T+L's Definitive Guide to Portland, Oregon
Published: July 2014
By Kathryn O'Shea-Evans
With forward-thinking chefs, green urban spaces, and a laid-back sensibility, Portland, Oregon, is the perfect weekend getaway.
Lay of the Land
North Portland: This rapidly gentrifying arts district is dotted with galleries and shops.
Northwest: Victorian town houses and boutiques line the streets of this leafy neighborhood.
Old Town: Welcome to Chinatown, where street food vendors hawk snacks and stores sell quirky bric-a-brac.
Pearl District: With its warehouses now converted into luxury lofts, the Pearl District is downtown Portland’s upscale style center.
Southeast: This sprawling area has indie shops and Craftsman bungalows; it’s also home to Division Street, the city’s newly minted restaurant row.
West End: In downtown’s creative hub, hipsters converge at packed cafés and buzzy lounges.
Looking for a high-design retreat downtown? Or a distinctive waterfront landmark? Here, the city’s top hotels.
Ace Hotel: Everything you’d expect from the Ace brand is at this Portland outpost in the West End: hoodie robes, Pendleton blankets, and, in Deluxe rooms, turntables (and LP’s from local legends such as Pink Martini). The new bar-meets-breakfast-buffet in Room 215 is full of local fare, from Clyde Common granola and house-made rhubarb jam to Olympic Provisions charcuterie and smoked trout. $$
The Heathman: Adjacent to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, this 1927 mainstay has Art Deco–inspired interiors and a contemporary art collection with works by Andy Warhol, Hap Tivey, and Henk Pender. Don’t miss the hotel’s weekend brunch (order the malted Belgian waffles with brandy-soaked cherry compote). $$$
The Nines: On the upper floors of Portland’s 1909 Meier & Frank department store, the Nines has 331 rooms decorated in Tiffany-blue velvets and dark woods. At night, head to Departure, the rooftop Pan-Asian restaurant and bar, for coconut-cream cocktails and an Instagram-worthy view of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens volcano. $$
Riverplace: Tucked away on a quiet bend of the Willamette River, the 84-room Kimpton was recently revamped with an Out of Africa aesthetic (tufted leather headboards; braided-rope armchairs; tribal art). Borrow a bike to explore the waterfront, then return to the hotel’s lobby lounge for a negroni. $$
Hotel Deluxe: Built in 1912, the Hotel Deluxe has Hollywood Regency interiors, with stills from classic movies by Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and more. We love the Marlene Dietrich Suite, with its eight-foot circular bed and shimmering crystal lamps. $$
The Sentinel: A Rose City icon since 1909, this 100-room grande dame is fresh from a top-to-bottom overhaul. The Northwest-style touches include mounted wooden deer heads, framed Columbia Gorge sword ferns, and souvenirs of “genuine Portland rain” in the mini-bar. $$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
See + Do
Portland Art Museum: The oldest museum in the Northwest houses nearly 800 Japanese woodblock prints and indigenous work excavated from the Columbia River Gorge. This summer’s premier exhibit: “The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden,” which considers the Paris park as inspiration for paintings by Manet and Pissarro, and large-scale sculptures by Antoine Coysevox.
Pittock Mansion: Built in 1914 for the owner of the Oregonian newspaper, this French Renaissance–style estate is open for tours and popular with bird-watchers, who come to spot raptors and warblers. We suggest combining your visit with a hike on the five-mile Lower Macleay Park Trail, past old-growth evergreens and Balch Creek.
Smith Teamaker: Years after local entrepreneur Steven Smith started (and sold) Stash Tea and Tazo, he launched this tea company with a tasting room in a 1900’s blacksmith’s shop. Order the tea flight for a guided tour of varied infusions (our favorite, Jasmine Pearls, is hand-rolled and scented with jasmine blossoms).
Portland Japanese Garden: Hidden away in the West Hills overlooking the city are nearly six acres of cultivated gardens inspired by Japanese botanical design. Cross iris-embellished bridges and a waterfall in the Strolling Pond area, then Zen out in the raked karesansui Sand and Stone Garden.
Powell’s Books: A bibliophile’s mecca, this 68,000-square-foot bookstore is filled with new and used titles and hosts frequent author readings (recent notables: Junot Díaz and Jimmy Carter). In the rare-book room, you’ll find two first-edition 1814 volumes by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark priced at $350,000. (Yes, that qualifies for free shipping.)
Our picks for made-in-Portland clothing, housewares, and more.
A band of ex-Nike executives recently opened Wildfang, a well-curated boutique that stocks trendy men’s-style shirts and suits for women (Wildfang means “tomboy” in German). Among the 80 brands: Tilda Swinton–worthy labels such as Shades of Grey and Red Wing boots inspired by Annie Oakley. At Beam & Anchor, you will find ties made from vintage Japanese boro fabric, wild-harvested Douglas fir tea, and Eames rocking chairs reupholstered in the workroom upstairs. In a 1910 former wool warehouse, the Portland flagship of interiors shop Schoolhouse Electric carries hand-loomed herringbone rugs, exposed-bulb chandeliers, and tufted velvet headboards with kiln-dried alder-wood frames. For leather hiking boots, head to Danner, a Portland-based shoe company beloved by loggers and indie musicians.
