As the weather turns from rainy to sunny and the women’s world cup is on the horizon it’s a great opportunity to visit The Sports Bra.
The Sports Bra marks the first sports bar dedicated to women’s sports, when it opened April 1, 2022 owner Jenny Nguyen didn’t know what to expect. When talking to one of her best friends about her plan for “the bra” he told her — “you're gonna be famous.” She didn’t believe him at the time, but now, Nguyen’s bar is known nationally.
I got to experience the Sports Bra along with The Beacon Editor-in-chief Brie Haro.
Immediately upon walking in I felt comfortable, a feeling that doesn’t always come with entering a sports bar. From a crystal basketball hoop, pride flags, and memorabilia from my favorite teams there was evidence of genuine care that went into creating this space.
We timed our visit to be in between big games (like The Portland Thorns or the NCAA basketball tournament) so that we could take the time to experience the bar in a more relaxed manner. We were seated in a booth on the back wall that faced the bar and we were able to watch people, enjoy the US hockey team’s win over Canada, and watch Nguyen wander around the space interacting with her guests.
Haro and I decided to start our evening with drinks; I got the Title IX which was bourbon, peach liqueur, simple syrup and mint while Haro opted for the Cherry Picker consisting of gin, cherry juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and aquafaba.
I was so taken with the names of the drinks that I had to ask Nguyen about her inspiration when I talked to her.
“I love puns, so I tried to carry that through …” Nguyen said. “What would happen was when my bartenders came up with the recipes they would send them to me, I would taste them all and then just like come up with names that were clever but had something to do with ingredients or the time of year what season what sports season it is, you know, that kind of thing,”
Then we ordered our first round of food — brussel sprouts and fried cauliflower. Both of us were immediately taken by the cilantro tahini sauce that came with the cauliflower. By the end we were dipping everything we possibly could into the sauce #cleanplateclub.
By the time we were polishing off our food we were ready for our second drink. Brie got the drink called “it’s cranberry thyme” which had house-infused cranberry gin, cranberry juice, thyme simple syrup and an orange twist. I decided on the drink called hat trick (my soft spot for soccer kicked in) which had Spiced rum, apple cider, mint simple syrup and triple sec.
The Bra also offers zero proof drinks, so even if you’re not wanting an alcoholic beverage you can still enjoy drinks like the Bump, set and spice (Kentucky 74, apple cider, ginger beer, lemon and cinnamon sugar) or Grannie’s G&T (Lyres gin, cranberry juice, lime juice, simple syrup and tonic water).
The Sports Bra is a place that just oozes comfort, from their inclusive drinking options to the variety of teams that found a home on their walls (UP, OSU, UO to name a few).
I felt right at home at The Sports Bra and I wondered why a place like this took so long to get together.
“I don't think The Sports Bra or anything like it would have been possible even five years ago let alone 10 or 15 years ago because of the lack of representation on TV,” Nguyen said. “There was nothing to show on TV and that kind of renders the idea of a sports bar moot.”
It really is a testament to how much the women’s sports world has grown in recent years and how Portland has been a hub for that. The Sports Bra just announced that they brought in almost 1 million in sales in their first eight months of business. Nguyen, who grew up in Portland watching women’s basketball teams like the Portland Power and the Portland Fire knew that this city was the only place that a bar like this could work.
“It was just very clear that Portland as kind of a liberal hub is also just a mecca for women's sports,” Nguyen said. “So it felt like a no-brainer to do it in my hometown. I felt like if it didn't work in Portland, then we would know that it would never work literally anywhere else.”
Haro and I decided to end our trip to “the bra” with their pulled pork sliders, it was a perfect option for people who already had apps and a few drinks.
The opening of this bar offers an opportunity to connect with the storytelling of women’s sports that people may not get if they just watch a championship game.
“People fall in love with the players because they feel a connection to their personal stories,” Nguyen said. “If you follow a team from preseason and watch the players grow, and they make it to the playoffs … for the first time ever or if you know the history … you're so much more invested in what happens to them [the player].”
Next time you are in the area and wanting a delicious drink, or anytime you’re wanting to watch some really good sports, head to “the bra.” You might even run into Nguyen herself.
Wilder Isom is the sports editor at The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.