For locals still convinced that Portland lost its soul, the inner eastside is where Portland jumped the charcuterie. But imagining a complete transformation rather underestimates how deep the area's weirdness lays. The vacuum museum endures, and while ad agencies and production companies overtake Portland Storage, a prominent (four-inch-horns-implanted) Satanist figure still serves as building manager. Our Lower East Side has always felt like the most defiantly urban part of Portland, and there's a certain logic to the ongoing changes—practice spaces give way to venues and home-furnishing stores become housing. Neighborhoods do evolve, even if recent developments have artificially hastened the timetable.
Trifecta, 726 SE 6th Ave.
Dig a Pony, 736 SE Grand Ave.
Portland Music Company, 531 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave.
720 SE Grand Ave., 503-235-0059, kachkapdx.com. Dinner-late daily.
Kachka, our 2014 Restaurant of the Year, makes homestyle Russian food to a standard you'll struggle to find west of St. Petersburg. It's filled to the brim with colorful Soviet propaganda posters and a sense of nostalgia for a time that might not have ever existed but seems wonderful, boisterous and free. Take, for example, the Herring "Under a Fur Coat." It's as if some wizard took all the cold salads at a potluck picnic and did a spell over them. The potatoes and the beets and the herring and everything else come together in a magically refreshing and satisfying way no mother could recreate. $$-$$$.
537 SE Ash St., Suite 102 (inside Fausse Piste Winery), 503-504-9448. One seating per night, 7 pm, Friday-Sunday. Tickets at holdfastdining.com.
Three hours after you're shown to your seat by Holdfast's two chefs—they'll bring an aperitif and paint the scene of their drive out to the foggy coast to grab the revelatory fresh geoduck clams you're about to eat—you'll emerge sated, smarter and perhaps with a couple of new friends. $$$$.
J & M Cafe
537 SE Ash St., 503-230-0463, jandmcafepdx.com. Breakfast-lunch daily.
J & M has the charm of your favorite greasy spoon with the modern quality of our city's high-end spots. It isn't going to overthink your go-to brunch order with atypical ingredients, but it'll make damn sure your chorizo scramble is going to be among the best you've ever had. $.
Le Bistro Montage
301 SE Morrison St., 503-234-1234, montageportland.com. Dinner-late daily.
An after-hours institution perhaps best known for snarky waiters' long pours and the communal tables grouping together a motley post-bar assemblage of goths, club kids, and suburbanites, the nighthawks found their way under the Morrison Bridge to forage for Creole comfort staples alongside more rarefied delights like frog legs and alligator bites. $-$$.
318 SE Grand Ave., 503-235-5123, nicholasrestaurant.com. Lunch-dinner daily.
An unendingly generous place, with baba ghanouj, hummus, tabbouleh and mini-pizza veggie and meat mezza platters that handily feed two, Nicholas is the Lebanese spot in town that—after 30 years—always knows how to meet every possible customer halfway. $-$$.
626 SE Main St., 503-954-2708, renatapdx.com. Dinner Monday-Saturday.
This industrial eastside Italian spot is a gorgeous space that inspires adoration: airy, undivided and centered on two long wood slabs surrounded by old-fashioned classroom chairs. The menu changes daily but you want the pasta, bread and then some more pasta. $$$-$$$$.
110 SE Washington St., 503-719-8752, smithtea.com. Brunch-early dinner daily.
As one last grand passion project before his 2015 death, Steven Smith opened a flagship location for his namesake line of artisan teas. Curious consumers may sip impeccably-steeped flights, quaff carbonated varieties straight from the keg, or simply watch the production of a favored flavor from leaf to cupping lab to sachet. $.
117 SE Taylor St., 503-208-2573, trwpdx.com. Dinner daily.
Among the many delightful little discoveries at Erik Van Kley's ode to big-tent Americana, there is one very big one: the crab. Enjoy it with the Pinewood Baron—an elegantly smoked Negroni made by adding barrel-aged, smoky lapsang souchong tea. $$$.
