Portland: A Progressive City in the Northwest
Often dubbed one of America's most livable and progressive cities, the Pacific Northwest river metropolis of Portland, Oregon, ranks among the more gay-friendly destinations of the West. Take a look at this visual guide to gay-popular Portland neighborhoods, businesses, gay nightlife, and attractions throughout the Rose City.
Voodoo Doughnuts are not only delicious, but they're also good for you! Okay, that last part is an utter fabrication, although the sinfully weird and wonderful sweets produced by this 24-hour Old Town Portland doughnuttery are produced using zero-trans-fat oil. In truth, these sugary, high-calorie confections don't quite qualify as health food, but at 3 in the morning, after you've spent the past few hours knocking back PBRs and rum-and-cokes at the numerous gay bars of Old Town and Stark Street, you'll likely succumb to Voodoo's seductive call. Don't fight it. Apart from the Roxy Diner, this is one of Portland's most gay-popular all-night food options.
In 2011, the formerly tiny space expanded into the larger, brighter storefront next door—you should still expect a line to get in much of the time, but the process is generally much quicker and more pleasant now. And in warm weather, you can dine at one of the tables in the pedestrian-only alley beside Voodoo.
Voodoo Doughnuts has received an astounding amount of press over the years, largely for its batty flavor combinations. The menu changes all the time, but on any given day you might find such oddball creations as Grape Ape (topped with vanilla frosting and grape powder), Triple Chocolate Penetration (a chocolate doughnut topped with chocolate glazing and Cocoa-Puffs), and the Memphis Mafia (a big mother of a doughnut topped with peanut butter, chocolate chips, and bananas). There's also the requisite Cock-n-Balls, shaped as you might expect, but this puerile confection is strictly for amateurs (and giggly bachelorette-party-goers). Cereal and candy dominate the toppings landscape, but these guys are always dreaming up bizarre new flavor revelations (the bacon-maple doughnut has become something of a legend). Of course, Voodoo offers the usual doughnut shop services, such as intro Swahili lessons (seriously), and there's a chapel on-site that performs legally sanctioned weddings.
Downtown Portland, which is set along the west side of the river and backed by leafy Washington Park and Forest Park, has a relatively compact skyline. It's home to most of the city's hipper hotels, and it's also where you'll find much of Portland's gay nightlife (particularly in Old Town and along Stark Street).
The Pan-Asian restaurant Departure (525 S.W. Morrison St.) in the heart of downtown, helmed by handsome and talented gay chef Gregory Gourdet, is a fun spot for happy hour, dinner, or late-night noshing, and has an awesome view.
Right in the heart of Portland's lovably raffish Stark Street gay entertainment strip, the uber-funky, marginally low-frillish Ace Hotel ( 1022 S.W. Stark St.) has major queer-hipster cachet, partly because of where it's located, and partly because of its arty vibe and affordable but striking rooms. The on-site Clyde Commons restaurant, Stumptown coffeehouse, and Kenny & Zuke's Jewish Deli add to the appeal.
The Ace also has properties in Seattle, Palm Springs, and New York City.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
Occupying a square block (it used to be a parking lot) in the otherwise bustling Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, the Lan Su Chinese Garden (N.W. 3rd Ave. and N.W. Everett St.)—formerly known as the Portland Classical Chinese Garden—is one of those unlikely urban oases that keeps the city green. It's easy to accidentally miss this treasured attraction a block from several gay bars (Darcelle XV, CC Slaughter's, etc.).
The walled compound was constructed by Chinese workers using authentic materials and plants—more than 500 tons of rock were imported from China in the construction. The park opened in 2000 and quickly became one of Portland's must-see attractions. If you're strolling around Old Town and Chinatown, or the nearby Pearl District, and looking for a spot to relax and harmonize with nature, this is a perfect option. you can also relax inside at the two-story teahouse, which is operated by Tao of Tea.
