It's easy to get fatigued by the gentrification debate in Portland, but in the case of North Williams, it's impossible to ignore—if not downright irresponsible—because it's where you can see it happening in real time. Once the city's African-American business hub, the last black-owned business got forced out two years ago, replaced by New Seasons, bike bars and towering apartment complexes that cast imposing shadows on the homes of the remaining families who've been there for generations. It sounds disheartening. But if you want to know what Portland is, what it was, and what it could be, you should know Williams and Vancouver.
What's the Scoop?, 3540 N Williams Ave.
The Waypost, 3120 N Williams Ave.
Microcosm Publishing, 2752 N Williams Ave.
Matt Dishman Community Center and Pool, 77 NE Knott St.
36 N Russell St., 503-287-2262, sloanstavern.com. Closed Saturday-Sunday.
Nothing lasts forever—except Sloan's Tavern. It opened in 1979 and has basically stayed there, the decor untouched by time or taste. Of course, there are plenty of old bars in Portland too stubborn to replace the carpet and swap out the Schlitz swag. How many of them have a semi truck cab jutting from the outside wall, though? Or an antique novelty jukebox loaded with country 45s powering a miniature motorized big band that shimmies along to each selection? There is just something strange and magical about Sloan's, which is the only explanation for how it's managed to last so long while never opening on Saturdays.
Brass Tacks Sandwiches
3535 N Vancouver Ave., 503-309-4412, brasstackssandwiches.com. Brunch-early dinner daily.
A Portland sandwich shop if there ever was one, this cozy deli—owned and operated by a former indie-rock drummer, natch—places its focus on the local, the sustainable and the allergen-friendly, with a dedication to punny menu items (Beef 52's, the Velveeta Underground) that would make Bob Belcher proud. $.
EaT: An Oyster Bar
3808 N Williams Ave., No. 122, 503-281-1222, eatoysterbar.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, brunch-dinner Sunday.
A scruffier cousin to the Parish in the Pearl—the walls are defaced like a restroom stall—this N'awlins-inspired raw bar serves classic Cajun comfort food. Oysters are on the marquee, but the roast beef po'boy is a taste of the Dirty South as it exists in your imagination. $$.
3808 N Williams Ave., No. 127, 503-288-6200, lincolnpdx.com. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
When caterer-turned-celebrity chef and cookbook author Jenn Louis isn't flitting between international food festivals and posting her punim all over Facebook, she prepares ultra-seasonal New American/Northwestern cuisine at this establishment. $$$.
The People's Pig
3217 N Williams Ave., 503-282-2800, peoplespig.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Pit master Cliff Allen's pork shoulder is a revelation. Call it pig brisket: thick slabs of shoulder with a beautiful crust of charred fat to lock in the juices and cut with the grain for a pleasantly fibrous texture. Pair it with the excellent greens and call it good. $.
3441 N Vancouver Ave., 971-801-4180. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
The namesake Stoopid Burger reps breakfast with fried egg and bacon, lunch with deli ham and hot links and dinner with an all-beef patty, cheddar and some requisite vegetation under a warm pub bun. Wash it down with a cold glass of Stoopid Juice, a purple drink derived from a secret recipe. $.
120 NE Russell St., 503-281-4464, torobravopdx.com. Dinner daily.
John Gorham's flagship operation is a flurry of flavors, starting with small bites like the bacon-wrapped date with honey, passing through hearty tapas like aioli-drenched potatoes bravas, before finally landing on the collection of raciones, the figurative and literal meat and potatoes of the menu. $$-$$$.
128 NE Russell St., 503-328-2865, bunksandwiches.com.
Bunk's unbeatable pork-belly Cubano is still perfect either pre- or post-Wonder Ballroom. Or both.
Lompoc Brewing 5th Quadrant
3901 N Williams Ave., 503-288-3996, lompocbrewing.com.
A Portland staple since 1996, Lompoc Brewing's 5th Quadrant is the funky, slightly industrial-looking bunker with a large covered patio where Lompoc's beers are born. That list includes evergreen favorites (C-Note, Lompoc Special Draft, Proletariat Red), plus an always-shifting seasonal lineup.
3508 N Williams Ave., 503-282-1611.
At this North Williams island-themed sports-ish bar, there are plenty of your favorite beers on tap, and the mixed drinks are stiff enough to calm your Rip/Rose City anxiety while being cheap enough that you can buy a round when we win.
3520 N Williams Ave., 503-477-7689, beercheesesouppdx.wix.com/tinbucketpdx.
A tiny bar with an LCD tap list, reclaimed wood tabletops and a constantly rotating selection of 40 draft beers and ciders, the shop distinguishes itself from the pack with counter-pressure growler fills, which use pressure to keep your jug fresher longer.
3120 N Williams Ave., 503-367-3182, thewaypost.com.
Draped in thrift-store chic, this quirky cafe and performance space resembles a coffee shop more than a bar and actually acts as such during the day—which, ironically, is the best time to stop in for a cocktail, when you can peacefully enjoy a glass of rum-spiked horchata on the patio without worrying if a puppet show is suddenly going to break out.
2752 N Williams Ave., 503-232-3666, microcosmpublishing.com.
In 2014, the long-running indie publisher opened a brick-and-mortar store inside a bright green, two-story converted house. If you're in the market for books about self-empowerment through bicycling and zine-making—or illustrated fiction about Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins—this is the place.
3940 N Williams Ave., 503-546-9727, shop.soapboxtheory.com. Closed Sunday.
A family-run and -oriented design business specializing in depicting positive images of black culture, Soapbox Theory has existed on Williams for more than a decade, issuing everything from jewelry to tote bags to children's books.
Matt Dishman Community Center and Pool
77 NE Knott St., 503-823-3673.
Named after Multnomah County's first-ever African-American sheriff, the 60-year-old Matt Dishman Community Center is where late Geek Love author Katherine Dunn learned to box and where countless neighborhood children have learned to swim. The complex holds a gymnasium, game room, fitness center and classrooms, but its crown jewel is the 43-foot-long indoor pool, outfitted with a spectacularly springy diving board.
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
15 NE Hancock St., 503-242-1419, pica.org. Open Tuesday-Friday.
Recently relocated from the West End, PICA holds talks, film screenings and exhibitions when it isn't running Portland's annual Time-Based Art Festival.
128 NE Russell St., 503-284-8686, wonderballroom.com.
One of Portland's two prominent "ballroom" venues, the Wonder doesn't have a hook like the Crystal's springy floor and psychedelic artwork—it's basically a box with a balcony, albeit with cool, mission-style architecture—but thanks to concert promoter Monqui, its booking is often top-flight, catching global buzz acts on their way to bigger stages.
In multiple locations:
Tasty n Sons, 3808 N Williams Ave.