As someone who’s lived in Portland for a few years, I can tell you that it’s as awesome as everybody says it is. Great food, quirky people, and unique neighborhoods make this city an interesting place to call home. For a visitor, however, Portland isn’t quite like other cities.
WHERE TO STAY
Being a major city, you can find all your favorite hotel chains, but for a more unique experience, try the Hotel deLux: think vintage Hollywood glam, Bogart and Grant…this is where they would stay.
Portland isn’t really a sightseeing type of city. Sure, you can check out the Pittock Mansion for amazing views of the city and beyond, or make a day trip to Mt. Hood, but people come here for the food, the beer, and the offbeat experiences.
WHERE TO EAT
There’s so much to choose from, whether you’re looking for the old standbys or something new and interesting.
Doughnuts: You can’t come to Portland and not eat a doughnut. You’ve probably heard of Voodoo Doughnut, the company that spearheaded the trend of adding unique and interesting toppings to your favorite breakfast confection. Head to one of their two locations to try the Maple Bacon Bar, the Tangfastic (yes, it’s covered in Tang), or the Voodoo Doll Bar.
Looking to dive deeper into Portland’s doughnut culture? Hit up Blue Star Donuts for more gourmet fare (Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk, anyone?), or my current favorite, Pip’s Original––tiny, tasty treats drizzled in Nutella, sprinkled with sea salt, or made with honey. So many great options in one city.
Fine Dining: One could write a book on all the great places to dine in Portland, but I’m going to spare you that and stick to my favorite, or most anticipated places.
Pok Pok – 3226 SE Division St: You might not expect to find some of the tastiest Thai food in the world right here in Portland, but sure enough, chef Andy Ricker is cooking it. From the mind-blowing fish sauce wings, to the half chicken special, to the Kaeng Hang Leh (pork shoulder and pork belly curry), to the very tasty drinking vinegars, there’s something here for just about everyone. Believe me, it’s worth the wait.
Lardo East – 1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd: Sandwich making in Portland has been elevated to an art, and few places showcase that art as well as Lardo. While they make a killer banh mi, you won’t regret going with a burger and some dirty fries (pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs, and parmesan). Even their chickpea burger is a rich, filling experience. Spending most of your visit on the other side of the river? Don’t worry – there are also locations to the north and west.
Olympia Provisions SE – 107 SE Washington St: The name of the game here is charcuterie. Imagine boards of Spanish, French and Italian meats and cheeses mixed with some of the best pickled goods you’ll ever try. Olympia Provisions is so invested in pickling that they employ a Master Pickler. Whether you want a variety of small plates to share, or a large plate for yourself, you don’t want to miss this place.
Screen Door – 2337 E. Burnside: Don’t let the line out the door scare you; the Southern cuisine at Screen Door is an experience you won’t soon forget. This place specializes in fried chicken, and boy is it good. Order the chicken and waffles––it’s a huge portion. If you’re visiting for dinner, opt for the gumbo and house-smoked beef brisket. It’s the most authentic you’ll find this side of Jackson, Mississippi.
People love the ice cream at Salt & Straw because of flavors you won’t find anywhere else (fish sauce caramel with palm sugar ice cream, for instance). While things like their Stumptown Coffee and Burnside Bourbon are good, my favorite place to visit is Cloud City Ice Cream, where the tasty, fluffy flavors stand out, and the line is usually much shorter.
For more sweet and savory cuisine featuring waffles, try The Waffle Window (3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd). You place your order through a window in the side of an old brick building in a cool neighborhood, and enjoy dishes like the bacon, brie and basil waffle, the blueberry cheesecake waffle, or the very seasonal Bee Sting waffle––made with sage blossom honey ice cream, strawberries, almonds and a white chocolate shell.
WHERE TO DRINK
If you enjoy your beer, you’ll love Portland. As of July 1, 2015, there were 91 breweries in the Portland metro area, meaning that whether you like IPAs, sours, or porters, there’s a place here for you. Again, I could write a long book about all the places in Portland that brew their own beer, so we’re going to stick to the highlights: places you should definitely visit if you get the hankering for a tasty adult beverage.
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. – 929 N. Russell St.: In the early ‘80s, Kurt and Rob Widmer decided to quit their jobs, start a brewery, and make one of the best wheat beers the Pacific Northwest has ever tasted. With 30+ beers, and their Hefe wheat beer being widely known and enjoyed, Widmer Brothers is one of the most popular breweries in Portland.
Hopworks Urban Brewery – 2944 SE Powell Blvd: One of the miracles of the Portland beer scene is the understanding that people with families might like to dine and enjoy a beer at a brewery, but that they probably need a few “distractions” to keep their kids busy while waiting for the food to come. Hopworks does a great job with this at their Powell location. Offering three play areas, an extensive menu, and a variety of beers to choose from, it’s got a great family atmosphere. I’m a fan of the DOA (Deluxe Organic Ale), myself.
Cascade Brewing Barrel House – 939 SE Belmont: Mark my words – tart, sour beers are going to be the next big thing in brewing. IPAs have had their day in the sun, and it’s time for something else to move front and center. Cascade has been brewing barrel aged sour beers for quite a while, resulting in concoctions with names like Bourbonic Plague, Vlad the Imp Aler, and Drunken Haze ISPA. Hands down, one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted is their Sang Noir, a NW sour ale aged with bing and sour pie cherries. This beer alone is worth the visit.
WHAT TO DO
As I mentioned before, Portland isn’t touristy in the traditional sense. There are certainly things to do, like visit our Zoo, or hit up the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, but here are a few tips from a local if you’re looking for something a little different.
Forest Park: When you look west of downtown, you’ll notice a huge ridge of green––chances are, if you’re looking to the northwest, you’re seeing Forest Park. It stretches eight miles through the Tualatin Mountains and hosts a variety of parks, trails and interesting wildlife.
Sports: Portlanders love their teams––if you’re here during basketball season, you can catch the Trailblazers, or between January and October, you’ve got a good chance of catching the Timbers, our soccer team, in action.
Secrets of Portlandia Free Walking Tour: If you’re like me, and you want to learn all about the city you’re visiting, check out the Secrets of Portlandia Free Walking Tour. It’s a comedy tour that introduces you to the city’s offbeat history and culture. If cycling is more your speed, there are also a variety of bike tours available in the city. After all, Portland is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country.
These are just a few of the things you can do on a visit to Portland. Between beer and food, or seeing some of the sights, you’ll find there’s something for everyone.
We’re pulling over and putting it in park. Thanks for riding along on our cross-country tour.
Bruce is the founder of Chubstr.com, a style blog that helps guys to find, create, and share their own personal style with the world by offering them articles, resources, and reader photo submissions.
Bruce has been featured in the New York Times, Refinery 29, The Huffington Post, The Cut, The Sydney Morning Herald, MSN, and Le Monde for the unique and interesting content he’s created through Chubstr.