Say Nice Things About Portland

Say Nice Things About Portland: A Manifesto

You can be the ambassador our city needs right now.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Activism!

Here are a few local activist organizations fighting to make Portland better every single day.

Broken and Beloved

82nd Ave is full of flavor and contradictions. That’s what makes it Portland’s most iconic street.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s SEXIEST Statues!

They’re historical, they’re artistic… and they’re HOT.

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Music Scene!

Behold! Here are five recurring music nights and events to fall in love with.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Kickass LGBTQ+ Community!

Trans strip nights! Drag king vampires! Star Trek tea houses! (And we’re just getting started!)

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Unstoppable Makers!

They'll make an abandoned building a museum. They'll make a scary movie gay. They'll make your favorite restaurant vegan. Get ready to be changed by these five Portland makers!

Say Nice Things About... the Portland Food Scene!

Food cart pods, old standbys, and eateries that support our city’s sex workers.

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Pop Culture Culture!

The dream of the ‘90s (and ‘80s, and early aughts) is alive in Portland.

Say Nice Things About… Portland Comedy!

The laughs don’t stop in a city where the comedy scene punches far above its weight.

Come As You Are

A Transplant’s Unexpected First Year in Portland

Your Guide to the Biggest Summer 2023 Festivals Around Portland

Pickathon, Portland Pride, Burger Week, and More

Say Nice Things About… Portland’s Delightfully Wild Arts Scene!

Galleries and museums? Of course. But a local cemetery and a mall as well? You better believe it.

Say Nice Things About… Portland's Little Quirks

Dildos. Notes. Gratitude. Portland's eccentricities have made the news—but they're part of what makes this place so great.

Say Nice Things About... Portland's Comics Makers and Sellers!

Artist Ross Jackson describes his love affair with the Portland comics scene... via a comic!

Say Nice Things About… Portland Sports!

“Portland isn’t a good sports town”? We beg to differ.

[Welcome to our "Say Nice Things About Portland" guide to the city! Did you know that this feature package is also in PRINT?? That's right, this is our first print product since the start of the pandemic, and we're psyched to produce a lot more. Find the "Say Nice Things" guide in over 500 locations around the city, and if you'd like to see more guides you can hold, please consider making a small contribution to the Mercury, please and thank you!—eds]

No big shock: Portland’s LGBTQ+ community is fantastically diverse and fabulous. And the people listed here are just some of the amazing folks making the city a better place to live, for everyone. From the tea house parlor to the strip club lounge, these folks are organizing, innovating and renovating the worlds they occupy. While they’re no strangers to queer scene veterans, the following people share in common a love of uniting people to bring out the best in their communities and cultures. So if you haven’t met them, now’s a great time to start!

1. Portland’s transgender strip nights are some of the best in America

Both of downtown’s current nights—Kit-N-Kaboodle at Kit Kat Club, and Penthouse at Stag—are run by queer people giving a stage to the physical beauty of transgender, nonbinary, and nonconforming bodies. These nights shake up the monotony of the cis male gaze, by attracting customers who either wouldn’t feel safe or entertained in the club otherwise. Not only do audience members see a show they haven’t seen anywhere else, but dancers trade skills and even support each other’s shows during slow shifts. Kit-N-Kaboodle is run by Nikki Lev, an emcee and event producer with over a decade’s experience in nightlife entertainment. Lev’s night features all bodies and genders on both of Kit Kat Club’s stages every Tuesday night. Penthouse is a cabaret revue (now with a brunch show!) of trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming performers run by Jay Colby, a member of the storied House of Colby. The Colby’s house mother, Sasha, is the reigning champion of RuPaul’s Drag Race. And while Kit Kat Club and Stag are two clubs that may be opposing sides of the same coin, Kit-N-Kaboodle and Penthouse break the binary for thrilling results.

Bobby Lugosi

2. Bobby Lugosi calls himself “Portland’s favorite manpyre”

He’s a barely exaggerated drag king with a long history in the circus sideshow world. Lugosi’s lore mixes a proudly generic Bela Lugosi knockoff with doses of Elvis Presley, Guillermo de la Cruz from What We Do In The Shadows, traditional Mexican vampire lore, WWE machismo, and sleazy, predatory men. Lugosi’s character splits time between the Shanghai Tunnels and an invisible castle beneath the Cathedral Bridge in St Johns with his rockabilly vampire brides, but when he’s offstage, Lugosi actually lives with his polyamorous family in a home they call Hell House. Lugosi previously performed with World of Wonders, a circus and sideshow with 70 years of tours, where he learned his work ethic and honed his craft with the extreme performance arts —just ask him how a lightbulb tastes, and see what he says. As he rises from his quarantined crypt, Lugosi wants to bring his big top safety experience to queer artists who dabble with sideshow arts, and rally the drag “kings & things” community, who he says have the best fans he’s ever seen. Lugosi plans to marry the drag queen Valerie Deville during Pride, in a wedding straight from pulp fiction.

