The City of Roses
Portland happens to be the largest city in the state of Oregon and takes its name from Portland, Maine. After World War II all the organized crime and racketeering dissipated and Portland came to be known for liberal political views and a self-proclaimed weirdness. The city is vast and teeming with good food, art, culture and rain, lots of rain. There has been a huge upswing in foodie culture and lots of incredible shops and restaurants have been popping up.
WHERE TO STAY
Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown is definitely a favorite. The Hotel is located right in the center of downtown portland. It's Embassy Suites, so every room is a suite. Built in 1912 and still has most of the original architecture, the hotel is a brief walk from the waterfront, the Pearl District, and Voodoo Doughnuts. This location also has a complimentary cocktail hour!
FOOD & DRINK
Portland has a huge foodie culture that has bloomed in the last decade. There are all sorts of incredible chefs and restaurants of all nationalities here in the city of roses.
Tasty n Alder is a John Gorham restaurant in Downtown. It's a modern steakhouse, but it's got quite possibly the best brunch you will ever lay your eyes on. Tasty n Alder does split hours, so if you want more than barfood (and trust me, you do) be sure to go before 2pm or after 5:30pm.
Bailey’s Taproom is a nice little nook in downtown with 26 rotating taps focusing mostly on Oregon breweries. Portland is home to over 60 breweries; this is a great way to try a lot of them in one spot. Good vibe in this place, courteous staff and a nice bar space. Right off of Broadway they are convenient to most hotels, mass transit, nightlife and restaurants. Which is also excellent because they have a Bring-Your-Own-Food policy. So if you want that food truck schwarma and an Oregon brewed Saison this is the place to go.
Circa 33 is a really cool spot in Sunnyside right off of SE Belmont. The name pays homage to the year that prohibition was repealed. It's a speakeasy style bar with classic cocktails and 1930's French and American cuisine. The back wall is a repository of over 100 different whiskeys. Ask the bartender for the door code and then excuse yourself to the restroom. Look for a book titled: "Whiskeys". You'll know what to do when you open the book.
The infamous Voodoo Doughnuts, if you're a local you either love or hate it. It's a staple of Portland culture and a cult classic. While it might not be the finest doughnuts in the land (locals that hate Voodoo will tell you to go to blue star) they are something of a novelty and should definitely be part of the Portland experience. Go extremely early or extremely late to skip the lines.
Afuri Ramen is an acclaimed ramen shop and Izakaya with roots in Tokyo. The attention it has been receiving is well deserved. It's hard to get good, authentic ramen outside of Japan, and Afuri delivers the real deal. One thing that you'll notice is that the ramen broth is chintan style chicken broth and citrus instead of the normal pork. It's made of dried seafood, seaweed, an assortment of salty, umami ingredients, and citrus notes of yuzu. This gives it a very distinct flavor profile that is much more nuanced than most pork-based tonkotsu broth.
While some Japanese cuisine chefs use yakitori and robata grills, Afuri uses the traditional Japanese grill, genshiyaki which you can see in the picture above.
Afuri is a great place for a bowl of ramen, gyoza and specialty cocktails. Some of the specials and other menu items are a bit of creative fusion cuisine, but I'll stick to the traditional items.
Food Carts are a Portland institution. You'll find them all over the city with some large groupings downtown. SW 10th and Alder, SW 5th and Washington and SW 3rd and Washington. As well as many other places around town. Specifically look for trucks that specialize in one type of food. There's tons of great food and for the most part it is pretty inexpensive
Ground Kontrol is a very cool bar downtown filled with classic pinball machines and some more modern arcade games. You'll find game themed food and drink and that classic SF Third Strike machine.
Teardrop Lounge is a fantastic little gem in the pearl district to get outstanding craft cocktails. They have table service so you don't need to fight five other people at the teardrop shaped bar to get your Seven-Leafed Clover. They make their own bitters and a number of different fresh specialty ingredients for their elaborate cocktails. The Teardrop Lounge is a great spot for soft conversation and a sample of ingredients and styles of food and drink from both coasts of the United States.
The Multnomah Whiskey Library can be overwhelming at first when you walk in and see a wall of 1,500 bottles, but you'll find the staff is incredibly well versed in whiskey and other distilled spirits. From serving every spirit on a tray, to what gets made on a cart and what doesn't, to timing the service so that shaken cocktails arrive at the same time as stirred cocktails, MWL has it down to a very precisce science.
Bible Club PDX is my absolute favorite bar. Bible Club is the lifelong dream of a former San Francisco jewelry maker, Ryk Maverick. It's very small at 38 seats but the experience is very intimate. The house itself was built in 1922 in the Westmoreland neighborhood. There's no sign outside and everything inside is a relic from the prohibition era; including the bar tools and crystal glasses. Most of the ceiling was hand-crafted using hundreds of three-inch sheets of 24-carat-gold leafing. The bar stocks some of the most eccentric and rare liquors and the kitchen boasts a menu of reimagined American heritage dishes. Bible club is a place to go for outstanding service and some of the best cocktails crafted on this coast.
WHAT TO DO
Portland plays host to a large number of craft cocktail lounges and eateries, but there's a significant amount of hipster or outdoor adventure to be had just a short drive away.
Powell's Books is an independent bookseller serving Portland, Oregon, since 1971. Their book inventory exceeds two million volumes and they host over 500 author events a year, in addition to children's storytimes, writing workshops, game demonstrations, and book clubs.
Lan Su Chinese Garden is in the Pearl District past Old Town Chinatown gate. The garden was built in 1999 by representatives from Suzhou, China (which is Portland’s sister city in China).
Portland Japanese Garden is another beautiful garden in Portland up in Washington Park in the West Hills. The garden is composed of eight garden spaces and a Cultural Village over twelve acres. The garden was built to celebrate becoming a sister city of Sapporo, Japan.
Portland Saturday Market Every Saturday and Sunday from March through Christmas Eve the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood transforms into a thriving arts and crafts open-air marketplace. There are food trucks, craftspeople and street performers.
The Portland Waterfront's 1.5 mile stretch of green along the Willamette River is home to many annual events, including the Portland Rose Festival, the Oregon Brewers Festival and the Waterfront Blues Festival. In the Japanese American Historical Plaza there are one hundred ornamental cherry trees to the north of the plaza that bloom in late April.
Multnomah Falls is a forty-minute drive from downtown Portland. According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. At 611 feet tall, the falls are quite impressive. Multnomah Falls is the most visited natural recreation site in the Pacific Northwest, so try to go early if you want to walk the historic Benson Bridge alone. As for the waterfalls, these are all incredibly convenient with very little hiking: Multnomah Falls, Latourelle Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horsetail Falls, Shepperd's Dell, Bridal Veil
Oneonta Gorge is just a few minutes drive down the road from the famous Multnomah Falls and boasts an incredible atmosphere and photogenic falls. Getting through the gorge requires a bit of finesse and some significant wading or swimming depending on the season. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds on this one.
The Boardman Tree Farm is a significant drive outside the city (nearly two hours) but boasts some beautiful views in Spring and Fall. It's definitely a photographer's paradise with rows and rows of beautiful birch trees.