Old Town/Chinatown has come a long way. It remains part of the city's original urban core and home to Portland's skid row, a history still visible in the area's large transient population and calcified seediness. But during the day, you'll see a fresh side of this old neighborhood. A new influx of young, fashion-minded businesspeople have joined the neighborhood's artist base, positioning Old Town as the new center of Portland's streetwear culture. At night, the booming nightlife district remains as much a go-to for tourists fresh off 45 minutes of gutter-punk harassment in the Voodoo Doughnut line as it does for roving Beavertonian bro packs trying to get laid at Dixie Tavern. Although it maintains its rough veneer, Old Town feels like one of the youngest neighborhoods in Portland.
Eat: Deadstock Coffee, 408 NW Couch St.
Drink: Ground Kontrol, 511 NW Couch St.
Shop: IndexPDX, 114 NW 3rd Ave.
Go: Compound Gallery, 107 NW 5th Ave.
Portland Saturday Market
2 SW Naito Parkway, 503-241-4188, portlandsaturdaymarket.com. 10 am-5 pm Saturday, 11 am-4:30 pm Sunday.
Ceramics. Flutes. Hot nuts. Whatcha want? Portland's long-running flea market—the largest continually operating outdoor market in the country—is a living shrine to all things weird and wonderful about this city. More free-spirited than its farming cousin (see page 28), Saturday Market plays home to small artisans and craftspeople, everyone from woodworkers to soapmakers to glass blowers, who hawk their wares alongside food carts and a joyful mess of the best that Old Town has to offer.
Donut Byte Labs
12 SW 4th Ave., 503-801-7321, donutbytelabs.com. Breakfast-dinner Tuesday-Friday, brunch-dinner Saturday-Sunday.
Each of Byte Labs' mini-donuts is a three-bite adventure—the best of which, by far, is a creme brulee that actually mirrors that dessert's texture, ever so slightly torched on top so you can feel the satisfying crack of the caramelized surface beneath your teeth. $.
408 NW Couch St., 971-506-5903, deadstockcoffee.com. Breakfast-early evening Monday-Saturday.
Ian Williams' sneaker culture-inspired cafe is one of the most singular coffee experiences in Portland. Lined with one-of-a-kind sneakers, Deadstock is a place where you can get your rare kicks professionally cleaned while enjoying a LeBronald Palmer—a blend of sweet tea, cold brew and lemonade that tastes like a deluxe Brisk tea. $.
Mi Mero Mole
32 NW 5th Ave., 971-266-8575, mmmtacospdx.com. Lunch-dinner Monday-Saturday.
When it comes to selecting a filling, always err on the side of richness. The smoked lamb will knock you on your ass, tasting just a little gamey and a lot smoky. The house tortilla chips—fresh-fried from leftover rustic corn tortillas, are thick and rugged in a very satisfying way. $.
511 NW Couch St., 503-796-9364, groundkontrol.com. Noon-late daily. 21+ after 5 pm.
Barcades like Ground Kontrol exist to combine video games and alcohol in a way that won't make you feel like a late-stage alcoholic. The old arcade standbys like Street Fighter, The House of the Dead and X-Men are all here, along with an impressive collection of pinball machines.
317 NW Broadway, 971-407-3132, stagpdx.com.
Everything about Stag is a happy surprise. A happy-hour haunt by day, by night Stag's pop hits morph into something with a deeper bass. The sky gets darker, and Stag becomes one of only two all-nude gay strip clubs on the West Coast.
19 SW 2nd Ave., 503-477-8637, bartryst.com. Closed Monday-Tuesday.
The former Berbati's bar in the Old Town Ankeny Alley has turned into Tryst, with patterned tile floors, plush black booths and electric-blue walls. The if-'60s-were-'90s lounge aesthetic recalls, more than anything, the films of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, and the food is equally pan-Asian-inflected.
Cal Skate Skateboards
210 NW 6th Ave., 503-248-0495, calsk8.com.
Whether or not it's the "oldest skateboard shop on the planet," as it claims, Cal Skate has been bringing hundreds of unique decks as well as clothing, DVDs and all other things skateboarding to the streets of Portland for 40 years.
Floating World Comics
400 NW Couch St., 503-241-0227, floatingworldcomics.com.
Floating World isn't just your typical excellent comic shop. It's a wonderland for visual creativity, stocking international art mags, graphic design treatises, visual art, zines and records alongside every new indie and mainstream graphic novel or comic you could want.
427 NW Broadway, 503-575-9769, handeyesupply.com.
A boutique that carries nice things for people that work with their hands—whether they're artists (drafting supplies, folios, sketchbooks), tradespeople (aprons, work clothes, tools) or chefs (knives, cookware)—Hand-Eye Supply has got you covered whether you're a professional or hobbyist who wants to work with the best.
Landfill Rescue Unit
Inside Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch St., 503-241-0227, floatingworldcomics.com.
LRU has one of the best-curated collections of weirdo music we've ever seen. This is the place to go for jaw-dropping finds if you're as well-versed in modern classical as you are in extreme punk, heavy metal and electronic music.
Orox Leather Co.
450 NW Couch St., 503-954-2593, oroxleather.com. Closed Sunday.
Orox Leather's Jose and Martin Martinez trace leatherworking in their family back to the early 20th century. They bring several generations of craftsmanship to their flagship leather goods boutique and workshop, where they create their Oaxacan-inspired bags, shoes, tradesman's aprons and belts, all guaranteed for life.
16 NW Broadway, 503-224-2227, brodytheater.com. See website for schedule.
The Brody Theater is a performance space dedicated to providing Portland's poets and comics—whether standup or improv—with a place to perfect their crafts. It hosts performances for amateurs and pros (from its in-house improv troupe) and runs regular classes for those looking to master the fundamentals.
219 NW Couch St., 503-719-6517, duplexgallery.com. Closed Saturday-Sunday.
An intimate space that showcases midcareer and emerging national artists—everyone from photographers from upstate New York to Portland installation artists—Duplex hosts a new exhibition every month, rotating as part of Old Town and the Pearl District's First Thursday celebration.
Everett Station Galleries
Northwest Everett Street and 6th Avenue. Hours vary.
A complex of artist residences and small art galleries, including Right Side and Pony Club, Everett is a must-go location during First Thursdays—the whole street transforms into a block party—and an excellent place to see what's on the cutting edge of Portland's young alternative visual artists.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 NW Everett St., 503-228-8131, lansugarden.org.
Old Town can be overwhelming. If you need to take a break from the concrete and traffic, head to Portland's Chinese Garden, an oasis built by artisans from Portland's sister city Suzhou that holds regular events like tai chi, tea ceremonies and classes on Chinese food and art.
In multiple locations
Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave.