No matter what neighbourhood you’re in, you’ll find remnants of Portland’s past living alongside (or harmoniously inside) some of the city’s newest haunts. Each celebrating the city’s unique brand of charm, quirk, and hospitality-drive demeanor in a different way to create a buzzworthy experience worth traveling for.
If walls could talk, Portland’s historic hotels would have a rich story to share. Tales of Clark Gable working at the Meier & Frank department store now known as The Nines and of Gus Van Sant’s time filming ‘My Own Private Idaho’ in the Sentinel hotel, a former early 1900-era hotel turned Elks Lodge before returning to its hospitality roots. Or the early-20th century beginnings of the Heathman Hotel, a literary haven who happens to share a wall with the iconic Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
At the intersection of past and present, you’ll find Portland’s newest accommodations. Hotel Grand Stark, a Palisociety hotel, which reimagines the historic Chamberlain Hotel, and more recently, a legendary local furniture manufacturer turned into a timeless space of modern design and vintage touches. The new Lolo Pass, whose name was inspired by old expedition maps at the Oregon Historical Society, opened in May 2021 off buzzy Burnside Avenue in Portland’s Southeast district. The property caters to the hostel-hopping crowd with elevated décor, an art gallery space and rooftop. Or interestingly industrial Kex, the first U.S. outpost of the Icelandic brand, breathes new life into a 1912 building with Art Deco charm from remnants of a 1930s “Vivian Apartments” renovation.
Iconic Eats (and Drinks) Paired with Modern Cuisine
Dine your way around Portland with perfect pairings of icons and innovative eats. Anchor your culinary exploration with those that have paved the way and round it out with some of the city’s newest restaurants. The current dining scene is rich and ever evolving, pulling inspiration from the natural bounty surrounding us or honoring one’s heritage through food.
A classic slow-roasted prime rib from Clyde’s will hit the spot as colder temperatures prevail. Night two, make room for wood-fired fare from newly opened Wild North where sustainability, seasonality and the Northwest woods inspire each course, from roasted rainbow trout to seared duck breasts.
Said to be one of the first restaurants to bring pizza to Portland, Amalfi’s Italian Restaurant is a legendary spot and must-stop on Fremont Street. If pizza is the name of your game, grab a ‘Legendary Combo’ here and stack up slices at new outposts Pizza Thief, Meta Pizza, Pizza Kat, Stellina Pizzeria, and cult phenomenon Jerry’s Pizza, who at one point had an 18-month long waiting list while making them in his home kitchen. Now, you can find him at the Bear Paw Inn.
Warm up with a famed Spanish coffee made tableside at Huber’s, Portland’s oldest restaurant, and Latte’s and Bahn Mi’s from Portland Cà Phê, who are crafting caffeinated beverages using beans sourced from the highlands of Vietnam in their newly-opened Southeast Holgate café. Or with longstanding staples like Pho Oregon in Portland’s Jade District, Nong’s chicken and rice soup or Vietnamese noodle dishes from newcomer Friendship Kitchen.
Fancy a side of jazz music with your main course? Plan a trip to Wilf’s, located inside Union Station and family owned for more than 45 years. Chase that with a DJ set or Fortune teller reading (on select nights) at the newly opened Fortune inside Sentinel hotel. Here, lauded Chef Jewan Manuel, otherwise known as Plant Based Papi, serves up his inventive vegan eats alongside an entirely vegan drink menu at the bar.
For more vegan spots turning heads, main stays like plant-based dinner party, Farm Spirit, and Sanjay Chandrasekaran’s prolific Indian cuisine at Sudra, are met by newcomers Mama Dut, built by owner Thuy Pham and named for her experiences growing food with and for her daughter (“Mama will feed you”); gangbuster food cart turned restaurant, Dirty Lettuce, owned by Alkebulan Moroski who sciences stunning vegan southern-style dishes; and vegan sushi pop-up shop turned permanent eatery, Mitate.
Channeling the history and heritage of the cultures and families they hail from; these restaurants awe-inspiring menus tell stories close to home. Inspired by Chef Bonnie Morales’ Belarusian roots and family emigrating from the former Soviet Union, Kachka delivers a unique experience filled with cold and hot zakuski (aka small dishes that fill your table!) and infused vodkas; and hot spot Andina brings a bit of Peru to Portland where new Chef Alexander Diestra returns to his Peruvian roots. Recently named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, Carlo Lamagna gives his childhood Filipino food favorites a makeover at the new Magna Kusina. And new food cart favorite, Tokyo Sando, helmed by Taiki Nakajima whose familial roots in the Izakaya business and passion for food led him to the City of Roses.
