Portland is a city for many tastes, proclivities and interests. If you’re the outdoorsy sort, rejoice in all the trails, slopes and lakes. If you care about the environment, you’ll be guaranteed to meet kindred spirits at every turn. If you’re a fan of local, small-batch goods, well I feel sorry for your wallet. And if you’re into food, saddle up, because there is SO much ground to cover. One through line you’ll probably pick up on by the end of a visit to Oregon’s largest city is the emphasis on all things local: whether it’s the restaurants that source their meat and produce from nearby farms or the stores that carry goods from homegrown businesses and retailers or the bars that champion wine from Oregon’s own biodynamic vineyards. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the spots I explored on a trip to Portland over the summer, which should serve as a handy guide for whenever you’re headed to the City of Roses yourself.
You may have spotted their hugely popular ‘Wild Feminist’ t-shirts out on the street or on social media. The female-founded company specializes in menswear-inspired clothing for women and female-identifying people but it’s their politically-driven feminist messaging that gets the most love. Most recently, they put out a special collection encouraging people to vote in the midterm elections, and over the summer, raised $250,000 for refugees at the US-Mexico border with their “I really care, don’t you?” jacket. Swing by either of the brand’s two Portland locations for some badass goods.
This impeccably curated boutique in downtown Portland carries a slew of local designers with an eye on sustainability, from their own in-house line fashioned out of vintage fabrics to Kate Towers, whose pieces are hand-dyed and made of natural fibres, to Older Brother, a brand known for its eco-friendly, gender-neutral separates. In addition to clothing, Frances May carries shoes, sunglasses, bags and jewellery from local and international labels like Rachel Comey, Another Feather, Batsheva and Common Projects.
The headquarters of Schoolhouse—purveyors of eclectic furniture, lighting and home decor—are in a 115-year-old brick factory building. Not only are their one-of-a-kind pieces made onsite, but the building is also home to the brand’s flagsip store, a homey space where you’re likely to walk away with all manner of great finds, from quirky lamps to cool art.
“Locally sourced, aggressively seasonal” boasts this Middle Eastern restaurant, and they deliver on both counts. The airy, light-filled restaurant is the ideal space for brunch, where you can enjoy dishes like The Cypriot (halloumi and spicy lamb sausage with eggs) and Mujadara (a combination of rice, lentils, crispy onions, labneh and sumac). Pretty much every single thing about this restaurant is Instagram bait, from the fresh, vibrant food to the earthy plateware to the space itself, awash in millennial-approved pastel hues.
Tasty n Alder
One of the most beloved restaurants in the city, Tasty n Alder’s food is legendary. Carve out a solid chunk of time to dine here, so you can enjoy a range of dishes at leisure. A few items you mustn’t miss: their chocolate potato doughnut (trust me), the radicchio salad with bacon lardons, manchego and a six-minute egg, and the steak and cheddar eggs with cornmeal pancake and jalapeno butter.
Pepe Le Moko
A great spot for late-night eats and cocktails, this below-ground speakeasy seats just 36 people, so be sure to call ahead for a reservation. Oysters are their specialty, but I highly recommend ordering their cumin-roasted pistachios as a table snack. They’re seriously addictive.
Heart Coffee Roasters
Portland’s no stranger to great coffee, and Heart’s one of the best specialty roasters in the city. They source their beans from countries like Guatemala, Ethiopia and Colombia, and have three locations in the city where you can get your fix.
Salt & Straw
If you leave Portland without sampling the ice cream at Salt & Straw, you may as well not have visited at all. This small-batch ice cream shop with multiple locations has some of the most interesting flavours you’ll ever try: pear and blue cheese, Arbequina olive oil (apparently Oprah’s fave!), and even salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey.
Portland has over 500 food trucks, most of which are clustered into areas locals refer to as “pods.” Check out a pod or two to sample foods like Korean bibimbap, Thai chicken and rice, falafel wraps, tacos, crepes and more. To help narrow the scope, it might be wise to consult a list like this one by Thrillist or to peruse this site dedicated to Portland’s food trucks before venturing out for your pod adventures.
Be sure to spend an afternoon at Powell’s, the world’s largest independent purveyor of new and used books. There are four locations in the city, but the one to visit is certainly the flagship in the Pearl District, which spans an entire city block and contains over one million books! Don’t leave without popping in to the Rare Book Room, which contains an impressive collection of autographed first editions and other collectible volumes.
Portland Japanese Garden
This five-hectare traditional Japanese garden, complete with koi ponds, a bonsai terrace and mini pagoda lanterns, is a joy to wander around. I recommend getting a guided tour because there’s so much to learn about the various Japanese traditions and styles that have been incorporated into the garden, which was built in 1963. While you’re in the neighbourhood, be sure to go across the street to the Rose Garden, the longest-running rose test garden in the United States, home to over 650 different varieties of roses.
Natural wine bars
Portland is having a major natural wine moment, which helps explain the proliferation of natural wine bars like Dame, Ok Omens, Sardine Head, Bar Norman and Ardor. Natural wines are made with minimal intervention, which means they’re organic and sans chemicals and additives. Wines can be intimidating, especially a whole new category of them, but these bars make it all fun and approachable. Want a particularly casual wining environment? Head to Sardine Head, which is Portland’s first natural wine dive bar.
Head to Mount Tabor, which is technically a dormant volcano vent, for a not-too-strenuous hike among Portland’s lush landscape of firs, maples and cedars. Be sure to check out one (or all) of the three reservoirs in the park, and halt along the way to take in the impressive view of the city down below.
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