After a meditative tea ceremony at The Tao of Tea, you will find yourself in the right frame of mind for a perfect day on SE Belmont Street. Your soul will be nourished and centered by the expertly brewed and beautifully presented teas, accompanied by a snack chosen from the "Tea Snacks
from the Chaiwalla Cart" menu, a sample of foods found on tea carts around India, like Fried Moong Dal, or Indian Biscotti.
A cup of sustainably harvested tea of from an old growth tea forest will bring you an inner harmony and help you remember that Yin Yang is all about contrasts. Keep that in mind, because SE Belmont Street is full of them. Between 39th and 32nd Avenues you will find yourself jumping back and forth between worlds that you never would have thought could co-exist in the same city, much less in the same few blocks.
Stepping out of the artfully created teahouse, you’ll see The Avalon Wunderland. The slightly dilapidated but beloved and historic arcade will inspire you to drop your still peaceful nickels into the console of a virtual semi-truck and pound down the highway at breakneck speeds. The Avalon has a nostalgic and campy collection of skeet ball, video games, pinball and a good, cheap second run movie theater. With your heart pounding, the lights flashings, and bells ringing, the tranquility from across the street seems about a million miles away. After you’ve got your blood all pumped up again, head back out onto Belmont for the next contrast.
Heading one block or so west is Stumptown Coffee, where the best coffee in Portland (possibly the world) is brewed. The hipsters that work there aren’t as intimidating as they seem. If you smile and pretend not to notice that they are cooler than you, they’ll sketch a work of art into the top of your latte in the foam. You can sit and people watch out the front window or better yet, take your coffee a quarter of a mile north on any of the neighborhood streets for a short detour to Laurelhurst park.
Laurelhurst Park is one of the true gems of Portland. Paths wind through the park, past huge trees and ponds, grassy knolls, tennis and basketball courts, a great play structure for kids, and plenty of benches to rest on. On a summer day you might find a concert going on, sometimes a symphony. This is a place you could spend just a few minutes or while away hours until you’ve gotten hungry again.
Head back to SE Belmont and for the next twist of your yin yang balance, you’ll find the confounding confederate flag on the Dixie Mattress Company. You won’t be alone in your curiosity about the place. It is rarely open, and even most Belmont regulars don’t know what goes on in there though there is certainly much speculation. Peek in through the dusty, barred windows and you’ll see stacks of old mattresses. You’ll be able to tell people that the mattresses at this odd business are torn apart and made into new mattresses.
For the opposite of that place, look across the street at the very upscale Zupan’s Market, where not a speck of dust can be found on the gourmet groceries and wines. Nothing is out of place as you stroll through an abundance of gourmet foods in the wealthy feeling aisles.
If you’re up for a little shopping, you’ll find interesting things (as in people, places and things) at Noun with a collection of beautiful and tasteful furniture, jewelry, linens, arts and crafts for your home and body. Also inside are some of the city’s best cupcakes at St. Cupcake- and yes, the red velvet is as soft and delicious as it sounds.
A little bit off the main section of Belmont are a few more places worth noting. At 29th Avenue is Muddy Waters Coffee House and next door is Polliwog, children’s toy and clothing store offering a great selection of fun, smart gifts.
As day turns to night, head to the ultra modern Koipod Salon with its minimalist architecture of concrete and steel. In the same building and next door, is Kinta, a Malaysian restaurant. Plan to arrive between 5pm and 7pm because the happy hour menu is a good way to sample a few of the special choices like curry puffs, a pastry shell filled with curried potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese wood ear mushrooms; deep-fried tofu; or maybe satay chicken.
For dinner, It’s A Beautiful Pizza is a hippie pizza place with artfully arranged items on an excellent crust. There is live music almost every night, so don’t be surprised when on Wednesdays, you find live Middle Eastern music and belly dancers, or if your meal is accompanied by the sound of an old time fiddle on a Monday.
There are several more excellent restaurants on Belmont between 34th and 30th Ave, including the hidden Khun Pic’s Bahn Thai behind a gate in an old Victorian, The Paradox is a vegetarian restaurant with a tendency to deep fry, The Laughing Planet is great for wraps and burritos and Hoda’s Middle Eastern Cuisine is a long standing favorite. There are also several more coffee houses to hang out, like The Opposable Thumb, that offers "swell food, free wifi and provocative reading materials (politically provocative that is.)
As night has falls, The Blue Monk is a popular bar and Italian restaurant, with a great selection of drinks and microbrew beers, along with pool, darts, and poetry readings on Tuesday nights and live or DJ music on other nights. Right next door is The Belmont’s Inn, offering a jukebox instead of live music or DJs. This is another bar with pool tables, darts and another great selection of beers in a more working class setting. Also, the Aalto Lounge across the street is popular among hipsters and others.
For a unique end to an evening try The Pied Cow. It is one of the only places in Portland that actually celebrates smoking, as they offer Hookahs and a menu of tobaccos- smoking is only on the patio, though. Inside is still as fresh aired as the rest of Portland.
After wandering up and down the street and finding everything from gourmet groceries, to funky house wares; video games to live music; you’ll find enough yin and yang to bring back the calm sense of balance you first found at the Tao of Tea.
What & Where:
The Tao of Tea (3430 SE Belmont St; 503-736-0119)
The Avalon Wunderland (3451 SE Belmont St; 503-238-1617)
Stumptown Coffee (3356 SE Belmont St; 503-232- 8889)
Dixie Mattress Company (3326 SE Belmont St; 503-235-5514)
Zupans (3301 SE Belmont; 503-239-3720)
Noun (3300 SE Belmont St; 503-235-0078)
St. Cupcake (3300 SE Belmont St; 503-235-0078)
Muddy Water’s Coffee House (2908 SE Belmont St; 503-233-1923)
Polliwog (2900 SE Belmont St; 503-236-3903)
Kinta (3405 SE Belmont St; 503-234-2623)
Koipod (3442 SE Belmont St; 503-231-4141) (Call ahead for an appointment)
It’s a Beautiful Pizza (3342 SE Belmont St; 503-233-5444)
Khun Pic’s Bahn Thai (3429 SE Belmont St; 503-235 1610)
The Paradox (3439 SE Belmont St; 503-232-7508)
Laughing Planet (3320 SE Belmont St; 503-235-6472)
Hoda’s Middle Eastern Cuisine (3401 SE Belmont St; 503-236-8325)
The Blue Monk (3341 SE Belmont St; 503-595-0575)
Aalto Lounge (3356 SE Belmont St; 503-235-6041)
The Belmont’s Inn (3357 SE Belmont St; 503-232-1998)
The Pied Cow (3244 SE Belmont St; 503-230-4866)