Portland has an array of restaurants and independently owned stores, that when you visit, it’d be hard to not find something amazing to enjoy. While at the same time, it can be hard to make a decision on where to go. While living here, I’ve had plenty of time to try out many different options and really narrow down my favorite places to go. Hopefully it will make things a bit easier, especially if you are only visiting for a couple of days.
Let’s start with food, because that is everyones favorite, right?
Por Què No? – With two different locations, one located on the shopping road, Mississippi Ave., and the other located in SE on Hawthorne, this taqueria has an insanely amazing menu and all pretty cheap. My go-to favorite is the Bryan’s Bowl with Pollo Verde. The atmosphere is also pretty cool.
Little Big Burger – I rarely eat burgers, but my fiancé loves them. LBB is our favorite burger joint. It’s so cheap and so good. Not to mention the truffle fries, which you’ll have a hard time finding a cheaper place for those. The menu is simple, but you can’t go wrong.
The Food Carts– There are food carts all over Portland, with even a huge area set up permanently downtown. Alex and I eat similarly, but sometimes I like going out of his comfort zone. The food carts are the perfect place if you and your group have different taste. You can walk around and look at all the menus. You can seriously find anything.
Lúc Lác Vietnamese Kitchen – I’m working my way through eating this entire menu, but I always get the veg crispy rolls. They are splendid and go with anything else you get on the menu. The space is limited here though, so make sure you get there before the lunch crowd.
Restaurants for Dinner
Higgins Restaurant & Bar – This is a place I believe in. This small restaurant is all about supporting sustainable and regenerative farming resources and methods. The atmosphere may not be what you expect for a nice place, but you will feel special when your plate is brought out to you.
Imperial – This restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in Portland, and for good reason. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can do no wrong going at any time. If you go for dinner, make sure to check out one of their splendid cocktails. I recently tried the Smoke & Mirrors and it was amazing.
Ox – Maple-Glazed Heirloom Carrots, Chèvre, Tarragon, Truffle-Salted Pistachios. Did you just read that? The whole menu for Ox is beautiful. I highly recommend checking this place out for dinner. You will not regret it.
The Oregon Public House – The food here may be average, food you can get anywhere else, but you know what you will not get anywhere else? A restaurant as a non-profit, focused on bringing attention and community to causes and charities that are important. That’s pretty darn cool, eh?
Piazza Italia – This ain’t no Olive Garden. This place is a Italian family owned and operated Italian restaurant/soccer bar. I’ve never seen a place where you feel like you need to dress up to attend, while having sports uniforms hanging on the wall. Truly authentic. This is my go to place whenever I want to celebrate something.
Restaurants for Breakfast
Cadillac Cafe – This is the place we eat most often. We are regulars. They seriously know us by name. I tend to get the Hazelnut French toast, but the omelets are just as amazing. If you eat bacon, you will never taste bacon this good again. A great family oriented place, and the staff is just so nice.
Besaw’s – This place is so good that it can be quite difficult to get in without waiting for an hour. They unfortunately do not make reservations for brunch for parties under 6, but if you don’t mind the wait, you will not be disappointed. Their rosemary potatoes are to die for.
Gracie’s – Gracie’s is located in the Hotel deLuxe. It is actually one of two restaurants in the hotel, but we absolutely adore Gracie’s. It doesn’t feel like we are in Portland when we go there, and I just like dressing up and going. I could seriously sit there and drink mimosas all morning. Oh and their crème brûlée is just pure bliss.
Genie’s Cafe– Located in SE, around a bunch of cute shops. Including a cool comic book store, and an awesome vintage inspired dress shop, Genie’s has some amazing potatoes and omelets.
Tin Shed – I love going to Tin Shed for breakfast, although you couldn’t go wrong for breakfast either, but I love to get the Fungus Amongus. Mmmm….I’m getting excited just thinking about it. This is a great in between place. It has excellent choices for vegans, but also has meat options for any family or friends that like that.
Harlow – Harlow is such a cute place to hang out, work, or get a bite to eat, or even a sip. Their menu is quite extensive. I recommend getting an array of things to share with the table and a spirit for yourself. This is a great place to stop for a rest, while shopping at the cool thrifts down Hawthorne, or spending a couple hours in the Powell’s (you have your choice between the bookstore and the garden/home one).
Prasad – Prasad is located in the lovely Pearl district, although their is another on in NE. They have some of the best salads and bowls you could find around town, and even if you just go for a drink, you will be one happy human.
