We know Portland teenagers are all tucked in bed by the city's curfew, which is 10:15 pm on school nights and midnight on weekends. But if, hypothetically, they were out late—perhaps coming directly from a school dance or church-sponsored lock-in, as allowed by the city—then a 24-hour restaurant would be a much better place to spend their time than flash-robbing a convenience store.
1121 SW Stark St., 223-9160.
It's frankly ridiculous that there's only one 24-hour sit-down eatery in downtown Portland. But if there can only be one, aren't you glad it's a grungy little diner where coffee is served by the pot, fries come covered in cheese and ranch, staff can barely contain their contempt for the drunken clientele, and it always feels like 1994? Expect queers, bros, tourists, shift workers and kids, hiding behind their onion rings and hoping to avoid the servers' stink eye. RUTH BROWN.
Portland's only 24-hour coffee shop, Southeast Grind feels like it was plucked off Main Street in a rural college town, then filled with overstuffed couches claimed from the set of 7th Heaven and a collection of every event flier printed in town over the past six months. The barista tells five kids out for "a group thing" that the kombucha on tap "will make you drunk, if you drink a lot of it." (Not true.) They sit near the fireplace and talk about summer classes as Blind Melon's "No Rain" plays on the stereo. Two girls in bikini tops and DayGlo hot pants show up to use the restroom. Everyone gawks for a moment, then resumes what they were doing. Some typing, others pouring tea for two and speaking their point of view, sane or not. MARTIN CIZMAR.
There's something strangely comforting in the thought that Shari's never changes. Sure, the pie of the month is always different, but there will always be a pie of the month. Milkshakes will always be served with that stainless-steel cup on the side. And no matter how late the hour or how large the group, the hexagon-shaped pancake factory will always be open to truck drivers, prom after-parties and high-school band kids. At almost every off-ramp, there's a Shari's waiting with open doors to welcome the hungry and underage. KIMBERLY HURSH.
The downtown Voodoo is a tourist trap with no place to sit, but the east side's Voodoo is actually a great place to hang out around 3:45 am. The day's doughnuts are fresh out of the fryer then, and the tatted-up dough jockeys haven't yet had their spirits crushed by silly questions from people in Crocs. Eat your Grape Ape, linger to absorb the room's glow and play a little pinball. Don't fret soiling the couches with sprinkles or coffee—Grandma will wipe it off later. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Let's be honest: You're not going to Javier's for the tacos. Granted, a pile of fatty meat dumped onto a tortilla is what everyone craves at 3 am. But the only real reason to ever visit this tiny, unassuming Lombard institution is to feel a sense of community. Even at midnight on a Tuesday, Javier's draws a wide cross section of the Northeast Portland population, from the heavy-lidded white kid with matted dreadlocks to the gentleman who really wants some limes to the pair of emergency medical technicians loading up for the night. "Hey, you guys work for Steve, right?" a guy in a trucker hat asks the EMTs, looking up from his overflowing burrito. "Kick him in the ass for me, will ya?" Sometimes, you just want to go where everyone knows your boss's name. MATTHEW SINGER.
Standing apart from the 24-hour diners brimming with (literally and figuratively) wasted youth, Tik Tok is for grown-ups only. But no list of all-night eateries would be complete without it. On the bar side, I have witnessed late-night sleepers, countless failed one-line seductions, and midlifers grinding to onetime hit songs even after the DJ has departed—leading in one case to a tryst in a parking-lot sedan perfectly visible through the establishment's windows. The pancakes are mammoth and spongiform, the hamburgers cooked in their own grease, the chicken-fried steak a museum piece of midcentury Howard Johnson. The staff, perhaps necessarily, is almost tender in its indulgence. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
You know that long, slow line for the drive-thru at the Taco Bell on Northeast Weidler Street at 2 am? Imagine taking all those people out of their cars and sticking them in a line for breakfast combinations that are infinitely more difficult to order than a seven-layer burrito. Now, throw in an obnoxious bachelorette party and an Elvis impersonator who looks ready to hurl into his country omelet with his next bite. This is the scene at the Original Hotcake House on an average Friday night. And yet, the food is deliciously greasy, the pancakes are perfect, and the jukebox is full of country hits. Few Portland establishments provide better fodder for people-watching—just keep the commentary low, because THAT'S MY FUCKING GIRLFRIEND YOU'RE LOOKING AT, BRO! YOU GOT A PROBLEM? I DON'T EVEN CARE, I WILL FIGHT YOU AT THE MOTHERFUCKING HOTCAKE HOUSE, BRO. I WILL BURN YOU WITH GRAVY, BRO. DON'T TEST ME. THAT'S MY GIRLFRIEND.