For a neighborhood largely built on the detritus of transportation hubs past—only a refurbished smokestack remains from the once-sprawling Union Pacific freight house—Overlook no longer seems on the way to anywhere. There's an eerily detached permanence to this area, as if it managed to evade decay in order to embrace picturesque obsolescence, save for one shining exception. A few blocks of North Interstate Avenue survive as a miracle half-mile emblazoned with the region's finest undisturbed stretch of neon signage. This semiformal neon district harks back to an age when even dive bars and flea-trap motels announced their existence with towering verve. All brickwork and no playfulness make for dull cities.
The Eisenhower Bagelhouse, 4350 N Interstate Ave.
The Alibi, 4024 N Interstate Ave.
Adidas North America Headquarters and Employee Store, 5055 N Greeley Ave.
Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N Interstate Ave.
2230 N Skidmore Court.
Overlooking the ineffable machinery ever clanking away amid the industrial wastelands far below, the Skidmore Bluffs' sweeping vistas encompass the Willamette River, West Hills and downtown skyline. A sizable swath of the population have come to think of the bluffs as their own private refuge. When seniors spread a blanket next to picnicking families and gutter-punk couples passing a brown-bagged 40, an untroubled bonhomie plays out like the pleasant aftermath of a damnably eclectic block party. It's best to visit on a slightly overcast weekday afternoon, and you're free to nestle with a loved one for a wholly fresh perspective.
2240 N Interstate Ave., Suite 160, 503-282-5555, broderpdx.com. Breakfast and lunch daily.
Peter Bro's small family of Scandinavian brunch spots draws lines out the door every weekend. One bite of the iconic lost eggs or Swedish meatballs, and you'll be married to this brood. $$.
The Eisenhower Bagelhouse
4350 N Interstate Ave., 503-288-5376, eisenhowerbagelhouse.com. Breakfast
and lunch Tuesday-Sunday.
Opening three years ago as a pop-up, Eisenhower's spiraling popularity fueled a crowdfunding campaign for a dedicated storefront with space enough for flights of fancy (rainbow-colored "gay-gels" come Pride weekend), lordly demands (Sir Paul McCartney's crew ordered six dozen at his last PDX stop), and wonderfully greasy sandwiches slathered inside your choice of a daily-replenished stock that always disappears too soon. $.
4057 N Interstate Ave., 503-719-6152, mihopdx.com. Dinner daily.
The red lantern outside a converted residence doesn't exactly announce its presence, but Miho Izakaya has built a loyal following through humbly hearty Japanese pub grub. Bring enough friends to forage through a goodly swath of small plates—yam noodles, firecracker mussels, and sesame pork meatballs. $.
3449 N Anchor St., 503-285-8458, tiltitup.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, breakfast-dinner Saturday, breakfast and lunch Sunday.
The Big Tilt, a double cheeseburger roughly the size of a high-top sneaker, is too much food for two people. The trough-sized large fries could easily feed four. With a nightclublike atmosphere, Tilt is the famished extrovert's dream. $.
4024 N Interstate Ave., 503-287-5335, alibiportland.com.
Since the torch was first lit for the Alibi nearly 70 years ago, faux-Polynesian decor has gone from sprightly fad to old-man-dive staple to elephant graveyard of vintage alco-tourism. These days, the North Interstate institution seems less a surviving novelty than a nightlife hub that just happens to feature mai tais, fog cutters, and that other Americanized take on Far East boozy mischief—karaoke.
Adidas North America Headquarters and Employee Store
5055 N Greeley Ave., 971-234-2300, adidas.com.
Sure, you need a special pass to get access to Adidas' employee store on its quasi-Brutalist North American headquarters/sports compound—but everyone in Portland finds one sooner or later. And with that pass comes access to a wonderland of half-off, brand-new Adidas shoes and sportswear. This is why the usually packed store has the festive fury of a block party during peak hours.
Beam & Anchor
2710 N Interstate Ave., 503-367-3230, beamandanchor.com.
Inside a reclaimed warehouse along Interstate's industrial edge, Beam & Anchor houses both an elevated workshop for local artisans to ply their varied crafts (carpentry, soap-making, organic perfumery, leatherwork) and a ground-floor showroom where its wares are displayed alongside an eclectic array of finely wrought goods meant for bed, bath and well beyond.
Atomic Art Tattoo Studio
1410 N Alberta St., 503-284-6688, atomic.ws. Closed Sunday-Monday, Wednesday.
Although just about every inch of his home studio bursts with Tomorrowland curios and steampunk gadgetry—London Bellman's talents shouldn't be wasted on replicating iconic signifiers. The world-renowned artist behind Portland's longest-running custom tattoo shop prefers inking heavy metal-steeped amorphous psychedelia of his own design.
Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center
5340 N Interstate Ave., 503-823-4322. Closed Sunday.
An imposing 1910 brick fire station-turned-exhibition space, dance studio and performance venue, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center's 90ish-seat theater has hosted the fully staged debuts of such diverse productions as raucous spoof The Lost Boys—Live!, the Wanderlust Circus-aided opera Queen of Knives and, most recently, Cottonwood in the Flood—a dramatic exploration of the Vanport tragedy presented alongside the IFCC gallery's display of assembled artifacts.
Mad Science Portland
1522 N Ainsworth St., 503-230-8040, portland.madscience.org.
The crazy-like-a-fox instructors of Mad Science Portland concentrate on STEM education with showmanship and wacky hijinks. During after-school classes and summer camps, students of all ages can build rockets, create comets, uncover fossils, and learn the most profound lessons about gravity—with parachutes.
Polish Library Association
3832 N Interstate Ave., 503-287-4077, portlandpolonia.org. Open Friday and Sunday.
A pillar of Portland's Polish community for over a century, this facility attracts hundreds of participants to its ethnic festival each year, and with negligible costs of membership ($10 annual, $1 daily), anyone can take advantage of the historic library, ornate hall, and Grandpa Cafe's array of products imported from the homeland.
In multiple locations: Fire on the Mountain, 4225 N Interstate Ave.