According to my Timehop (that fun time capsule of embarrassment), it’s been a little over a year since we moved to the big city, which means that one year ago, I was staring down this scene:
In the past year, we’ve rearranged the apartment at least 3 times (you can see what it once looked like here) and stubbed our toes on every piece of furniture. I’ve mastered the art of carrying heavy bags home from the grocery store (hint: it involves a lot of sweat and some previously unused arm muscles). We’ve learned to sleep with ear plugs (to ignore the car alarms, night owls who gather just outside our apartment complex, and the elephant living above us), and to curse the tiny, yapping dogs on the sidewalk each morning. We’ve run thousands of miles through the city, biked hundreds along the bike paths, and stood in lines outside the hip restaurants (if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Portland, it’s that the people here LOVE standing in line). We’ve tasted all the doughnuts, eaten a lot of the ice cream, and brunched our way around town.
Portland is a different place, to say the least. After our first visit, I was not impressed. And it failed to win me over during the 2 years we lived in Eugene. But now that we’re here, surrounded by big, beautiful trees, minutes from a 5,000-acre city park, with views of snow covered peaks and winding rivers, we’ve come to love it. The proximity to all the outdoor adventures near the ocean and the mountains is pretty unbeatable. Sure, we’re likely to see someone in a Darth Vader mask playing some flaming bag pipes while riding a unicycle, or a woman walking her pet pig on a leash downtown; but we’re also likely to see adorable families hiking the trails of Forest Park or smearing Nutella-covered doughnuts on their faces at Pip’s Original. I’ve come to love the smell of roses blooming along my usual running route (they meant it when they nicknamed Portland “Rose City”), and to ignore the smell of marijuana (this is a lie- I usually cough obnoxiously and mumble “you’re the worst” under my breath). There are still some things I just don’t understand (why are there so many smokers? why is no one ever at work?), but we’re coming to call this crazy place “home.”
In the past year, we’ve had a lot of people ask us what to do when they come to Portland, which usually results in me sending a very, very long, rambling message detailing all of our favorite things. But since people are coming to Portland all the time (and we welcome guests at the Ringer B&B- really, please visit us, friends), I figured it was time to finally lay out a post of everything we love in Portland. And I’m sticking strictly to things in the city, as I’m often too eager to tell people to leave the city and go to the Gorge (which you should, because it’s amazing). For a list of all our outdoor adventures, check out the ExplOregon tab.
With that, here are our Portland favorites (which I will hopefully continue to update as we love new things):
Breakfast and Brunch (everything you’ve seen on Portlandia is true):
–Sweedeedee– Charming, adorable, and home of some of the best bacon I’ve tasted in Portland. I always tell people this place is Swedish, which as far as I can tell, is something I’ve made up. I get the Sweedeedee Breakfast Plate. Get there right when it opens, or stand in line for a long time. Also, resist the urge to steal the adorable coffee mugs.
–Mother’s Bistro– I’ve never seen this place without a crowd, but it has a huge menu of yumminess. Eric loves the Buttermilk Pancakes with Bananas, and I usually go for the Migas (eggs with Mexican toppings).
–Pine State Biscuits– This place reminds me so much of Kentucky that I can hardly handle it. The biscuit sandwiches are spectacular, from the usual bacon, egg, and cheese, to my recent favorite, fried chicken, bacon, cheese, and apple butter (The Chatfield).
–St. Honoré Boulangerie– They serve the best coffee I’ve tasted in Portland, and my favorite chocolate hazelnut croissant. We both usually order the Brioche Cocotte.
–Irving Street Kitchen– The decor is adorable, the food is fantastic, and they take reservations (which is rare in this city). Get the Sugar and Spice Doughnuts to start, and the
Lunch and Dinner:
–Verde Cocina– They have a booth at the farmers’ market that has folks lined up down the block, but we eat at the brick and mortar restaurant. Everything is super fresh and veggie-packed, with a Mexican flair. I almost always order one of the specials because they are always amazing, but if none of the specials are your jam, order something with bacon because it is candied and insane.
