For the record, Portland is nothing like the TV Show Portlandia. Or at least we didn’t see that side of PDX. It is very young, very cool although there are way, way too many tattooed people, but it isn’t horribly hipster like parts of Brooklyn can be. There is a fine line and Portland is on it. One main reason is everyone is incredibly nice. That’s not very hipster is it? In every store, bar and restaurant people are happy, friendly and helpful without serving an ounce of ‘tude’ (minus one whiskey bar).
Besides the general happiness of the city and the bike friendliness that blew our minds (is this Copenhagen?), we were also stoked to find so many great shops, restaurants and bars that do it right. This may be due to the fact that those younguns have pretty good jobs and like to spend their money on quality. Nike, Wieden + Kennedy and Poler are all based in the City of Roses (as is our brother site, Digital Trends).
There is too much to cover in one guide, but here are some of the top spots that really curled our mustache.
This modern boutique hotel is right in the heart of downtown and most of the must see spots are in walking distance. If you need a cab just ask the hotel to call one for you. This isn’t the kind of town one can easily wave one down.
Also the two restaurants in the hotel are stellar. The Imperial is a great little restaurant with great entrees. We devoured the Semolina Corn Cake with Coombs family maple syrup for a hearty wintery breakfast. The Portland Penny Diner is the other option and they make a mean duck sausage, egg croissant sammich for a quick hangover cure.
Located in the old Clyde Hotel building this is another outpost that is a quick walk to the Pearl District and other great locations. There is Portland’s own Stumptown right off the lobby so you get a double dose of hip in one spot. Clyde Common is their superb restaurant that we discuss further down.
Originally built as the Hotel Mallory in 1912 as one of the most luxurious hotels in Portland, it was revamped in 2006 and is now not only swanky but loads of fun. There is a screening room where they hold pop-up screenings and the Driftwood bar is known for seriously good cocktails. The hotel also rolls out the red carpet for your pets too.
This is the food lover’s climax of farm to table. Chef Jason French changes the menu weekly to ensure guests are gettin’ down on the best bounty Oregon has to offer.
We know this place gets cheers and jeers from every travel writer but just go, eat a huge, awesome donut and thank us later. It’s a hoot and total early 90s flashback complete with homeless hippies hovering near the front door. As they say, “The magic is in the hole!”
This cozy nook opened in the fall of 2011 and has been serving savory dishes from smoked mussels to serious pork chops to a packed house ever since. This is a popular place so book early or just hit the bar and try a Richmond Sour.
This is another retreat that gets packed quickly. Luckily it is located in the awesome Union Way arcade where you can pop into some great shops (including Danner, Spruce Apothecary and Steven Alan). But once you are in, the menu is tiny and kick ass. Definitely get the Okonomiyaki tots to go with your big ole bowl of ramen.
Some may find this place a little over done for the Portland scene, but it’s exactly what Portland needs. When we entered this tiny little gem we sat at the bar while the lady DJ stood next to us playing some old Björk remix we hadn’t heard in eons. There was a 1930s movie playing silently on one wall and the bartenders were happily mixing up some excellent libations in front of an incredible golden Chinese archway all designed by this fella.
Opened in 2007, this European style tavern is the spot to go to for spirits actually aged in house by bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler. Housed in the Ace Hotel, the food isn’t anything to scoff at either. Their hamburger is a favorite as are their rotating boards (ours had seared beef tongue, yogurt, watercress, pearl onion, mushrooms and a shot of Manhattan).
Every city needs a handsome bar full of caustic wit. Victory is it! Don’t believe us? Read the FAQ’s before heading there. Once you get there order one of their Belgian beers or go for a local Portland brew. If you are a cocktail man the Corpse Reviver #4 is a winner. Oh, and once you are drunk and hungry shimmy into the restaurant and order some spätzle. There is a reason a local paper declared Victory the best bar of 2013.
Located inside Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s famous Thai dive (his cookbook is a favorite of Andrew Zimmern and others) their cocktails offer something different and refreshing from the ‘mixologist’ items on many menus these days. How about a house infused Kaffir Lime gin served with tonic? House made ginger syrup? Som honey drinking vinegar? Oh yeah.
For the design minded shopper this place takes the cake. It reminded us of the museum shops you find at MoMA with various items displayed with their designers’ names, date of creation and description. And no, that doesn’t mean they are pricey. We found an excellent scarf from Michigan based woolen mill Fairbault as well as awesome totes from local bag maker Chester Wallace.
Ok so this is the Portland shopping mecca. Period. Located in a far off land near the rail yards (call the cab!) it is well worth the 10 minute drive. We spent over an hour zoning out on incredibly crafted candles, stationary, soaps and leather crafts all displayed on tables made by locals. This is the kind of place that you feel like family as soon as you darken the door. Good people and great products.
You may just have a panic attack amid all of the clutter but after a couple of deep breaths take your time to amble through this historic landmark that opened in 1914. This is how we remember Filson and Woolrich being sold way before it was lauded by a new generation. This is the store where the real working man comes to shop. Be sure to check out every floor. The saddle room will make you wish you owned your own ranch and the rack of glittery Western cowboy shirts will have you Instagraming before you can shout, ‘Yeehaw!’.
Portland may be a bit rainy at the moment (ok, most of the year) but when the sun is shining there is no better place for an epic afternoon hike. Since 1932 Danner has been making Portlander’s best hiking boots and is having a resurgence recently with the Made in America movement in full swing. One of their stores is located in Union Way where Boxer Ramen is also located. Check out all the boots as well as camping equipment, apparel and big ole wooly socks. They also carry one of our favorite grooming brands, Juniper Ridge.
Located down the hall from Danner (we are telling you, Union Way is a one stop alley of awesomeness) is this epicenter of all things grooming. A great spot to find gifts as well as serious razors (we are still lusting after a silver one we eyed there), old school shave cream, toothpaste and colognes.
They may not be a heritage brand, but Tanner crafts like they have been doing it for 100 years. Their HQ is chocked full of good lookin’ wallets, belts, bags and even dog collars all made with premium materials and made right there in Portland. On another note, Tanner has a great magazine rack to buy up before the flight back home.