Thursday, November 3, 2011

What should I do in Portland??

Dear ESB,

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a bride or engaged or anything (I do have an amazing jazz musician for a boyfriend...does that help?) but I'm thinking of taking a solo trip to Portland, first weekend in November, to be by myself/get some writing done/SEE THE WORLD!

On the OFF CHANCE that you have some time to spare (plus I know you love Portland and I know you take care of your girls, so)--any idea where I should go? What I should do? Incredible coffee shops to write in? Places to walk? Will the weather be icky?


I rly didn't think I'd manage to get this one up.... But lo and behold: when I tweeted "Anyone want to write a What To Do In Portland guest post?" it took Joanna Bean Martin exactly 3 seconds to volunteer.

Remember Joanna?? She is only ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE EAST SIDE BRIDES. It will take me some time for me to get over the fact that she left Los Angeles, but whatever.

Joanna and her husband Ike headquarter Afterall, their production company/design agency, inside Lucas, a salon and arts space in Downtown Portland. So I guess if you're Gretchen Jones, you could, say, get a bang trim while they work with you on the redesign for your site.

Anyhoo. Here's Joanna's advice for what to do/see/imbibe in Portland:

I've had a love affair with Portland for a while. So much so, that I got married there two years ago and finally made the move with my husband Ike and one-year old son Julian from L.A. last spring. Since then, we've headquartered and made ourselves at home in Northeast Portland.

If you were my guest and we only had 48 hours, this is what we’d do: drink, eat, shop, repeat. Day 1 is jam-packed. Day 2 is a little -- just a little -- more relaxed.

Day 1:
Pre-breakfast coffee at Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry. The pastries are worth the trip. This coffee shop is in one of the newly revitalized pockets of Portland and even though it's busy there’s always a seat here. (If you’re not feeling Gluten, Tula just opened and I hear it’s divine.)

Head to N Mississippi and put an order in at The Big Egg food cart, which is usually about a 45 min wait on the weekend. I recommend the Breakfast Wrap. Disclaimer: I am neither a breakfast burrito lover nor a wrap person, but this is the BEST egg-bacon-potato combo I’ve ever eaten.

Local Tip #1: say you want it how Dori likes it. She’s friend and regular at The Big Egg.

While you wait for your wrap, walk south to The Mississippi shopping district.
The Meadow: specialty salt and chocolate shop
Sunlan: the coolest light bulb store you've ever seen
Paxton Gate: oddities, curiosities and what nots
Pastaworks: fancy Italian market (delicious sandwiches)

Local Tip #2: Eat your wrap while sitting on a bench overlooking the river at Mocks Crest Park (a hidden empty lot that was recently declared a city park overlooking the Willamette River (will-AM-et not will-AMET) with views of downtown and the West Hills.

Next, head west over the river and choose your own adventure: Downtown/Pearl District or NW 23rd north of Burnside. Either area is good for walking/shopping...
Good classic vintage: Magpie, Avalon, Ray’s Ragtime
For your tax-free Isabel Marant and Rachel Comey fix: Odessa, Francis May
For your home: Alder & Co, Woonwinkel, Pendleton Home Store
Portland’s version of Pearl River Mart: Cargo
For your man: Lizard Lounge, The Woodlands, Dunderdon, Blackbird
For reading a book outside: Jamison Square, Classical Chinese Garden
Get lost inside for awhile: Museum of Contemporary Craft, Powell's [Editor's note: I would just like to point out that this book store has a SOLID five stars on yelp, with 1072 reviews. Also, H is a big fan of Powell's technical bookstore.]
For wishing you had more money: Drive around the West Hills and into Washington Park (beautiful houses surround the park, beautiful views from the park)

Pick up an afternoon coffee at the Stumptown at the Ace or Barista in the Pearl or a quick cocktail at Clyde Commons (Rec: Part and Parcel on the rocks) or Kask (High Desert Swizzle: mezcal and crushed ice). Ok, I like tequila.

Head up Highway 30 W towards Scappoose and follow signs for The St Johns Bridge. It wouldn’t be a complete Portland experience without visiting this bridge and Cathedral Park below it.  While in St Johns, get a Halibut Sandwich from Burgerville (our very own local/sustainable fast food chain).

Day 2: I’ve saved my faves for Day 2. This itinerary is East Side heavy because it’s the side of the river I live on, and frankly, if you’re reading ESB, it probably means it’s the side of the river you’d live on too. [Editor's Note: Yessssssssssssssssssssssssss.]

Read: YOU HAVE TO HAVE BREAKFAST AT BRODER. If nothing else on this list, do that.
Get lost in a vintage warehouse: House of Vintage
Favorite curated vintage shops: Palace, Rad Summer, Half Pint
Best place to go broke: Una
Buy something that makes you feel intelligent: Stand Up Comedy
Best place to buy crystal jewels: Sword & Fern
Nice gifts: Nationale
Local gifts: Local Goods
Get an afternoon coffee and hang out with some cool looking people: Heart
Portland loves sandwiches: Bunk, Meat Cheese Bread, Laurelhurst Market

Local Tip #3: The line at Voo Doo Donuts is never ending and moves insanely slow. If you’re a donut person, definitely get the Maple Bacon, but if you’re not, like me, go across the street and get a drink at Valentine's.

