come together and have a good time. A place of assemblage. We want to be a reflection of the community that we serve."
Their favorite Portland hangouts embody this spirit, places like Gilmores Meadow, Starday Tavern and Free House.
Making cocktails for people is a blend of art and science. Gessler says the part that he and Carroll find most interesting is the hunt for new flavors and creations.
"Discovering new spirits, finding little gems hidden on liquor store shelves, and stepping out from the mundane," he says.
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