Rainbow Room Lounge
The smaller and quieter side-bar attached to one of Portland's hottest gay club, CC Slaughter's, the stylish Rainbow Room Lounge (219 N.W. Davis St.) offers an elegant alternative to the city's generally more old-school and somewhat dive-y gay nightlife options. When you've been dancing all night down the hall in CC's, or you've met a cute reveler there and are looking to have a conversation, Rainbow Room makes for the perfect venue. The lighting is soft except for the sleekly back-lit bar, and there's comfy lounge seating throughout this space occupying a former storefront on the corner of Northwest Davis Street and 3rd Avenue.
The Rainbow Room also serves light bar food—cheese plates, calamari, fish-and-chips, buffalo wings, and the like. The drinks menu is one of the best of any gay establishment in town, with a decent list of wines and beers.
Alberta Arts District
Part of northeastern Portland's up-and-coming Concordia area, which underwent a major renaissance beginning in the mid-to-late 90s, the Alberta Arts District contains a bounty of gay-friendly businesses surrounded by attractive and historic residential blocks. The main drag is Alberta Street, from about N.E. 12th to N.E. 33rd streets. You'll find an outstanding mix of noteworthy restaurants like Helser's, Fuel Cafe, Salt & Straw ice cream, Aviary, Bollywood Theater, Pine State Biscuits, Cruzroom, and Branch Whiskey Bar, plus great shopping in the form of Community Cycling Center, Red Fox Vintage, Ampersand Vintage bookstore, Pie Footwear, and many others.
Darcelle XV Showplace
Some say Darcelle and her merry, naughty cast of voluptuous cohorts have been dancing and entertaining Portlanders since the Truman administration. There's sketchy evidence that Darcelle arrived in Portland with Lewis and Clark. In fact, Darcelle XV, a hammy over-the-top performer with self-effacing wit and a good heart (she's raised huge sums of money for local charities) has been a fixture in Portland's gay scene since 1967. Roughly 10 performers make up the cast at this longtime favorite hangout, where zany, off-color Vegas-style revue shows are presented Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. No tour of the city's lively downtown gay circuit is complete without a visit here.
Darcelle is at 208 N.W. 3rd Ave., in Old Town, right by a couple of other favorite gay nightspots, CC Slaughter's and Hobo's.
Among the many Portland nightspots that you could describe as gay-straight catchalls, the attractively furnished and intimate Crush Bar (1400 S.E. Morrison St.) is one of the most eclectic and fun. It's a wine bar with very tasty food (served late—note the delicious mac-and-cheese), a low-keyed lounge, and a terrific option for bargain-priced happy hours (they run till 7 pm most nights, and until midnight on Tuesdays). Closed on Mondays, this happy little corner bar and bistro caters to a truly eclectic bunch, including lesbians and gay guys but also plenty of straights. It's in a hip part of Southeast Portland—close to Hawthorne, Belmont, and Inner Southeast—making it a good bet for cocktails before or after dinner or clubbing in the area. Downtown is just a five-minute drive across the Morrison Street bridge. Crush holds lesbian dance nights once a month, along with other occasional parties. It's really the ideal fit for Portland's diverse GLBT population, which tends to favor establishments with a varied clientele and a lounge-y yet sophisticated vibe.
On weekends, it's a gay fave for brunch, serving mimosas, strong coffee, and a nice range egg dishes, pancakes, sandwiches, and salads.
The queen of the many funky and gay-sensible neighborhoods on Portland's slightly sprawling East Side, Hawthorne has been groovy since the first epoch in human history that the word "groovy" came into vogue (the 1960s). It's long had a reputation as the center of Portland's lesbian scene, which is sort of true—there are many lesbian-owned homes and frequented businesses here—but Hawthorne is quite popular with anyone who has an alternative, progressive bent, and many parts of Portland (especially on the East Side) have a discernible lesbian presence.
The neighborhood's spine, Hawthorne Boulevard is fairly interesting, but for a few dull pockets, (about 45 blocks). It's also near and parallel to some other engaging East Side commercial strips, such as Belmont to the north, and Division/Clinton to the south.
