Portland: Weird in the Best Way

Portland is one of the world’s great towns for beer, weirdness, craft food, funky neighborhoods, forest hikes and much more. It’s endlessly entertaining and intriguing, easy to walk or explore by bike and most locals will tell you the frequent rain is merely a bonus.

Did I mention that Oregon wine country is less than an hour’s drive from the city? Take a weekend off and give it a visit.

Stuff to DoPortland_feature2

A fun place to find a wide array of uniquely Oregon goods is at the Portland Saturday Market (2 SW Naito Pkwy., 503-222-6072), (open on Saturdays and Sundays, March through December 24). Transforming a section of the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood into a thriving arts and crafts open-air marketplace, it gives you a real taste of the town. For a fix of that woodsy Pacific Northwest,  you don’t have to leave the city—just head over to Forest Park (503-223-5449), the largest natural forested area within a U.S. city’s limits. Bring your bike, running shoes or hiking boots to explore the 5,100 wooded acres and 70 miles of trails and gravel roads. It’s an urban playground of enormous beauty. If it’s water you seek, heading out to Portland’s waterfront for one of the many music festivals in Spring and Summer. The Waterfront Blues Festival, considered one of the largest blues festivals west of the Mississippi, is a great choice. Proceeds benefit the Oregon Food Bank so you can feel even better about getting your groove on.

Places to Stay

The charming Bluebird Guesthouse (3517 S.E. Division St., 503-238-4333) has just seven guest rooms, so book early. There’s also a spacious common area and a communal kitchen, in case you don’t feel like going out each morning. This beautifully restored, turn-of-the-century bungalow is a fun alternative and it’s located in Southeast Portland’s hots walkable neighborhood that’s loaded with restaurants, cafes and shops. The Jupiter Hotel (800 E. Burnside St., 503-230-9200) is the retro-trendy place to be, if you don’t mind a little noise. There’s the restaurant and nightclub Doug Fir right on the grounds, making for a wildly fun time and a drive-free night. The heavy hipster presence, live bands and cool outdoor patio are alluring. A Portland landmark, The Heathman Hotel (1001 S.W. Broadway, 503-241-4100) is on the opposite end of the spectrum, situated in the city’s Pearl District. This boutique hotel is conveniently located in the heart of the downtown theatres, museums and concert halls and is renowned for its classic elegance and impeccable service.

What to Drink

What more can I say about Portland’s Distillery Row other than buy a “passport” and devote a day to strolling around and tasting not only vodkas and gins but absinthe, aquavit, and flavored liqueurs. Taste these small batch spirits from places like Eastside Distilling, House Spirits, New Deal Distillery and Rolling River Spirits. They’re all located in an inconspicuous neighborhood of small warehouses and light industrial buildings in Southeast Portland, which is a cinch to get to, with bike lanes along the major roads leading you there.

If you’re a pinot noir fan—and not up for the short drive out to wine country—be sure to check out the tasting rooms in town. Head over to Wine Up on Williams (3037 N. Williams Ave., 503-236-3377) where proprietor Wayne will share his knowledge and hospitality. Friday night wine tastings in the basement speakeasy are a fun way to wind down and get your fill of the local vino.

If you choose to take the short drive out to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, map out the tasting rooms in Dundee Hills (such as Bergstrom Wines or Domaine Drouhin) or Mcminnville (Maysara Winery or Panther Creek Cellars), two of the closest regions. With over 300 wineries, the region has a bounty of amazing properties to visit.

Where to Eat

Start your day off with one of the trendier breakfast spots in the funky North Portland neighborhood’s Tasty and Sons (Hub Building, 3808 N Williams Ave, Ste C, (503) 621-1400). Bike your way over, as we did, to burn a few calories so you don’t mind indulging on the flakiest biscuits (so buttery!), which rank up there on my list of the best ever. Their cast-iron skillet frittatas are another must try, often stuffed with the likes of fava beans, olives and caramelized onions. Service is friendly and the room super hip.

Dinner at Ned Ludd (3925 NE MLK Blvd, 503 288-6900) is another must.  This self-dubbed “American Craft Kitchen” boasts a seasonal menu that changes weekly depending on the seasonal bounty available in Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and greater West Coast region. The lovely folksy ambiance and the back patio have friendly communal tables and a warmth that adds to the pleasure.

Pono Farms Soul Kitchen is a sleek little  Asian-inspired local kitchen located in Northeast Portland (4118 NE Sandy Blvd, 503.889.0885). Pono Farm is widely known in the area from their well-established presence at the Portland Farmer’s Market. They raise and butcher some of Oregon’s better pork and beef, and smoke amazing jowl bacon. The restaurant menu rotates weekly, depending on their freshest meat, featuring dishes like slow-cooked pork shoulder kakuni with black-truffle congee, “rump carpaccio” with ginger-soy-scallion oil, and house bacon fried rice. Unforgettable.

Along with great brick-and-mortar restaurants, you’ll find that food trucks abound, with a number of “pods” around town, which makes it super easy to sample lots of different tastes. Just one more way to enjoy what’s special about Portland.

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