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Portland Oregon Gay Bars Guide - Portland OR Best Gay Nightlife

Including eateries and coffeehouses


Clubbing and bar-hopping among Portlanders tends to take place all over town, with a couple of clusters in the traditional downtown gay nightlife hubs of Stark Street and, a few blocks away, Old Town/Chinatown. But you'll find plenty of GLBT-popular hangouts elsewhere, from mixed venues on the diverse and hip East Side to trendy restaurant-lounges downtown, the Pearl, and in the leafy Northwest/Nob Hill area. Here's a look at some of top Portland venues with the gay and lesbian community. For tips on cruise-y venues around town, check out the Portland Gay Bathhouses guide.

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1. Aalto Lounge - mixed bar

photo by Andrew Collins
In the cool Belmont Street area Portland's East Side, Aalto Lounge (3356 S.E. Belmont St., 503-235-6041) is one of several gay-friendly but mixed hangouts in this part of town catering to a decidedly artsy, singularly unconventional crowd. The bar takes its name and aesthetic inspiration from Finnish designer Alvar Aalto, its interior feeling very minimalist and relaxed - Sunday nights have an especially strong GLBT following. An excellent spot to meet a friend for a glass of wine (there are about 18 available by the glass) or a pint of local IPA before dinner along nearby Hawthorne Boulevard, or perhaps pre-clubbing downtown.

2. Blow Pony at Rotture - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
Adjacent to a similarly cavernous warehouse space called Branx, see-and-be-seen Rotture (315 S.E. 3rd Ave., 503-234-5683), pronounced "roh-tur-ay", is one of the city's favorite alternative dance clubs. It's the site of arguably the most famous gay party in Portland, Blow Pony, a cruise-y and fun queer blowout that's held every fourth Saturday at this multilevel space in Portland's Central Industrial East Side (just across the Morrison and Burnside bridges from downtown). Blow Pony has been known to feature celeb DJs, including Hedwig's John Cameron Mitchell, and the crowd is pretty-well impossible to pigeonhole - you'll see and meet all kinds here. At other times, Rotture/Branx hosts live bands and presents other DJ events, and the crowd pretty typically runs toward a mix of gays and straights.

3. Boxxes - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
A landmark gay entertainment complex, Boxxes (1035 S.W. Stark St., 503-226-4171; temporarily around the corner at 322 SW 11th Ave.), which also comprises a restaurant and lounge called the Fish Grotto, is across from the gay-popular Ace Hotel and is one of the top dance clubs in town. Note that Boxxes moved temporarily to another space just around the corner, while its original space undergoes a major renovation - the club is at 318 SW 11th Ave., with the entrance on Burnside Street just across from Powell's Books, until further notice. Different theme nights, from popular Latin parties to campy drag races to fashion shows keep things interesting, and the crowd is among the most varied of any gay hangout in the city - it's really an all-ages, mixed-gender bunch. There used to be an adjacent dance club, Red Cap, which was closed to make way for an arcade of hip shops and food markets, Union Way.

4. Cafe Nell - restaurant

photo by Andrew Collins
A bright, cheerful bar and grill in the similarly bright, cheerful Northwest/Nob Hill district, very gay-friendly Cafe Nell (1987 N.W. Kearney St., 503-295-6487) is a great spot for eating and drinking, day or night. It's notable for weekend brunches (including a renowned house bloody Mary served with skewers of shrimp, chorizo, cheese, and pickled veggies), bourbon toddy (perfect on a rainy day), minted apricot juleps. And the French-meets-Northwest menu is full of wonderful dishes, too, from classic moules-frites to baked mac-n-cheese with Nueske's thick-cut bacon. In warm weather, grab a seat on the patio.

5. Casey's - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
One of the relatively younger gay bars in Portland in terms of clientele, Casey's (412 S.W. 4th Ave., 503-505-9468) has several things going for it: super-friendly and fun bartenders, a no-attitude vibe, and a great location in a handsome new (the bar relocated in 2014) space downtown. It's close to Silverado as well as the Stark Street bars, and Casey's has a nice nelection of bar diversions, from pool to Wii to a rockin' juke box. The karaoke nights are popular, and the crowd tends toward a genuine mix of styles, ages, and tastes, welcoming both gay men and lesbians.