Night Time:
Local Tip #4: Happy Hour Menus abound in Portland. It’s the best way to get the most bang for your buck at the best restaurants in town.

Favorite Happy Hours: Tasty N Sons, Sapphire Hotel, Clyde Common, Produce Row, Central
If you’re still hungry: Olympic Provisions (NW location), Gruner, NavarreLuce, Grain & Gristle

For a lively bar scene: Dig A Pony, Bye and Bye, Bunk BarYes and No, Rontoms

For some local lore: Hubers, Driftwood, Jake’s, Dan & Louis
Because it wouldn’t be Portland, without mentioning a strip club: Magic Garden is kinda awesome, Mary’s is a classic, Sassy’s is debauchery.

Local Tip #5: Portland is a great city to see live music. It’s a town full of musicians and music lovers, therefor it’s also a town full of lots of great venues. Some of my favorite are: Roseland, Doug Fir, East End, Someday Lounge, Wonder Ballroom

There is a lot missing from this list, but I think it will give you a good taste of why Portland is awesome, and lead you to places to do some discovering on your own.

Our lady Joanna has chosen to ignore your "Will the weather be icky?" question so I'll go ahead and answer it for her: Yes.

See helpful hints here from Vancouver/Seattle ladies regarding dressing for rain.

(Photos by Nikki Fenix)


  1. Clearly, you need to make a site of ESB approved city guides - all done by your awesome readers. I'd like to see an Austin one next (might be moving there).

  2. ESB + JOANNA: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! EEEEEEE! This is so much more than I expected, and I'm literally flying out to Portland this afternoon! Thank you thank you thank you, you two are the best!

    Ahh, I can't wait--Portland sounds so amazing.

  3. I visited Portland last year in November. I was a tourist, so forgive me if these recommendations are touristy, but we greatly enjoyed an evening at the arcade Ground Kontrol, dinner at The Veritable Quandary, and a walk through the Portland Saturday Market in the November mist. There will be a lot of November mist. I would also suggest sampling as much of their local wine and spirits as you can possibly afford/squeeze in to your itinerary.

  4. I fucking love Portland. LOOOOOOVVVVEEEE it. If I didn't live really far away, I'd live there. Or Seattle. Or Vancouver. Okay, maybe I just love the Pac Nor West.


  5. I second Broder. Big time. Also check out the magical/haunted sweet dessert and coffee hang out with live classical music at Rimsky-Korsakoffee House Ask for the best seats in the house....

  6. I live a ferry ride from Seattle but I go to Portland way more often. This guide is the shit, I agree with everything Joanna says.

    Fun fact, my husband takes me on a train ride to Portland once a year to get a crap-ton of books from Powells. The bookstore takes up an entire city block.

  7. You must go to Powell's.
    On Mississippi Ave I recommend; An enormous beer at Prost!, the swings in the back of Casa Naranja, the Star Wars Lego display at Sunlan, and if not lunch you better have a margarita at Por Que No.
    And you really should try the Maple Bacon doughnut at Voodoo. Actually, eat at least 3 for me.
    You'll love it.

  8. @nikki Portland is so bester than Seattle. p.s. WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

  9. @Amanda You are so right! I need to get FAQ + city guide pages up as soon as I have a sec.

  10. I'd add that if one is into such things, a stop at the Cheese Bar at 60th and, um, Burnside? is a must-do. Also, there's a new cider bar (google "Portland cider bar") that has a ridiculous array of ciders both on tap and by the bottle and equally ridiculously low prices.

    I wouldn't overlook Laurelhurst Market for dinner... last time I was in town, I had a better meal and cocktails there than at Clyde Common (!!). Service was a bit desultory, though.

    Also, Beaker and Flask has just opened a rum-focused bar next door (the Rum Club), that has JUST started serving a small but excellent all day Sunday brunch. We stumbled onto it last wknd after a rec from the nice man at House Spirits (we did a mini distillery tour crawl, mostly to check out the excellent offerings at Stone Barn Brandyworks).

    Have fun!


  11. Just a few things to add to this excellent guide. As a Portlander, I think it would be a crime to come here and not visit the Japanese Gardens. They are truly extraordinary at any time of year, and should be especially lovely now with the fall colors. The attention to detail and design is inspiring and it's just a hop from downtown. I'd take the bus up to the Japanese Gardens and then walk back down through the Rose Test Garden and Washington Park and warm up with a coffee at Coffee House Northwest, hands down the most skillful baristas in town and a lovely spot to do some writing and watch the city go by.

