today’s city guide has been one of the most request, and most delayed in the history of d*s guides. i’m so sorry it’s taken so long but we’ve been through a string of locals who’ve been unable to complete their guides and today, thanks to becki from shopping is my cardio, we finally have a portland, oregon guide on d*s! portland is such an amazing city full of incredible art, museums, shopping, restaurants, coffee (stumptown, anyone?), hotels and bookstores- it’s hard to know where to begin. but thankfully becki is here to take us through the city today. i hope you’ll enjoy her guide, and feel free to add any of your favorite spots in the comment section below. thanks to becki for all her hard work!
CLICK HERE for the full portland, oregon guide after the jump!
Hello, design*sponge readers! I’m so excited to be here, and can’t wait to share a little (okay, a lot) about the best Portland, Oregon has to offer. I’m Becki Singer, I write a little style blog called ShoppingsMyCardio, and I’ve lived in Portland for, wow, about two years now. Since I tend to write about fashion and accessories every day, I’m thrilled to be able to chat a bit about my other passion, home design, and to share my favorite shops and sights in the City of Roses. Thanks so much for having me, Grace!
Portland is one of those cities everyone seems to have an opinion about, whether they’ve been here or not. “It rains all the time there!”, “The city’s full of hippies, right?”, and on it goes. So, before you come to visit, let me clear up a few things. We do have rain, but it’s less than you think – winter is definitely gloomy, but our summers are the reason people live here: it’s gorgeous and sunny from June through October. As for the hippie thing, well, that one’s sort of true. We do have our fair share – though I’m going to get hate mail for admitting it. Most locals love their yoga, their bikes and their alternative medicine. You’ll get glares from fellow patrons if you forget to put your biodegradable coffee cup in the compost bin, and I’ve never lived somewhere with so many options for vegetarian, vegan and raw diners. We also tend to be an outdoorsy bunch (okay, that’s a metaphorical “we”…outdoorsy is one thing I’m not) – Portland is heaven if you’re into camping, skiing, hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing…really anything that involves installing a Thule rack on your Subaru.
All that said, there’s oh-so-much more to Portland than rain and recycling. In fact, in the last ten years, this city has turned into a hip, artistic, and thoroughly cool city. If you’re into art, you’ll be amazed by the sheer number of galleries in the city, and the fact that Portland is home to all sorts of artists you already know and love (Matte Stephens, Amy Ruppel, and Jill Bliss come to mind). The indy music scene here is legendary – the Decemberists hail from its ranks, and there’s always a hot new band (or ten) to check out on any given weekend at one of the dozens of local concert venues. And the food…as a transplant from San Francisco, I take my foodie credentials seriously. The culinary scene in Portland is simply amazing, and so much less expensive than comparable spots in bigger cities. Local chefs pride themselves on sourcing the best from organic farms and free-range ranches, and doling out dishes built to make the ingredients the star. Of course, if you’re more swayed by liquid refreshment, don’t forget about those legendary Oregon Pinot Noirs, the very serious coffee bean scene, and the fact that we have more microbreweries per capita than any other city in the US.
Now that you’ve decided to visit, it will help if you take a moment to get the lay of the land. PDX is divided into quadrants: the boundary of the north and south sides is a street called Burnside, and the boundary between east and west is the Willamette River. The scene definitely changes depending on which side of the river you’re on. While it’s a gross generalization, I tend to think of the west side of Portland as the more metro, urban, hip and trendy side of things. The east side, on the other hand, is what I think most people “expect” from Portland: it’s a little more unkempt and alternative – definitely cool, but with nary a hipster vibe to be found. It’s easy to get “stuck” over on the west side. Downtown is in the SW quarter, and most of the tourist spots and upscale shopping are on the West side. But on the east side, you’ll get a feel for what really makes Portland unique and quirky…in a good way, of course. To make life easier, and to convince you to venture east, I’ve divided this guide into neighborhoods (sometimes loosely), but also listed the quadrant for each.
