Keeping It Queer in Portland: A PDX City Guide


When you think of Portland, Oregon, you probably rank it high on the pedestal of cool places to visit or live. I don’t blame you. The Pacific Northwest is like a treasure trove of best-kept secrets that locals would probably rather remain secret. Oh, didn’t you know? People are flocking to the City of Roses by the station wagon to call it their new home. Portlandia could be to blame (love you, Carrie Browstein), so we’ll keep telling out-of-towners, “Sure, it rains a lot here.”

If you’re a queer person, there’s never been a better time to stand up, reach out, commune and celebrate in Portland. Marriage equality passed last year. Here in Portland, you can find numerous gluten free breweries, a strip club that serves killer vegan food, and for Pride Month the Portland Oregon’s Women Festival screened But I’m A Cheerleader, so what are you waiting for?


Be sure to check out the following gay-friendly hotels for their primo locations, unique décor and great deals: Ace Hotel (1022 SW Stark St.) where cool music acts like Holly Miranda have performed in the lobby, Jupiter Hotel (800 E. Burnside) adjacent to the Doug Fir where you can grab dinner in a midcentury cabin-inspired bar or catch a band downstairs, or one of the many McMenamins hotels, like Kennedy School (5736 NE 33rd Ave.), a converted elementary school, lodge-style stay with multiple restaurants, a soaking pool and its own brewery.

Ace HotelA seating area in the lobby of the Ace Hotel Portland is dec

Food is important in Portland—but why stop at breakfast when we can skip right to brunch. It’s more of a feeling than it is a time of day, and only requires two things from you when you: That someone in your party is HOAF (hung-over as fuck), and Bloody Marys. There is no time frame necessary for brunch. The brave go as early as nine, and the nightcrawlers emerge as late as 4. Try out the lez-owned Tin Shed (1438 NE Alberta St.), it’s situated in an area many consider one of several gayborhoods in town. It’s a chill, dog-friendly spot with insane benedicts and free coffee while you wait. Then there’s the talk-of-the-town, Sweedeedee (5202 N. Albina Ave.), where you can get a slice of pie with your breakfast or lunch—zing! This place will leave you feeling cozy and full while their record player spins cool tunes. A favorite go-to food cart is Fish Box (in the Good Food Here carts, 4262 Belmont St.), serves up a to-die-for Ahi tuna melt, and their salmon tacos are bomb dot com. Other queer-centric places not to miss: Escape Bar and Grill (9004 NE Sandy Blvd.), awesome happy hour specials, killer breakfast, karaoke nights, Russell Street BBQ (325 NE Russell St.), don’t be fooled—this joint has loads of vegetarian options! And lesbian-owned Byways Café (1212 NW Glisan St.), maybe one of the most adorable diners, ever. Get that Sappho Scramble, bish.

via Facebook 

When it comes to coffee and finding a good place to read a book (when it rains, we retreat!) there are plenty of places to dry off at. Check out neighborhood go-to Grindhouse Coffee (1934 N. Rosa Parks Way), or as one of our AfterEllen readers called it, “sexy Coffee”; Blend Coffee (2710 NE Killingsworth St.), queer-owned Either/Or Café (8235 SE 13th Ave.), an adorable nook in the fast-growing Sellwood neighborhood that serves up their own homemade chai, the whole staff is adorable (and where we held one of our first-ever LezBiBuy meetups.)

either-orvia Facebook


Reading Frenzy (3628 N. Mississippi Ave.), an independent press bookshop and event space that’s been offering up radness since 1994. Red and Black Cafe (400 SE 12th St.), a vegetarian/vegan café that is way more than a café—where active, interactive, social, community-based, queer-outreach, and radical movement are part of the conversations every day. Bare Bones Café (2908 SE Belmont St.), a low-noise level kinda place where the screen door smacks open, the food goes great with your coffee and there happens to be a just-as-cool adjacent bar, Bare Bones Bar. Powell’s Books (1005 W Burnside), because you have to—it’s one of those things you just do when you come to Portland. Get a Stumptown Coffee at their little coffee shop inside, and then get lost for hours finding rare, old, forgotten and newly coveted books, or just huff the air for the sheer smell of it all. (Pro tip: The buzz in Powell’s is like Disney. Weekends are busiest, so if you’re trying to beat the crowd, always pick a weekday.)

