E+D Spring 2016
FEW STREETS are as emblematic of Portland's rapid growth in population and stature as SE Division. While a few old-school establishments are still holding strong (shoutout to the Oregon Theater!), the rest have been swept aside for upscale bars and restaurants. If you're lamenting this turn of events and longing for the days of yore, all you need to do is hop on the #4 bus and head past 82nd to the outer reaches of the city. There you'll find a flock of establishments that ignore modern trappings and menus, sticking to what has worked for them for—in some cases—five decades. Here are some of our favorites:
Tik Tok Restaurant
11215 SE Division & 3330 SE 82nd
For the night owls among us, part of the appeal of Portland's outskirts is the all-night restaurant options. True, the majority of them belong to the Shari's chain, but venture a little deeper and you might find yourself having a 3:30 am banquet at one of the two Tik Tok Restaurants.
2515 SE 136th
Most kids in the neighborhood don't come to Cruiser's Drive-In after church or school to tear into a waistline-challenging Fantastic Burger (featuring fry sauce, Canadian bacon, fried egg, and veggies, served on an onion bun). And they don't have any interest in the pink-and-blue-neon trimmed interior, or pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop adorning every wall. No, the young ones are there for the ice cream. Options are aplenty, with traditional scoops in dishes or cones, or soft serve offered up plain or infused with ribbons of flavor like bubblegum, coffee and cream, and the terrifying-sounding Blue Goo. That Cruiser's sells such treats directly across the street from a Dairy Queen is an act of praiseworthy defiance.
Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant and Lounge
17937 SE Stark
Most Italian restaurants go to great pains to appear authentic, either on the menu or by dressing up the interior with the decor of the old country. Giuseppe's doesn't bother with such frivolities. Outside of some tasteful pictures of Italy on the wall and a nice small plate of antipasto (including thick hunks of mozzarella and a few slices of mortadella and salami), it knows that it's an American restaurant churning out plate after plate of pasta and pizza. You can't help but be charmed by that lack of pretension—not to mention the weird gall of an Italian joint offering chicken quesadilla rolls and chipotle wings, alongside tangy linguine with clam sauce and thick slices of pizza that overflow with cured meats and veggies.
2604 SE 122nd
The folks who run Pizza Baron take a lot of pride in their longevity. So much so that a small LED sign runs a loop of boastful commentary that claims they are "just possibly the greatest anywhere" and brags of surviving some 50 years in a rapidly changing landscape. It's hard to fault them for that self-regard when you consider how little they've altered the formula. The interior is still dominated by wood and vinyl booths and a huge fire pit in the center of the dining area. And the menu's focus remains on cornmeal crust pies heaped with toppings (pineapple on a vegetarian pizza?) and wine served by the glass or carafe. For any of you who have celebrated Little League victories with slices of pepperoni and pitchers of root beer, Pizza Baron will surely stir up some nostalgic memories. For the rest of you, just enjoy the kitschy atmosphere and keep quiet while we work through some stuff, okay?
Division Street Cafe
17007 SE Division
Like any number of restaurants in the city, ownership of this small diner on SE 170th and Division has changed hands plenty over the years. For the past six, it has been bestowed with a name that matches the humbleness of its personality: The Division Street Cafe. The only exotic items on their laminated menus are some perfectly tender razor clams and the option of tossing some onions in with your hash browns. Otherwise, it's nothing but good ol' home cookin' served with a bottomless cup of coffee and plenty of bonhomie. The latter might take a little while to come, though, as they tend to greet anyone under the age of 50 with a slight air of suspicion. Keep a smile on your face and tip handsomely and you'll win them over soon enough.
14154 SE Division
Despite all the money that gets spent trying to give a restaurant or bar the look and feel of a snazzy, almost gaudy spot from the past, you can always tell when they're faking it. Especially when you stumble upon the real deal like the Pink Feather. You can attempt to copy this landmark bar and grill's psychedelic fabric covering the booths, or their satiny flocked wallpaper, or the glass light fixtures that might have been borrowed from a New Orleans brothel. But the lived-in quality that feels like you've been transported to a bar in an old-school Vegas casino just can't be replicated. The food and cocktails, tasty though they may be, are a mere afterthought. This is a place makes you want to get all dolled up and lounge around looking bored and bemused.
17440 SE Stark
Annie's feels strangely filmy, with its sunbaked pictures of hot rods and I Love Lucy on one wall and black-and-white checkerboard tiles on the other, all looking like they're covered in a thin layer of grease. Yet the steady stream of folks that have been trundling in and out of this place for 15 years will attest that for burgers and fries, it's one of your best bets. It helps that each sandwich is a thick masterpiece of meat, piled high with iceberg lettuce, onions, and tomato, finished off with a healthy smear of briny burger sauce. Or go for their house specialty: a long hot dog topped with onions, mustard, and their special "Coney Sauce." You'll be charmed silly as your cholesterol count makes exponential jumps with each salty bite.