While you’re here, remember that PDX takes its local, homegrown businesses very seriously. Take advantage of the fact that this city nurtures independent retailers and abhors the strip mall (our mayor’s biggest campaign promise was to keep Wal-Mart out of the city), and you’ll be rewarded handsomely: we have some of the best, most uniquely curated boutiques you’ll find anywhere. Oh, and did I mention there’s no sales tax? Just in case you needed another excuse.
PEARL DISTRICT (NW)
Cielo Home: When it comes to retail, I rarely play favorites. But if I had to choose one home design store in the City of Roses, this would be it. Every time I visit, there are new things I covet, and I don’t think there’s a single thing in this store I wouldn’t happily welcome into my house. There are plenty of formal design darlings like Juriska crystal, Raynaud china and John Derian galore. But you’ll also find Jonathan Adler, Thomas Paul, stunning vintage and reproduction accessories, design books, hand-stitched Indian blankets, unbelievable Cire Trudon candles, and so much more, I can’t even begin. While you’re there, you might even catch a glimpse of Coco and Sergio, the shop’s adorable whippets.
Cargo: You’ll spot Cargo from several blocks away – it’s the shop in the hip Pearl district whose façade is festooned with hundreds of Chinese lanterns and multicolored flags, which should tip you off that you’re in for something extraordinary. Cargo is Portland’s best spot for global home goods – the shop’s two stories are packed floor to ceiling with so many amazing things to see, it’s nearly impossible to absorb in a single trip. They have a great collection of cheap ethnic jewelry and knick-knacks – my favorites are the brightly-painted clay Dia de los Muertos figurines. Head to the back of the store to check out the furniture imports and other goodies, like a life-size bust of a Chinese general, a giant ceramic koi, or a vintage Japanese billboard for soap.
Hive: If you’re a devotee of modern design, Hive may just turn out to be your favorite shop in Portland. The incredibly knowledgeable staff will happily guide you through a perfectly-edited collection of Eames, Blu Dot, George Nelson, and dozens of other modern furniture designers. Or, browse on your own, and grab some truly cool accessories to up the style quotient at your pad. I happen to love their George Colombo trolleys and, well, pretty much any of the perfectly random Alessi kitchen goods.
Moulé: When I first moved to Portland, I was suffering a little retail withdrawal, but Moulé saved me. The only US outpost of a Canadian-born boutique, Moulé is bigger than a boutique, but smaller than a department store. They stock most trendy urban collections you’d hope to find, plus great indy designs you won’t find elsewhere, as well as men’s, children’s, home goods and jewelry. The jewel in the crown is owner Rachel Mara’s eponymous clothing line – it’s exclusive to Moulé, and a must-shop if you’re a clotheshorse like me.
Pearl Bakery: It must be something about the weather, but bakeries in Portland have a talent for making particularly wonderful breads. If you’re a connoisseur, the carbs at the Pearl Bakery are well worth the indulgence. Grab a pastry or a baguette and munch while wandering the streets of the Pearl District, knowing you’re making everyone around you insanely jealous.
NOB HILL (NW)
Manor: If high-end home design is your style, you’ll want to make Manor your first stop in the Rose City. After owning an interior design business in Portland for years, owners Liz and Liza (a mom-and-daughter team) got fed up with not being able to source their chic selections locally. While they’re definitely high style, I happen to love the store’s blend of big-city chic and Portland quirk. Sure, you can grab a can of Farrow & Ball paint (your only source in Portland) or a Rani Arabella cashmere throw so soft you’ll be tempted to curl up for a nap right there in the shop. But you can also take home your very own taxidermied dairy cow named (appropriately) Milkshake, procured from a no-kill taxidermist in Bolivia. I couldn’t have possibly made this up if I’d tried. While you’re there, don’t miss the custom jewelry by Heather B. Moore, unbelievably soft wool throws from Swans Island, gorgeous sleepwear from Kiyomi, or china by Peter Mac Cann calligraphed with each of the seven deadly sins, and seven contrasting virtues.
