Is retro the new black? Portland's best vintage destinations

When most folks think of Portland, they do NOT think retro. They envision hipsters with tats and piercings and maybe dreadlocks - and tons of food carts.

But, here's the deal: Portland is weird. And, by weird we mean anything goes, pretty much. That equates to Portland embracing a seriously eclectic spectrum of offerings. And retro is definitely high on that list.

So bring on the Portland retro! Here, by category, are a few old-school Portland gems to get you started.


For a truly retro eatery that won't break the bank head to Fuller's Coffee Shop, established in 1947 and pretty much unchanged since. Like other retro restaurants, Fuller's doesn't experiment much with its menu. It's not a foodie's paradise. It is, however, a classic diner and serves up classic comfort food, done right. (This is going to sound weird, but they have the best toast on the planet. No, really. Made with their baked-on-site bread.) There is counter service only and cash is king - but you won't leave hungry.

For an upscale vintage dining experience, the Ringside Steakhouse is the place to go. The Ringside, founded in 1944, oozes authenticity with tuxedoed waiters, dark wood paneled booths and mouth-watering steaks (aged on-premise a minimum of four weeks). Tip: the de rigeur appetizer here is the onion rings. To. Die. For.

The very thought of a Coney Island (and I mean the hot dog not the location) screams retro. Nick's Famous Coney Island has been serving up kick-ass Coney dogs - and beer - since 1935.

Jim Dandy Drive-In is the Real Deal. Although you won't be served by skating carhops, you may see a few hot rods in the parking lot (they still congregate here and have regular rallies). Lots of memorabilia on the walls inside and just the kind of burger-fries-shakes menu you'd expect in 1937 (oh, plus Gardenburgers).

Retro shopping
vintage clothes for sale at flea marketChiccoDodiFC via Getty Images

For a vintage shopping adventure, head to Hawthorne Boulevard (you WILL go there if you're in Portland anyway). A few retro spots - among many - to consider: Crossroads Music. Looking for vinyl? This is your go-to spot. Browse or buy or both. House of Vintage offers an extensive collection of retro men and women's clothing from dozens of vendors. Another fun browsing adventure. And Hawthorne Vintage specializes in mid-century modern furniture. Unless you drove your (large) van to Portland, you may just be window shopping here.

Amusement Parks

Okay, take the "s" off parks - there's only one, and it's the oldest continuously operated amusement park in the country. Oaks Park has been entertaining Portlanders since 1904. You can enjoy all of the usual retro rides here - from Ferris wheel to rollercoaster to bumper cars - and classic carnival food too. The roller rink, reputed to be the largest in the U.S., is particularly vintage, featuring live organ recitals on a Wurlitzer from the '30s. Retro on steroids!

Walk-in theaters ...
Hollywood Theatre, Portland
By Marie Sherlock

There are a number of retro theaters in the area, lovingly refurbished and maintained. My favorite is the Hollywood on northeast Sandy. The original funky facade, with its restored marquee, and even the authentic rest rooms transport you back to the '20s. Specializing in indie, b&w vintage and often quirky offerings, the Hollywood is Absolutely Portland.

... and Drive-Ins

According to a 2016 poll by USA Today, the Portland metro area boasts THE best drive-in movie theater in America, the 99W in Newberg. It's a bit of a schlep from downtown - 23 miles - but worth the trip for those who want to experience this blast from the past. Opened in 1953, the 99W still offers a snack bar trailer for those Jujubes and Red Hots you crave. Check the website as opening day for the year is in late April.

Retro arcade games
Old console joysticks.j0sh78

From Asteroids and Tetris to Pac-Man and Donkey Kong - and plenty of pinball - Ground Kontrol is your best bet for a retro arcade game experience. Almost 100 games to consider. Plus a full-service bar. (Smiley face.)

Marie Sherlock has resided in Portland, Oregon for three-plus decades during which time she practiced law, married, and then raised kids while writing, editing and authoring a parenting book. She knows, loves and embraces every inch of Portland's weirdness.