Among the many popular businesses in the neighborhood worth checking out include the gay-popular the McMenamins Bagdad Pub, Bread and Ink Cafe, the Cup & Saucer Cafe, and the Hawthorne branch of Powell's Books.
Powell's City of Books
One of the world's great meccas for book lovers, Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St.) takes up an entire city block on the edge of the Pearl District in downtown Portland. It's the largest bookstores on earth selling both used and new books (in fact, rather unusually, Powell's stacks new and used copies of the same title on its shelves). The store's GLBT section is huge—larger than what you'll find at many small gay and lesbian bookstores. Inside you'll find numerous big rooms organized into myriad categories. There's also a very cool rare-book room on the top floor, with first editions of many classic works. And on the ground floor, there's a large World Cup Coffee & Tea House, with plenty of seating—a great place to browse your purchases, work on your laptop, or meet locals.
Powell's is around the corner from the strip of gay-popular businesses along S.W. Stark Street, including the Ace Hotel. Other Powell's locations include a smaller outpost in the gay-popular Hawthorne neighborhood as well as a Powell's Books for Home and Garden (with amazing cookbook section) next door on Hawthorne, and there's a large branch in Beaverton and a smaller one at the airport. The website, which has been around since 1994, is well-designed and great for browsing and ordering online.
Palio Dessert & Espresso House
In the center of Portland's exceedingly charming and small-townish Ladd's Addition neighborhood, Palio Dessert & Espresso House (1996 S.E. Ladd Ave.) is one of the most inviting cafes around. Despite its peaceful, tree-shaded location overlooking a traffic circle with beautiful gardens, this gay-friendly coffeehouse is within walking distance of the bustling Hawthorne District, and just a short drive or bike ride from downtown.
The two-room cafe with soaring glass windows and ample lounging space serves Portland's acclaimed Stumptown coffee as well as a reasonably priced assortment of treats and sweets: lemon-coconut cake, vegan chocolate-chip cookies, house-made ice cream sandwiches with Tillamook ice cream, spicy chai tea, Italian sodas, savory tarts, and breakfast pastries. This is a favorite place for students, writers, artists, and others to relax over lattes and teas all day and night, and there are plenty of large tables, outlets for plugging in laptops, and free WiFi. The staff is easygoing and friendly and works to cultivate something of a cozy living-room vibe. Palio isn't just one of the best coffeehouses in a city that's loaded with them, it's among the comfiest and gay-welcoming cafes in the country.
The sleek, low-slung Hotel Modera (515 S.W. Clay St.)--with its clean lines, bold colors, and striking contemporary artwork—has quickly become one of downtown Portland's most popular accommodations since it opened in 2008 inside what had long ago been a gloomy Days Inn (it's hard to believe the building's history, when you look at it now). Very close to the cultural attractions and museums of the tree-shaded "Park Blocks" as well as Portland State University (PSU), this gay-friendly, art-filled boutique hotel is well-priced, too, especially considering the ample size and high-quality of its 174 rooms. The hotel is also home to the outstanding contemporary Italian restaurant and bar, Nel Centro. Both the dining area and the hotel lobby open to a gracious courtyard with a "Living Wall" garden and fire pits—it's a perfect spot to sip coffee, read, or relax on one of Portland's glorious summer days (even in inclement weather, it provides the hotel with an attractive counterpoint). The aesthetic of both the hotel and the courtyard captures the Mid-Century Modern style of America's West Coast.
Guest rooms have large windows that overlook either the courtyard or the city skyline, and each comes equipped with pillow-top mattresses, natty desks with leather chairs, iPod docking stations, LCD flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and free passes to a branch of 24-Hour Fitness health club, which is just around the block. There's also a stunning collection of contemporary art hung within the public areas and guest rooms.
Hotel Modera is the sister of a similarly artful and well-designed boutique hotel in downtown Seattle, the Hotel Andra. The Modera is also a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Portland Farmers Market
Among serious—and not-so-serious—food aficionados, the weekly PSU Portland Farmers Market (S.W. Park Ave. at S.W. Montgomery St.) held on Saturdays on the edge of the campus of Portland State University is considered one of the best in the country.