Besaw’s: Portland is a brunch town – on Saturdays and Sundays, you can’t get anywhere near most of the popular breakfast spots in the city. I’ve waited an hour for a table at Besaw’s on Sunday morning, but they give you coffee (and sometimes baked treats) to tide you over, and the wait is always worthwhile. Inside, you’ll find a classic, homey diner packed to bursting with happy locals. Whatever you order, make sure it comes with a side of pork apple sausage – it’s ridiculously good.
Merriweather’s: If you’re looking for the finer side of brunching, head a few blocks north to Merriweather’s. If weather permits, hold out for a seat for the patio – it might be my favorite dining spot in the city. And seriously consider ordering the coconut chicken and waffles – trust me. This is also a great spot for lunch or dinner – the menu changes constantly, as they source nearly all of their produce from their own local farm, but it’s always wonderful.
Saint Cupcake: Like most cities these days, there are a few spots for great cupcakes in Portland, but Saint Cupcake is my hands-down choice. If you’re a purist when it comes to these things, as I am, you’ll love the old-school classic flavors, the abundant sprinkles, and the sweet décor. Personally, I’m just in it for the cream cheese icing.
DOWNTOWN/WEST END (SW)
Canoe: Canoe is one of those stores that’s so perfectly put together, it almost feels more art gallery than boutique. But after you take a moment to marvel at the shop’s inimitable style, it will hit you: everything’s for sale at this museum! Owners/curators Craig Olson and Sean Igo pride themselves on choosing quality over quantity. If you’re searching for a bookend, they have one style – it just happens to be the perfect one, designed exclusively for Canoe by a local metalworker. Ditto for the perfect pocket knife (by Opinel), paperweight (a cast iron barn owl, and my favorite thing in the shop) or tea strainer (designed by a Japanese artist specializing in wire netting crafts). Their collection of Heath Ceramics, including several pieces exclusive to the store, and Citterio flatware alone make me wish I’d known enough to register there when I was a bride.
Cacao: If you’re a chocolate fiend, Cacao is a must-stop shop for you. You’ll find the best selection of chocolate in Portland, perhaps the entire West Coast. Cacao takes chocolate very seriously – once, when I couldn’t decide which dark chocolate bar to splurge on, the owner spent an hour creating an impromptu chocolate tasting for me, so that I could pick my poison with an informed palate. While you’re there, try anything by local chocolatier DePaula.
Fontanelle Gallery: With a tiny little storefront in the outskirts of downtown Portland, Fontanelle is an easy stop to miss. But it’s worth tracking down if you’re a fan of up-and-coming artists. The gallery is split into an exhibition space (revamped monthly) and a “Parlor” collection, where you’ll find permanent works, often incredibly affordable prints, and other pieces you’ll be tempted to cart home. On my last visit, they had pieces by Andy Kehoe, Ashley Sloan and Jess Fogel, and a fabulous multi-media installation by local artists Josh Orion Kermiet and Midori Hirose.
AM Living: It’s easy to dismiss AM Living for its lackluster location (I think it’s the only shop left in its little center), but one look in the store’s windows will show you there’s something very special going on inside. Walk in the door and you’re transported to what can only be described as your dream childhood bedroom. The front of the shop is packed with model airplanes, racing cars, globes and maps galore. Head to the back of the shop, and you’re in for some serious eye candy: they have an entire room draped floor to ceiling with hanging mobiles and antique reproduction toys, all amazingly affordable. On your way out, don’t miss their collection of authentic embroidered suzani quilts – the owners have a special penchant for the pieces, and the selection is gorgeous.
Powell’s City of Books: Even if you’re not a book lover, Powell’s is just one of those places you can’t miss while you’re in Portland. It’s a Portland legend, and with good reason. The main store covers an entire city block, and is three stories tall – and the whole thing is packed to the rafters with every book you could ever hope to read – more than a million books at any given time, in fact. In print, out of print, new, used, rare, signed…if you want it, the “City of Books” almost definitely has it. Bibliophiles might want to add an extra day onto their trip for this stop – it’s that good. If you’re into rare books, the Powell’s collection is one of the best in the country – stop in and check out a first edition of The Hobbit, signed Hemingway novels, and a wealth of other goodies.