Fried chicken? Need we say more. Reel M Inn Tavern is a longtime welcoming neighborhood watering hole famous for their fried chicken and JoJo’s. New on the block, the menu at Nacheaux is a mix of mouthwatering fusion fare with Cajun flare by husband-and-wife duo, Anthony and Stephanie Brown. Find their Fried Chicken Burritos at their new food call – Unicorn Creationz Food Hall – which includes the main restaurant (Nacheaux) alongside Bourbon St. speakeasy and Karnival Korner bakery.
What’s dinner without a drink? Beer, spirits, wine, we’ve got it all. Peruse the deep wine and whiskey collections at staples Park Avenue Wines and Multnomah Whiskey Library, respectively. For a classic English ale at a new brewery, head to Steeplejack Brewing Co with its exposed wooden beams and stunning stained glass bringing a century-old church turned brewery to life. Aimsir Distilling Co. opened quietly in late-2020 by husband-and-wife duo Christine and Steve Hopkins. The two perfected their process over several years and now sharing their brand of gin and whiskey in architectural Art Deco stunner of a tasting (and dining) room – The Emerald Room. Or, consider pre-dinner wine tasting at The Crick PDX, a hip-hop themed tasting outpost of Abbey Creek Vineyard, owned and operated by Oregon’s first Black winemaker, Bertony Faustin.
Music Appreciation: Past and Present
From operatic notes flowing inside iconic Arlene Schnitzer auditorium to indie beats revibrating through the wooden floors of the Crystal Ballroom, the beat goes on in Portland’s music scene. Hit up a show from emerging artists at one of Portland’s staples like the Doug Fir Lounge or belly up at the bar at Laurelthrist, the oldest independent music venue in the city.
A new venue dreamed up as a socially-distance solution (with seating pods to boot) to keep the good tunes coming is The Lot at Zidell Yards. Opened ahead of outdoor concert season in summer 2020 on an underutilized lot of land, it welcomed more than 23,000 guests for 70 shows in its first year.
Portland’s Albina neighborhood was a melodic hub in the late 20th century, where gospel, blues, jazz and new forms of soul and funk filled the air, but the effects of gentrification and community deinvestment heavily impacted the neighborhood and its residents. Presented by the Albina Music Trust, the new Albina Soul Walk explores the immense cultural legacy of this neighborhood and its musicians over a one-mile walk, narrated by Calvin Walker and Norman Sylvester, with oral histories shared by Paul Knauls, once owner of legendary Cotton Club, and others.
Shopping – What’s Old is New
Portland is a vintage hub – from second-hand apparel at Xtabay Vintage Clothing Boutique, Hollywood Vintage and the newly opened Wink Vintage in Montavilla (see: great band t-shirts!) to Lounge Lizard’s mid-century modern grabs and rare Anatolian rugs at Wild Shaman. We’re also serious about finding well-loved books a new home found at iconic Powell’s and new spots like Third Eye Books on Division Street in Southeast Portland.
Alongside it, a wave of eco-minded, slow fashion shops dotting the city. Find planters and other home décor hand-selected for their sustainable values at EcoVibe; Nau, the first sustainable performance wear brand; Wildfang, trailblazers pushing gender boundaries and committed to sustainability in their product production; and the new Kiriko, whose Japanese heritage combined with meticulous craftsmanship, create beautiful, hand-crafted goods that utilize every include of ‘Boro” (scraps of cloth).
Art-centric Experiences for the Ages
Nestled in the city’s Cultural District is the Portland Art Museum. Founded in 1892, it is one of the oldest art museums on the West Coast and seventh oldest in the US. An institution in and of itself, the museum continues to bring thought-provoking work of artists near and far to the forefront through exhibitions like Mesh, a dynamic exhibition of four emerging artists within the Indigenous community to projects like AUX/MUTE Gallery with The Numberz FM, a radio station dedicated to empowering and creating a media space for Black people and communities of color.
And each time you return to Portland, you’ll find a vibrant new mural, art displays and new showcases supported by a bevy of artistic endeavors like Art Design Xchange (ADX), Past Lives LLC, Forest for the Trees and others. The next time you’re in town, take a self-guided tour mapped out by the Portland Street Art Alliance, whose mission strives to advance street art culture and civic engagement.
Source: Travel Portland