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A scent being made at Maak Lab, a scent-design studio.

A guide to local favorites in the West End

A scent being made at Maak Lab, a scent-design studio.
  • By Jon Shadel
  • Photos by Leah Nash
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Contrasting downtown’s mostly dull grid of office buildings and big-brand shops, this district showcases Portland’s love affair with everything small-scale and independent. Once a hub for queer nightlife, the central West End has lost most of the clubs that earned it the infamous nickname “Vaseline Alley.” Today, the blocks radiating from Harvey Milk Street reward wanderers with clusters of boutiques, cocktail bars, murals and an art-house cinema.

Meet Jon Shadel

JD Shadel is an independent writer and editor, who covers culture, travel, technology and LGBTQ+ life. Originally from Maryland and based in Portland, Oregon since 2013, Shadel frequently travels to report stories for national and niche media outlets. Wherever they go, they always bring a can of Old Bay Seasoning.

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West End

Frances May
A granddaughter-grandmother duo helms Portland’s most influential boutique, which has earned national recognition for curating global streetwear heavyweights alongside up-and-coming designers. The gallery-like space stocks local labels such as Olderbrother, known for its gender-neutral, naturally dyed apparel.
Frances May, 403 SW 10th Ave, Portland, Ore. 97205
Maak Lab
Maak’s scent-design studio doubles as a luxury apothecary of sorts where the two founders fill their shelves with soaps, candles and cosmetics. Each product captures the fragrances of Pacific Northwest-sourced ingredients, from fir and Port Orford cedar to honey and lavender.
Maak Lab, 916 W. Burnside St. Portland, Ore. 97209
Nong’s Khao Man Gai
You can’t leave Portland without trying the Thai dish that made Nong Poonsukwattana a local hero. Her food cart turned brick-and-mortar hot spots specialize in one eponymous item: khao man gai, a deceptively simple chicken-and-rice plate that will have you booking a return flight.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai, 417 S.W. 13th Ave. Portland, Ore. 97205
‘Capax Infiniti’ mural
For more than five summers, the Forest for the Trees mural festival has invited artists to reimagine dozens of the city’s blank walls. The West End hosts several works, notably this towering feminist silhouette by Faith XLVII, an acclaimed South African-born studio and street artist.
‘Capax Infiniti’ mural, 1114 S.W. Washington St. Portland, Ore. 97205
Living Room Theaters
Watching a film at Living Room — a first-run cinema where cheese plates and glasses come straight to your plush seats — makes all other movie theaters feel like economy class.
Living Room Theaters, 341 S.W. 10th Ave. Portland, Ore. 97205
There's more to see
Jon Shadel
A blue-crab-loving Marylander, Jon packed a suitcase full of Old Bay Seasoning and began reporting from Portland’s many cafes in 2013. Turns out, the Pacific Northwest’s signature Dungeness crab tastes great with Old Bay, too.
Leah Nash
Leah is an editorial and commercial contributing photographer for The Washington Post based in Portland, Ore., and half of the photo duo <a href="">NashCO Photo</a>. She is darn proud to be from a place that is known for its parks, bridges, bike paths, liberal attitudes and eco-friendly vibes. Plus, you’ve got to cheer for any town that claims to have some of the most coffee shops, microbreweries and strip clubs per capita in the United States.