Everyday Music: I tend to refer to Everyday as the Powell’s of music. As I said, the music scene in Portland is alive and well, and Everyday is the proof. This massive store stocks just about every new or used title you could ever hope for, often on both CD and vinyl, and will make you abandon your iTunes addiction in a hurry. You could easily spend hours browsing the racks – especially if you get one of the very smart staffers behind the counters involved. They’ll introduce you to bands you never knew you loved, and chances are, you can pick up your favorite new disc used for…well, a song.
Covet: I have to be careful about visiting Covet – I have yet to manage a trip in which I leave empty-handed. If I were to design a clothing store (or, for that matter, my perfect closet), something tells me it would look much like Covet. Whether you’re after the ultimate comfy LA Made cardigan, a drapey silk tee from Geren Ford or an impossible-to-find Epice scarf, chances are owner Athena Frazier has it…or something else just as wonderful that you can’t live without.
Frances May: This shop is a favorite among Portland fashion devotees, and with good reason – I can’t think of a store that does a better job of exuding the cool, understated vibe that Portland locals can’t get enough of. Owned by a grandmother/granddaughter team, Frances May stocks the best from unique indy lines like Church + State, Rachel Comey, Vena Cava and Built By Wendy, as well as jewelry and accessories by several beloved local designers. The end result feels a bit like raiding your cool big sister’s closet….but considerably less hazardous to your health.
Mother’s Bistro: Mother’s was my first favorite restaurant in Portland – I’ve since come to realize it’s practically an institution here. Their menu is an updated take on classic home cooking like chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and a daily rendition of mac and cheese that has been known to inspire squeals of glee at my table. They also happen to have a killer brunch, but make a reservation if you can.
Clyde Common: If you’re after more upscale fare, Clyde Common is such a great example of what makes Portland, Portland that it’s worth it for the experience alone. That said, it’s also some of the best food in the city, and that’s no small accomplishment. Housed in the Ace Hotel downtown, you’ll dine at communal tables, where you’re almost certain to make a new friend or two, if only because you’ll probably need help deciphering some of the exotic ingredients on the menu. But even if you don’t know your Grana Padano from your poached octopus, an unforgettable experience is a given.
Whole Bowl: If you’re too busy shopping and sightseeing to stop for a bite, the food carts in Portland can be unbelievably tasty. Food writers attribute the phenomenon to low overhead and the inability to hold fresh ingredients for long in the back of a truck. Fair points, but I chalk it up to this city’s tireless devotion to good food – whether it’s in a cart or at a five-star restaurant. The best collection of carts is on SW 9th and Alder, where you’ll find my personal favorite: Whole Bowl. A great veggie/vegan option packed with beans, rice, avocado, and loads of other goodies, you’ll want to ask for extra Tali Sauce – the top-secret concoction is incredibly addictive.
EAST BURNSIDE (SE/NE)
Sword + Fern: You’ll find jewelry designer Emily Baker’s unmistakable wares at any number of shops here – ever since she began designing pieces from her now-signature recycled car parts, she’s become sort of a symbol of the up-cycling movement in Portland. Her shop is definitely worth a visit if you’re spending time on East Burnside. Emily is an absolute delight to meet, and you’ll likely find gorgeous one-of-a-kind pieces you can’t buy elsewhere. Plus, she keeps her walls bare to use as a gallery space that she rotates monthly, so you’ll be able to browse her designs and check out a talented local artist (or two) while you’re at it.
Life + Limb: This little shop is the cure for even the blackest of thumbs. Stocking exclusively succulent plants, the very helpful shop owners will help you house your new charge in a beautiful planter from Perch, Pigeon Toe, or dozens of other lovelies, and teach you how to keep from killing it. Before I met Life + Limb, I thought cacti were my only option, but it turns out there are loads of lovely, non-painful succulents out there – some even have flowers! Plus, since they’re built for neglect, drought and general abuse, you may even be able to cart something home in your carry-on. If green just isn’t your thing, Life + Limb also stocks wonderful home accessories, books and gifts that have nothing whatsoever to do with plants.
