Lounging on an antique sofa in front of House of Vintage. Photo by Ellie LoNardo/Flickr.
For the better part of the last century, the freewheeling, free-loving counterculture has mingled, caroused and made merry in the Hawthorne District, a neighborhood centered along a street stretching from an industrial enclave near the Willamette River through the residential heart of Southeast. Even as an influx of new transplants and the rise of glossy condominiums bring change, the district retains its distinctive bohemian vibe with wonky, indie shops and unpretentious eateries neighboring a newer, urbane crop of retailers. Walkable, bikeable and browse-able, Hawthorne feels quintessentially Portland, and it’s hard to get a sense of the city’s evolving spirit without dedicating a few hours to exploring its curious attractions.
The iconic sign of the Bagdad Theater, a neighborhood landmark for nearly a century. Photo by Jason Kaplan.
When locals talk about Hawthorne, they may refer to the neighborhood, the street that cuts through it or the bridge spanning the Willamette River — and understanding this helps define the boundaries of the district. At the westernmost end of Hawthorne Boulevard you’ll find the historic Hawthorne Bridge, completed in 1910 and today the oldest vertical-lift bridge still in operation in the United States. From here, the street cuts eastward through the industrial Central Eastside.
What most understand as the Hawthorne neighborhood itself begins around Southeast 12th Avenue and extends for nearly 40 blocks to Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcano turned city-park. Along this heavily trafficked thoroughfare, you’ll find buzzing pockets of activity and other sleepier residential stretches. While the lower (Southeast 12th to Southeast 30th) and upper (Southeast 40th to Southeast 50th) areas have lots to explore, it’s the central section, between Southeast 30th Avenue and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, that has the highest concentration of shops, bars and restaurants. You can easily pedal here on two-wheels or zip across the river from downtown on TriMet bus line 14, a ride that takes around 15 minutes.
A vintage lamp lights up shelves filled with treasures at House of Vintage. Photo by Mike Krezeszak/Flickr.
From tie-dyed styles to grungy looks, the shopping scene on Hawthorne is as colorful as the eclectic communities that call the neighborhood home. The collection of vintage shops stands out as a sartorial highlight. More than 60 independent retailers occupy House of Vintage (3315 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), with 13,000 square feet of funky clothes, accessories, home goods and loads more. Find everything from sequined dresses to smells-like-teen-spirit flannel at Red Light Clothing Exchange (3590 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), which has one of the largest selections of yesterday’s fashions lining its racks. For lightly used clothing from top brands head to Crossroads Trading Co. (3736S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.).
A growing number of retailers bring a fresher, fashion-forward aesthetic to the eclectic bohemian styles that Hawthorne’s famous for. Rooted in classic American looks, on-trend boutique Communion (3556 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) has approachable and casual apparel for men and women — think designer denim alongside top local labels. Find free-spirited styles and handmade clothing for women at Altar (3279 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.). Other hip spots to add to your browsing itinerary include: Mink Boutique (3418 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), Sloan Boutique (3526 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) and the longstanding, foot-pleasing Imelda's and Louie's Shoes (3426 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.).
A number of independent booksellers, record shops and gift stores also line the street. Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (3723 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) has a less-overwhelming selection than its downtown counterpart. An old sign reads “Vinyl Is Forever” as you enter Jackpot Records , and the enduring music store proves that true with a curated selection of new and used records. For decades Presents of Mind (3633 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) has been a hip, one-stop gift shop stocking jewelry, stationery, apparel from local designers and more.
Sharing colorful drinks with friends at Por Que No? on Hawthorne Boulevard. Photo by Sho Ito/Flickr.
The dining and nightlife scene on Hawthorne reflects the history of Southeast Portland and the various subcultures that have taken root here over the years. A local fixture since 1935, the iconic sports bar Nick's Famous Coney Island (3746 SE Hawthorne) has kept the working class spirit alive with classic American pub grub. At the neighborhood’s defining landmark, the historic Bagdad Theater (3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) is a movie palace built here by Universal Pictures in 1927 and recreated as a theater-pub in 1987 by the craft-brewing McMenamins brothers. In recent years, newcomers like concept bar Likewise (3564 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) capture the wry, offbeat humor of residents with a space that’s simultaneously a watering hole and performance art (you have to drink one of their untitled cocktails to truly understand).
From a parking lot filled with food carts to a bevy of Ethnic restaurants, the eateries here on Hawthorne largely eschew foodie trends in favor of comfortable classics — think pizza, tacos and waffles. The small but great food cart pod on Southeast 12th Avenue was recently improved with fire pits and picnic tables; Pyro Pizza cooks up the best quick-serve, wood-fired pizza you’ve ever tasted from a truck. On the upper end of the street, sit-down pizzeria Apizza Scholls (4741 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) was chosen by Food Network star Rachel Ray as one of her favorite pizzas in the country. Locals line up year-round at taqueria Por Que No? (4635 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.), and the Whole Bowl (4411 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) wins the acclaim of vegetarians for its healthy rice bowls. A number of fine dining establishments like the award-winning Castagna Restaurant (1752 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) up the ante with a sophisticated spin on Northwest fare.
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