Old Town Chinatown: Portland’s Best Nightlife

Old Town Chinatown is the hottest night life spot in Portland, and don’t expect it to be tame! As the city with the most strip clubs per capita, Portland’s racy past and current array of decadent pleasures trumps its image as the super-green, quirky, nerdy city. Imagine a librarian who has just taken their glasses off and let down their hair. That’s Portland at night, and Old Town Chinatown is the white-hot center of it all.

There truly is something for everyone. When you want to tear up the town, whatever your favorite flavor of revelry, they have it in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown. Historically the city’s gateway for immigrants starting a new life, Old Town has now become Saturday night’s place to get wild.

If you are just looking for good old fashioned clubbing, try Couture Ultra Lounge, Dixie’s Tavern – that’s where the toga parties and jello shots can be found – or Dirty (yes, they really have a club named Dirty).

Want to karaoke? Try Boiler Room for the “what you’d usually expect” kj-ing (and also a chance to people-watch the numerous bachelor and bachelorette parties), or head to Dante’s, where a live band will accompany you to any of 500+ songs.

If its drinks and a show you are after, there are numerous – very different!  – options. The Roseland Theater offers a variety of concerts, from hip hop to grunge. Harvey’s Comedy Club will leave you in stitches, and their espresso cocktails rival the best desserts. For a fantastic drag show, don’t miss Darcelle XV. Dante’s also presents live burlesque, cabaret and rock n’ roll performances such as Sinferno Cabaret. (Image courtesy of Darcelle XV).

Hungry? Hamburger Mary’s is a family-friendly burger joint that caters to the LGBT community, and everyone who wants to show the love. Their cheerful, welcoming décor, delicious food (including a gourmet half-pound burger and “hate-free” chicken sandwich), special punch and nightly events make it one of the most uproariously enjoyable places to spend an evening in Old Town Chinatown. Events include May-oke “Sing for Bling” (with costumes and a $50 prize), Viva Variety (hosted by Ecstasy Inferno), Quiz Queen Trivia and Charity Bingo. Also, snap a picture with their beloved Mary statue to post on Facebook! (Image courtesy of Hamburger Mary’s.)

CC Slaughters is another fantastic LBGT-friendly hang-out, as well as another amazing spot for people-watching, with their frequent theme nights, infectious song list, and “Drag Races”.

Want the inside scoop on Portland’s scandalous history? Portland Walking Tours present a whole bouquet of tours, fast becoming one of the must-do activities for visitors to Portland. At night, partiers can explore their Underground Portland Tour (including an adult version, accompanied by microbrews) and their Beyond Bizarre Ghost Tour.

The Underground Portland Tour (according to their ad, now with 20% more vice!) exposes Portland’s shocking past – complete with tales of mafia crime lords, a floating bordello, and tales of the infamous “Shanghai-ing!” (According to urban legend, the term “Shangai-ing” originated in Portland to describe the kidnapping of drunken sailors.)

The Beyond Bizarre Tour – complete with ghost-hunting equipment – explores haunted locales in Old Town Chinatown, including Old Town Pizza, the haunt of Nina, a “working girl” from the 1880’s (really! – ask the staff). A special upcoming Halloween tour will feature real-life professional ghost-hunters and a clairvoyant. The tour is for both believers and non-believers. (Image courtesy of Portland Walking Tours.)

Then, just when it seems like your night out can’t get any better, its time to head over to Voodoo Doughnut for a late-night treat. With their signature Voodoo Doll doughnut, this is the place that Anthony Bourdain raved about on his last visit to Portland. Warning: the line is always around the bock, even at 1:00 am, but it’s definitely worth the wait! (Image courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut.)

One last thing – everything is within a 6 or 8 block radius, so walking is possible, but if you’ve knocked back a few, there are cab companies you can call (in Portland, generally you call a cab on your cell phone, rather than wave one over). Also, there are pedicabs (rickshaws). They are a fantastic way to get from bar to bar, or a great way to see the city by lamplight. Some pedicab drivers will also give you a mini tour. Bring cash and tip well!

So, if you head out into the night in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown for some adult fun, here’s some advice – have fun, be safe, and try everything!!

Boiler Room – Karaoke; favorite bachelor and bachelorette party stop
228 NW Davis St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-5441
CC Slaughters – LGBT-friendly clubbing and weeknight events
219 NW Davis St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 248-9135


Couture Ultra Lounge – “Exclusive” clubbing
28 NW 4th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 206-8866
Dante’s –Live band karaoke; cabaret, burlesque and rock ‘n’ roll shows
350 W. Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 226-6630
Darcelle XV – Drag Show
208 NW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 222-5338
Dixie Tavern – Clubbing, toga parties and jello shots; Get “Coyote Ugly” here
32 NW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 234-9431
Hamburger Mary’s – LBGT-friendly; great food, charity bingo nights and drag karaoke
19 NW 5th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 688-1200
Harvey’s Comedy Club – Comedy
436 NW 6th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 241-0338
PDX Pedicab – Most adventurous transport from club to club
Portland Walking Tours – Scandalous underground and haunted tours
Call for reservation and meeting location
Roseland Theater – Concert venue
8 NW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 221-0288
Voodoo Doughnut – Must-try late night treats
22 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 241-4704
Merlin Varaday Written by:

Merlin Varaday was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Ashland, Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and has spent the last ten years in infamous “keep it weird” Portland, Oregon. With a B.A. in Tourism Marketing from Portland State University, Merlin’s day job is to answer questions for visitors to Portland and tell them about everything awesome in the grey-skied City of Bridges. Additionally, Merlin has contributed to the writing, editing, and layout of the Old Town Chinatown Crier (www.oldtownchinatown.com). Currently working on a blog about Living the Good Life on the Cheap in Portland (web location to be announced shortly), Merlin’s immediate plans are to stay in her hometown and write about all that the quirky metro has to offer. Which is a lot: leading developments in sustainability, an award-winning transit system, eccentric annual traditions like the Santacon, and culinary anomalies such as Voodoo Doughnuts. Because of this, Merlin considers herself a “stay-put writer” (as apposed to a travel writer). “Maybe sometime soon I’ll get to travel some place fantastic,” she says, “and then I will be a travel writer. For now, Portland offers a tremendous amount of material.”