Where to Eat, Sleep, and Play in Portland, Oregon's Coolest Neighborhood
A 38-foot arch flanked by two bronze-cast lions greets you as you enter Old Town Chinatown, in downtown Portland. Venture beyond the pagoda-style gates to discover the city’s most buzzed-about borough, a rapidly-developing area that was once home to one of the country’s largest Chinese-American communities. The neighborhood has always been one of our favorite city stops, what with its impressive architecture and flavorful eats. But now, the red-lantern-lined district is gaining mainstream appeal, thanks to the arrival of trendy new hotels, restaurants by James Beard award-winning chefs, and quirky shops helmed by some of the city’s finest makers, from custom kimono designers to leather smiths. Read on for a full list of attractions.
Where to Stay
New to Old Town Chinatown is The Hoxton, Portland, a 119-room property that opened in October. Built in 1906, the historic building pays tribute to the 1960s-era North-West modernism movement through walnut paneling, pink marble, and brass fixtures. On the ground floor is La Neta, an all-day Mexican eatery that uses ingredients from local farms. Visit rooftop taqueria, Tope, for tinga de pollo and al pastor tacos on house made tortilla before descending to the unnamed basement bar for craft cocktails and Chinese small plates. For a unique souvenir, stop by the lobby store, which carries everything from geometric mugs by Wolf Ceramics to an exclusive roll-on fragrance by OLO. A few blocks away is hotel-hostel hybrid The Society Hotel, set inside a former sailors’ inn dating back to 1881. Reminiscent of a refined European boarding house, the property is perfect for budget-conscious travelers seeking a communal experience. Opt for a private suite or a bunk bed room; the latter has personal charging stations, reading lights, and privacy curtains.
Where to Eat & Drink
Jumpstart your morning at Deadstock Coffee, a café whose floor-to-ceiling sneaker displays and vintage Michael Jordan posters are sure to impress even the most hard-to-please hipsters. The baristas’ latte art is worth the visit alone: there are 20 different enamel stencils used to create the most whimsical of designs. If you’re more of a tea drinker, head to Red Robe Tea House & Café for unique loose-leaf varietals like smoky da hong pao and roasted tie guan yin, one of the most traditional teas in China. Nearby is Chen’s Good Taste, a restaurant serving authentic Cantonese-style noodles and house-roasted barbecue pork. Beyond the Chinatown Gateway, find Pine Street Market, an open-concept eatery with stalls from Portland’s top culinary talent. Grab soft-serve ice cream at Wiz Bang Bar, Korean-style street food at Kim Jong Smokehouse, and an 18-inch Italian pie at Checkerboard Pizza by James Beard Award-winner Ken Forkish. You don’t have to travel far for dessert; just a few blocks away is Portland’s legendary Voodoo Doughnut, a one-stop-shop for pastries with atypical toppings – from bacon and bubble gum to Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops.
Where to Shop
You won’t find fast fashion in Old Town Chinatown, and nowhere is this more evident than at Kiriko Made, a studio known for handmade clothing, accessories, and home goods made from vintage Japanese kasuri fabrics. Pocket squares and bandanas are stitched from hand-dyed indigo shibori, and you can even place an order for custom patchwork denim made from centuries-old boro textiles. Nearby is Orox Leather Co, where a legacy of Oaxacan craftsmanship spans four generations. In this open-concept shop, browse heirloom leather goods – bags, belts, and sandals – as artisans assemble pieces from domestically-sourced leather and sustainable and recycled trappings. Next door is Floating World Comics, a funky independent bookstore with an impressive collection of comics spanning superhero, romance, and sci-fi genres. Continue to Pendleton Home Store, the brand’s flagship location where you can find new home interiors before they hit catalogs. End with a visit to two of Old Town Chinatown’s top galleries. Shop Japanese streetwear and a limited collection of rare Nike footwear at Compound Gallery and a line of hoodies and art prints at Upper Playground.
Where to Play
You’ll feel an air of serenity from the moment you step inside Lan Su Chinese Garden— and not just because of the pair of dragonfish sculptures that preside over the garden and are said to transmit protection to all who enter. Once inside the 40,000-square-foot complex (it encompasses a full city block), stroll this Ming Dynasty-style urban oasis, which features cascading waterways, gingko-wood pavilions built by artisans from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou, China, and perennial plum, bamboo, and pine blooms. Before you leave, stop by The Tao of Tea, a teahouse offering over 150 varietals best enjoyed at a window-facing wooden bench made from Chinese teak. If you visit on a weekend, be sure to hit the Waterfront Park for Portland Saturday Market, an open-air bazaar where hundreds of artists and food vendors sell local goods from March to December. Just a few blocks away is nighttime outpost, Ground Kontrol, a split-level adult arcade with pinball tables and vintage video games: quarter-operated Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Tetris, included. On weekends, go for the games but stay for live music and DJ sets.