Where: 407 SW 10th Ave
Honeys Heart: Bocadillos
Pepe Le Moko has been in the works for a over a year and a half now, so when Kel and I read that it was finally opening on Valentine's Day, we made plans to try it ASAP.
Most media coverage had referred to PLM as a speakeasy, which was the main reason we were so excited to try it. But a speakeasy, it is not. See, even they agree:
Pepe Le Moko actually is an underground bar serving, as Portland Monthly puts it, elevated "cocktail pariahs" and bar snacks like Hawaiian Peanuts and bocadillos.
Now, make no mistake, I enjoy a good cocktail pariah now and again (can't go to the T-room and not order a round of Tic Tacs), but if I have to pay upwards of $10 for that pariah, it better be pretty damn elevated.
This is Pepe's Long Island Iced Tea. It costs $13 and is made with vodka, gin, rum, cointreau, lemon, Coke, and lots of crushed ice.
Is it definitely more restrained and more visually appealing than your average Long Island? Of course. It is worth $13? We aren't so sure.
When Kel and I try a new bar, we like to order cocktails off the menu. With a short, curated list and accomplished bartenders, we assume they're telling us, "this is what we're proud of and you really should try it." Looking over the menu at Pepe, the high prices of all the cocktails certainly gave us pause. $10 for a punch, $14 for an amaretto sour, and $11 for an espresso martini? Kel and I have no problem paying $10+ for a well-crafted cocktail, but it is awfully hard to rake out that kind of cash for such basic-sounding drinks. True, we only tried the Long Island and the punch, and perhaps the other options make the expense feel more justified... but given our limited budgets, we're not sure we care to take a such a pricey gamble again.
In the end, it seemed like Adam and Doug made a much better choice by ordering classics that weren't on the menu. Their Manhattan and Old Fashioned were $9 and $10 respectively and were just as good, if not better, than the cocktails Kel and I ordered off the menu. We both decided that we'd probably be better off ordering something like a gin martini or negroni if we visited again, and somehow that just ruins the fun a bit.
On the other hand, we absolutely loved the $5 bocadillos. We sampled the Chorizo Rioja and Mahon Cheese, Sweetheart Ham and Zucchini Pickles, and Nutella and Jacobsen Sea Salt. These little sandwiches are truly the perfect bar snack- simple, yet delicious.
So, will we be returning to Pepe Le Moko? I don't think it will be first on our list, especially with Clyde Common, Kask, and Multnomah Whiskey Library so close by.