Technically speaking, the entire city of Portland is one big hipster haven. We're not even generalizing here – it's brimming with enough craft beer, local coffee, vegan restaurants, and kooky shops to make any hipster's knees weak in their skinny jeans. But if you had to choose just one neighborhood to visit, Southeast has by far the greatest credentials. Here's everything you need to know about where to eat, drink, sleep and hang out in Portland's coolest 'hood.
Before you leave PDX, it’s non-negotiable to admire the airport’s carpet. There’s an entire Instagram account dedicated to it and the shenanigans people do to pay homage to it. True story.
The taxi scene in Portland is pretty laughable (you can never find one anywhere, and they take forever to show up), but thankfully Uber came along to save the day. More power to you if you insist on a cab – but it'll cost you about $40 versus $25 for an Uber.
You can also take Portland’s awesome light rail, the MAX, where the Red Line is your only option from the airport to SE. For $2.50 one way, you can cruise by the random traffic, which is increasing by the day with the population boom. Once you get to Southeast, it is SUPER walkable like every other neighborhood in Portland.
Local lingo: "PDX". Not just an airport code, that’s actually what everyone calls Portland.
The Usual Suspects
Serra: You didn’t come all this way for the legal marijuana, right? Didn’t think so. But just in case you want to see what the whole weed retail experience is like, pop into one of the many dispensaries gracing nearly every block in the city, like Serra on Belmont. The helpful staff will gladly school you on the greens menu, and there are oodles of high-end accessories you can admire while sipping on a complimentary cup of Jasmine tea. Pure class.
Bagdad Theater: Portlanders either love or loathe McMenamins, because they’re a local chain. But the truth is, they preserve some pretty kick-ass historical buildings by turning them into adult-friendly entertainment venues. Bagdad Theater is an iconic movie theater on Hawthorne that serves pizza and handcrafted ales, courtesy of McMenamins. No matter your hipster stance on chains, you can’t argue with that.
Sassy’s: So, yeah...strip clubs are kind of a big deal in Portland – there’s something for everybody, including the world’s first vegan strip club. Sassy’s is a beloved landmark in Portland, and many claim it’s the best. Boasting 30 beers on tap and a daily happy hour, if you want to take home some pole-dancing moves as a unique souvenir, this is the place to be.
Mount Tabor: With all of the insanely beautiful nature in Oregon, it’s downright wrong not to get out and enjoy it year-round. While there are many options all around Portland, right at the end of Hawthorne is a Southeast outdoor favorite, Mount Tabor. Boasting expansive views of downtown, this is a prime spot to connect with nature and people watch the locals.
Vintage Pink: If you love vintage, you will seriously adore the hidden treasures in Southeast. While there are plenty of stores you can go crazy in, Vintage Pink is a crowd-pleaser for its admirable selection of sweet (and musty) secondhand furniture, home decor, and clothing. No matter how many drinks you had the night before, you can’t miss it. The building is bubble gum pink...with polka dots.
Circa 33: The end of the Prohibition era is still celebrated every day at Circa 33, hence the inspiration behind the name (1933 being the year prohibition was repealed). The moustached men behind the bar specialize in drinks from the 1900s (watch out for the Absinthe!) but there are hundreds of whiskeys, numerous beers, and 1930s-inspired French cuisine too. Insider's tip: a top secret bar is located behind a revolving bookcase wall if you find the right book.
Local lingo: “Freddy’s.” It’s not a bar, but it is a popular spot that locals get excited about...Fred Meyer’s is a grocery store.
Tōv: Coffee is serious business in the Northwest, and there is no shortage of it in Portland. But you might as well try something unique, like an authentic Egyptian coffee on a double-decker bus at Tōv. The tented rooftop deck and bold flavors will literally whisk you away to Egypt – it's weird, but v enjoyable.
Good Coffee: The name is just SO Portland, very “no-bullshit coffee sold here” kind of thing. A great place to watch locals in action – studying, reading, and working on sofas and recliners – Good Coffee has a warm welcoming atmosphere. Relax inside or outside with good conversation and damn good coffee.
Jam: When you see the line of hungry hipsters, couples, and families downing coffee from the self-serve cart on the sidewalk, you know you’ve come to the right spot. Jam has a little something for everyone, from the hardcore vegans to the pork lovers. The JD Massacre is a life-changing vegetarian sausage wrap after a long night.
