The first time I went to Portland I spent a solid six weeks after the trip perusing jobs and home prices in the area. How could you not love this city? It’s in one of the most beautiful parts of the country with lush trails and rivers less than a half hour from your door. Its food and drink scene is mind-blowing. Its people are laid back and friendly. It has adorable neighborhoods filled with charming bungalows. And it has some really cool names in the business sector—Nike and Columbia Sportswear among others.
Anyway, I obviously didn’t move there. But I did recently pay it another visit, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite spots from this trip (Note: I’ve eaten about 17 meals a day each time I’ve been in Portland. Everyone should do that. This is just a small sampling of my favorites.):
EAT & DRINK
This part of the country seriously knows its coffee. The Stumptown adjacent to the ACE Hotel is a great spot to grab a latte. Take it with you to read an authentically paper (!) New York Times on one of the worn couches in the ACE’s hip lobby next door. Coava, which was featured on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, is as Portlandia-ish experience as you’ll find. It’s a coffee shop and wood shop combo. Naturally. Get in line with the flannel plaid shirt folks and order a honey latte.
People will tell you to go to Voodoo donuts. And yes, it’s certainly an experience. But the WAY better donut experience is at Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai where they fry the mini donuts to order and you can enjoy them alongside a variety of the housemade chai lattes. The donut drizzled in honey and Nutella changed my life.
Olympia Provisions is a charcuterie-lovers dream. Get one of the oversized wooden trays and load up on meats cured in house at this edgy warehouse district spot. If you’re in the mood for cheese and drinking (which I always am), I’d suggest Cheese & Crack (they serve cheese on cookie sheets!) or Urban Farmer, which has an amazing bourbon selection alongside some tasty cheeses. Clyde Common, which gets well-deserved James Beard nods basically every year for its cocktail program, serves a honey butter popcorn that you’ll want buckets of alongside its potent drinks.
So. Many. Good. Choices. My favorite from this trip (and easily in my top five restaurants ever) was Han Oak, a small restaurant serving AMAZING Asian dishes with a chef who lives just off the kitchen. From its hidden entrance in a nondescript parking lot to the chef chopping wood in the yard as we ate, everything about this experience was incredible.
Other favorites include Tusk, a restaurant that looks and feels like Southern California, but is serving flavorful Middle Eastern food. Pok Pok, which has been getting national attention for years for its creative Thai street food and lively atmosphere, is always worth the wait. And I had two unexpected fun finds this trip: Ned Ludd made for a cozy night with its homey ambiance and family-style feast, and Departure Restaurant + Lounge was a luxe evening with wagyu grilled on a stone and wine on a rooftop.
Salt & Straw. Honey lavender ice cream. I don’t think I need to elaborate.
Portland is an easy town to just walk around. There are cute shops and a great trail next to the river. Powell’s Books is a mandatory stop just to see the massive selection of books (the world’s largest, evidently). But every neighborhood seems to have its own little curated stores.
The Portland Japanese Garden, which is right on the edge of town, is said to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. It’s beautiful and, as you’d imagine, very zen.
Personally, my favorite thing to do is drive out of the city and into the Columbia River Gorge. It’s just stunning. You’re literally driving along the old Oregon Trail. There are picturesque waterfalls and vistas seemingly everywhere. Multnomah Falls are a must and the Vista House offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the gorge. On your way back into town, stop at the McMenamins in Edgefield. I could write an entire entry all about this quirky place, which was once a poor house and is now home to restaurants, bars, a brewery, a distillery, a winery, a hotel, and a spa. Just go. (I’ve also heard great things about the spa, but they were booked up the day we went.)
The first time I went to Portland I stayed at the ACE Hotel because it was Portland and that felt appropriate. Turns out, I’m not cut out for a life that includes dorm-like bedrooms with bulbs swinging from the ceiling and showers in the room. So, this time I went to the far opposite end of the spectrum and stayed at The Nines. Luxury linens, cool art, spacious rooms, and river views. Now we’re talking. This opulent modern hotel was the perfect retreat from the busy city outside its doors.