The first episode of Portlandia features a skit of the two main characters eating at a restaurant on Hawthorne Boulevard. They want to know that the chicken they are eating was treated humanly and set out on a quest to find out.
This points to the prominence of Hawthorne Boulevard on Portland’s eastside. Hawthorne boulevard features plenty of restaurants, food carts, historic sites and distilleries.
Hawthorne Bridge & Riverside
A trip on Hawthorne begins at the Hawthorne Bridge. The Hawthorne Bridge was built over the Willamette River in 1910 to join Madison Street in Downtown Portland to Hawthorne Boulevard on the eastside of Portland. The bridge serves as the gateway to Hawthorne Bourlevard.
You can park in Downtown Portland and walk across the bridge to begin this walk. Alternatively, you can drive across the bridge and park in the warehouse district immediately after the bridge.
As you cross the bridge, the sculpture Inversion by LEAD Pencil studio serves as a signpost marking the beginning of East Portland. The sculpture also serves as a reminder of East Portland’s industrial past.
Historically, the eastside of Portland hosted Portland’s heavy industry and shipping. The area immediately east of the Hawthorne bridge retains its industrial feel with construction suppliers, car shops and government buildings dominating the landscape.
This industrial area also hosts a number of attractions for the interested urban explore. Just off Hawthorne Bridge on 7th Avenue is Eastside Distillery. The distillery produces several liquors including bourbon, vodka and gin. You can sample their spirits and purchase bottles at the distillery.
Food Cart Row
The warehouse district also houses several food cart lots. These are empty lots where several food carts park. They collectively maintain shared space between them with tables, chairs and benches for eating.
One lot is located a block over from Hawthorne on SE 11th Avenue and SE Madison Street. The second is located on Hawthorne and SE 12th Avenue.
Heading past SE 12th Avenue, Hawthorne begins a gradual climb up a slight ridge through a residential neighborhood. To the south of Hawthorne is one of Portland’s more unusual neighborhoods, Ladd’s Addition.
The area is interesting as it deviates from Portland’s rectilinear block pattern with a diagonal grid. This pattern was inspired by the diagonal layout of Washington DC. This results in a neighborhood of pocket parks.
The neighborhood houses four rose gardens spread through its fabric. In spring and early summer, the gardens are filled with colorful blooms and sweet perfume.
The gardens are also unique as they serve as a rose hybrid testing site. These sites are spread around the globe to test rose hybrids for hardiness in various climates.
Ladd Circle Square Park
At the center of Ladd’s addition is its circle square park. The contradictory name comes from the park serving as the public square of Ladd’s addition. Yet the park is a circle of Rhododendrons interspersed with lawns.
Sitting on the edge of the park is Paleo Coffee & Deserts. The coffee shop serves as the public living room of the neighborhood. It is a popular spot with residents and students from the nearby Reed College and Portland Community College. Stop here to pick up a coffee or tea to enjoy while touring the rose gardens.
Cresting the rise, Hawthorne begins to descend into the Hawthorne Neighborhood. Residential housing gives way to a bustling business district dominated by the chick restaurants parodied in Portlandia. The area offers much more than restaurants though.
The business district reaches its apex at the intersection of Hawthorne and SE Cesar E Chavez Boulevard. The area is dominated by the Bagdad Theater with its minaret topped sign.
The theater was built in 1927 by Universal Pictures to show their films. The theater has served as a world premier location for numerous films including Star Trek 3 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The theater had fallen into disrepair by the 1980s. The Oregon pub chain McMenamins took over the building in the early 1990s. They transformed the theater into a restaurant and performance space. Recently the theater has moved from second run films to the latest releases.
Powell’s on Hawthorne
Across from the Bagdad Theater sits Powell’s eastside location. The store buys and sells books and features a small coffee shop.
The store provides a smaller experience than Powells’ main location. This reduces the overwhelm from the main store’s massive size.
Powells on Hawthorne also features more locals. People stop to talk to neighbors and friends while perusing the store’s offerings. This produces a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere.
End of Hawthorne
Passing over Cesar E Chavez Boulevard, the Hawthorne business district fades into the residential neighborhood around Mount Tabor Park. The main road ends at SE 50th Avenue and turns right onto 50th. Hawthorne Boulevard continues straight on as a residential road to the border of Mount Tabor Park.
From 50th Avenue, you can retrace your steps or take the Portland bus back to Downtown Portland. You can also continue straight on Hawthorne Boulevard to Mount Tabor Park.
 “Illustrating Four Treatments in Oregon: Rehabilitation (Infill) in Portland,” accessed May 19, 2019, https://www.nps.gov/tps/education/workingonthepast/case_studies/laddsaddition1.htm.
 Krisel et al., “Farm.”