–Dick’s Kitchen– Another super fresh, local, veggie-packed restaurant. The burgers are always good, but the yam “not fries” are what keep me coming back.
–Bollywood Theater– Really delicious Indian food. Everything we’ve tried has been really good. Definitely get the cauliflower if it’s on the specials board.
–The American Local– I’d save this one for a special occasion because it’s pretty spendy, but really tasty. It’s all small plates, with lots of local ingredients. The pork belly skewer literally melts in your mouth.
–Smokehouse 21– We haven’t tasted all of the BBQ in Portland yet, but this is absolutely the best of everything we’ve tried so far. Plus, they have a bacon molasses cornbread that turned this non-cornbread lover into someone who tries to steal her husband’s portion.
Restaurants that might be worth the hype:
–Nong’s Khoa Man Gai– This is possibly the most famous food cart in Portland, and it’s really that good. It’s just poached chicken and rice, but it’s done incredibly well, with a sauce that is downright magical. Order extra sauce. (You can also buy bottles of the sauce at many of the nicer grocery stores in town.)
–Pok Pok– I would never recommend waiting 3 hours to eat here (we’ve come and gone when that was the wait time), but I’d give it an hour. Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings are famous (despite the fact that this is actually a Thai restaurant), and are amazing. They also have the only brussels sprouts I’ve ever loved.
–Eb & Bean– Frozen yogurt, but better than the frozen yogurt you’re thinking of. This is Portland’s version of fro-yo, which means it’s all local and organic. The flavors here are amazing, but the toppings are even better. Cold brew bourbon sauce? Yes, please.
–What’s the Scoop?– Everyone in Portland is going to tell you to go to Salt & Straw for ice cream, but I actually like What’s the Scoop? so much better. And you never have to wait in an hour-long line to get ice cream. My favorite flavor is bourbon toffee, closely followed by mocha chip.
The Great Outdoors:
–Forest Park– The main reason I was willing to move to Portland. 5,182 acres of forested park within the city limits. The trails are endless, and it’s beautiful all year-round (yes, even in the rain). It’s a runner’s paradise with over 80-miles of trails, and some hills that will burn your thighs until the end of time.
–Portland International Rose Test Garden– I’m not even a rose lover, and I think this place is great. It’s free. We can walk there from our apartment. It smells like a dream. Views of Mount Hood don’t hurt.
–Portland Aerial Tram– Technically, this isn’t the great outdoors, since you are inside a tram, but it gives some great views. For a roundtrip fare of $4.50, you can take the tram from the South Waterfront up a hill (it’s really made to transport people from one part of the hospital to another, but it’s fun for tourists too). On your way up, you get sweeping views of the city and Mount Hood.
–The Springwater Corridor– We biked this thing more times than I’d like to count when we were triathlon training, but it’s a nice path for cycling. Some parts of it are more lovely than others (a few parts have a large homeless population), and it’s certainly more crowded closer to downtown, but it’s a nice place to ride when you don’t want to have to drive your bike out of the city. It’s around 21 miles from end to end (it ends in the town of Boring, Oregon), so you can make it into a pretty hefty ride. And if you happen to crash and break your collarbone along the trail (cough, cough, Eric), you’re never too far from a MAX line that can get you back to town. Here’s a helpful map of the trail.
–Powell’s City of Books– I know this is a very typical tourist stop, but it really is awesome enough to deserve a spot on the list. It’s the world’s largest independent bookstore, and you can literally get lost inside. As a lover of books and Portland souvenirs, it’s one of my favorite places.
–Canoe– This adorable and minimalistic home goods store makes me want to spend $30 on a set of pencils (I’ve never given in to this urge, but it’s there).
–Alder & Co– Another spendy shop that’s cute to peruse if you like expensive textiles and adorable accessories.
–Oblation Papers & Press– Tons of cute cards, paper, and little gifts.
–Hunt & Gather– Dreamy furniture and home goods.
I know we have much more Portland exploration to do in the coming years, but for now, this is what we know and love. I’d love to hear your favorite things to do in the city!