Hippo Hardware: You know how, in movies, someone goes into the attic of an old house and there are all of these fabulous, crazy things (even though your attic at home is just full of fiberglass and cobwebs)? That’s basically Hippo Hardware. It’s sort of a wonderland for treasure hunters, and a dangerous place for do-it-yourselfers. Whether you’re after a dozen Victorian doorknobs, a leaded-glass window or an old skeleton key, this place has it…somewhere. Moreover, they boast on their website about having taught customers to make blenders into table lamps. This terrifies me, but for those of you that are DIY-inclined, Hippo is Portland-speak for Mecca.
Grass Hut: I tend to refer to Grass Hut as a “boy” art gallery. Blatantly sexist, maybe, but the shop prides itself on an admittedly awesome and rare collection of plastic monsters (some of which are even designed by the owners). Add to that a collection of definitely non-girly art from the likes of Tim Biskup, Mike Perry and Amanda Visell, and it’s hard to deny the hearty “testosterone thrives here” vibe at Grass Hut. But boy or girl, you’ll dig the Hut for being totally and utterly unlike any other art gallery you’ve ever visited.
Voodoo Donuts: If you’re after a look at the more…interesting side of Portland, I can’t think of a better stop than Voodoo Donuts. While the FDA made them stop serving their Nyquil- and Pepto Bismol-glazed donuts, they still have plenty of bizarre-yet-delish creations to keep you busy. My husband is a big fan of the Mango Tango – a mango-filled donut topped with Tang powder. I’m a little more classic, but the Crunchberry version is mighty tasty. While you can head to either location for your sugar fix, fair warning: the downtown location perpetually has a line around the block, but the people-watching potential is unmatched.
Noun: There’s something about strolling through Noun that just makes me happy. Now, I freely admit that may have something to do with the fact that they share their retail space with my favorite cupcakerie, Saint Cupcake. But the happy vibe at Noun goes way beyond sugar. Owner Stephanie Sheldon has a crazy talent for stocking great local jewelry and art, and blending them with the best curated vintage finds I’ve ever encountered, including full sets of beautiful vintage china and glassware. The result? Well, on my last visit, I was torn between some stunning earrings by Tasi Designs, a gorgeous set of etched cocktail glasses by Roost, and a vintage lusterware elephant teapot. I never did decide, but managed to make it out with a box of cupcakes.
Elsa + Sam: When I walked into Elsa + Sam, my first thought was “how has no one thought of this before?”. The tiny shop is a bit off the beaten path, but stepping inside was like walking into a showroom of all of the fabulous ceramicists and printers I’ve fawned over for years online but never see in person. Circa Ceramics, Kim Westad, Dovetail, Anna Kraitz, Tonfisk…the list is fantastic, and will have you ready to ditch your dishes in favor of a whole new collection.
Lounge Lizard: If there’s one variety of shopping that this city really does well, it’s vintage. Whether it’s clothing, accessories or furniture, I’m pretty convinced there are at least as many vintage shops in this city as there are sellers of new goods. If you happen to be in the market for some truly stellar vintage furniture, Lounge Lizard is your spot. The owners buy only the best of the best, and they know their goods – during one recent visit, the owner told me the reason my husband and I can’t agree on furniture is that he’s industrial and I’m deco. I had no idea. Every piece in the shop is the ultimate in retro, groovy goodness, right down to the perfect aluminum Christmas tree I still can’t believe I didn’t grab on my last visit.
Rejuvenation: I honestly can’t imagine visiting Rejuvenation if I had a remodel afoot…I think my head would explode from the sheer volume of options. The store stocks a collection of lighting and hardware so massive, a chronically indecisive person like me wouldn’t stand a chance. But it does make for some pretty fantastic browsing…and if you happen to need a knob to match cabinet hardware you installed in the late 80s, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here. Make it a point to check out the clean, retro lighting choices from local designer Schoolhouse Electric.