The variety of local purveyors selling everything from fresh berries to artisanal cheeses is impressive enough, but you'll also find several carts and booths hawking amazingly tasty prepared foods, from country biscuits and gravy to savory Italian sausages. This colorful open-air market held along downtown's verdant, tree-shaded South Park Blocks is also a highly popular community event, with an especially keen following among gays and lesbians. If cruising to you means scoping out great food while also checking out cute food lovers, this is pretty much nirvana.
Must-tastes at the Farmers Market are many, but be sure to make time for Cafe Velo (for your morning cup of Stumptown Coffee), Pine State Biscuit for some of the richest and most delicious breakfast biscuits you'll ever taste, Salumeria di Carlo for fantastic Italian sausages, Pearl Bakery for artisan-crafted breads, Fraga Farm for incomparable Oregon goat cheese, Freddy Guys for fresh local hazelnuts, and Ruby Jewel for indescribably tasty ice cream sandwiches. There are also tons of fresh fruits and veggies, of course, as well as locally raised meats and seafood.
Part of the reason downtown Portland's gay-owned underwear and swimwear shop UnderU4Men has developed such a loyal following is its lively and fun fashion-model shows. UnderU4Men has a second shop in Seattle's gay-popular Capitol Hill neighborhood. Brands of apparel and bath products featured at the shop include AussieBum, Ginch Gonch, Punto Blanco, C-IN2, Paul Frank, Andrew Christian, Justus Boyz, James Pierce Cosmetics, and many others.
CC Slaughters Gay Nightclub
One of Old Town Portland's long-running stalwarts in the arena of gay nightlife, CC Slaughters (219 NW Davis St.) is actually two bars in one. The main nightclub—CC Slaughters—is a dark, rambling space with a small but potent dance floor, loud music, and a fun, mixed crowd of revelers—some of the city's best DJs spin tunes here. Adjacent is the glam Rainbow Room Lounge, a modern, elegant space that's perfect for sipping a sophisticated cocktail and carrying on a conversation. CC's has no cover charge except for occasional special events and parties.
CC Slaughters is especially popular midweek for dancing, and there's also a popular Sunday T-Dance. The crowd tends toward male, 20s and 30s, and fairly flirty and fun. That being said, women and straights are more than cheerfully welcomed. In the same area are Hobo's and Darcelle XV Showplace, the famed drag lounge.
Screen Door Restaurant
It's surprising how many restaurants in this Pacific Northwest metropolis serve up credible Southern fare. The down-home, hipster-infested Screen Door (E. Burnside St. and N.E. 24th Ave.) is one of the best around, serving a mix of genuine Deep South standards (glorious fried chicken, hushpuppies with honey-Creole mustard, Lowcountry shrimp and grits, Carolina-style house-smoked pulled pork, and so on) and weekly rotating organic dishes produced with whatever's fresh and available from regional farms—typical offerings on the organics menu include a salad of arugula and roasted beets with toasted pecans and Tellagio cheese, and asparagus almondine with brown butter and lemon. A few of these organic sides can be ordered together as a meal. They tend to be a bit less Southern-inspired than the main menu fare, but you'll see some Lowcountry and Creole influences in preparation and ingredients.
Although open only for dinner on weekdays, the Screen Door also serves an excellent weekend brunch. Screen Door also has a worthy wine list, emphasizing Northwest wines. As you might expect of a Southern restaurant, the desserts are magnificent and prodigious-consider the peanut-butter pie with a chocolate shortbread crust and a layer of chocolate ganache. Dining is inside an intentionally informal room with simple tables and blue-leatherette booths, but in warm weather, you can dine on the peaceful, tree-shaded patio area on the 24th Avenue side of the building. Screen Door is close to the impressive "restaurant row" along N.E. and S.E. 28th Avenue, which includes such favorites as Bamboo Sushi, Navarre, Ken's Artisan Pizza, and several other notables.
