America's stealth hot spot, Portland, Ore., has been transformed from a sleepy industrial city into a hub for musicians, artists and foodies seeking refuge from the stress of the East Coast and the high prices of California. Modest Mouse, the Dandy Warhols, the Decemberists and Pink Martini all call Portland home, as do filmmakers Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant.
Though the town is laid-back, the food scene is world-class and music venues like the Doug Fir Lounge and the Crystal Ballroom pack them in nightly. It's a town of readers, writers, Green anarchists, bike fanatics, queers and devout organic enthusiasts.
Gentrification made a mini SoHo of Pearl District, and rising rents pushed the gay bar stalwarts like Eagle and Silverado from Stark Street into funky Old Town, but the bars are still vital. Nature is omnipresent in Oregon. The city is bursting with trees; 30 minutes in any direction and you're in the woods.
The Silverado 318 S.W. Third Ave.; (503) 224-4493 Silveradopdx.com The move to Third Avenue did the place good; the go-go boys came along for the ride and the patrons are appreciative. Wee-hours good times and a friendly, drunken crowd lead to a bustling sidewalk sale as the after-parties get sorted out.
Red Cap Garage, Boxxes and the Brig 1035 S.W. Stark St.; (503) 226-4171 Boxxes.com Interconnected bars offer one-stop shopping: twink go-go boys in Boxxes, dirty smokers in Red Cap, and late-night clubbing at the Brig. Good-natured, sauced-up fun reigns in this trampy labyrinth, especially during Tuesday night drink specials.
Crush 1400 S.E. Morrison St.; (503) 235-8150 CrushBar.com The Thursday Queer Bait party at this bar-restaurant-club brings the lesbians and alterna-gays together. Wild performances from drag queens, kings and rappers and plenty of frisky fellas in the crowd make this one fun night.
Eagle Pdx Underground 27 N.W. 6th Ave.; (503) 241-0105 PortlandEagle.com The monthly Blow Pony party adds a giddy shot in the arm of gender-blurrers, glamazons and club folk to the ass-grabbing lumberjack Eagle crowd. Sleazy and friendly, this twink-free zone is where the daddies are.
Ace Hotel 1022 S.W. Stark St.; (503) 228-2277 AceHotel.com/Portland The Ace's 1912 building had fallen into decay before an inspired restoration. The wooden hallways are pure 1920s, but the rooms and stairways are decorated with murals or with collages of handbills from local rock shows. Many rooms come with turntables (and records!) and you can buy guitar strings at the front desk.
Jupiter Hotel 800 E. Burnside St.; (877) 800-0004 JupiterHotel.com A dirty rock-and-roll '60s motel converted into a clean rock-and-roll hotel, the Jupiter is the nerve center of the late-night hard-rocking music scene. Bands, music lovers, and male groupies stream through the on-site restaurant, bar and music venue at all hours.
Toro Bravo 120 N.E. Russell St.; (503) 281-4464 ToroBravopdx.com The long wait is more than worth it for the tapas menu bursting with intense, rapturous flavors. A hot spot, Toro Bravo is excellent for a group, so you can share the most dishes possible. If there are just two of you, try sitting at the bar to jump ahead of the line.
Le Pigeon 738 E. Burnside St.; (503) 546-8796 LePigeon.com Trucker cap-wearing enfant terrible chef Gabriel Rucker concocts ingenious dishes built around improbable meats like pig ear, sweetbreads and yes, pigeon.
Quality Pictures 916 N.W. Hoyt St.; (503) 227-5060 Qpca.com Much of the local art scene is long on enthusiasm but short on polish. Not so here. Located in Pearl District, Quality Pictures presents cutting-edge group exhibitions featuring the best artists from Portland and beyond.
Upper Playground 23 N.W. Fifth Ave.; (503) 548-4835 Fifty24pdx.com An edgy selection of art books complements the art on clothes and walls -- and it doesn't hurt that the place is frequented by hot skaters and boarders in search of the fresh tees and hoodies.
Further ReadingFugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon by Chuck Palahniuk The gay author ("Fight Club," "Choke") takes readers on a wayward journey through his hometown.
Sidebar: A Portland Pint There are 32 microbreweries within Portland's city limits -- more than in any other city in the world -- and most have brewpubs on the premises.
Rogue Ales' Portland Pub (1339 N.W. Flanders; 503-222-5910) serves up the zingy Juniper Pale Ale, the creamy Morimato Soba and the decadent Chocolate Stout.
Amnesia Brewing (832 N. Beech St.; 503-281-7708) offers a traditional outdoor German-style beer garden popular with foodie and gay crowds.
McMenamins makes fine beers, but its real innovation is combining two of America's favorite pastimes -- drinking beer and watching movies -- at eight theater-pub locations around the city. The Mission Theater (1624 N.W. Glisan; 503-223-4527) and Baghdad Theater and Pub (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.; 503-236-9234) have the most diverse crowd and are very friendly.