Anoche has a nightclub vibe both inside and out, thanks to dim lighting and the name, which means “last night,” Photos by Angie Bryan

Approaching Anoche from the outside, you feel like you’re going to a nightclub; the dark windows and carved wooden door make it look like you need a password to be admitted. That vibe continues inside with music and lighting.

The place was hopping the Tuesday night that I visited. Staff from another bar was having a party there, always a good sign. There are wooden barstools with backs at the main bar, a long high-top table with backless stools perfect for a large group, and several regular tables with comfortable wooden chairs. Sadly, there were no purse hooks under the main bar, but since it was so crowded, my party opted for one of the regular tables instead. There’s also an open kitchen where you can watch chef Joel Frahm and team at work.

Located in the old Coffee By Design spot on Portland’s hip inner Washington Avenue, Anoche (Spanish for “last night”) was opened in November by Erika Colby, who managed Novare Res for over a decade. She chose the name to give the venue an air of enchanting mystery – what exactly happened last night? Can one remember and forget at the same time? Luckily, I managed to remember enough to recount my experience here.

The drink menu features ciders and a selection of Spanish gin and tonics.

Anoche is a Basque-themed cider bar that also offers pinxtos (essentially the Basque version of tapas). The drink menu features 15 draft ciders ($7-$8.25) and two full pages of canned or bottled ciders. Pay attention when ordering, as some are the size of a wine bottle. Don’t ask me how I know this. There’s also a handful of beers and 10 wines, with glasses ranging from $13 to $19. Several of the wines are sold only by the bottle.

I was delighted to discover a specialty gin and tonic menu with five $14 gin and tonic options made in the Spanish style, heavy on creative garnishes, like the G&T version of a Bloody Mary. I chose one with Batson River gin, Meyer lemon, lemon verbena, pear, green peppercorn and thyme. It turned out to be an excellent choice, not only because it was exceptionally delicious, without any one flavor overpowering the others, but also because it was exponentially larger than my friends’ draft ciders; I almost had to use both hands to pick up the glass, but then my years of training kicked in.

The food menu is fun and creative, with nine pinxtos ranging from $3.50 for a single deviled egg with smoked paprika and guindilla pepper to $12 for tin fish with house pickles. Three of the nine pinxto options are vegetarian. The menu also includes a $29 charcuterie board, two salads ($11-$12), two soups (one vegetarian), three $25 paellas (one vegetarian) and three desserts.

One of the best elements of our visit (besides that phenomenal G&T) was the service. When our server arrived at our table, he apologized for the wait (which hadn’t been that long), explaining that there was a party going on and that only two servers were working. Our orders came out quickly, and he checked on us several times despite being swamped. Impressive.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

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