Doug Fir Lounge
Among Portland's dozens of renowned live-music clubs, the Doug Fir Lounge (830 E. Burnside St.) is a top venue for indie and alternative rock bands, including queer acts from time to time. It's at the fab Jupiter Hotel.
Doug Fir's music club is in the basement, but upstairs there's a Mid-Century Modern retro-chic restaurant serving exceptionally good Pacific Northwest-inspired comfort food. Depending on the band and the alignment of the stars above Portland, the Doug Fir can seem anywhere from mostly straight-but-not-narrow to downright mega-gay.
On the edge of the way-gay Stark Street bar corridor, just off of Burnside Street (at 414 S.W. 13th Avenue) Cacao is a super-cool and undeniably fun spot to sip unbelievably rich and pure premium chocolate, and to shop for fine chocolates imported from all over the world. This isn't a place to buy novelty sweets, elaborate confections or bulk candy, this gay-owned boutique aims to educate its patrons by introducing them to high-caliber, handmade chocolate, both in solid and sipping form. A second branch of Cacao is located inside downtown's swanky Heathman Hotel (1001 S.W. Broadway).
Stop by for a sip of cinnamon-scented dark chocolate or a nibble of velvety-rich solid chocolate from Trinidad or Madagascar, and you may never look the same again at some of the oily, sugary, heavily processed stuff that passes for candy bars in most grocery and convenience stores. This is the true food of the Gods, or as Cacao bills itself, a "celebration of chocolate in all its forms."
Gerding Theater at the Armory
A cornerstone of the Brewery Blocks section of the trendy and beautifully revitalized Pearl District, the Gerding Theater at the Armory (128 N.W. 11th Ave.) is the first performing arts center in the world to have obtained Platinum LEED Certification for its sustainable design. The innovatively rendered performance space, which does occupy an old armory building (it's right by Powell's Books) is now home to the prestigious Portland Center Stage as well as the Armory Cafe. Portland Center Stage produces first-rate dramas and comedies (both classics and newer works) on two stages, the Main Stage and the Studio.
Southwest Stark Street
In downtown Portland's increasingly trendy West End, Southwest Stark Street was for many years the city's gay nightlife hub. These days, only one true gay bar remains: Scandals. The neighborhood has plenty to offer and draws a pretty diverse bunch to such longtime hangouts as the Roxy Diner, and the Ace Hotel and Stumptown Coffee.
An upscale but competitively priced boutique hotel across the street from downtown Portland's scenic Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Hotel Rose (50 S.W. Morrison St.), formerly the Hotel Fifty, is a sleek, contemporary property that's steps from the city's MAX Light Rail, and also the closest hotel to the city's Portland Gay Pride celebration held each June.
Bluehour Restaurant and Lounge
With 23 Hoyt, Saucebox, and Clarklewis, the dapper Pearl District restaurant Bluehour (250 NW 13th Ave.) is part of a group of sexy, see-and-be-seen Portland restaurants run by talented, gay restaurateur Bruce Carey. This glam space with high ceilings is a wonderful spot for a sophisticated happy hour amid the elegantly converted warehouses of the Pearl District, and also a top pick for a fine, if spendy, lunch or dinner.
The kitchen at Bluehour specializes in high-concept, French/Italian-inspired Northwestern fare. There's an extensive list of hard-to-find cheeses (Essex St. Comte, Timanoix, Bleu du Bocage), and plenty of noted wines to match. The Cobb salad with roast chicken, fried red onions, and Zinfandel-shallot vinaigrette is perfect at brunch, while at dinner you might tuck into a plate of "pancakes and eggs" (buckwheat blini with American sturgeon caviar, creme fraiche, lemon butter, and chives), or a main course of sweet-corn-and-black-truffle flan with arugula, eggplant, heirloom peppers, fennel, and basil butter (vegetarian entrees never tasted so good). Plenty of seafood, steak, and fowl dishes round out the menu, which focuses intently on local provisions. This is swanky, gay-friendly dining at its best, in a town with plenty of competition.
