portland favorites for lara

Reader, Lara from Washington D.C. is visiting Portland on Memorial Day weekend  She wrote me ages ago for some off the beaten path suggestions of what to see here. I love living in Portland but it’s hard for me to think of things exciting enough for a tourist. Here are my top spots and neighborhoods. Hopefully this will give you something to pick and choose from, Lara!


photo from here

NW Portland (this is a popular area but I have some favorites here that I had to include)

* Le Happy– Must go here for delectable crepes late at night (that’s when it looks the most charming, they are open til 2AM) you’ll feel like you’re in Paris which is why the slow service is OK in this case.
*Museum of Contemporary Craft
*Forest Park

photo from here

SW Portland (OK also not off the beaten path, but had to include some favorites again)

*Chaat House India Cart– Best Indian food in town.
*Ace Hotel photo booth– After you get your pictures taken be sure to wander around the other delightful nooks and crannies of this place.
*Kenny and Zukes– mostly if you are a meat eater
*Voo Doo Donuts- (good late night spot)
*Canoe -great shop!
*The English Dept.

photo from here

SE Clinton St {my favorite neighborhood in Portland- small but delightful and also filled to the brim with hipsters}.

Broder for a Swedish breakfast
Press Club for a leisurely lunch with free Wifi  and a wall of really cool magazines.

Clinton St. has a cool little record shop and a really great vintage clothing shop. I don’t know either of their names but they are almost next door to Broder and across the street.

Nearby on SE Division (also a great spot for shopping and eating):
Pix Patisserie– another place straight out of Paris, romantic and best visited late at night for their amazing chocolates.


photo from here

N Mississippi and NE Alberta Neighborhoods {OK, both of these are also my favorite neighborhoods}

Bolt-cool fabric
Office– vintage office supplies, gallery
Pistils Nursery
Bernie’s Bistro-best bread pudding  and the fried pickles are good too.

Head over to Kennedy School on NE 33rd- check out their schedule. They’ve got everything from square dancing on Tuesday nights, to sing-along Grease, to $3 movies you can watch while you eat your Pizza to random concerts and several restaurants. It’s a restored elementary school from 1915 that is just fun to wander around. {part of the Mcmenamins chain}

Mississippi Studios– my favorite concert venue complete with an Airstream trailer out back that you can loiter in. See their schedule here. (if you are here Thurs, Amelia is playing and they are one of my very favorite mellow Portland bands.)

There is also the Hawthorne neighborhood with lots of shopping and eating and hippies. Sellwood is great for antiquing and if you want to taste some food made by Caprial and John. Also, Willamette Week is a great resource to find out what events and concerts are going on. See here for my previous Portland posts. 

I know I am forgetting a lot of other lovelies so everyone (local and non-locals) feel free to chime in with your favorite Portland spots.


  1. ok, this is long-winded, but right off of the “visiting portland” pages of my wed-site that we put together for our out-of-towners. Links are included, so hopefully you will find this useful. i see that great minds think alike and we both have some of the same recommendations.
    ps: wedding is in 12 days (pray for sun!!!).


    Portland is beautiful, the people are friendly, and the streets are really easy to navigate. It is especially fun to shop while you are visiting because we have many unique/independantly owned shops and NO sales tax!

    In downtown, you will find a few chain faves like Nordstrom (as well as Nordstrom Rack) and Tiffany’s (did I mention the no-sales-tax thing?) as well as the Pioneer Place Mall. But you will also find unique stores like:
    Johnny Sole (Shoes) http://www.johnnysole.net/
    The English Department (Women’s wear) http://www.theenglishdept.com/
    Ray’s Ragtime (vintage) http://www.raysragtime.com/
    Canoe (home goods) https://www.canoeonline.net/salutations/
    Or for a really unique shopping experience, check out Portland Saturday Market (open on Sundays, too) http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com/

    Just northwest of downtown, you will find some great shopping areas. The Pearl District is our renovated warehouse district that is now lofts, galleries, and many unique upscale boutiques http://pearldistrict.com/pearl-district-shopping.html
    This section of town also houses stores like Sole shoes (my personal favorite!), Sur La Table, Anthropologie, and the world-famous Powell’s City of Books http://powells.com/. Grab a cuppa joe from the in-store coffee shop and refuel for your journey through the largest bookstore in the nation! A little further into northwest, you will find Nob Hill http://www.nobhillbiz.com/nobhill/ and NW 23rd Avenue (aka “Trendy-Third Avenue”).
    All of these areas are accessible by the Portland Streetcar.

    If you are willing to hop into your rental car (or take the Max Train) to the East side of the river, you will see the other side of Portland (where we live).

    Fixing up an old house, or trying to add more character to a newer one? Check out Rejuvenation on MLK Blvd http://www.rejuvenation.com/. Want to wander around and do a little people-watching with your shopping? Check out Hawthorne Blvd or Belmont Street in southeast Portland http://www.portlandneighborhood.com/belmont.html.

    Head a little further north into North and Northeast Portland for the fantastic shops and restaurants of North Mississippi Avenue http://atthemeadow.com/mississippi.htm or check out the the Alberta neighborhood http://www.portlandneighborhood.com/alberta-street.html

    Have fun!

    Where to eat – We have some goooood food here! Indulge yourself:

    Saucebox – yummy Asian-fusion located in downtown. Open late

    Toro Bravo – Spanish-inspired tapas with local & seasonal ingredients AND Portland’s Restaurant of the Year for 2007. http://www.torobravopdx.com/

    Screen Door – Local & seasonal Southern-style cooking. Great for dinner or weekend brunch.

