Known for its young and progressive culture, hot food scene, and made even more famous by the show Portlandia, Portland, OR has quickly become an “it” city for many — and for good reason. From its eco-friendly attitude, to its abundance of parks, microbreweries, and coffeehouses, it’s a city bustling with people who will “eat, drink and be merry for anything,” Valorie (today’s city guide writer and PDX-local) explains.
“There are a plethora of Portland city guides out there,” she begins, “and these recommendations are an insider’s guide to modern design and small businesses in the Bridge City!” Along the way, Valorie suggests keeping your itinerary flexible, stowing some extra cash in your pocket for surprise buys from local makers and vendors, and maintaining an “always-more-room kind of stomach, because you will find one-of-a-kind artisan treasures and farm-to-table treats ‘round every block!” –Sabrina Photography by Sarah Holt
PLACES TO EAT
You can’t be in the wrong neighborhood to eat well because each quadrant of Portland is the ultimate diner’s haven. Three overarching guidelines apply: local ingredients, gluten/allergen-free is an option, and always order the Bloody Mary at brunch. You absolutely have to plan on a brunch, and most places serve it on weekends.
Some local favorites include Broder Nord (N), Tin Shed (NE), Jam (SE) or Mother’s Bistro (SW). You can also root an afternoon with lunch at the food cart pods on NE Alberta or Tidbit on SE Division and go on to enjoy the surrounding shops and galleries.
Here are a handful of local favorites in wonderful neighborhoods:
Southeast: There are hidden gems in otherwise low foot traffic areas, including the flagship location of Coava Coffee (SE Industrial). Stop in for lunch at Teote at the beginning of the Ladd’s Addition. It’s a Venezuelan health dream in an old home with fresh paint. Melt-in-your-mouth corn arepas are a required add-on to slow-roasted meat and rice bowls. They have (arguably) the best back patio in town.
Head over to La Moule for a mussel experience. La Moule is new, and it’s living up to the reputation of the historic corner where it’s located. Also, we highly recommend getting your hip-hop, upscale pizza party on at P.R.E.A.M. (yes, it stands for Pizza Rules Everything Around Me).
Northeast: This area of Portland is quickly developing, but good food is nothing new. Wander down N Williams and you’ll hit Tasty n Sons for seasonal small plates and a social cocktail atmosphere.
Just a few blocks North of Mississippi is Victoria. New to the area, this dimly lit bar is nestled on a thru street and throws down home-cooked, creole rooted dishes. The space was designed by the Lightning Bar Collective, a group who has pulled together several industrial-modern ambiances across the city including Jack Knife (SW) and Sweet Hereafter (SE).
For dinner, hit up the tiny Zilla Sake House on Alberta for sashimi so fresh it melts in your mouth. Talk to the expert staff about their enormous collection of sakes from across the world (including the one and only American brewery located in Oregon).
Downtown & Northwest: The food cart pod at SW Alder and 10th has authentic tastes from across the globe. For coffee in this area, definitely Public Domain on 6th. A short walk above downtown is the Pearl District where old-school favorite Piazza Italia is a family dishing up fresh pastas and charcuterie in an intimate atmosphere.
Expand your horizons at Mediterranean Exploration Company, where fusion flavors combine for an impressive representation of innovative cuisine in PDX. The Pearl is the perfect walking tour neighborhood with mouthwatering eateries and cafes in between high-end furnishing stores, small parks and art galleries.
Gluten- & Allergen-Free: Almost every restaurant has notations on the menu and substitutions. It’s not just about allergies, we have genuine care for health and alternative options. Gluten-free bakeries like New Cascadia (SE) and Petunia’s (SW) can fool even the most hesitant gluten fiends. If you need help deciding where to eat, keep your eyes peeled for beanies and plaid shirts filling window scenes like you might see at the vegan haven Harlow (SE Hawthorne).
PLACES TO SHOP
A trendy stomping ground for young artists, the combination of self-expression and lifestyle goods are now table stakes in this city. Six/Seven (E Burnside) is an upscale designer collaboration combining modern clothing, jewelry and sculpture. In the name of well-curated inspiration, check out up-and-coming Euro designers at West End Select Shop (NW). For a more eclectic variety of chic Bohemia, PALACE (E Burnside) specializes in holistic decor for the modern woman. Backtalk (NW and NE) houses a mix of original, clean-line collections and mod vintage.
Want to vibe like you’re from here? Bridge & Burn‘s (SW) flagship store of Northwest-inspired limited collections and guest artists is a must-stop. To cop some of the more classic Pacific Northwestern wear for the men in your life, head to Animal Traffic (SW and NE) — a concept-based vintage apparel store which also houses creative outdoor brands, beard oils, and novel lifestyle goods. To round off the Portlandian look, stop by Tanner Goods (NW) for handcrafted leather accessories and Half Pint (NE) for vintage leather boots.