3. Emperor Georgiou’s Tea Room is Portland’s chicest Star Trek tea house

 Brendon Georgiou first opened Lovejoy’s Tea Room in March 2019 on Northeast Killingsworth. Lovejoy’s was a cozy restaurant packed with kooky grandma tea sets, nestled in between a liquor store and a dispensary. Lovejoy’s finally outgrew its location, and its branding. Brendon’s husband, Wellington, joined him as they moved the restaurant to the Kenton neighborhood’s main street in December. Emperor Georgiou’s Tea Room is only a block behind the Paul Bunyan statue, and still an easy walk to a liquor store or dispensary. The Georgiou’s amicably ended their licensing agreement with Lovejoy’s of San Francisco, citing a distaste for the global brutalities of the British empire, and embraced a utopian Star Trek motif. The tea room features a mural of the USS Discovery, the flagship of the Georgiou’s favorite series, with gray marbled cafe tables. The Picards will find their Earl Grey as fresh as if it were replicated on Ten Forward. The Janeways would enjoy the menu’s coffTEA blend of black and pu-erh teas with coffee beans. Even Star Wars purists can let down their lightsabers for tea sandwiches and windows overlooking downtown Kenton.

4. Pah! serves delicious, affordable pub food and queer d/Deaf culture

Named for the American Sign Language emphatic mouth morpheme used when signing words like “finally,” “success,” or “at last,” Pah! slings heavenly seasoned fried food and burgers from a menu named for other ASL terms. Pah! is run by deaf owner Lillouie Barrios and hearing owner Victor Covarrubias, and occupies the back left corner of Zoiglhaus Brewing’s Lents neighborhood food court, The Zed. Their combined restaurant experience includes kitchens at Mis Tacones, McMenamins, Harlowe, Oregon City’s Don Pepe, and the closed queer bar Queens Head Pub. Pei Pei, Pah!’s bacon cheeseburger, is accurately named for “talented,” “expert,” “too good at,” or “cocky.” The 258 blooming onion—named for “very interesting”—gives Outback Steakhouse a well-deserved run for their dollary-do’s. None of the menu items are priced above $15, a rare find in this economy for food of this quality. Cuisine is one of the most accessible entryways to other cultures, and finding d/Deaf culture, ASL lingo, and proud queer ownership on one tasty menu feels like hitting a goldmine. 

Uwu Collective  /  Photo: Tojo Andrianrivo

5. Uwu Collective brings avant garde art and irrepressible joy to the dance floor

The emoticon uwu denotes warmth, joy and happiness, feelings which Uwu Collective organizer cay horiuchi and their DJs and artists bring out of their guests every time they get together. Uwu Collective, whose members are all LGBTQ+ people of color, have thrown parties for Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s late summer TBA Festival, and a vernal equinox party in March at Jupiter Next Hotel. horiuchi meets and befriends members at different Portland parties, inviting them to collaborate, and often invites an out of town queer DJ to headline. horiuchi finds artists on dancefloors and in quiet corners at afterparties, learns about an artist or DJ’s given talent, and waits until they can alchemically blend. Uwu Collective’s equinox party included an ambient lounge laden with tropical flowers, medical supplies like COVID tests, and an interactive sound art installation with bowls of water wired to play music when touched. A courtyard led to a dance floor playing disco mixes of Sade songs, decorated with imaginative floral arrangements, video projections, and a silver piñata crafted in Uwu’s stylized font, that when cracked was filled with stickers, glow sticks and decorative flowers and fruit. Uwu Collective rarely seeks out night clubs or bars, preferring instead to transform unconventional spaces into incubators for experimental mergers of electronic music, visual arts, and immaculate vibes. Anyone who’s ever felt pre-judged by attendees of other gay parties can leave those worries at the door. Uwu Collective’s artists and guests convene magically, leaving no room to care about the size of your, or anyone else’s, wallet and body parts.