Unless you’ve been in a bomb shelter or had your nose in a book for the last decade, you know that Portland has a legendary reputation for food, music and quirk. And while college students are notoriously short on time and money, with a little scrimping and planning there are some truly wonderful foods and adventures to be had (fairly inexpensively) here in the Rose City, whether by bicycle, train, bus or on foot. What follows are just a few of our personal favorite spots around town.
Unless you’ve been in a bomb shelter or had your nose in a book for the last decade, you know that Portland has a legendary reputation for food, music and quirk. And while college students are notoriously short on time and money, with a little scrimping and planning there are some truly wonderful foods and adventures to be had (fairly inexpensively) here in the Rose City, whether by bicycle, train, bus or on foot. What follows are just a few of our personal favorite spots around town. While there’s only so much we can tell you about this city, there’s definitely more out there; go and find it!
We’ll begin our adventure in Northwest Portland, the area of town north of Burnside Street that stretches from 23rd Avenue through Old Town/Chinatown and east to the Willamette River. The Pearl proper is Portland’s land of young, upwardly mobile professionals and restaurants, bars, galleries and vintage boutiques. To reach the Pearl, you’d be best served by biking or hoofing it, as it is only 20 minutes from PSU and there is no better way to stick your nose into every vintage boutique or gallery along the way. The Portland Streetcar comes straight through, as well, and you can also grab the MAX Green Line at PSU or bus lines 15 or 77 at stops located due east of PSU, on Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues.
1332 W Burnside St.
Built in 1914 and originally called Cotillion Hall, the Crystal Ballroom is nearly a century old and has seen its share of jazz, police raids and Grateful Dead shows. Re-opened by McMenamins in 1997, the Crystal continues to host all manner of performances and features a “floating” dance floor, which flexes beneath your feet and gets you wondering if you’re actually dancing on a cloud.
115 NW Fifth Ave.
Just around the corner from Ground Kontrol, Backspace has hosted a thriving community of art, music, poetry, technology and amazing food for well over a decade. In addition to hosting all-ages shows seven days a week, Backspace serves up local foods, beverages and coffee with an emphasis on vegan and vegetarian fare. It’s a great place to hone your gaming skills, play pool, discover great local art and music or just hang with some newfound friends. Directly off the MAX Green and Yellow lines, or any bus that frequents the transit mall.
10 NW 12th Ave.
Occupying another age-old Portland landmark, Henry’s Tavern sits in what used to be the power house for the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery (the tavern’s namesake), which brewed beer at the site for more than 140 years. These days, the tavern sources most of its beer from local breweries, has more than 100 beers on tap and boasts plenty of food to sustain your adventures. To get there, take the Streetcar to NW 10th and Couch streets, then backtrack to Burnside Street and head west for two blocks.
Hustle-y, bustle-y and full of noise, downtown’s got a lot going on, and plenty of it’s right here on campus. Whether you’re in the mood to read over coffee at a cafe or watch a soccer ball get blitzed around at a Timbers game, there are plenty of ways to break up your weekly march through your classes.
5th Avenue Cinema
510 SW Hall St.
PSU’s student-run cinema is almost always showing something, and admission is free for PSU students, faculty and alumni with ID. It’s $2 to get in for other students and seniors; general admission is $3. Whatever you end up paying, you’re in for a treat, with free popcorn accompanying screenings from the theater’s “eclectic selection of camp, cult, classic and contemporary independent and mainstream films.” Check in on their programming at any given time and you’re likely to have heard of a few of the films on offer—but only a few.
Portland Farmers Market
Feeling ill after Friday night? Regain your composure with a Saturday morning stroll through the Farmers Market! Portland hosts several farmers markets, and this one is held in the Park Blocks near Smith Memorial Student Union on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in November and December. More than 150 vendors of all kinds will have made an appearance before the year’s end, many of whom call Portland home (though more than half trek in from elsewhere, sometimes as far away as Noti, Ore.). Whether you’re craving a hunk of cheese, a fistful of truffles or a cup full of coffee, the Farmers Market is not to be missed.