Scandals Gay Bar
With a refreshingly cheesy name that hints at its age (it opened in a different space along Stark Street in 1979), Scandals (1125 Stark St.) moved into a prettier space a few years back and morphed from semi-tragically sullen locals joint to genuinely festive and friendly video cruise bar.
Scandals is a relatively intimate spot with a friendly staff, and the crowds here range from sparse early in the week to packed to the rafters on weekends. It's a still a notch below trendy, which means that although you will find plenty of cute guys in here of all ages, you rarely will encounter attitude. A good bet after-work or for last call.
Stumptown Coffee Roaster
In a city that loves its coffee, Stumptown Coffee Roasters (1026 S.W. Stark St) is often cited as the cream of the crop. The small-batch roastery provides coffee to a number of fine restaurants and cafes all around town.
There are also branches on Belmont Street in the hip East Side Belmont District, S.W. 3rd Avenue downtown, and on 12th Avenue as well as East Pine Street in Seattle's gay-popular Capitol Hill neighborhood. Stumptown also opened a roasting facility in New York City's Red Hook, Brooklyn neighborhood in 2009, as well as a coffeehouse in Manhattan at 18 W. 29th Street and you can drink Stumptown at the swish Ace Hotels in New York City, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
Going strong since 1987, Spartacus is Portland's premier shop for sex toys, dildos, lingerie, costumes, leather gear, vibrators, Clone A Willy (also a Portland company, by the way), and sorts of other items for fun in the bedroom (or the living room, or on the dining room table). Spartacus welcomes everybody and has a big following in the gay community, although the majority of the clientele is hetero. The staff is typically fun and helpful, a departure from many surly Portland sex shops.
Spartacus is at 300 S.W. 12th Ave., near West Burnside and the Stark Street gay bar strip.
The Roxy 24-Hour Diner and Coffee Shop
A beloved fixture along Stark Street's strip of gay bars (it's at 1121 S.W. Stark St.), the infectiously campy and fun Roxy is arguably Portland's gayest little diner. It's a 24-hour lovefest of gays and straights, many with the requisite pierced nipples and colorful tats you'd expect of this neighborhood. The crowd is most interesting late at night but intriguing all day.
Dishes have silly names—the pancake platters are nicknamed for busty beauties, such as Dolly Parton and Pamela Anderson. Great burgers and greasy fries, egg dishes, and the gooey Quentin Tarantuna Melt. You can also order Voodoo Doughnuts here. The gay bar Scandals is just steps away.
Serving inventive, healthful, hearty, and affordable breakfast and lunch fare, the cheerfully decorated Helser's on Alberta is one of the Alberta Arts District's best little neighborhood eateries. For breakfast, consider the Louisiana hot sausage scramble wrap with cheddar, or brioche French toast soaked in vanilla-cinnamon batter. Do not miss the fantastic pepper-smoked-bacon BLT or spinach, goat cheese, and pear salad at lunch.
Old Town Portland Gay Bars
Although some of the most popular of Portland's gay bars are along the Southwest Stark Street strip, a 10-minute walk east toward the waterfront will lead you to Old Town/Chinatown, which has another cluster of fun Portland gay bars, including Darcelle XV, C.C. Slaughter's, Hobo's (also a very good restaurant), and Embers. Also in the vicinity is the fabulously quirky Voodoo Doughnuts, which is open 24/7.
If visiting this neighborhood during the day, be sure to take a tour of the fascinating and beautiful Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Cup & Saucer Cafe
The original—and most popular—of a small brand of funky cafes around Portland that specialize in fresh and healthful breakfast fare, the Cup and Saucer Hawthorne (3566 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) has been an East Side mainstay for more than two decades. Drop by for cozy vibe, a long menu that includes many vegan and vegetarian options, and famously tasty baked goods. Cup & Saucer is a genuine throwback, and a community fixture. There are additional branches in North Portland (on North Denver Ave.) and Northeast Portland (on N.E. Killingsworth, near Alberta).