Now that we’re on that shopping train, it’s time to treat yo-self. Here’s the lowdown on some lady-loving spots in PDX to indulge in all kinds of pleasure: queer-owned Wildfang (1230 SE Grand Ave.), the tomboy headquarters is situated right here in Portland where you can score some dapper duds, or just pick out where Tegan and Sara carved their initials on the wall. SheBop (909 N. Beech St.), a female-friendly sex toy boutique that hosts an array of non-toxic toys, as well as ongoing classes and workshops you can sign up for (many fill up fast!), New Rose Tattoo (4823 SE Division St.), a queer-friendly, queer-owned ink parlor that will make your Portland stay a trip to remember. Rudy’s Barbershop (3015 SE Division St.), an old-fashion-meets-modern hair salon where the motto is simple: “We cut heads” (fun fact—Rudy’s supports the It Gets Better campaign, too.) Rerun (707 NE Fremont St.), a consignment shop with all kinds of treasures. Nightingale Acupuncture (2262 N. Albina Ave.), sign up for a session with Kristen Dilley, she’s one-half of the local herbalist company, Portland Apothecary. Asha Integrative Wellness (2100 NE Broadway St.) is also wonderful for acupuncture, massage, reiki and so on. You are visiting Portland, so don’t forget to hydrate with some kombucha and take a disco nap before you venture into the night.


wildfangvia Facebook

There aren’t any lesbian bars left in Portland, but there are queer parties almost every weekend, and there’s also the Temporary Lesbian Bar, which pops up on the occasion and this month happened to be at Mississippi Pizza. Crush Bar, CC Slaughter’s, White Owl Social Club, and Local Lounge boast regular dance parties and events for the queer community. One of the most popular monthly parties is Gaycation at Holocene (1001 SE Morrison St.), Twerk, Sugar Town, a queer soul dance party, Hotflash, exclusively created for women and the transgender community, MRS., an all-gender, body-positive dance party. Mississippi Studios is the place to go for a show. Many a queer lady musician has stepped through these doors, and funny lady Cameron Esposito recently did a standup act here. And there’s always Gay Skate, regularly hosted by local queer paper (also known as the gayper) PQ Monthly at Oaks Park Roller Rink (20-plus years of gay skating, people!) 

Wanna catch a game? You could fair your chances at a Timbers soccer game (though the crowds alone are for fans who are serious about their soccer—which our fans are), or you could join #RipCity and see a Blazers basketball game (they’re kind of a big deal.) Why not show the ladies some love and jump right into the Portland Women’s 3X3 Basketball Tournament—it’s happening July 25, 2015 at Irving Park, benefitting the Human Rights Campaign. Gotta show some love to the Rose City Rollers, that’s our all-female roller derby league (over 400 rollers make up the league—whoa!) Bouts take place well into the fall at the Hangar at Oaks Park.

pdx-womens-basketballvia Facebook

POWFest and QDoc (Portland’s Queer Documentary Film Festival) take place in March and May. QDoc is the only festival in the U.S. devoted exclusively to LGBT documentaries. The Portland Queer Film Festival takes place in October.

Of course, every year Portland hosts its annual Pride in Waterfront Park. This July will mark the 10-year anniversary of Portland Latino Pride. Now grab your dykes, get on your bikes, and come visit a queer city that knows how to keep things weird and queer.

Have we left any queer lady-friendly places off the list? Leave suggestions in the comments—the more the merrier!


Local queer resources:

Q Center

Sexual and Gender Minority Resource Center (SMYRC)

Cascades AID Project

Basic Rights Oregon

Outside In

Portland Women’s Crisis Line

PQ Monthly

Bitch Media 

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