726 SE 6th Ave., 503-841-6675, trifectapdx.com. Dinner daily.
Trifecta is equally welcoming to single drunks at the bar, to intimate dates in the plush booths and to loudmouths with kids at the party tables in the middle. Food is humble in spirit—the dishes startle not with novelty but with sterling execution, and are delivered to your table with the effort-free cool that comes only with genuine competence. $-$$$.
Water Avenue Coffee
1028 SE Water Ave., No. 145, 503-808-7084, wateravenuecoffee.com. Breakfast-early dinner daily.
While the cafe's primary concern remains the blood of the bean—artisan coffees roasted upon a 1974 French Samiac plucked from the Swiss Alps—this favorite of the quickly-percolating Water Avenue barista district has also expanded its menu to feature a selection of Antipodean toast dishes. $.
Bit House Saloon
727 SE Grand Ave., 503-954-3913, bithousesaloon.com.
Bit House is a bit like a circus for bar people. Seemingly everything is happening at once—cocktails served in bottles with straws, house-blended sherry, slushies, High Life ponies as whiskey backs. There's always something new, and the bar staff is among the most lauded in town.
Dig a Pony
736 SE Grand Ave., 971-279-4409, digaponyportland.com.
Dig a Pony has a special place as the industrial eastside's gently posh, everyman's meat market and party bar. Though DAP's enormous picture windows, exposed-wood walls, Belgian Pilsners and sours permanently on tap, and rotating cast of vinyl-only DJs place it dead center in the shitshow of New Portland hip, the bar's prices and easy demeanor keep it approachable.
710 SE 6th Ave., 503-235-8272, loyallegionpdx.com.
Loyal Legion is home to what's likely the longest bar in Portland and 99 taps of all-Oregon beer, the largest selection anywhere. If you dig, you'll almost always find a buried treasure, like a double IPA from Upright Brewing—an absolute corker.
My Father's Place
523 SE Grand Ave., 503-235-5494.
My Father's Place is a bar of gruff bonhomie, unreconstructed comfort food like gravy-covered chicken-fried steak, impossibly cheap drinks and a well-worn rec-room aesthetic. For self-made orphans day-drinking away obligations, "spending the holiday at My Father's Place" remains the perfect excuse—for almost anything, really.
720 SE Sandy Blvd., 503-265-8807, rumclubpdx.com.
Though the menu is rum-happy and loosely tropical, Rum Club has recently gotten more mileage out of bourbon and muscat brandy. You can't go wrong with any order, but we heartily recommend the Pedro Martínez, which blends aged rum with Torino vermouth, bitters, lemon oil and sweet maraschino.
533 SE Grand Ave., 503-230-7767, slowbar.net.
This is an unlikely home for Portland's most celebrated pub burger: the Slowburger—a Beacon Rock-sized column of ground chuck, Gruyere and onion rings that tastes like the Oxford English Dictionary needed more definitive examples of the concepts "fat" and "melt." Practice self-care and order it with salad.
White Owl Social Club
1305 SE 8th Ave., 503-236-9672, whiteowlsocialclub.com.
White Owl has a sterling selection of beer taps, a DJ party mess on weekends and taco parties. Is it embarrassing that the only place you see L.A. nightclub-style lines in Portland is at a summer patio bar with a bunch of picnic tables?
House Spirits Distillery
65 SE Washington St., 503-235-3174, housespirits.com.
The top shelf of lower Southeast's increasingly crowded "distillery row", the newly opened 14,000-square-foot House Spirits (Aviation Gin, Volstead Vodka, Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey) headquarters masks a smooth, formidable production facility—75,000-pound-capacity grain silo, the West Coast's largest operational still—with tartly-understated art deco tasting room.
Mother Foucault's Bookshop
523 SE Morrison St., 503-236-2665. Closed Sunday-Monday.
Within continually expanding, casually aspirational environs binding a jaded academic's high-brow tastes and low-key wit—read the shop's name aloud—browsing Mother Foucault's precisely-curated inventory always feels a bit like scanning the host's titles midst local literati cocktail party, even on the odd nights a reading isn't scheduled.