Stumptown: PDX may be known for having the most breweries of any city in the US, but I’d venture we’re right up there with the number of coffee shops in town as well. Stumptown is the grand dame of Portland’s highly discriminating bean scene, and you’ll find their brew at the vast majority of independent coffee shops here. If you take your caffeine seriously, a stop at Stumptown is a must. While you can get their coffee nearly anywhere, if you head to their location on SE Belmont, you can check out their rare roasts (they can run up upwards of $170 per pound), and even indulge in a free daily coffee tasting at the annex next door.
Pastaworks: Oh, Pastaworks…how I love your cut-to-order fettuccini, your yummy fresh sausages and your collection of housemade sauces. And the cheeses…don’t even get me started. When the sights and smells of all that fabulous food leave you ready to rip into a pack of raw ravioli, never fear – step into their itty bitty café, Evoe, and indulge. I highly recommend sitting at the counter – chef Kevin Gibson is always ready and willing to offer tastes, suggestions and great details about the food while you dine.
Ink & Peat: Lovely is the only word I can think of to describe Ink & Peat. The shop combines artful and girly things for your home with what I think is the best floral shop in the city. In the blink of an eye, owner Pam Zsori can put together a floral arrangement that is absolutely sure to thrill. While she’s working, you can browse her collection of pillows, throws, art, home accessories, letterpress cards, and hundreds of other wonderful finds.
Together Gallery: If I were to imagine the ultimate art space for a design*sponge fan, Together Gallery would be the place. Recent exhibits have included artists we know and love, like Jen Corace, Julie Morstad and Yellena James. But there are also new faces to fall for, like Jay Howell (a new favorite of mine), Aiyana Udesen and Marc Warren Jacques, all of whom you should definitely get to know.
Ristretto Roasters: While Starbucks exists here, locals know better. There are just so many great independent roasters in Portland, it seems a shame to rely on standbys you can have anywhere. Of all the roasters in all the land, Ristretto is my hands-down favorite. Their beans are smooth and strong, but in a sneak-up-on-you kind of way…sort of like really good vodka. I prefer their new location next to Ink & Peat, but that could just be because I get to feed my retail and caffeine addictions in one stop.
Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery: Like most indy coffee shops in Portland, Random Order brews up Stumptown beans and (my favorite) Dragonfly Chai. But they also serve up the city’s (and possibly the world’s) best pie. I’m convinced their baker has made a deal with the devil in exchange for some of these recipes. As is the norm in Portland, they use only local, in-season produce, so if you see a favorite variety, don’t pass it by. If it’s around, I highly suggest the bourbon peach.
Petite Provence: If pie’s not your thing, wander a few doors down to Petite Provence, a sweet little French café right in the middle of artsy, hip Alberta. It doesn’t quite seem to fit, but step inside and you’ll instantly feel like a sophisticated international traveler. Their breakfast and lunch fare are excellent, but don’t miss the pastries – their croissants are the best I’ve had outside of Paris.
Antiquing: No, it’s not a store, it’s an activity. But it’s what Sellwood is best known for, and I simply can’t talk about this part of Portland without mentioning it. Sellwood is the perfect antiquing destination because it’s small, friendly and walkable, and packed with coffee shops and other stores to keep you busy between your treasure-hunting stops. Start at either Milwaukie or 13th Ave – either way, you’ll have your pick of the best antique shops in the city.
Tilde: On my first visit to Tilde, I knew instantly it would be my go-to for gifting from that day forward. Owner Debbe Hamada’s taste is flawless, and her shop is packed with enough jewelry, pottery, art and accessories to make anyone swoon. She carries affordable prints from artists I’ve loved for ages, like Etui and Jessica Gonacha, but she also has originals by Rachel Austin and many others. Whatever your taste in jewelry, she has something you’ll like, whether it’s a cheeky Amy Bengston bird pendant or a bold, multi-layered resin piece by local designer Stubborn Works. Personally, I’m a fan of the super-spiky earthenware vessels by local Leah Nobilette, guaranteed to get people to stop touching your knick-knacks!