    Another of my favorite things about Portland is our amazing collection of interactive public fountains. When I say "interactive" I mean it. These are meant to swim in, climb on, play with (obviously not at this time of year, but still). If you have any interest in architecture, urban planning or sculpture you should definitely make time for them. They're mostly in southwest, so if you're downtown you can easily hit the Jamison Square is also wonderful.

  12. Oops, a couple of my links didn't come through. The last two sentences should say -

    They're mostly in southwest, so if you're downtown you can easily hit the <a href=">highlights</a>: Ira Forecourt Fountain, The Dreamer in Pettygrove Park and Lovejoy Fountain.

  13. OH. MY. GAWD. I'm ready to jump on the next plane to pdx this very second. we've been talking about moving there at least once a week ever since our first trip there (six years ago!) and this post is not helping tame these desires.

    oh and re: the weather- rather than icky, think "cozy sweater weather", but I'm a cold & rainy, heavy on the layering, kinda gal. pack your fave textured tights and boots and you'll be set.

  14. Oh wow, you mentioned my shop, Half Pint, I heart you!!! And, now I really wish I could close up and go get a Pumpkin Shake from Burgerville. As for a great touristy thing to do, I would recommend a stroll through historic Lone Fir Cemetery in South East, especially if it's a little foggy-absolutely beautiful and very inspiring if you have a touch of writers block, and there is a cozy bar and a coffe shop right up the street.

  15. @ESB - in Bremerton, it's about an hour from Seattle (separated by Puget Sound). I'm also about a 4 hour drive from Portland, but the train is wsay more fun


  17. P.s. If you really want to get your PDX shop on, there's a designer sample sale happening this weekend at Haunt, which is in the same building as Nationale, Stand Up Comedy and Sword and Fern. All local designers: Adam Arnold, Church+State, Holly Stalder, Emily Katz, Pigeon Toe Ceramics, etc. Rock!

  18. Broder is hands down the best breakfast I've ever eaten. Get there before they open b/c it's tiny and others will be waiting.

    Another east side favorite for dinner is Dove Vivi. Cornmeal crust pizza. Get the roasted corn pizza. Guhhhhhhh, amazing.

  19. Ah, I was just going to mention the sample sale--its going to be so good!

    Broder is great, and I'd also recommend Le Pigeon and Little Bird

    There are so many good suggestions here, you may never leave...

  20. To Amanda's comment: I'd be happy to help with an Austin guidebook. Most of what is written just isn't as cool as what a local would recommend. Guero's, for example? Meh.

    There is an unusual lack of beer recommendations here. Most of the microbrews in Portland are super solid, but I have a strong affinity for Laurelwood. I also love Apizza Sholz - most delicious no-nonsense pizza I've ever had.

    I worked as an intern for the Parks and Rec of Portland one summer and I would actually steer you away from shopping and towards more trees and pretty sites. If you are lucky enough to get a peek of sunshine, head over to Peninsula Park and take a sandwich, maybe a soccer ball or frisbee, whatever's your poison. It is a great Eastside park and in the summer, is home to a gorgeous English rose garden. Mt. Tabor park on East Division St. has really great views and is a good spot for runners to catch a jog.

    I second the St. John's bridge recommendation. It's my favorite view in Portland by far. I also recommend checking out the St. John's neighborhood. It has a great Twin Peaks vibe and strange little shops. Columbia Park just down the street has great huge trees to run around and play tag in.

  21. I'm a beer snob and a wine snob, so needless to say, I fucking loved Portland when I went there this summer for a wedding. If you're a beer drinker, definitely hit up Widmer. Touristy? Yeah, a little bit, but the food is good cheap pub fare and the beer is outstanding. Less touristy, when you're done with your meal, go to Amnesia. The beer isn't as good as Widmer (and, pro-tip, neither is as good as Rogue, but keep in mind, the Rogue pub is not the main brewery, that's further south), but it's still amazing and the atmosphere is divine.

    If you like wine even a teensy bit, go to the wineries. But not Duck Pond. That shit is undrinkable. Actually, I recommend a day trip to McMinnville. The downtown is ridiculously small-town America cute, and most of the wineries are within walking distance and in warehouses. Eyrie and R. Stuart (they have a wine bar! with cheese plates!) are definitely must-sees. The pourer at Eyrie, however, is very chatty and a bit socially awkward. He's super nice and very knowledgeable, but just be warned. Don't ask him a lot of questions, unless you want to be there for an hour. :)

    Driving further out, St. Innocent (my friends got married here), Bethel, Van Duzer, Erath are all worth checking out as well.

  22. Holy most comprehensive list ever. Have fun in Portland!

  23. So glad she mentioned Paxton Gate! It's where I got my fiance his gift for our last anniversary!

  24. Thank you so much for this post. Printing it and bringing it to Portland with us this weekend. :)
    (our trip inspired by this post)