Where to dine in Portland now.
Ava Gene’s: At this trattoria-inspired spot owned by Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson, chef Joshua McFadden turns out Italian dishes such as rabbit agnolotti with chicory and striped bass with duck-egg mayonnaise. $$$
Castagna: Justin Woodward, a Noma alum, spotlights foraged ingredients at Castagna. What to expect? A 12-course tasting menu with such dishes as Dungeness crab and yellow-foot chanterelles with an infusion of hops. $$$$
Laurelhurst Market: A former convenience store is now an airy brasserie and a popular butcher shop. Standout menu items include the pan-seared imperial Wagyu steak with caramelized radicchio. $$$
Le Pigeon: Grab a seat at the bar of James Beard Award–winning chef Gabriel Rucker’s kitchen to watch tattooed cooks turn out meat-centric platters: beef-cheek bourguignonne and—of course—squab, served here with kumquats and charred marrowbone. $$$
Multnomah Whiskey Library: Portland’s hottest restaurant is a speakeasy-like bar in a former piano store, with stained-glass skylights and more than 1,100 types of whiskey. Order an Old-Fashioned from the roving bar cart and, for dinner, Kentucky fried quail with a smoked-blue-cheese biscuit. $$$
Ned Ludd: Chef Jason French cooks everything on his menu over a cherry- and maple-wood fire. The result: roasted Idaho trout and charred brussels sprouts with lemon, feta, and farro—all presented on mismatched vintage plates. Pair it with house-made nettle soda. $$
Roe: Slip through the hidden back door at Block & Tackle restaurant and enter an otherworldly seafood paradise. The four-course tasting menu might include poached-calamari ceviche with a Thai herb emulsion and lime crisp or mero (sea bass) with hedgehog mushrooms. $$$
Sen Yai: Andy Ricker’s latest venture—a drive-up Thai-street-food noodle shop—joins his bucket-list stop Pok Pok. Try the Singaporean coconut curry rice noodle soup and any of the vinegar spritzers. $
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Wine Country Detour
Here, the places to sip and stay in the Willamette Valley.
Just 30 miles outside Portland, two of Oregon’s pioneering wine families have new, modern tasting rooms. At Sokol Blosser, the first LEED-certified winery facility in the United States, a cedar-walled and hickory-floored room overlooks the red hills of Dundee; sample the Pinot Noir. In summer, you can take a four-hour guided hike through the vineyards—complete with a picnic lunch. A brief drive north, the 130-acre Ponzi Vineyards is known for its fruity Arneis. Bring a glass of Pinot Gris to the bocce court or stay in the airy tasting room for a flight with smoked salmon, ricotta, and house-made crackers. The Allison Inn & Spa ($$$) is a cozy place for a night or two; all 85 rooms have gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, and balconies looking out over the vines.
Three insiders share their top places in the city.
Lead singer of the Decemberists and author of Wildwood Chronicles
“My favorite spots happen to be within a single block on North Mississippi Avenue. Reading Frenzy is an amazing small-press bookstore that’s been a Portland institution since the nineties. It shares a building with Black Book Guitars, a left-of-center music shop that stocks retro and odd instruments. Down the street, Por Qué No Taquería ($) serves the famous ‘Bryan’s bowl’ (meat or vegetables, rice, beans, guacamole, and queso fresco).”
Chef-owner of Beast and Expatriate
“I love the feeling of being a regular, so I go to the same places a lot. Davenport ($$), a restaurant in Northeast, focuses on local flavors and has an excellent wine list. Try the nettle dumpling in chicken broth. On Southeast 82nd, Ha VL (503/772-0103; $) is a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint with solid bánh mì; the two soup specials sell out quickly, so get there early. Nearby, Hong Phat is an Asian grocery store that’s become my one-stop shop for unique ingredients like banana blossoms.”
Author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
“I can’t think of a more inspiring destination to begin a Portland adventure than Mt. Tabor Park. Hike or bike to the summit for a stunning view of the city. For lunch, don’t miss Costello’s Travel Caffé on Northeast Broadway, my go-to neighborhood hangout. It has the best chocolate pie in town. A short walk away, you can sample wines at Great Wine Buys; the staff members always recommend exceptional reds, whites, and sparkling from both near and far.”
Get your daily jolt at these three coffee roasters.
Heart: Owned by Finnish pro snowboarder Wille Yli-Luoma, Heart has Scandinavian interiors and a Hikari siphon table that vacuum-steams grounds to bring out flavor.
Coava Coffee Roasters: At this low-key café, your single-origin cup may come from Las Capucas, Honduras, or Kilenso, Ethiopia, but it’s roasted in-house by a vintage Probat at the bamboo-lined bar.
Water Avenue Coffee: You’ll find truly inventive brews at this spot in the Southeast Industrial District, where raw beans from El Salvador are aged in Pinot Noir barrels before roasting.