6. CC Slaughters - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
One of Old Town Portland's long-running stalwarts in the arena of gay nightlife, C.C. Slaughters (219 NW Davis St., 503-248-9135)is actually two bars in one - the main nightclub, CC Slaughters is a dark, rambling space with a small but potent dance floor, loud music, and a fun, mixed crowd of revelers - some of the city's best DJs spin tunes here. Adjacent, the glam Rainbow Room Lounge is a mod, elegant space that's perfect for sipping a sophisticated cocktail and carrying on a conversation. CC's has no cover charge except for occasional special events and parties. It's especially popular midweek for dancing, and there's also a popular Sunday T-Dance. The crowd tends toward male, 20s and 30s, and fairly flirty and fun. In the same area are Hobo's and Darcelle XV Showplace, the famed drag lounge.

7. Crush Bar - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
Among the many Portland nightspots that you could describe as gay-straight catchalls, the attractively furnished and intimate Crush Bar (1400 S.E. Morrison St., 503-235-8150) is one of the most eclectic and fun. It's a wine bar with very tasty food (served late - note the delicious mac-and-cheese), a low-keyed lounge, and a terrific option for bargain-priced happy hours (they run till 7 pm most nights, and until midnight on Tuesdays). Closed on Mondays, this happy little corner bar and bistro caters to a truly eclectic bunch, including lesbians and gay guys but also plenty of straights. It's in a hip part of Southeast Portland - close to Hawthorne, Belmont, and Inner Southeast - making it a good bet for cocktails before or after dinner or clubbing in the area.

8. Darcelle XV Showplace - gay bar

photo by Andrew Collins
"That's NO lady...That's Darcelle XV and Company." Some say Darcelle and her merry, naughty cast of voluptuous cohorts have been entertaining Portlanders since the Truman administration. There's sketchy evidence that Darcelle arrived in Portland with Lewis and Clark. In fact, Darcelle XV (208 N.W. 3rd Ave., 503-222-5338), a hammy over-the-top performer with self-effacing wit and a good heart (she's raised huge sums of money for local charities) has been a fixture in Portland's gay scene since 1967. Roughly 10 performers make up the cast at this longtime favorite hangout, where zany, off-color Vegas-style revue shows are presented Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. No tour of the city's lively downtown gay circuit is complete without a visit here.

9. Departure - restaurant/mixed bar

photo by Andrew Collins
Part of the reason regulars love Departure Lounge (525 S.W. Morrison St., 503-802-5370) is, without a doubt, the dramatic rooftop location. This lounge and exceptional Pan-Asian restaurant is situated on the 15th floor of the swanky Nines Hotel, and the kitchen is helmed by openly gay chef Gregory Gourdet, and especially on warm evenings, it's a favorite destination for cocktails and snacking. The patios enjoy views of the downtown skyline and surrounding countryside, as far as Mt. Hood on clear days. Inside, Departure has the sleek, retro look of a '60s airport lounge - the whole place is quite sexy, inside and out.

10. Dig a Pony - mixed bar

photo by Andrew Collins
This handsome tavern in the up-and-coming Central East Side caters to a broad slice of Portland's cocktail-loving population. Although Dig a Pony (736 S.E. Grand Ave., 971-279-4409) isn't a gay bar specifically, you'll nearly always see "family" inside this long-ago drugstore, sipping old-school drinks like the Pink Moose with spicy tequila, muddled lime and grapefruit, agave nectar, and bitters. There's a wonderful selection of bar snacks, too - like house-cured bacon with salt-baked peach and bourbon-maple glaze, and a fried chicken sandwich with fresh mozzarella. Note the short but well-chosen list of wines by the glass. The crowd tends toward the young-ish, artsy, and erudite.

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