Explore: Old Town / Chinatown
Old Town/Chinatown: Historic. Iconic. And Downright Portland to its Core.
Portland's Old Town and Chinatown
Seemingly one of Portland’s “grittier” corners, Chinatown and Old Town are a wonderful place to get a less-gentrified, slightly more real flavor of Portland. Of course, even these areas have their share of niche foodie destinations chronicled in some of the biggest papers in the country. Think Voodoo Donut, goodies of all sort from the famous Saturday Market and SuBe Sushi, a newer addition to the pan-Asian cuisine representing in the area. And don’t forget the historical architecture, nor the bumping nightlife found inside and out of the many clubs that cluster Old Town’s streets. But whether embarking on a historical walking tour or a night of good old-fashioned fun, it’s important to fuel up first!
Tucked in the heart of Chinatown, the the Lan Su Chinese Garden, as differently situated from the Japanese Garden as imaginable. Where those grounds nestled amid tall-timbered slopes, Lan Su comes fortressed by gleaming city buildings in the flats of Old Town: fulfilling the traditional Chinese-garden role as a true urban oasis of wilderness-flavored plantings and landscaping. It’s as mesmerizing as its Japanese counterpart: pavilions and footbridges, eccentric Lake Tai rocks, thick bamboos and twisty pines. Make your way to the gorgeous teahouse and savor a bowl of succulent lychee, a platter of dumplings, or a steamed bun alongside a pot of tea (or perhaps a little jug of sake)—serenaded inside by musicians on traditional Chinese instruments, or seated outside in lakeside shade, watching the t’ai-chi practitioners on the terrace across the water.
Perhaps the best single example of Portland’s eclectic population mix, the Saturday Market is in its 44th season. Sprawling across Naito Parkway and toeing right up to the Willamette waterfront, the market hosts music, performances and specialty demonstrations (think cooking) of all kinds. Tourists in the mood for excellent food cart fare (satay! elephant ears! falafel!) or desirous of hand-smithed metal jewelry will be well-pleased.
800 NW 6th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
Music lovers unite. Wilf’s makes no bones about it: This establishment is a friend of jazz. Those searching for local bands or who love hopping from place to place during the Portland Jazz Fest will find exactly what they’re looking for here. Others, merely in pursuit of excellent food, will be impressed by classic dishes with a twist, such as truffle bread pudding and the carefully curated West Coast wine list.
For foodies who love fake portholes and ship-bedecked china plates, well, Dan and Louis Oyster Bar is a must-see mecca. Driftwood and old-timey maps galore set the perfect backdrop to an amazing array of seafood choices, from mussels in white butter sauce to fried or sautéed cod, prawns, calamari, clam strips and more.
Famed for its A-list performers and cozy vibe, Harvey’s won’t disappoint even the most hardcore comedy fan. An all-night club, it hosts such names as Dwight Slade, Michael Mancini and Tracey Smith, plus it offers extra shows to highlight holidays and other events. The bar serves up delicious pub food, such as mozzarella sticks or nachos, while the dining room features a brick-paneled retreat for before the show.
Ah, the Darcelle XV Showplace – more commonly referred to as “Darcelle’s” to locals, who are ever-so-fond of the club’s founder, Darcelle XV. An ex-military man who originally lived a “conventional” life with a wife and two children, Darcelle now boasts the proud title as one of the most respected cross-dressers in the country. The “World Famous Female Impersonators” perform nightly, so there’s no fear of missing a show. Whether cabaret or comedy is the object of the hour, Darcelle XV can provide.