Truly, how many places in Portland can you find handcrafted stroopwafels from the Netherlands, celebrity therapy alpacas and—for reasons unknown—a replica of the Delorean from Back to the Future?
As far as we know, this weekend, there’s only one: the Portland Night Market, which is hosting its second event of the year this weekend after a pandemic-related hiatus in 2020 and a pared-down version in 2021.
The market, modeled after similar events in Vancouver, BC, and across Asia, is a bazaar of sorts, featuring local food, wares, performances—and, crucially, because it’s at night— cocktails and other libations. Admission is free for the wandering, though you'll have to pay individual vendors, of course. (There will be more than 150 of them, so fair warning to your wallet.)
There are also Night Markets in Portland’s Jade District, though that remains on pandemic hiatus for the foreseeable future, and in Beaverton, where events are planned for July 23 and August 13.
The Portland Night Market in the Central Eastside, which lands just a handful of times a year—after this weekend, the remaining dates are at the end of September and at the beginning of December in 2022, though organizers say they may try to add another—has been around since 2015, back when the City Liquidators warehouse the market rents out felt a whole lot roomier than it does now.
Typically, the Night Market is a themed affair, not unlike the proms of yore—think giant conversation hearts, a hand-painted arched rainbow entryway or a snowman ice sculpture for décor. A March one-off “PDX Snack Fest” featured a caviar-themed ball pit, and a giant ramen noodle “Send Noods” photo op backdrop, handmade by Emma Evans, founder of the Night Market.
In keeping with the calendar, this weekend’s event is Earth Day-themed, Evans says.
“We decided that all of our decorations for this market would either be found objects, recycled, repurposed or reused,” she says. “Our front entrance is full of these awesome cherry blossoms we saw an arborist cutting down, and I was like, let me get the truck. We'll save those.”
For the foodies, check out new vendors like Kau Kau, authentic Hawaiian cuisine served up by the sous-chef at Eem, traditional Peruvian style churros and fried plantains from Tita’s Kitchen, and pink and purple vegan Mexican sweet breads from La Casa de Mama, or, enjoy market regulars like Pip’s Donuts or Twisted Gyros. Pair your grub with a relatively cheap, handcrafted-by-Evans’-husband cocktail, including a prickly pear margarita and a wild roots strawberry and blood orange number. (All food is outside; the rest of the goodies are indoors.)
“We’ve worked really hard this year to curate our vendors and give more small businesses an opportunity,” says Evans. “There’s been so many people who have taken the pandemic to put their passion and energy into their own small business, and it’s just so cool to see so many new ones and we want to include them.”
Evans’s pro tip to prepare for the market? Buy a $10 fast pass if you want to skip the line, but if you’re cool waiting, entrance to the event is free. Most vendors are indoors, but layer up, since they are keeping doors and windows open for maximum airflow. And consider taking public transportation, since parking is quite limited.