Portland is one of the great food cities in the country. Add the lush backdrop of Mt. Hood and the proximity to natural beauties such as Columbia River Gorge, and you have a perfect destination to spend a few days.
There are so many distinct personalities of the city, as depicted on Portlandia. While maybe a slight exaggeration, it certainly is an amalgam of cultures and types of people. So come with an open mind and an open stomach, grab a pair of Portland based Nikes and…
Just do it.
Portland is an extremely walkable city with excellent public transport, but if you’re planning on doing any hiking outside of city limits, it’s best to rent a car.
Literally right after I arrive at PDX, the smell of sweet fried dough beckons me…and I have to get a donut. Mmm…donuts. They know how to do these right in Portland, and you’ll get to experience a couple of different varieties if you stick with us.
First, just check it off your list, get in line at Voodoo Doughnuts. Quite possibly the most famous rock ‘n’ roll donut bakery in the country, they feature badass flavors like Old Dirty Bastard (RIP), Bacon Maple Bar, the Homer, and the Voodoo Doll. It’s cash only though, so plan accordingly (aka bring a lot of cash, you’ll want to try a few).
Voodoo is located at the gates of Chinatown, and while it’s not the nicest or largest Chinatown, you can certainly appreciate the architecture of the area. Drive down towards the Pearl District where you must stop at Powell’s books, the largest book store in the US. Make sure you check out the rare book room, where they have a book published in 1480 and an original sets of the History of Lewis and Clark’s journey.
After perusing the shelves for books on every topic, you’re probably ready for more eats! In the center of downtown exists a magic land where food carts with food from nations across the globe co-exist in yummy peacefulness. This is a utopia.
Take this opportunity of abundance to chose a cuisine you haven’t tried before, but probably the most popular is Nong’s Khao Man Gai, a thai cart service steaming heaps of poached chicken on flavorful rice (Thailand’s version of Hainan chicken from China); I suggest a small meal here so you have room for happy hour later.
Equipped with a full belly, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the riverfront and downtown. You can ride the street car from one end to the next or rent a bike and ride along the stretch of sidewalk in front of the Willamette river. If you’re already ready for a snack, Pine Street Market is close by, a collection of eateries from Pizza to Ramen.
Head up to Pioneer Square and do some damage to your wallet at Pioneer Place, a mix of high end and typical mall shops. Nike is the town’s famous home brand, but you should make it a point to seek out the floor to ceiling glass walled Apple store. You’ll also pass the 50 shades of grey hotel, the Heathman, which has a very colorful lobby. It’s one of the many accommodations Downtown Portland has to offer.
By this time, you probably are looking for a pre-dinner respite, so I highly recommend the bustling bar at Luc Lac. A Vietnamese bistro, it has regularly been featured in every foodie magazine as having one of the best bars in Portland. You’ll want to try some of their small bites, like the namesake Luc Lac or shaken beef. It’s filet marinated in soy sauce and garlic and it’s the best thing ever.
There’s a reason why you should have happy hour, because I recommend that you have a somewhat late dinner at Pok Pok. This place is crowded and tiny, and you’ll have to wait. This famous Thai shack is known for one thing, and that is its savory fish sauce chicken wings. You’ve never tasted umami like this. Make sure you hydrate properly and eat it with rice, they are salty as hell but oh so tasty.
To start off this morning, grab another donut at Blue Star, an artisanal shop that carries flavors such as passion fruit, horchata and blueberry bourbon basil. Totally different from Voodoo, but just as good IMO. For a healthier source of energy, get a green smoothie from Kure, which is just down the street.
Get your boots on, because this morning you’re heading out to Columbia River Gorge. This area encompasses more than 20 waterfalls in the spectacular canyon where the Cascade Mountains are cut by the Columbia River. Obviously, you have to take a picture at Multnomah Falls, but Crown Point, Mount Washington, Triple Falls are also worthy of your time.
After a few hours of getting your wilderness on, head back to the city for a relaxing evening filled with good food and libations. Le Pigeon is the perfect way to unwind and undo all of the calories you’ve burned hiking today. It’s French, cozy and very decadent. There’s foie gras profiteroles, y’all (heart eyes emoji).
Another option is Acadia, a little bit of Cajun spice in the Northwest. BBQ shrimp in white wine is slap ya momma good. It’s no secret both of these recs are decadent, you had a day of hiking! You deserve it!
If you’re still up for a nightcap, head to the Multnomah Whiskey Library, because after you build up the liver with pate, you can break it down with alcohol.
Start your last day with brunch, a staple in every hipster community. I loved the chicken and waffles at Screen Door. Since there will be a wait, next door is Kopi East Asian Coffee. It has an interesting concept and Indonesian and Vietnamese style pours. Tasty & Alder is also a popular spot, but if you go, you can be assured there will be at least a 1, if not 2 hour wait. Plan accordingly.
Mt. Tabor is an area that the locals love, for its less touristy views of the city. Walk off your brunch around this reservoir, hidden gem, in the city.
Penultimate stop, visit Washington Park, and if it’s open, visit the famed Rose Garden or Japanese Garden for one last contemplative walk through the natural beauty of this city.
For one last treat before you leave, meander around Alphabet District and grab some ice cream from Salt & Straw, the gourmet ice cream chain: there’s a farmer’s market series with beets, herbs, carrots, etc; their flavors are unexpected but satisfying. Again, just do it.