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Sonny’s – Many a Booze to Choose


On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was inclined to go out and have some pre-dinner drinks. When one of my Portland faves was much too crowded, my wife and I opted instead for Sonny’s on Exchange St. The restaurant opened in 2009 and acts as a prime watering hole for locals, tourists, and those employed in the Old Port. It had been a blue moon or so since I had been there, so I figured it would be fun to hit it again.

When we arrived, there was no available bar seating, but there was a nearby couch and coffee table which suited us quite well. As I approached the bar for a drink list, a waiter visited my wife to ask what we needed and quickly brought us both food and drink menus. I sat and we assessed the beverage situation, keeping an eye open for the obscure, an oddity, or the macabre. It is quite clear that Sonny’s takes drinking very seriously. Their menu gives the drinker options from all manner of beer, wine, liquor, and combinations thereof.

After considering the extensive list of cocktails, I settled on whiskey which still left me four options if I was ordering off the menu – and I was. While it’s usually easy for me to narrow it down to one by eliminating the drinks with ingredients I find distasteful, Sonny’s has a penchant for not using anything but the finest flavors in their creations. Eventually, I settled on the Wally Hardbanger for both the name and the ingredients. How could one go wrong with Jim Beam, Galliano, mint, lemon, and agave syrup? My lovely lady ordered the Blueberry Mojito.

It was only a slight movement of my shadow before the drinks arrived looking splendiferous and calling our names. I shuffled in my seat before taking a sip of the yellowish drink with the mint sprig decoration. Boo ya! The flavors mixed together perfectly with the citrus from the lemon taking center stage. The liquors added a bit of a punch while the agave softened the blow and the mint added a soft caress to my pallet. My wife exclaimed that Sonny’s has some of the best drinks in Portland. Win-win.

As we sipped our boozy concoctions, we decided it would be a good idea to have a small plate to share since we both had a bit of the hunger. Focusing on something small and simple, my wife suggested the Yam Fries, but I told her she would be on her own with those. Making a game-time decision, she changed the order to French Fries. Now I was on board. She even ordered all three accompanying sauces – garlic aioli, tamarind catsup, and poblano cream – for an extra buck because she knew my sauceaholic tendencies.

The fries came out insanely fast like they were waiting for us in the back. The green, white, and red sauces added a little color to our shoestring potato sticks. I was ready to sample them and I did, grabbing a few, eating them, and then taking a few more and dipping them in the poblano cream. The fries were good – fresh and salty, but could have been more crisp. The poblano creme was thick with mild flavor – definitely solid, but not strong enough for my tastes. I tried the tamarind catsup next. It was a nice take on the traditional stuff. Then I usurped some of the aioli. That was the one! The creamy garlic sauce bedazzled me with the flavor of a thousand cloves of garlic and left me wanting more.

We ate all our fries with my attention focused on the garlic aioli. Then we finished our drinks but had time to spare before dinner. Without much thought, we decided to order another beverage. This time I went with tequila, ordering the Mister Pink – silver tequila, Solerno blood orange liquor, jalapeno, lime, and guava. My primary squeeze ordered a Wyder’s Dry Pear Hard Cider which didn’t sound that good to me. Anticipation mounted as we passed the time by discussing pre-historic, postmodern aquatecture.

When our libations came a couple minutes later, the waiter laid down our drinks with a wink and my drink was indeed pink, I think. Pink, with a green jalapeno ring and lime garnish, I was intrigued and ready to feel it’s bite. I sipped it and it shook my hand. “Hello, I’m Mister Pink.” I replied that I was Mister Portlandeater, gave it a sly furrow of my brow, and drowned myself in its glory. The Mister Pink might not be a drink for everyone, but it was sure as hell a drink for me. With a bit more jalapeno than I normally like in my drinks, this one pulled no punches. And on that night, I needed a punch. The sweet fruit flavors with a bit of citrus rounded out the tequila nicely and gave me no hassle. It might have been a pink cocktail, but this was a force to be reckoned with. My wife loved her cider but thought that others might not like it as much.

And so it was that we finished our drinks. I left with a bit more hair on my chest than when I got there. The drinks were great and the fries were excellent except for the lack of crisp. In truth, I haven’t been there for dinner in a while as I’ve never been super impressed with their food, but Sonny’s has had some menu changes and it does look better. Maybe I’ll try it again in the future. For now, they get two thumbs up on their drinks. Go and have one or a bunch and call it a lesson in mixology.

Stay hungry.

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