Top of the East is the bar sitting at the top of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel (formerly Eastland Park Hotel). The entire hotel, including the bar and a restaurant at the bottom of the hotel, is newly renovated. There was no question when we walked in that significant changes had been made and we very much looked forward to reaching the fifteenth floor to see how the new bar looked and experience what it had to offer.
With a few other people in the same elevator who were also going to the same floor, we zoomed our way to the top of the hotel. When we reached the desired floor, we made the very short walk and stair climb to the Top of the East where there were two people in front of us and we were politely told that there was a wait to get in. Immediately, quite a few people filed into the line behind us. That’s when I realized that something strange was going on.
I looked around the room from where we were standing. While there were no seats available, there was lots of standing area. It was made relatively clear to us that the reason we couldn’t get in was due to no available seating, but there was a group of about half a dozen people standing next to one of the bars. Additionally, every once in a while, the hostess letting people in – or not – would walk away for a minute and some people would just walk in on their own. To further enhance the oddity of it all, when seating did become available, there didn’t seem to be any sort of rush to let people in so they could have the seats. The empty seats just stayed empty while people stood in line.
Despite the weird entrance policing which I had never seen before at a bar, we decided to wait for seats to at least experience the new place. We were finally seated at a table after a wait I would describe as not unreasonably long, but completely unnecessary. A waitress immediately came to the table and offered cucumber water which we accepted. Without any delay, she returned and we had our water which was cool as a…ah, forget it; let’s just say it was refreshing. We let her know we would need another minute or two before we made a decision on drinks and any food we might order.
The Top of the East menu was wine-heavy with both bottle and glass options. It also provided a sufficient number of specialty mixed drinks and some light food options consisting of both appetizers and paninis. I was searching for a mixed drink and my wife wanted the same. There was only one which interested me, and that was plenty. I focused on the Hotel National – Bacardi Superior, Apricot Brandy, Pineapple Juice, Lime. My wife put her laser beams on the Green Tea and Honey Mojito with 10 Cane Rum, Green Tea, Honey, Mint, and Lime. When the waitress made her way back, we also threw in a Smoked Chicken, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Panini for good measure.
We received our order after only a short wait. My drink was served in a martini glass and took on the color of the pineapple juice. My wife’s appeared very mojito-esque. I sipped my libation. It was a little sweet, but more on the tart side which I prefer. It was relatively light and tasty and a definite winner. My wife tried hers and thought it was “weird”. Then she stirred it and said it was much better.
Soon the panini called my name. I grabbed one of the three pieces from the serving dish and dipped it in the extra pesto on the on the plate. I took a bite. “Crunch!” The smoked chicken had a delicious and pronounced smoke flavor. The mozzarella added smoothness to the inside and the pesto, which I normally don’t like, was easily the best I ever had. I was quite impressed. The waitress stopped by to verify that everything was okay and then I proceeded to sip, dip, and chomp until my table was devoid of consumables.
At some point, someone – I believe it was a hostess or manager – asked if we would like more water and brought some to us. When our waitress returned, we decided to have another drink. Wife Portlandeater had a sauvignon blanc and I went for an Atlantic Blueberry beer. After a somewhat longer than expected wait, the waitress returned to our table and let us know that our ticket was lost at the bar and if we wanted to reorder, that round would be on them. We placed the orders again and they came out shortly after.
While we were drinking our second round, we were offered some duck fat infused popcorn. We accepted. I felt fortunate as they had been handing some out earlier and we didn’t make the cut on that pass through. I thought it might make sense if they just offered it to everyone who was seated as it was disappointing that they skipped us on the first run. In the end, it turned out to be a very good accompaniment to our drinks. The mixture included wasabi peas and the duck fat was obvious.
After two rounds, we decided to move on. The food and drink came to $36 plus tax and tip which included the free round. We paid and went on our way. It was an interesting experience. It’s quite apparent that a lot of time, money, and thought went into the landmark building, and I expect that there will be a significant revitalization of that location from an economic standpoint. Top of the East was a good experience, but the entrance situation needs to be corrected. It was bizarre. A lot of people were waiting to go into a bar which had plenty of standing room. However, the service, food, and drink were all up to par. The lost ticket was not a huge issue and they more than made up for the error. I recommend going there for a pre-dinner drink, but if you have to wait to get in when it’s clearly not full, I’d like to hear about it.
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