Night Light Lounge: If an insane wait for brunch isn’t your speed, head to Night Light Lounge. You might not be thinking brunch when you hear the name, but it’s a great low-key spot with a variety of breakfast options – think classics, like migas scrambles or a pork benedict – that will satisfy you for hoursss. For the adventurous types, you can mix your own mimosas.
Blue Star Donuts: There’s an ongoing debate in Portland about who has the best doughnuts. While Voodoo is certainly popular with its outlandish cereal-topped options, sweet-toothed locals know Blue Star is where it’s at. The Blueberry Basil Bourbon is a classic, and so is the Hard Apple Cider Fritter. You really can’t go wrong here.
Cartopia: Portland’s seemingly adorable food carts shouldn't fool you into thinking they're not serious business. They’re magnificent, especially when they unite in a parking lot to create a place-like Cartopia. Chicken and Guns is a must, as is adding an egg on anything you order. Leave room for poutine at Potato Champion and get a classic Portland dessert from PBJ’s Grilled.
Hat Yai: Okay, so this Southern Thailand godsend is actually in Northeast, but we promise it's worth the walk. The restaurant isn't super fancy, but the food is top notch and served with a whole load of passion. Go for the soy-braised short rib (with coconut milk, mmm) or the Hat Yai Fried Chicken it's known and loved for.
Tapalaya: Comfort food? Erm, always. The creole cajun food at Tapalaya will warm you right up, with a banquet of options to please carnivores and herbivores alike. Go for the Tofu & Veggie Hash that's covered in a lemongrass pesto, for real. Think New Orleans meets Vietnam...in your happy belly.
Local lingo: “Of course!” This is the Portland version of “you’re welcome” spoken commonly by native servers and bartenders.
APEX: Opening right at 11.30am, this is where you'll consume hundreds of delicious beer calories – there are 50 beers on tap and they are legit. APEX has an urban beer garden situation out front with lots of people-watching opportunities on Division. The pinball machines make for a fun added touch, too.
Whiskey Soda Lounge: Also on Division, the unassuming tables out front invite you to plop down for a drink and snack after exploring too many kitschy boutiques. Whiskey service doesn’t begin until 4pm, but eating here is a must, because they serve food from the legendary Pok Pok, which is right across the street. Devour their famous fish sauce wings ASAP.
Local Watering Holes
Ex Novo Brewing: There are a shit ton of breweries you can visit in Portland, but Ex Novo (admittedly, out in Northwest) is the world's first non-profit brewpub, and it's damn good in its own right. They pay homage to Portland with locally-named beers like ‘Eliot IPA’ (a local neighborhood) and also have creative recipes such as ‘The Most Interesting Lager in the World’ – a Mexican lager with Vienna malts, flaked corn and a lime wedge.
Eastburn: The moment you walk inside, you’ll notice the absolutely rad hanging wicker chairs. So, figure out your tipple of choice at the bar and get your swing on inside, or on the patio with the fire tables. Eastburn has many happy hour options, including one on Saturdays that starts at 3pm. There's also games downstairs to keep you entertained for hours.
Let Your Hair Down
Holocene: Truthfully, clubbing isn’t really a thing in Portland, but there are a couple of multi-purpose art/music venues around town that have rock bands and DJs. A two-level club/bar in a former auto warehouse, Holocene is one of the few places you can get down 'n' dirty.
Blue Room: Remember the aforementioned food cart pod? At Blue Room you can eat right off the Cartlandia menu because they let you walk in with anything you order – a major perk at the end of a long night when you have the munchies. Also, they have live music four nights a week so you can enjoy a nightcap to some tunes and savor a hearty meal before you sleep it off.
Local lingo: “Rad.” This is used on special occasions, otherwise things are just awesome.
Hotel Life: Hotel Lucia
Southeast is super hip, but it's pretty residential, so there’s not a chance in hell you’ll find a boutique hotel like Hotel Lucia. Some may call the rooms small, but we prefer quaint and charming. Plus, they have a complimentary pillow menu, they deliver Portland’s famous Salt & Straw ice cream, and you can order sexy time kits from the bar menu. Enough said.
Dream Airbnb: Mid-Century Hideout
Sitting right in the farmers market-filled 'hood of Montavilla, this hip Airbnb offers just the relaxation you're looking for after a heavy day of gorging on food carts and trawling vintage shops. Very minimalist, but with a ton of atmosphere, this hangout is as cozy as it is photogenic.
Local lingo: “Another high-rise” (followed by a sigh). Portlanders don’t think high-rises are cool – they block out nature and promote a big city feel they don’t want.