As I hail from Vacationland (aka Maine), the word Portland immediately conjures thoughts of a quaint harbor city with numerous lighthouses, delicious clam chowder, quaint cobblestone streets, sunshine, lobster, boutique shops, heaps of snow, and buckets upon buckets of oysters. I’ve shared many blog posts featuring my beloved Portland, Maine (here, here, and a beautiful summertime post here) but I’ve never ventured across the country (3,186 miles to be exact) to visit the other Portland. Apparently, over there they all have beards, eat a lot of kale, and like to bike everywhere. There are feminist bookstores, kitsch doughnut shops, lots of flannel, and microbreweries on almost every block (or so I’ve learned from the show Portlandia). So last week, when work shipped me off to Portland, Oregon for eight days, I was excited to see if all the other Portland-hype was true (and eat a lot of doughnuts). As I’ve never been to Portland (Oregon) I reached out to a few friends from the area for recommendations. Slowly, I compiled a noteworthy Portland bucket-list that included everything from eating sustainable sushi to visiting the world’s largest independent bookstore. I arrived in Portland on a Sunday afternoon, and went for a long run to get acclimated with the city. That’s a nice way of saying I actually got completely lost, had to keep running, and eventually found my way back to the hotel five accidental miles later.
I’d booked into the Sentinel, swayed by the promise of simple luxury and a late night Starbucks on site (hello Starbucks that serves wine, I think we may be friends!) My room was ultra cozy, not at all clinical like some chain hotels. Also, if you know me, you know that owls are kind of totally my thing. So I was glad I had this little green guy to keep me company for the week :)
Turns out, most of the Portland stereotypes are true. There’s definitely an abundance of beards, bikes, and gigantic bookstores (well, one). You’ll find a new favorite restaurant on every corner (and chances are it’s organic / sustainable / farm fresh). The local beer scene is hopping (no pun intended) and kale truly is all the rage. It drizzles most of the time. Food trucks are religion. As is Starbucks. And the people are chill. They wear flannel or whatever they damn well please, and they drink a lot of great coffee.On two totally separate occasions, strangers in Portland told me to smile. If that’s not wierdle caring, I don’t know what is. And turns out the locals want it to stay that way.
In Portland, there are roses everywhere, as it’s sometimes called the Rose City. In 1905 Portland’s mayor organized an ongoing festival dedicated to roses, and the nickname stuck. Today you’ll find roses all over the city of Portland, which offer a pop of color and charm in an otherwise very grey city.While Portland has many amazing attributes, one sad reality of the city is the homeless population. Over 4,000 people in Portland live on the streets. In Amsterdam, I love strolling along the canals at night, camera in hand. However, in Portland, I tried to go for a short walk around 7pm and got hollered at by drunk homeless dudes every 100 meters or so. I did not feel comfortable walking around at night by myself, which is a feeling I rarely experience in Amsterdam.Thankfully, I had a guy friend in town who showed me around after dark. . . and took me to Portland’s sugar mecca – Voodoo Doughnut. There’s always a line at Voodoo, as the crazy-delicious doughnut assortment and iconic pink Voodoo Doughnut boxes are highly sought after.
Not to mention the donuts are freakin’ OMG delicious. This Fruit Loops doughnut was devoured in under .000034 seconds flat. I swear the frosting was a sweet, magical elixir of life. Another awesome haunt in Portland is Tilt, which has great burgers, ping pong, and a beautifully stocked bar.The lighting however was slightly less idyllic (for food photography) so please ignore the blue haze in the photo below and focus on the big beefy burger, smothered in jalapeno slaw, BBQ brisket, bacon, sharp cheddar, and onion rings *total mouth orgasm*With the time difference (11 hours behind Amsterdam) I spent many early mornings working from bed in the hotel. I’m a sucker for a mega pile of pillows and a good room service menu, so although sleepy, I was thankfully able to eat like a princess on a fluffy pillow throne.
While we’re discussing food, let’s talk about the food trucks in Portland. There are more than 600 food carts in Portland, each with a mouth watering specialty. I love the concept of food carts. Who needs a restaurant with 30 good menu items, when you could go to a food truck that has lovingly crafted one or two superb menu items? The most impressive collection of food carts is along the junction of 9th and Alder (coincidentally right by the Sentinel!) One hungover Saturday morning I ventured down to the food carts and had the best burrito of my life, despite being told that the Mexican food in Portland sucks.
While we’re on the topic of things that are abundant in Portland, let’s chat strip clubs. Portland has more strip clubs per capita than any other US city. And while I can say with dignity that I did not frequent a strip club while in Portland, it is both seedy and somewhat alluring to know that a strip club is at all times, literally just around the corner.
On my last afternoon in Portland, I was aimlessly wandering, and got completely lost. My phone was out of data, and I didn’t have a map. The streets are numbered and in alphabetical order, so I didn’t dread being lost forever, but I was in a very unfamiliar part of town. Until I saw a welcome and familiar sight –I’d accidentally wandered straight down to Voodoo, as if my inner fat kid was subconsciously guiding my path all along. And so I got one last box of doughnuts (for dinner AND breakfast, duh!)I would tell you I miss Portland – that the grey skies grew on me. But I am going back to Portland this week! So I will see my beloved (and very kitsch) Voodoo Doughnut again soon. And apparently there’s another Doughnut shop called Blue Star that is not to be missed. And so my Portland bucket list continues to grow :)
To wrap things up, here are a few of my favorite spots in Portland thus far:
Bailey’s Taproom – Cozy taproom with a rotating selection of 25 beers.
Bamboo Sushi – Delicious sustainable sushi. Great fancy rolls. Try The Local roll or the NW Philly (both perfection!)
Tasty n Alder – Seasonal small plates for sharing. Brussels sprouts are pure crack.
Jackknife – Bar in the Sentinel (therefore ended up here a lot!) Great list of cocktails, DJ music, friendly staff, good vibes on weekends.
Church – If you’re drunk on a Friday night, I recommend going to Church for some repentance ;)
Heart Coffee – Great coffee in a lofy-chic atmosphere.
Bar Avignon – Although there’s a lot of hype around Tasty n Alder, Bar Avignon was by far my favorite meal in Portland. A delicious selection of fresh oysters, impressive wine list, and farm fresh New American fare. I’m usually quite an adventurous eater, but was drawn to the roast chicken which was cooked to perfection.
Powell’s Books – An lovely, endless bookstore.
Oven & Shaker – Wood oven pizzas and impressive cocktails. Try the Pepper Smash or Honey Basic Collins (cocktails). The salad menu is also quite notable!
Garden Bar – Counter service salads. Huge selection and the salads themselves are ENORMOUS!
More Portland glory to come, I’m sure!