1844 SW Morrison St.
Soccer fans rejoice: Jeld-Wen Field is a 20-minute walk from campus and home to Portland’s MLS team, the Timbers, as well as the Portland Thorns, the city’s professional women’s team. Tickets for most matches start at $15–25, and PSU’s football team plays its home games here as well. Flash your student ID at PSU’s games, though, and you’ll get in for free.
The People’s Pig
SW Washington Street and 10th Avenue
This no-nonsense food cart is just down the hill from PSU, making it a must-try for the student on the go. Owned by Cliff Allen and his sidekick Ray Ballentine (aka Ray-Ray), this food cart keeps it fresh, flavorful and to-the-point with juicy roast pork offerings. With simplicity a key component of their philosophy, every ingredient gets to shine through: Allen uses five components max to accomplish daring, mouth-paralyzing feats. Do yourself a favor and order the porchetta sandwich: slices of rolled pork roast smeared with garlic and fennel seed, brightened with a fistful of fresh arugula and a squeeze of lemon juice, all wedged into Allen’s home-baked sourdough ciabatta rolls. We promise you will not be disappointed.
Goose Hollow Inn
1927 SW Jefferson St.
Opened in 1967 by Bud Clark, the former Portland mayor (’84–92) well known for “exposing himself to art” (do yourself a favor and look up the photo—Portland actually used to be weird), this welcoming public house offers great food, conversation and atmosphere, all quietly tucked away in Goose Hollow (located on both the red and blue MAX lines, or a 10-minute walk from campus). The Goose offers a life-changing Reuben (and serves it up vegetarian style, too, with the corned beef replaced with sauteed mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and garlic), piled high with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and their house-made Reuben sauce, then roasted open-faced until golden brown. They also offer wicked shrimp and crab cocktails, pizza, quinoa salads (gluten- and dairy-free) and countless other sandwiches. If you have any lingering doubts concerning the Goose, read their 1967 mission statement on the menu: “Bud Clark rocks.”
If you don’t already live out here, the odds are good that you might before you leave PSU. Inner Southeast is a quasi-industrial smorgasbord of restaurants, bars and disused warehouses. East of 12th Avenue is largely residential and stitched together by the numerous cafes, bars, markets and eateries that straddle Belmont and Division streets and Hawthorne Boulevard, but we trust you’ll find those places whether or not we tell you about them—so here are a few other spots worth checking out.
White Owl Social Club
1305 SE Eighth Ave.
For all the metalheads, vegans, vegetarians, omnivores and gluten-free out there, look no further—the White Owl has what you’re looking for. Located in inner Southeast, just over the Hawthorne Bridge (like eight gazillion buses run over that thing), WOSC boasts two happy hours (3–6 p.m. and 11 p.m.–1 a.m.), rocking shows almost every night, a massive outdoor patio (take advantage while you can) and great bar food that borders on Southern comfort/local affair, with massive consideration going out to the non-meaters, and dietary-awarians. Satiate your rock-induced post-show cravings with vegan macaroni and cheese, beet and quinoa salads, vegan barbecue jackfruit sliders and chili—really, the menu is quite thorough. They even have fried moonbrine pickle fritters and four types of potato boots (stuffed and crisped russet potato skins), yeah!
215 SE Ninth Ave.
Just a stone’s throw from the White Owl is Biwa. Simply put, these folks know what they’re about and where they’re going. The chefs at this awesome Japanese sake house make their own noodles and ferment their own kimchi, tsukemono (Japanese pickles) and saba nanbanzuke (barbarian-style fried, pickled mackerel—trust me, it’s the bomb); and, if requested, will pair your meal with the perfect sake. Too young to hit the sake, you say? Not a problem. I usually end up at Biwa when my soup cravings can no longer be denied. The pork ramen with quail eggs? Do it. Vegetable udon with wakame? Love yourself. If for some bizarre reason you don’t like soup, Biwa has tofu, cucumber and wakame salads, homemade dumplings, marinated ginger clams, sashimi, a plethora of grilled items (lamb, chicken, pork bara, mushrooms and mochi to name a few) and even kara-age (Japanese-style fried chicken). Biwa opens late (5 p.m.) and stays open late, so grab a date, or at the very least a spoon, and get there by foot (a 30-minute walk from PSU), bicycle or bus (lines 6, 12, 15 or 20).
