Life in Portland Blog

Taking a Walking Tour of the Hawthorne Neighborhood

 Bagdad: Now Showing Only 1st-Run Films

Bagdad: Now Showing Only 1st-Run Films

SE Hawthorne Blvd: A Shop & Dine Destination

The Hawthorne neighborhood in southeast Portland is chock full of fun shops, diverse and tasty food places, and loads of eye candy for the casual stroller of the boulevard. The street was originally named after Dr. J.C Hawthorne, who was the cofounder of Oregon’s first mental hospital. Because of this, Hawthorne was originally called Asylum Avenue.

Portlanders are fierce about keeping Hawthorne Boulevard from becoming a repository for name-brand, conventional stores and restaurants. So much so, that at one point when a McDonald’s was going to be built on the street, people gathered together in protest. Now, the corner store that was once slated to serve up cheap cheeseburgers is used instead has been replaced with condos and street-level retail shops.

Let’s take a stroll down SE Hawthorne, to learn a bit about some of the businesses, restaurants, and landmarks in the area.

1) Bagdad Theater / McMenamins

This iconic theater and pub is truly a relic of Hollywood’s Golden Age—a movie palace now playing first-run features (until recently, the theater was more revival-house and second-run films, in nature) and eatery with a vivacious personality. The interior of the Bagdad Theater is intriguing and surprising, with gorgeous wrought-iron fixtures, colorful tile mosaics, and hand-painted Mediterranean designs, consistent with the McMenamins style. Both the pub and the theater serve pizza and handcrafted ale, and delivery right to your movie seat is available in the balcony seating area!

2 & 3) Gold Dust Meridian / Hazel Room / Altar

The Gold Dust Meridian bar is located in the Portland Modern building and lends the neighborhood a mid-century modern flair. Its trendy bar menu offers everything from ceviche to a pretty darn good bacon cheeseburger, and the patio and tables outside are always full when the sun peeks out for even a second in spring, summer and fall.

 Gold Dust Meridian's Patio Will Auto-Fill at the 1st Sign of Sun

Gold Dust Meridian's Patio Will Auto-Fill at the 1st Sign of Sun

Located next door, the Hazel Room is a perfect place to go for Sunday brunch and cocktails. Their menu fluctuates frequently and always offers an array of delicious delicacies, including French toast that is not to be missed. Sharing the same front entrance, Altar is an alternative handmade fashion boutique that emphasizes a dark and Bohemian style, with plenty of great birthday and holiday gifts made by local artisans and perfect for the unique and stylish friend in anyone’s life.

4) Powell’s Books Hawthorne

This offshoot of Powell’s Books on Hawthorne still offers the ultimate Powell’s experience, and often without the fierce weekend crowds! There is quirky stationery, a diverse and intellectual selection of books related to cooking, beverages, travel and gardening, as well as the friendly, helpful staff. Insiders know Powell’s on Hawthorne is one of the best and easiest places around to get some last minute holiday shopping done, and their selection of hand-made holiday tree ornaments is excellent.

 Not Quite as Many Books as Big Powells!

Not Quite as Many Books as Big Powells!

5) Nick's Famous Coney Island

This place is more than just your iconic neighborhood sports bar – it’s known for its famous 80-year old Coney Island hot dog recipe! The menu is full of comfort food for anyone who happens to be in the mood. The bar itself features six HD television sets and a full drinks menu. Come for the hot dog, stay for the views! Or if chili dogs and beer isn’t your speed, feel free to walk underneath the throwback, vintage signage that adorns the front of the building, calling back to days of yesteryear.

 The Sign Says It All...

The Sign Says It All...

6) Blue Star Donuts / Chez Machin Creperie

Blue Star Donuts are less popular than VooDoo Donuts when it comes to the tourist trade, but (this is a secret, so keep it that way please) they taste so much better! In fact, these may be the very best donuts that exist anywhere on the planet, and they’re so good, it’s almost a shame to call them donuts. They should have their own name. Call them Blue Stars, instead. When you have one, you’ll know what we mean.

The clean atmosphere of Blue Star doesn’t have the same funky vibe as VooDoo, but the occasional line is nowhere near as grueling. If donuts aren’t your thing, try a crepe at Chez Machin Creperie next door, where all of your crepe dreams will inevitably come true!

7) Tender Loving Empire

This newly minted record label-and-marketplace on SE Hawthorne caters to those who love both the handmade and the weird, with a little bit of local thrown in for spice. Here you can find a creative community and interesting young people who share an enthusiasm for the handcrafted and the obscure. There is a little bit of everything at Tender Loving Empire, with an emphasis on everything. Word to the wise: this makes for an A+ shopping experience around the holidays.

 You'll Be Tender Loving Everything in There

You'll Be Tender Loving Everything in There

8) Growlers

In the past decade, the craft beer revolution has taken over Portland, but it’s not only affected the local micro-brew/gastropub scene and the bars – in fact, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the tasty trend, and getting your growler filled is one such way. Growlers (that’s also the name of the beer shop) is a family-owned and operated growler fill station, where you can literally get your beer on the go!

Here you can find samplers of craft beer, kombucha, and more, with all of it fresh served on tap. Bonus: You can bring not only your partner but also your dog, and your bike with you into the store! They are open seven days a week, and now offer entire kegs for sale, in case just one growler isn’t enough for you.

9) Sewallcrest Community Gardens

There are many community gardens in Portland to choose from when you’ve got a green thumb but not much more space than your apartment window shelf. One of these amazing neighborhood spaces just so happens to be located a block to the south of Hawthorne Avenue, right around SE 31st. When you rent your own space, you can grow carrots, plant potatoes, and cultivate herbs in your own plot, harvesting what you can when it’s in season, and trading veggies with your neighbors, too! Watch out for the garden gnomes, however. Ron Weasley won’t necessarily be there to help you kick them out.

10) Hawthorne Vintage

This furniture store feels like you are walking into a home inhabited by a friendly circus – there is an abundance of mid-century modern furniture available at reasonable prices, as well as a surprising collection of odds and ends served up from multiple vendors who rent space inside. Clean lines and designer names abound, with plenty of great gift ideas in the form of old magazines, records, books and knick knacks, just take your pick! The customer service at Hawthorne Vintage is excellent, too.

Agents Pick Their Favorite SE Hawthorne Blvd. Spots

Rachel Freed: The Perfume House, founded in 1985, locally owned and operated. The small shop features special scents from around the world. The shop is dedicated to the great perfumers of Europe, to honor their great works and to provide a place for people to discover and enjoy the beauty of fine fragrances.

Ray Massini: Harlow - They have the best vegan, gluten free mac n cheese. It's kind of ridiculous how yummy and I'm neither gluten free or vegan!

Liz Getty: Double triple Harlow!

Denise Wolfe: I am not sure if it counts 100% as Hawthorne as it is technically on 37th... but 3 Doors Down Cafe has been my favorite restaurant for many years! We have so many amazing choices for food in this town it can sometimes be overwhelming. I have found the service and food to be consistently top notch. I especially recommend my east coast transplant clients and friends check them out as it is definitely more of an east coast style Italian restaurant, with NW values and ingredients.

Susan Zazzetti: Bombay Crickett Club - delish Indian food -gynormous naan & wicked masalarita's-

Elizabeth Wren Shiffler: I love Presents of Mind! They have a really cute, eclectic mix of gifts and stationary that always make me smile, and brightens the day of my gift's recipient.

[Photos Via: LATimes; MensJournal; PDX Monthly]