Places for that Sweet Tooth
Ruby Jewel Scoops – People tend to crowd at Salt & Straw, but I enjoy Ruby Jewel so much better. Their flavors are so dang good. I can never just get one. They also make some wicked ice cream cookie sandwiches and malt shakes.
Papa Haydn – Papa Haydn is a restaurant, but it’s famous for its desserts. It’s a quite romantic spot, and they do cute things for events. Their cakes are spectacular, both in taste and appearance. This would be my first stop for something sweet.
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe– This place may seem a little pricy, but we all know how expensive truffles can be. They are so worth it though. I find that these little truffles make the best gifts. Also, if you go when it’s colder out, try their hot chocolate. One of the best I ever had. If you go in the Summer, try the shakes. Yum!
Petite Provence– This is another place with amazing cakes. Once a month, we like to go over for a cup of coffee and a cake. This is a great place for a late night conversation over something sweet.
Powell’s Books – This one may be obvious, but I couldn’t make a list without mentioning it. They have multiple locations. My favorite is in the suburbs in Beaverton because they have cozy chairs, but the main location in NW is a must. Make sure to pick up a map at the desk. You’ll need it. Or even better….let yourself get lost. I’d try to go on a weekday to avoid the tourist crowd. It makes the experience so much better.
MadeHere PDX – Not to be confused with the Made in Oregon store. Made in PDX is right across the street from the main Powell’s and it has some of the finest crafted furniture, bike accessories, clothes, food & drinks, jewelry, and personal care, I’ve ever seen. Oh and all made by local creators. Your friends and family would love anything you got for them.
Beam & Anchor – Just another place of beautifully crafted local wares and supplies. You can find some amazing stuff for your home here.
Ink & Peat – I want to buy everything in this store. I mean, everything. You could definitely be here for awhile.
Collage – If you love crafting, then this place is a must. They have other locations, but I recommend the one on Alberta. It’s the biggest, and you can find the cutest things here. A little pricier for some art supplies, but you’d be supporting a local business and getting quality things.
North of West – If you are in the mood for some new clothes, look no further. This place has such beautifully designed clothing with a palette to be obsessed over.
Things to Do
Japanese Garden – Whenever family or friends come out, we bring them to the gardens. Nestled in the Hoyt Arboretum, and beside the Rose Test Garden, the Japanese garden is so beautiful, especially on a cool sunny day. They recently expanded, and it somehow got even greater.
Forest Park – Stories have been written about Forest Park. It is the largest urban forest in the United States, and it’s a must. There are many different trails to take, but any of them will be a nice walk.
Ground Kontrol – Ground Kontrol is the local arcade and it is fabulous. It may not seem like something specific to Portland, but it is, and it is something truly special. Oh, and if you are a fan of pinball. This place is a must.
Pittock Mansion – This historic mansion is such a beautiful place to visit. The tour of the mansion is also splendid. If you want a cool place to take some photos of the city or of Mount Hood, then check this place out.
Hoyt Arboretum – Hoyt Arboretum is one of the most beautiful arboretum’s I’ve ever visited. It’s crazy how you can be right beside downtown, and walk in and have everything be so quiet and peaceful. Plus it’s free.
Day Trips out of PDX
Mount Hood – I would say this should be at the top of your list. Mount hood and the forest is so beautiful. Whether you go in the summer or winter.
Hood River – I’d like to say that if you go to Hood you could also go to Hood River, but it’s a bit of a drive, since you have to drive around the entire mountain. Hood River is a cute and tiny mountain town, with some nice restaurants and shops. It’s a beautiful drive to the town as well. You get to drive right through the Gorge.
Columbia Gorge – One of the most beautiful places, even after the fires. You can find an array of spectacular views, hikes, and waterfalls.
Cannon Beach – A popular destination site, and for good reason. If you are a fan of the Goonies, you’ll want to take a trip to Haystack Rock. Even if you aren’t a fan, the site is spectacular. The town is wonderful. A great place to stay the night, or just visit for the day, with plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. Make sure to take a trip to Ecola Sate Park. The view you will see will take your breath away.
Astoria – Another great destination for Goonie’s fans, as the Goonie house is located in Astoria. It’s privately owned, so be aware and respectful. We went and someone was not happy with us dropping by. It’s still cool to see though. Astoria has a bunch of antique and interesting stores to check out. It’s a cute coastal town.