In Southeast Portland, there are so many great choices for coffee, craft beers and memorable restaurants; it’s tough to narrow it down. For me, it depends upon how close it is, if they take reservations and what traffic battles I have to wage.
So for you lucky folks who are already in the city, such as attending a conference at the Oregon Convention Center or staying in a downtown hotel, here are some suggestions to get you started in the right direction to experience Southeast Portland.
Southeast Portland is defined as the areas east of the Willamette River and south of E. Burnside Ave. It traditionally has blue-collar roots, but trendy shops, cafés and eateries, frequented by Portlandia-style hipsters, have transformed much of inner Southeast Portland into one of the more happening areas of town.
Asking a Portlander where to get a good cup of joe is like asking a librarian to name a favorite book. Coffee shops are everywhere. One of the more authentic and established coffee houses is Stumptown Coffee. Another welcoming choice is Rain or Shine near Mt. Tabor. At both, you’ll get a mind-blowing cup of tasty brew, made the way you like it, without bowing to the Starbucks gods.
Get to Screen Door a good half hour or more before it opens at 8:00 a.m. on weekdays or 9:00 a.m. on weekends. It serves the best fried chicken and waffles this side of South Carolina.
While you’re in the neighborhood, walk or bike over to Mt. Tabor Park. The extinct volcanic cinder cone overlooks the city and a network of hiking and bicycle trails. If you want to rent a bike for a day, you can check out the quirky Danish and Dutch bikes at Clever Cycles, or just snag one for a little while from a Biketown hub or kiosk.
Another interesting green space is the Lone Fir Cemetery (no, I don’t think they want bikes careening through it). It has an interesting collection of tombs, headstones and a mausoleum.
If you want a hearty walk or ride, try the Springwater Corridor, which provides a sense of wilderness in the east side of the city. The 21-mile ride (one way) begins from the Waterfront Bike Loop and ends in (the town of) Boring, Oregon.
Lardo is usually crowded and it’s not hard to see why: Lardo is frequently rated the #1 sandwich in Portland and it has 18 taps.
Blackbird Pizza on SE Hawthorne is always a fine idea. The slices are substantial and the salads out of this world.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza is almost always mentioned as one of Portland’s finest. Portlanders love to argue about pizza. They also wait in line for tacos though.
Powell’s Books on SE Hawthorne may be the kid brother to the gargantuan, downtown Portland Powell’s City of Books, but it’s still big enough to lose yourself in fine literature, riveting biographies and tawdry novels. It hosts author readings and has a kid room — ideal for rainy days.
The Sellwood-Moreland District is a friendly place to peruse antiques and modern curiosities. Start with the Stars Antiques Mall, where 75 dealers bring in merchandise on a daily basis. Gamers and puzzle enthusiasts will enjoy Cloud Cap Games. Tilde gets good reviews for its modern take on jewelry, handbags and home goods.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge trail is a two-mile loop through meadows, woodlands and wetlands on the east bank of the Willamette River, just north of the Sellwood Bridge. The refuge provides habitat for fish and wildlife, including salmon and 175 bird species, including great blue heron.
The quandary one faces recommending a coffee shop is the same with brew pubs. There’s so many and so little time. So start with a Southeast Portland mainstay, the Lucky Labrador. It has a dozen rotating taps of its craft beers and a warm, welcoming rustic ambiance.
The Hopworks Urban Brewery provides a decidedly eco-friendly Portland experience. This family friendly pub is decorated with salvaged bike parts, and serves organic-leaning pub food and drinks.
One of the best restaurants in the city is Le Pigeon. It proves that great food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Another recent discovery of mine is Ava Gene’s. I found that its treasures lie in its appetizers and salads, and you can’t go wrong selecting the special entrée of the night. Reservations are recommended at both.
Nearby is Bollywood Theatre, a favorite, casual Indian restaurant that might require a wait. The ambiance of an Indian street market, coupled with Old Bollywood movies on the wall, is a fun addition to the wonderful, spicy food.
And not to be forgotten is Pok Pok. There’s almost always a wait — but often not too long — to enjoy some of the city’s finest, most inventive Thai food at reasonable prices.
Southeast PDX has a great selection of vegetarian/vegan eateries. If you feel like sticking with Thai food, consider KaTi Portland. Or try Farm Spirit‘s chef’s counter tasting menu. Harlow serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and even has a kids menu.
Helium Club usually has nationally known comedians performing side-splitting routines. The seating is intimate and up-close, and the wait staff keeps the drinks coming.
The Bagdad Theater & Pub offers movies and a pub in a historic setting. The interior is a work of art, the projection and sound system are modern, and the seats luxurious. Plus, because it’s a McMenamins, you know you’ll have access to a fine selection of ales.
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