In general, people from Vancouver love Portland, Oregon. Maybe it’s because our everyday, normal lives are in Vancouver and going somewhere else encourages you to explore your surroundings. But I think it’s also because we aspire to reach their levels of foodie culture, number of breweries, and hip lifestyle shops. The city’s unofficial motto, “Keep Portland Weird,” represents both the ability to express your own individuality and is an encouragement to support local businesses. This is exactly what my friends and I tried to do when we headed down there last weekend for eating, drinking, and exploring (yes, in that order). It would be selfish to keep this information to myself, so here is a quick guide to my favourite Portland spots.
There are so many places to get good food in Portland. You can choose between hundreds of restaurants, or why not stop at a food truck – there are over 600 in the city! Or maybe stop by Saturday Farmer’s Market at Portland State University where there is plenty of choice too. But sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming so here are my top places for a bite.
Lardo – There is something beautiful about sandwiches in general, but especially about those at Lardo. You will be torn between wanting to savour every bite and scarfing it down as quickly as possible.
Pollo Bravo – We stopped by during Happy Hour (at the Alder St location) and although that menu only has four items, each of those things were made with care and were incredibly delicious. My favourite was the Bravo Burger, a burger unlike any other I have eaten. I imagine that their full menu is just as good.
Por Que No – These tacos are more than good. Most everyone agrees, which is why there often is a long line out the door. Don’t worry though, the wait is never too long and even so, it would be totally worth waiting for.
Blue Star Donuts – My issue with donuts is that they look delicious, but when I take a bite I always feel let down. Not at Blue Star though. And if they have the power to turn someone like me around I should think someone that likes donuts won’t be disappointed either.
Salt & Straw – This is where you should get your ice cream. There are options for both those who like traditional flavours as well as the adventurous eater – how about some olive oil ice cream?
According to Travel Portland, the city is home to over 70 breweries. In other words, there is no shortage of drinking options either. Where you will want to go really depends on what you enjoy drinking. Here are some examples of places we stopped by.
Cascade – The folks here specialize in sour beers, which is why it is also known as the House of Sour.
Belmont Station – The ultimate destination for all your beer purchasing needs.
Portland Cider House – Take a break from all that beer and choose between over 20 different ciders. And should you want to, you can play board games while drinking your cider.
There is no sales tax in Oregon, something many visitors take advantage of. While you can go to the usual haunts I find it more fun to find those small unique places you wouldn’t be able to find at home. In a city like Portland there are also plenty of thrift stores, which are always fun and also a more sustainable way of shopping. For non-clothing shopping these are some stops you can consider.
Penzeys – This is the place to go for all and any spice needs. Even if you have nothing in mind it’s a fun place to look around. (Small disclaimer: unlike all of my other recommendations Penzeys was not founded in Oregon – but other than this I have tried to “Keep Portland Weird”).
Powell’s Books – New and used books stand side by side, packed in shelves that reach from the floor to ceiling. The store takes up the entire block and each room on the three floors have a different theme. Even if you can’t read I would recommend going here because it is an experience.
Tender Loving Empire – An incredibly sweet little store. It is a record label and also carries the work of many local artists.
A great way to explore a city is to do so by foot. There are so many nice neighbourhoods in Portland and each offer something different. Here are some I like and I hope you get to see them yourself one day.
Mississippi District – A small neighbourhood that is chock-full of hip places to eat and drink.
Pearl District – Right next to downtown, this former warehouse area has many great little shops.
SE Hawthorne Blvd – Stroll along Hawthorne to pick your favourite place to stop for a bite, a drink, or a peek around a vintage shop. This is where we stayed and it was great because in the evening everything felt within walking distance!
SE Division St – An up-and-coming neighbourhood that is already bustling with many great restaurants.
NE Alberta St /Alberta Arts District – Great for exploring because of the many galleries and street art.
Do you have a favourite place in Portland?