A funky java joint in Northeast Portland's diverse and creative Alberta Arts District, Fuel Cafe (1452 N.E. Alberta St.) is one of the neighborhood's more gay-popular hangouts and an excellent place to sip espressos and lattes, surf the Web using free Wi-Fi, and nosh on light sandwiches, pastries, and bagels. There's a breezy patio that's a pleasure to laze away an afternoon on.
Long ago a frumpy motel on a previously dowdy stretch of East Burnside, the Jupiter Hotel (800 E. Burnside St.) was revamped into a sexy and rather cheeky rock-and-roll hotel in 2004 and has remained a favorite (and very gay-friendly) roost of revelers and music fans ever since. The hotel even offers a Keep Portland Queer package that includes many fun and sexy perks.
The complex of 80 sleek motel-style rooms (they're fairly small but attractively furnished, with a retro aesthetic) offer prime access to the property's famed Doug Fir Restaurant and Lounge, a fantastic spot to watch live music and dine on the quite-tasty mod-American fare. The hotel's lobby contains a cool art gallery added in 2012, and the Jupiter has other fun packages beyond the queer one, including the playful Lust and Love using products from the city's scandalous Fantasy Adult Bookstore. There are great deals for romantic (ahem) last-minute rooms: the After Midnight deal offers rooms at great prices, based on availability.
As a place to stay, the Jupiter attracts all kinds. The compact rooms are fairly basic (though quite comfortable), and it can also get a little noisy around here when crowds descend on the place to catch a show. On the other hand, rates are quite reasonable, and amenities do include some items you won't find at a typical budget chain motel (complimentary Water Avenue coffee, Natura bath products, MP3 docks, and—in larger rooms—flat-screen TVs). Guests also can rent hotel bicycles to zip around town, the hotel is pet-friendly, and there's free Wi-Fi. And the surrounding neighborhood is up-and-coming, with several great places to eat and play within walking distance (Crush gay bar, Le Pigeon, Dig a Pony, Noble Rot, and more). Overall, this is a fun choice for the high-spirited, youthful, and party-driven, and a pretty good bargain.
Outdoorsy Portland has its own gay kayaking club, Out Kayaking, which is run by avid outdoorsman Kyle Sheeley, pictured here paddling in Scappoose Bay, just 25 miles north of Portland near Sauvie Island and the Columbia River. Out Kayaking has about 200 members and plans one or two group paddles each month. Guests and visiting out-of-towners are welcome to participate.
A few kayaking outfitters in the area offer rental discounts in conjunction with these trips, including Scappoose Bay Paddling Center, which helped with the trip pictured. Other gay-friendly outfitters, you might look to for kayak rentals, instruction, and guidance include Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe, Adventure Without Limits in the suburb of Forest Grove, and Ridgefield Kayak Rentals, just across the border in Washington along the Columbia River.
The lovably racy and slightly scandalous Silverado (318 S.W. 3rd Ave.) has been a stalwart of Portland gay nightlife for many years, and it's become even more popular since it moved to a much larger and more impressive downtown space a 10-minute walk from its former Stark Street location. The bar has two sections: the main club, where a few hunky (and generally quite hung) strippers dance (they're permitted to strip down completely naked in Portland) on stage and in a small cage to one side. This room has two levels—head up the stairs, and a loft-style bar area looks down at the dancers, along with the hordes of guys ogling them. It's usually pretty packed in here on weekends, and even on weekdays, this is one of the better-attended gay hangouts in the city, drawing not only guys who love to watch guys dance, but also plenty of others (women and tolerant heteros are perfectly welcome).
The main room leads to a small but charming patio area that's a bit quieter and is also a popular place to mingle. From here, you can access a smaller, more laid-back bar, which has a pool table, a long bar with stools, and several tables and chairs. This is a good spot simply to chat with friends, meet local guys, and enjoy a somewhat mellow pace. If you're a fan of male dancers, Silverado is a consistently fun place to party and people-watch.