Milwaukie Popcorn & Candy Land: A bit off the beaten path, but Milwaukie Popcorn & Candy Land warrants a special stop. Besides some of the best caramel popcorn I’ve ever tried, they stock fresh, housemade chocolates…including chocolate-dipped Nutter Butters. Need I say more?
Jade Tea House & Patisserie: After you’ve worn yourself out browsing the antique shops in Sellwood, take a load off at Jade. I relax just walking in the door of this quaint little Asian-style teahouse. Whether you’re looking for lunch or just a quick cup of tea to rejuvenate, you’ll love the atmosphere as much as the food. I strongly suggest including one of their salted caramel Parisian macarons in your order.
Artemisia: I’m told that anything can grow here in Portland, which explains the perpetually green trees and the world-famous gardens – it’s called the City of Roses for a reason. The owners of Artemisia take Portland’s rep very seriously, and have amassed a collection of unique plants, trees, succulents and flowers to make anyone green with envy (I couldn’t resist). In the nursery, you’ll find rare varieties of trees, and foliage you haven’t seen anywhere else. Step into the shop, and you’ll find a whole world of indoor plants, pottery by local artists and accessories for compiling the perfect window box or terrarium…you’ll even find a bonsai tree or two. Add to all that an outstanding collection of artwork by owners Michael and Amy Aiello, and even a certified black thumb like me can’t help but fall for Artemisia.
Una: I first happened into Una because the shop is across the street from a favorite coffee spot of mine, but it didn’t take long for this shop to become a destination all its own. Una is probably the closest Portland gets to runway-style looks. I’m usually there for the down-to-earth pieces from Clu and Chan Luu, but you can score some seriously unusual finds at Una – most recently, a collection of massive rainbow-hued resin necklaces by Mctega.
Ken’s Artisan Pizza: For pizza in Portland, this is, quite simply, the best. There are loads of lovely slices throughout the city, but Ken works wonders with his wafer-thin crusts and smoking hot wood-fired oven. I tend to keep it simple with the classic Margherita, as I think his raw tomato sauce is the best I’ve ever had. My husband swears by the Soppressata, which has ruined me for all other pepperoni pies. And if you happen in when the Spring Onion pizza is on the menu, it’s a must-try. But go early – if you show up after 6, prepare to wait.
Ace Hotel: With four locations now, I’m not sure yet if the Ace can properly be called a chain. Regardless, it got its start here in Portland, so I think it’s fair to claim it as a local landmark. Staying at the Ace feels a lot like crashing at your hip friend’s house – in fact, you can even book rooms with shared baths, if you just can’t adjust to having a shower all to yourself. Beds are draped with blankets from the nearby Pendleton Woolen Mills, walls are covered with murals by local artists, and the whole vibe is very “I wish my grad school apartment had been this cool.” In the lobby, you’ll be able to score a cup of Stumptown brew, souvenir pics from a vintage photobooth, and some truly fab cocktails at Clyde Common. While you’re here, head next door to Kenny & Zukes for the best reuben I’ve had on the West Coast.
The Nines: The Nines is the newest hotel in Portland, and if you’re after a truly luxe experience, it’s the obvious choice. Housed in the upper floors of the old Macy’s building, The Nines is as glam as it gets. The hotel’s lobby is sleek and clean, loaded with modern art and insanely beautiful rugs, and the guest rooms are right out of the pages of Elle Décor, furnished with decadent wall coverings and jewel-toned upholstery. Make sure you have a cocktail at the hotel’s bar, Departure – the prime rooftop real estate makes for excellent city-gazing at night.
Governor Hotel: Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a hotel snob – I measure the success of a trip largely by how much I loved the room. The Governor isn’t necessarily hip or trendy, but it’s my favorite place to stay in Portland. The décor of this historic hotel is elegant and simple, the service is wonderful, and the location – right in the heart of downtown – leaves you within walking distance of some of my favorite shopping and dining spots. Personally, I love the super-high ceilings in each of the guest rooms, the fireplaces and the terrycloth robes.
