Humble SE Division Street’s transformation into a condo-cluttered national tourist destination and neighborhood development flashpoint has been pondered/scream-debated for years. But a small handful of the delightfully weird businesses and divey bars along the thoroughfare (and on adjacent SE Clinton Street) prove that the spirit of Old Portland lives on—traffic be damned.
A local institution since 1947, Langlitz crafts Portland’s coolest motorcycle jackets. Today, the 10-person, family-owned business still makes every pocket, seam, zipper, and snap just the way founder and rider Ross Langlitz did back in the 1940s, shipping them to riders from Japan to Germany from its longtime HQ on SE Division Street.
Although this nearly quarter-century-old bar is technically fishing-themed, down to the nets and mounted fake fish, what the wood-paneled institution is actually known for is delicious broasted chicken and JoJo potatoes. Like, beloved by nationally known chefs, near universally craved chicken and JoJos. Unexpected? Sure. What you can expect are the regulars, who arrive post-9-to-5 in droves. A greasy, burn-yer-fingers hot basket of this Old Portland staple’s dirty bird is worth the wait.
“Now try this one,” Tracy Tsefalas says with a smile, releasing a spicy yet floral cloud of scent from a tiny bottle. “It’s got a lot of bergamot to it.” Often all it takes is one whiff to be seduced by this stylish little perfume boutique, which functions less like a retail operation than a mysterious olfactory pleasure dome. Bottles of luxe scents from small batch parfumeriers across the globe line the back wall (lovingly collected by owner Tsefalas herself) while books about the art of fragrance sit stacked near a few cushy armchairs. Smell to your heart’s content or join Tsefalas and her regulars for fragrance courses and seminars.
There are dive bars. And then there’s Dot’s. A carnival of flocked wallpaper, tacky velvet paintings, and cushy red vinyl booths that plays host to hulking burgers and stiff well drinks; the bar feels about as ’90s-era Portland as you can find in this rapidly changing hood. Sure, the menu has evolved to include spicy tofu rice bowls, and many of the cocktails now boast more than three ingredients, but at heart this dimly lit watering hole remains an equal-opportunity haunt for hipsters past, present, and future.
In a town rife with Unipipers and goat yoga, this occult-minded Division hideaway, cluttered with Ouija board art, arcane tinctures, and hand-labeled VHS cassettes of Mrs. Santa Claus, still manages to vault over the “Keep Portland Weird” zone to crash deep in “Keep Portland W.T.F.” territory. In theory, the Forest is a used bookstore and art gallery (as well as a “conjunctive nexus for the tantric, back to nature, genderfluid, spiritual, eco-feminist, healing community”). In practice, it looks and feels like the storage closet for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, complete with a faux fireplace, drippy candles, Blair Witch-y twig figures, and a shadowy hallway that dead-ends at an organ with “I Love the Night” sheet music at the ready (see bonus photos, below). I am unreasonably delighted that it exists. I assume that every time a curious newbie crosses under its lintel, the store reflexively unleashes a black-hearted hex upon area condo developers and recharges its gentrification-abatement charm. Probably.