"The patio!," people say, wide-eyed and without fail, as soon as you mention Portal, Eastlake's newest brewpub, now nearly four months old. "The patio," they repeat, sometimes with attendant interjections and sometimes not. They are dumbfounded. The patio has rendered them unable to form full sentences.
And, yes: This is quite a patio. There are sturdy wooden communal tables and potted succulents and a lovely lake view and little Christmas lights and blankets available for cold nights and, if you come early enough, kids; all together, the effect is a lot like drinking in the backyard of one of your more stylish and together neighbors — you know, the one who reads Real Simple and owns nice glassware. Fully three-quarters of the Yelp reviewers for Portal use either the word "patio" or "garden"; the others can only be assumed to have been not paying any attention whatsoever. Because the inside's nice — lots of treated wood and a weirdly compelling display of backlit pickled vegetables — but really guys: The patio.
It should be noted here that Portal is in fact more than merely a vessel for succulents and lake views. There is beer, for one, and it is pretty good: well-chosen and not-terribly-priced, with a rotating selection of microbrews of various styles on draft ($5-$8) and a couple more in bottles ($4-$13; last week, the draft Rampage Imperial IPA from Black Diamond Brewing was especially nice). There is wine ($6-$9) and it is less copious than the beer but still well-chosen. There's definitely food, both of the bar-snacky variety and beyond — the much-ballyhooed "garbage bread" (pizza, basically, rolled up like a wrap; greasy but in an intentional way; $9); the fries (crispy-skinny and available in three varieties, $5-6); a brunch that people on the Internet have taken a liking to. And there is table service — which, NB, was so ignominious on my first visit, a month or two ago, I figured it had to be an aberration and, fortunately, appears to have been. Taken together, everything is decent but nothing is entirely mind-blowing; patio aside, this feels more like a comfortable, neighborhoody place than a destination. At least, that is, until the lights go up around the lake and the sun starts setting: pinks and purples and blues spreading across the sky like a bruise, and there you are, dumbfounded.