In the past few years, Portland has grown into an urbane, sophisticated city; however, it has also managed to maintain the eclectic qualities that give it its quirky feel (photos courtesy Travel Portland; Rob Finch for Travel Portland; Jamie Frances for Travel Portland; Courtesy VooDoo Doughnut).
I first came to Portland in my early twenties; in the days the predated the über-chic Pearl District or the upscale eateries with craft cock- tails and nationally known chefs. It was a time when the words, “keep Portland weird,” were preached from the street corners instead of sold as a bumper sticker, when “eating local” was a city norm instead of a national trend, and when food trucks lined the streets where lines now extend from clandestine cocktail clubs. The city spoke to me with its artistic swagger and quirky bravado,
Like me, Portland changed much in the decade that followed, both of us trading in our proverbial jersey sheets for ones of Egyptian cotton and our symbolic red Solo cups for wine glasses of Bavarian crystal. And so, when I returned, I did so with a tinge of trepidation that I may no longer hear the voice that once drew me to this Bridge City, but was quickly surprised to find a sophisticated and chic version of that still artsy and quirky city I had known.
The breweries were now craft, the restaurants were now run by chefs who had trained with the three-starred greats, the bike lanes had roundabouts, brunch had become a main meal; overall, the entire city had adopted a distinct European flair. Although the quirky culture and organic eateries that first attracted many to the city years ago remain, they live on in markedly modish digs, setting the stage for a new decade of creativity and inspiration.
The ample options, and extreme ease, of public transportation through- out the city make selecting a hotel in Portland simple as it’s very easy to get around town no matter where you choose to stay. Many of the top hotels in the city are found in the city’s exciting downtown district, where options range from trendy boutique hotels to luxury digs in internationally recognized brands. Guests staying in downtown enjoy the ease of being within walking distance of the city’s top museums, best entertainment, and most talked about restaurants.
Set inside Portland’s stunning 1912 architectural masterpiece, the recently renovated Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland is not only the top choice for discriminating travelers, it’s also the top choice for NBA teams while in town and foreign dignitaries; even President Barack Obama stayed at the hotel during his term in office. The hotel features artwork from local artists throughout both the public spaces and each of the 221 guestrooms, and offers a nightly social hour with local wines and nibbles from some of Oregon’s best producers. Bikes are complimentary to encourage guests to explore the city like a local, and each morning, guests are invited to enjoy the organic coffee and tea in the lobby, gratis. The hotel is pet-friendly, but also features an entire floor of dedicated hypoallergenic guestrooms with a gluten-free
Favored by celebrities, The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel, occupies the top nine floors of the former Meier & Frank department store directly across from the bustling Pioneer Courthouse Square. The department store was once the source of high fashion for the Pacific Northwest, and was one of Clark Ga- ble’s last jobs before heading to the big screen, and the hotel has maintained the building’s legacy with its fashionable approach to its artful accommodations. The hotel boasts more than 400 commissioned pieces from local artists, and features tufted ivory leather headboards with Tiffany Blue furnishings in each of the 331 guestrooms and suites. This eco-chic hotel is LEED Silver-certified with energy-efficient elevators and a working rooftop garden with beehives and an herb garden.
DINE AND DINE AGAIN
Portland is the original food city, giving rise to culinary trends like food trucks, gourmet doughnuts, micro-brewed beer, house-made charcuterie and more. Take a gourmand journey through the city with Forktown Food Tours that lets visitors sample some of Portland’s best. Select from one of the themed tours, or have the guides create a custom tour based off your preferences (i.e., gluten free, up-scale restaurants, local favorites, hidden gems, etc.).
Plan ahead for a trip to Portland’s famous VooDoo Doughnut as the line can sometimes wrap around the block with visitors waiting for the chance to taste one of these cheeky pastries (don’t leave without a maple bacon bar!). Most of Portland’s food trucks can be found between Southwest Alder and Washington streets, but the newest craze in the city is the Pine Street Market food hall.
Fine dining options in the city include Andina, Nomad, Coquine, Castagna and local favorite, Le Pigeon, where James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker serves up creative French-inspired restaurants to diners at his cozy communal table restaurant.
Drink beer for the greater good at Portland’s do-gooder brewery Ex Novo, and don’t forget to save room for dessert for a stop at Salt & Straw, the original craft creamery serving up bizarrely delicious flavors like Bone Marrow and Smoked Cherries, Pear and Blue Cheese, Honey Lavender, Arbequina Olive Oil and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper.
There is no sales tax in the entire state of Oregon, so every day is tax-free shopping day in Portland. The city specializes in edgy fashion with a vintage flair, and boasts some of the nation’s hottest up-and-coming designers. Boutiques like Union Rose, Frances May and Tender Loving Empire offer amazing pieces from local designers, while Appetite Shop + Studio and Flutter house a curated collection of rare and vintage items.
The Portland Saturday Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings, with rows and rows of stalls featuring artists selling their own handcrafted jewelry, locally made art, and hand-thrown pottery. For more locally made items, head to any of the four locations of Portland’s Made Here storefront, where products range from quirky to handmade and include everything from chocolate to stationery. Take home a taste of Portland at The Meadow, where semelier (a.k.a. salt expert) Mark Bitterman’s artisanal salts line the shelves with selections like Shinkai Japanese-style Deep Sea Salt and Slovenian Piran Sel Gris, or Moonstruck Chocolate that is best known for their decadent truffles and gourmet hot cocoa.
Portland is also home to the world’s largest independent bookstore, and visitors could spend hours scouring the shelves of used and new books inside of downtown’s Powell’s City of Books. Other local brands to look out for while in Portland include Danner’s boots, Will Leather Goods and Haunt clothing.