In the '50s and '60s, this neighborhood was home to the heart of the African American community, where its own Cotton Club drew every Portlander with an ounce of rhythm to North Vancouver Avenue. The Vanport Flood of 1948 had essentially relocated black Portland here. Now, a generation later, a different kind of flood is transforming the neighborhood's demographics, bringing with it third-wave cafes, overpriced real estate and punk venues. It's doubtful any bargoers will look as stylish as they did when North Williams went by "Black Broadway," but on the right night, with a good buzz, you can taste the embers of midcentury Portland's nightlife mecca.
Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar
One of the truest gems of Portland, Mississippi Studios is inarguably one of our fair city's finest music venues, and Bar Bar, the adjoining watering hole, is one of Portland's favorite spots to catch a buzz (WW staff included). Bar Bar features one of Portland's best patios and a no-frills drink menu with tallboys, a few taps, shot-and-beer combos and the best bacon-arugula-tomato sandwich in town.
128 NE Russell St., wonderballroom.com.
A varsity player in the realm of Portland concert venues, the Wonder hosts metal acts, indie folk, Danish punk rock, and everything in between. The hundred-year-old building has been revived with Haring-esque murals that sprawl across the entryway and main hall. Downstairs holds a second bar and a secluded smoking patio shrouded in bamboo, which transitions into outdoor seating for an outpost of Bunk Bar.
Northeast Stanton Street and North Williams Avenue.
Despite its relatively small size (just 2.05 acres), Dawson Park is a hub of activity year round—thanks in part to its gorgeous gazebo complete with summertime splash pads. In 2013, the city added new playground equipment and picnic and barbecue areas—which are responsible for mouthwatering downwinds every weekend.
For more than a decade, Toro Bravo has set the standard for Spanish cuisine in Portland, kicking off John Gorham's mini-empire that now includes Tasty n Daughters, Tasty n Alder, Shalom Y'all, Mediterranean Exploration Company, Plaza Del Toro, and Bless Your Heart Burgers. Despite all those plates in the air—and successful brain surgery in January—his flagship maintains the quality that earned Toro Bravo WW's Restaurant of the Year honors in 2007.