Jupiter Hotel: While the Jupiter is a bit off the beaten path, it’s such a unique space that I think it might be worth sacrificing a bit on location. I guess it’s best described as two parts Jetsons, with a dash of Frank Lloyd Wright and Andy Warhol sprinkled in for good measure. If Design Within Reach is your dream shop, and the Museum of Modern Art is your favorite place, the Jupiter is made for you. As a bonus, you’ll get to hang out at the super cool Doug Fir Lounge, where you can groove on the retro 70’s decor and the inevitably hot local band playing the stage.
Gardens: As I’ve mentioned, this is a city of gardens, whether you’re talking the highly manicured variety, a city park or just the fact that there seem to be an overwhelmingly high number of beautiful front yards here in Portland. After all, there’s a reason we put up with six solid months of rain, and gorgeous greenery is it. If I were to give anyone a “must do” in this city, it would be to check out any (or all) of the truly beautiful gardens Portland has to offer. My three favorites are the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, all of which are fantastic.
The Portland Classical Chinese Garden is small, but if you’re there during peony season, you’ll never forget it. Try a pot of tea in the teahouse while you admire their ability to make such a small, urban space feel secluded and calm.
The Portland Japanese Garden is my absolute favorite green space in the city. It feels even larger than its 5.5 acres – literally every turn gives you a completely different view. If you’re at all interested in Asian design or gardening, or just need a little zen, it’s a fantastic space to visit.
For more formal stylings, the International Rose Test Garden is amazing if you’re here in the summer. It’s the oldest test garden in the country, and you’ll see varieties here that will amaze you, even if roses aren’t your thing. Plus, you’re in the Rose City, for heaven’s sake.
Portland Farmer’s Market: Portland takes its local produce more seriously than most (I’d chalk it up to the massive quantity of vegetarians, vegans and raw food devotees in this city). If you’re a foodie, the Portland Farmer’s Market is a must-see for the exotic mushrooms alone. Every city has a farmer’s market, but Portland’s is far and away the biggest and best I’ve seen. It runs Saturday mornings from April-October in the South Park Blocks downtown. I recommend showing up hungry – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have room for the rum raisin challah, fresh goat cheese and brandied cherries.
Portland Saturday Market: While most locals I know tired of Saturday Market long ago, it’s still a great place to take visitors. This open-air market, which feels a bit like a permanent art festival, runs every Saturday and Sunday during the warmer months, and is packed with examples of what I’ll affectionately call “old-school Portland,” the part of the city that still loves its tie-dye, handmade soap and wind chimes. Hippie vibe aside, you can pick up some lovely hand-thrown pottery, jewelry, and art photography. Oh, and there’s a woman who makes some of the best jam I’ve ever tasted – that one’s definitely not to be missed.
First Thursday: Remember what I said about the thriving art scene here in Portland? If you happen to visit on the first Thursday of the month, you’ll get a perfect chance to see what I mean. Head to the Pearl District and stroll the vast collection of art galleries in this neighborhood, nearly all of whom unveil a new exhibit for First Thursday. Walk from gallery to gallery, score a free cocktail (or three), and you’ll get a firsthand look at just how seriously Portland takes its art. Finish up with happy hour at any of the amazing restaurants in the Pearl – this city is legendary for its bargain-basement happy hour eats.
More about Becki: Becki started out as a small business attorney with a side passion for fashion, style and design. After years of listening to her wax poetic about handbags, shoes and new designers, her husband encouraged her to start shoppingsmycardio, so that she could tell other people about the finds that were thrilling her so. She’s been writing the blog since June 06, and loves it. Last year, she decided she wanted to write full time, so she left her law practice to pursue freelance copywriting and marketing consulting for small boutiques, designers and artists, and to tries to up her editorial freelancing as well. She absolutely loves getting to interact with shop owners and designers, helping them plan projects and grow their businesses – it’s a dream come true. At home, she has one very patient husband, two very bad dogs (a rescued greyhound and a slightly insane beagle) and a very poorly tended yard.