    Simpatico – haven’t actually been there for their prix fixe dinner yet, but they do a helluva Sunday brunch. Plan to get there early

    Roux – Delish Cajun food and really great cocktails

    Blue Hour – fancy shmancy in the Pearl district. Good happy hour menu

    Helser’s – fantastic brunch & lunch menu. Located in the Alberta section of town.

    Kenny & Zuke’s – the closest thing Portland has to a good Jewish deli. The challah french toast is fabulous! Open late on weekends

    Burgerville – when you really need fast food. Several locations around Portland. Known for using local ingredients – check out the halibut fish & chips

    Laughing Planet – healthy burritos and rice bowls on Mississippi Ave.

    As for really great sushi check out Murata in downtown (very authentic – you can even get live shrimp), Yoko’s in southeast (try the tuna poke. yum!), or Hiroshi in the pearl district (expensive but worth it). Sorry, none of them had websites.

    Stumptown – local coffee, stronnnngggg brew. You can pop in to one of their coffeehouses or find Stumptown roasts served in many local cafes

    High Tea at the Heathman Hotel. Worth it just to have the doorman in the Beefeater outfit greet you. Reservations required. http://portland.heathmanhotel.com/html/portland-oregon-lounge.asp

    Pix Patisserie – when you are ready for something sweet

    And not but not least, there’s VooDoo Donuts in downtown. Outrageous donuts with ingredients like oreo crumbles, bacon, or nyquil. Open late. http://voodoodoughnut.com/index.html

    You’re on vacation! Live it up.
    Here are some bars that we like:
    (*Note: Oregon Liquor Control Commission requires bars to serve food so patrons don’t get too trashed. These places have pretty tasty treats as well)

    Vendetta Lounge – great patio, great tunes, located in North Portland (near Pix!)

    820 – wonderful interiors & a great patio, close to downtown. The owner literally wrote the book on cocktails (“mixology”)

    Driftwood Room (located in the Hotel Deluxe, downtown) – small and dimly lit, Sinatra and Bennett playing on the stereo gives it an old-time loungy feel. http://www.mintand820.com/

    Kennedy School – a trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this re-vamped Elementary school. Have a drink in the Detention Room

    Teardrop Lounge – located in the swanky Pearl District. High Style interiors make you feel like you are in a big city. House-made mixers, and bartenders who really know their gin

    Doug Fir Lounge – campy Pacific Northwest “woodsy” interiors, yummy giant onion rings. Bar and restaurant open really late, live music in the basement concert venue

    Playing outside – If the weather is nice, check out some of these area attractions:

    Laurelhurst Park, SE 39th Ave & Stark St – go for a stroll around the lagoon or stretch out under the 100-year old Doug Fir trees and have a leisurley picnic. http://www.portlandonline.com/parks/finder/index.cfm?PropertyID=224&action=ViewPark

    Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, SE 28th Ave & Woodstock Blvd – Mother’s Day weekend is their annual “peak weekend” with several hundred trusses of early blooming rhododendrons displaying full color. Great for photographers!

    Portland Classical Chinese Gardens, 239 NW Everett Street. This Suzhou-style garden (called “the Garden of Awakening Orchids”) features koi ponds, amazing architecture, guided tours, and a Tea House

    Forest Park, NW 29th Ave & Upshur St to Newberry Rd – Designed by the Olmsted Brothers, Forest Park has over 5,000 acres to explore! Also home to Portland’s International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, and adjacent to the Portland Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Vietnam War Veteran’s Memorial

    Indoor activities – In case of rain (in Portland? No way!), here are a few fun things to do indoors

    Portland Art Museum’s new Modern Art Wing. The museum is open daily at 10:00 a.m. (closed Tuesdays) and there are great exhibitions all of the time. Through May 11 is “The Dancer”, works by Degas, Forain, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

    Movies! We have lots of independant and Art House movie theaters. There’s the really cool Living Room Theater in downtown where you can see new releases or foreign films while sitting on leather couches and eating sushi http://www.livingroomtheaters.com/. Or you can go to any one of the McMenamin theaters around town to catch a just-slightly-2nd-run flick while sipping their own microbrewed beer, usually on a comfy couch (check out the historical Bagdad Theater for a bit of old Hollywood) http://www.mcmenamins.com/index.php?type=theater. Or my personal fave – the Laurelhurst Theater, where you can have a slice of pizza or fresh popcorn, beer or wine, or any kind of concession candy while enjoying a newer (or sometimes classic) movie. And admission is only $3.00! http://www.laurelhursttheater.com/home.html

    And for the truly unique Portland experience, check out the Velveteria – Portland’s own museum of black velvet paintings (really). http://www.velveteria.com/index2.htm

  2. I live in Abject Suburbia, west of PDX (Hillsboro/Beaverton area). I think I just might go on a summer vacation to PORTLAND – who knew there were such great things just minutes away? Thanks for the heads up. I’ll buy your travel guide when it’s published.

  3. I can’t get over these wonderful lists! I am officially planning to drive down from Seattle and spend Memorial Day weekend in Portland.

    Does anyone have hotel recommendations? Nothing outrageously expensive-I’m a simple girl! I’d love to know either specific hotels to consider or the best neighborhoods to stay.
    Thank you!!

  4. Ashley: The Ace Hotel Downtown, within a couple blocks of Powell’s and Living Room Theater across the street. Kenny & Zukes is on the corner of the same building. The original one is in Seattle. But it is cool. Rooms are as low as $95. http://acehotel.com/portland/

    Jupiter Hotel on East Burnside next door to Doug Fir Lounge. They have rooms available Memorial Day weekend for $126/night. http://jupiterhotel.com/

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