Token gifts and well-designed local indulgences are tucked in every store, so start at Made Here PDX (downtown across from the famous Powell’s City of Books). The locally-owned shop has the largest collection of local, branded artisans including foods, home wares, accessories and apparel. Head one block south of W Burnside for a gallery-like mercantile of local textile and home ware designs in North To West, imagined by three design friends. Over on the NE side, The Meadow is a specialty bitters, chocolate and salt store with an entire wall dedicated to each delectable. Beam & Anchor is a haven of timeless lifestyle accessories inspired by the Pacific Northwestern coastal influence.
Is old-school more your style? Just over the Hawthorne and Morrison bridges into the SE is a hotbed of vintage furniture shops (don’t let the cryptic scene of industrial buildings fool you). Near and dear to the city’s heart since 1977 is Rejuvenation. The lighting and house parts store has an elaborate showroom of carefully salvaged antiques as well as sleek, mid-century inspired designs. A little farther up SE Hawthorne are Vintage Pink and Lounge Lizard to tickle your throwback furniture fancy.
For seasonal shopping and street markets, peek at event boards across the city or check PDX Pipeline. Some local pop-up bakeries and mobile carts can only be found at markets (including Sweetheart Bakery, who creates drop-dead gorgeous custom cakes and goodies). Year round you can visit vintage curators and artisans at Portland Flea events.
PLACES TO STAY
If you’ve been to the Ace a time or two, try The Society Hotel which opened this year. Local building owners salvaged one of Portland’s historic properties and refurbished most of the original 1892 woodwork in the form of new furniture and lobby decor. You can stop by for a visit and add $5 to a coffee for all-day access to enjoy the deck. Management highly encourages returning at dusk for a cocktail and the evening skyline.
For something more adventurous, check out the Caravan Tiny House pod in the Alberta Arts District. This place will encourage you to live like a Portlander, so you can rent bikes, chill around the communal fire pit or snack on all-inclusive s’mores (real talk, though). Airbnb also has listings for historic bungalow homes from the early 20th century in adorable neighborhoods like Laurelhurst (SE) or Humboldt (NE).
PLACES TO VISIT/SEE
Walk or bike along Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the West side of the river. Don’t miss the bike trail under the Steel Bridge (accessible from the end of the park)! Mosey uptown to Washington Park for a walk through hidden gardens and trails leading to the internationally acclaimed Rose Garden (if you miss the time for blooms, visit NW 23rd and see the Pistils & Stamen flower shop for seasonal florals!).
Viewpoint junkies should head straight to Mount Tabor at the far east side of the inner city. This tall hill is an expansive park, providing a scenic city view on the west-facing slope and 2 miles of running trails weaving through 60-150’ evergreens.
Make it a point to see Cathedral Park in St. John’s at the upper reaches of North Portland (NoPo). The iconic St. John’s bridge has been standing since 1931, and the outstanding architecture of the support arches towering over the waterfront park are awe-inspiring.
We have so many local brews that your best bet is to visit a tap house like Loyal Legion (SE) for large selections. Or, sip seasonal fruit flavors in tasting flights at Portland Cider House (SE). We also have the only American bike shop n’ bar with comedy and events, Velo Cult.
Artisan cocktails are required in these parts. Angel Face and Secret Society are local favorites each with unique styles. Or, pick up a Distillery Row Passport and enjoy tastings at over 11 local distilleries within a walkable distance.
Tea houses such as Townshend’s and Tea Chai Te have locations in each quadrant of the city, with expansive loose leaf selections (dare you to try a few of the many flavors of kombucha on tap at Townshend’s!).
Prep for your travels by scoping bands on the live music schedules at The Doug Fir (E Burnside), Mississippi Studios (N Mississippi), and Revolution Hall (SE). These venues are incubators for some of our best local talent, and they never fail to fill the house so pre-buy tickets or get there on the earlier side of weekend evenings.
ART & PERFORMANCE:
Across the city you can take in the ephemeral art scene of adorned building sides. If you are here at the beginning of the month, First Thursday is an art walk in the Pearl with free entry to art galleries (plus wine!).
Carter & Rose (SE Division) is a concept pottery store with succulents and locally crafted goodies, and they host open clay nights (with encouraged BYOB).
OTHER NOTABLE MENTIONS:
We have incredible resident tattoo skills. Artists Pony Reinhardt and Alice Carrier are a good place to start coveting original designs. Piercing shops Nomad and Adorn have top-notch staff and artisan jewelry.
If you’re here for an extended visit, trek a few miles somewhere in the Columbia Gorge (dare to look beyond Multnomah Falls!) or just beyond the inner city at Rocky Butte. Head south to Joseph for a getaway in the magic of the refurbished Jennings Hotel. Venture straight west for a couple of hours for stunning coastal horizons boasting impeccable seasonal seafoods and surfable swells.