World Cup Coffee & Tea
Inside the iconic Portland bookstore, Powell's, this quite spacious branch of the local chain World Cup Coffee & Tea (1005 W. Burnside St.) has lots of seating, both at tables and along the windows (which afford great people-watching). The bustling cafe is open late and draws a predictably literate and well-informed bunch, with a decidedly left bent. This might be the best coffeehouse in town for meeting like-minded friends.
Attached to downtown's stylish Hotel Modera and close to Portland State University (PSU) and the dapper "Park Blocks," Nel Centro (1408 S.W. 6th Ave., inside Hotel Modera) is operated by talented restaurateur David Machado. Nel Centro pays culinary homage to the fresh and relatively light cuisine of the Italian Riviera, and the restaurants airy, high-ceilinged, the angular dining room is the perfect setting for this artfully plated food. Off the main dining room, there's a swish bar that's popular for happy hour (and has a noteworthy list of wines by the glass and creatively executed cocktails), as well as an expansive garden patio with additional seating - it's right off the lobby of Modera.
The food is straightforward, abundant with flavor, and quite well-priced compared to similarly acclaimed upscale restaurants in Portland. The fact that it's at a fine hotel and within walking distance of several others (and in a part of town with relatively few dining options) is a further plus. The menu rotates seasonally, but you'll often find "burrida", a Ligurian-style seafood stew of shellfish and octopus, and bucatini pasta with savory lamb meatballs and aged Ricotta cheese. Nel Centro is also an excellent breakfast and lunch option (there's a particularly good rotisserie-chicken sandwich with pancetta and herbed aioli). Many lighter dishes are available from the bar area, which has a simpler and even more affordable menu. Save room for dessert: pictured here is a plate of tantalizingly good housemade Ricotta fritters with essensia sabayon and raspberry coulis.
The Belmont District, is one of East Portland's hippest and most gay-friendly neighborhoods, just a few blocks south of East Burnside and Laurelhurst, and a few blocks north of funky Hawthorne.
Along this strip, you'll find Stumptown Coffee, the Belmont Inn, the gay-popular Aalto Lounge, the laid-back Side Street Tavern, and plenty of other lively restaurants and shops.
In the vibrant Belmont Street area of eastern Portland, the Aalto Lounge (3356 S.E. Belmont St.) is one of several gay-friendly but mixed hangouts in this part of town catering to a decidedly artsy, singularly unconventional crowd. Aalto is especially popular with the gays on Sunday nights. The bar takes its name and aesthetic inspiration from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, with a very minimalist and chic interior. An excellent spot to meet a friend for a glass of wine or a pint of hefeweizen before dinner along nearby Hawthorne Boulevard, or perhaps pre-clubbing downtown.
Steam Portland Gay Sauna
McMenamins Bagdad Theater
Part of the offbeat Bagdad Pub that's also run by the cool McMenamins group, the Bagdad Theater (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) arty, sometimes gay-themed, films in its very old-school and fun cinema, and also hosts comedy stand-up, poetry slams, and concerts. It's a highly eclectic performance and arts space in an appropriately bohemian neighborhood, the Hawthorne District.
McMenamins Bagdad Pub
Part of the groovy McMenamins group, which runs a number of fun, often historic, gay-friendly neighborhood pubs, restaurants, and hotels around Oregon and Washington, the Bagdad Pub (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) and its adjacent Bagdad Theater movie cinema is a mainstay in the progressive Hawthorne District, a great place to sip microbrewered beer, eat simple pastas and pizzas, and mingle with locals.
Bread and Ink Cafe
One of the more reliable eateries in Portland's funky Hawthorne District, Bread and Ink (3610 Hawthorne Blvd. SE) can be counted on for filling, hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare: burgers, blintzes (something of a house specialty), salads, and the like. Perhaps most famous are Bread & Ink's authentically Belgian-style caramelized sugar waffles, which are served with whatever fruit is in season, plus whipped cream and syrup.
It's a reasonably priced spot in this gay-and-lesbian-popular neighborhood—nothing special, but good in a pinch (especially when you can't get into the more crowded Cup & Saucer Cafe, down the street).