Mount Tabor City Park
Extinct volcanic cinder cone between East 60th and 71st avenues
It’s surprising how few people know about this place. There are only four cities in the U.S. that have extinct volcanoes within their limits, and Portland is one of them. Last active 300,000 years ago, Mount Tabor’s eruptions would have been less like a mountain exploding and more like honey being spilled. The park today is an enormous wooded space with plenty of room to romp around and an exquisite view of downtown from the summit. Head this way for a serene jog or bike ride, or bring your own volcanic honey out for some sublime sunset scenes by hopping on the 35 bus to Salmon Street and transferring to the 15, which will take you down Southeast Belmont Street to 69th Avenue and Yamhill Street. Jump off here, point yourself south and prepare to be amazed.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
1945 SE Water Ave.
Every city should be as lucky as Portland is to have a museum like OMSI to call its own. Aside from berthing a submarine that appeared in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October, the museum hosts several traveling exhibits throughout the year and is home to an Omnimax theater, planetarium and several regular science and technology exhibit halls. Regular adult admission is $13, and there are a few ways to get there. By bike, cross the river on the Hawthorne Bridge bike path and take your first right, following the signs toward OMSI’s signature red smokestack. By bus, grab line 6 on Southwest Columbia Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and get off at the east-side Hawthorne Bridge stop; OMSI is just a few blocks’ walk to the south.
Home to the former city of Vanport, which was PSU’s first home, North and Northeast Portland are steeped in an industrial past, and taken together account for Portland’s more-diverse neighborhoods. Go far enough this direction and you’ll run into the port facilities on the Columbia River. Stop before that happens and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to poke through neighborhoods like Mississippi and Alberta. Or, you know, other places.
8 NE Killingsworth St.
Billing itself as a “vinyl lounge,” Record Room on Northeast Killingsworth Street is a locally owned record shop that deals in a good selection of new and used vinyl, with beer, wine and coffee available while you browse. Patrons of all ages are welcome from noon–7 p.m. each day, and pinball and frequent live music mean that even if you leave empty-handed you’re sure to have had a good time. The 44 bus will get you as close as a block away, but the rest is up to you.
4122 NE Sandy Boulevard
This not-for-profit, independently owned and operated movie palace first opened in 1926 and every year screens “nearly 300 of the best films from all over the world,” with special attention paid to international and local films. Get there by jumping onto the 12 bus, and jump off at the stop at NE 42nd street.
1932 NE Broadway
This awesome destination point has what you need when you need it. Booty-bumping disc jockeys? Check. Weekend brunch? Check. Affordable, healthy food? Swift it! A Southern-inspired menu offers macaroni and cheese (with or without kimchi, pulled pork or bacon), black-eyed peas over rice, oven-baked cauliflower, sauteed Brussels sprouts or collard greens, falafel bowls, dill-smashed potatoes, vaca-frita (Cuban-style marinated, twice-cooked flank steak), cheesy polenta and, yes, fried chicken. My heart lies with the sides, where $4 gets you a single serving of ass-kicking food or, for $9, three of your faves. The help is feisty, the DJs are committed and the people-watching on Broadway is entertainment for anyone who just de-compartmentalized their mind after finals.
3120 N Williams Ave.
Is The Waypost a cafe, a tavern or a music venue? Yes! Whether you’re looking to catch up on some reading or enjoy a pleasant weekend brunch, a Northwest-brewed draft beer or an evening of live music, film or lecture, this cozy space lends itself to just about anything. To get there, grab the 44 bus and jump off at North Cook Street; The Waypost will be a block south.