Portland is known for being a daytime town. Our restaurants and coffee shops all close at a respectable hour and late-night food options are scarce. Yet they exist if you know where to look.
It happened that recently, after a long night of barhopping, $2 Rainiers and drinks served in oddly shaped glassware, I found myself wandering through downtown Portland at 3 a.m. separated from my companions, the buildings dark, the right road lost. There was a chill in the air. Fog and spectral shapes materialized and vanished around me. I could feel the onset of an inevitable hangover and required coffee and cheesy fries. Where could I find them? Where was I? And how could I get back?
You may find yourself in a similar situation one day; perhaps you already have. Therefore, I have assembled the following list of late-night food options in the city, for that uncertain time between last call and weekend brunch. May they guide you safely on your way.
835 SW 2nd St
Vegan options available; open until 4 a.m. weekends
Luc Lac’s serves a variety of Vietnamese dishes, from Banh Mi to curries and various small plates. If you are looking for excellent Vietnamese fare at an ungodly hour, this is probably the best, if not only, option.
The dining procedure operates on an almost military-like efficiency, which can be disorienting depending on your level of sobriety. You approach the hostess, who hands you a menu to look over. You order, pay, receive a number, are ushered in, served your food and drinks in swift succession and then leave. It’s not exactly the Soup Nazi, but at 3 a.m. after reaching a certain blood alcohol level, it might as well be.
1121 SW Stark St
Open 24 hours (except Mondays)
Imagine, if you will, an American-style diner crossed with a 24-hour lounge. It is fairly quiet; the lights are dim and emit a soft pinkish-red glow that acts as a soothing balm to inebriated folk everywhere. And—this is key—when you order coffee at the Roxy, you are given your own personal carafe and a mug. Yes, folks: You are given your very own personal pot of coffee. And it’s good coffee, better than anyone has a right to ask for at that time of night (and this is confirmed by my bill, which itemized it as “damn fine coffee”). This alone makes The Roxy a municipal treasure and a crucial sobering-up way station.
1002 SE Powell Blvd
Open 24 hours
There is something almost mythical about the Hotcake House. If you are downtown, it may require a car ride across the river; if you are already in southeast, just head over there. It seems to be a lost relic from another era, with its delightfully antiquated flashing bulb sign and low-key divey atmosphere.
The Ultimate Hash Browns is probably the best thing you could put in your face after barhopping and a night of heavy drinking. It is a glorious pile of literally everything greasy, salty and delicious. The rest of the menu focuses on a variety of diner fare: eggs, bacon, plate-sized pancakes, breakfast burritos. It is as if someone conducted a research project to find the optimal “drunk food” and then built a restaurant to facilitate consumption, complete with flashing sign and awkward slanty parking lot.
121 N Lombard St
Open 24 Hours
From the outside it looks almost exactly like a convenience store, complete with flashing marquee signs in the window. Once inside, you are forced to choose from a bewildering number of menu items, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that everything is made up of the same ingredients, just in slightly different combinations.
Be forewarned: There is no restroom. Which is odd, but if you have somehow drifted here, you should probably count your blessings. You have stumbled into a tiny outpost serving tacos 24 hours a day, in the dark, far from any known bar. Look around you: there is a convenience store, a 24-hour laundromat and, further down the street, a Mexican grocery store called “El Torito” with newspapers covering the windows. How did you even get here? Go inside and have some carne asada nachos. I’ll call you a cab.
22 SW 3rd Ave
Vegan options available; open 24 hours
Doughnuts in Portland have taken on an unusual metaphysical quality that you simply do not see in other cities. Wedged into the endpoint of a strangely-shaped intersection, the building is oddly triangular, as if forming a point on the end of a pentagram.
Inside you will find doughnuts such as the Maple Blazer Blunt doughnut, which looks like a, well, giant blunt and the Cock and Balls, an enormous, chocolate-frosted doughnut filled with Bavarian cream and shaped like a giant penis. Others toppings include: Captain Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Rice Krispies, peanut butter, crushed Oreos and actual bacon strips lying across the top. It is cash-only and generally filled with tourists.
There is no seating inside, so everything must be boxed up and taken with you. As you walk out the door, you seem to be sobering up, gradually. You are going home again to sleep off the hangover now looming, perhaps no wiser than before, but more sober, at the very least, and now, thankfully, no longer hungry. Godspeed, Portlanders. And safe travels.