426 SE Grand Ave., 503-233-0706, nextadventure.net.
Something like the eastside's answer to U.S. Outdoor Store (see page 27), Next Adventure is an all-things-outdoors superstore in the heart of one of the least-outdoorsy chunks of the city. It has everything you could want for kayaking, climbing, camping and traversing the snowy wastes, whether by shoe, board or ski.
Portland Music Company
531 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-226-3719, portlandmusiccompany.com.
Among the oldest such stores in the country, Portland Music Company stocks a wide variety of guitars—the most impressive hung out of reach and not for sale—alongside a range of instruments, stage gear, recording equipment, and Oregon's largest collection of sheet music. The nearly 90-year-old shop offers the usual lessons and lately even some electronica tutorials.
416 SE Oak St., 503-546-2518, shoppeople.org.
One of Portland's very first co-op makerspaces, Shop People's 14,000-square-foot underground facility was recently purchased by Global Homestead, and the new owners have announced a thorough renovation of existing studios (metalwork, woodwork, jewelry) alongside new centers (technology, sustainability, industrial design) touching upon more modern crafts.
534 SE Oak St., 503-915-7301, afrugallery.com. Closed Sunday-Wednesday.
Elaborating on traditional notions of gallery management with heightened showmanship, AFRU often seems as much venue as exhibition space. Their annual Byte Me! showcase accents the potential of interactivity with snarkily digitized installations, while a recent Art of the Circus debut featured performances by jugglers, contortionists, and A-WOL Dance Collective aerialists.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
1945 SE Water Ave., 503-797-4000, omsi.edu.
More than a million visitors each year visit this ginormous facility to simulate earthquakes, explore black holes, prowl the decommissioned attack submarine, or gaze upon the IMAX-sized theater screen. While the grand majority of exhibits are geared toward the junior scientist set, museum restaurant Theory takes both food and food-science seriously while OMSI After Dark invites age-appropriate guests to drink up chemistry's finest practical applications.
Shaking the Tree Theatre
823 SE Grant St., 503-235-0635, shaking-the-tree.com.
After long chasing stages to host their innovative productions, the lauded theater company finally bought a warehouse all their own with space enough for collaborations, independent adaptations—upcoming runs include the fairy-tale-brutality-inspired HEAD. HANDS. FEET: Four Tales of Dismemberment—and year-round classes and workshops for both young and old.
Portland Indoor Soccer
418 SE Main St., 503-231-6368, pdxindoorsoccer.com. Open play Tuesdays and Fridays.
Where to play the beautiful game in the dampened city? Portland Indoor Soccer's 20,000-square-foot complex offers classes in conjunction with the national Lil' Kickers program of non-competitive instruction for tykes aged 1½ to 9, plus five seasons of adult league play.
Kidd's Toy Museum
1301 SE Grand Ave., 503-233-7807, kiddstoymuseum.com. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Not, in any way, a "kid's toy museum," this collection of Frank Kidd holds some 50,000 playthings primarily made pre-WWII—an age without plastic (or, alas, much racial tolerance)—while concentrating upon die-cast vehicular models and perhaps the world's largest assemblage of mechanical banks.
1515 SE Water Ave., No. 104, portlandboathouse.com.
Near the southern terminus of the Eastbank Esplanade, a small stretch of dock attracts far more intriguing traffic on puddletown's sunniest days. Though elevated police attention has tempered impromptu bacchanals, the Portland Boathouse still regularly hosts swimmers, paddleboarders, dragon boaters, rowers and the sort of celebrants reflexively drawn to the nearest beach equivalent.
In multiple locations:
Alma Chocolate, 1323 SE 7th Ave.
Bunk Bar Water, 1028 SE Water Ave.
Coava Coffee, 1300 SE Grand Ave.
Bunk Sandwiches, 621 SE Morrison St.
Olympia Provisions, 107 SE Washington St.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 100 SE Salmon St.