This year has been one for the books, honestly. As the year winds down I keep finding myself thinking over everything from beginning to end and I’m perplexed by it all. It was a year heavy with change and a ton of travel, too. I went to Cleveland 2x, Denver 2x, Philly (for the first time ever!), New York (for a business trip) and finally, Portland. I’ll be heading back home to Cleveland for Christmas so by the end of the year, I’ll have done 8 trips this year which to me is a hefty amount. Hands down one of my favorite of them was my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.
It was my first time there and the first time visiting somewhere where I knew absolutely no one. I went with my boyfriend, Dustin, and we literally spent 46 hours in the city but somehow managed to fit my must-dos in.
This post will be short, sweet and to the point so I can share with you my favorites and where you should go (and what you should get) at each storefront/restaurant. Also the places I’m dying to try the next time I visit. Share with me any recommendations you have for the future!
We were supposed to arrive the afternoon of Halloween but ended up getting snowed in and our flight was cancelled at 4am so we didn’t arrive until Friday at noon. I checked out a few hotel options in September and ended up going with The Hoxton in downtown Portland. Since Chicago has a Hoxton and I had heard nothing but good things, I figured why not try it. It was honestly one of the best options we could have picked.
A few generalized things to note:
- They offer Brew Dr. Kombucha in the hotel at regular grocery store price and none of their items are served at an up-charge.
- I would recommend renting a car so you can drive to the mountains and across town. Parking is pretty manageable to find on side streets (and free).
- The beds are hands down the comfiest hotel beds I’ve ever slept on.
- Lovely Rita is the hotel’s restaurant and a phenomenal option for breakfast, along with the adjacent coffee shop located in the front of the hotel.
- You can find breakfast pastries like croissants, hand pies and donuts in their coffee shop.
- Tope is a taco/mezcal bar located on the 9th floor and it’s super cute for a date night vibe.
- The views are truly not that great at all (the hotel only has 9 floors) and it’s relatively small, it’s right in downtown and the area has many homeless people but I did not feel “unsafe” by any means like some people noted.
- Within a 10 minute walk there are popular shops like Madewell and Anthropologie, Sizzle Pie, Powell’s Books, Stumptown Coffee, Prasad (a vegan spot so many people recommended), Heart Coffee (another rec), Voodoo Doughnut and Pine Street Market.
- Our hotel was only a 20 minute drive to the airport but I mean pretty much everywhere in Portland is that far from it.
- Portland’s airport has a massive Stumptown Coffee Roasters right when you get out of security and one stand even had a market with Honey Mama’s chocolate, Wild Friends peanut butter packets and kombucha options.
Now when it comes to food, here’s where we ate:
- Pine Street Market – a small market similar to Revival Food Hall in Chicago (honestly even smaller/fraction of the size) that holds Teote Tacos, Wiz Bang bar (soft serve from Salt and Straw), Checkerboard Pizza and more. Dustin grabbed a pepperoni slice from Checkerboard and then we both got tacos from Teote. I personally thought they were a bit TOO heavy on the sauce (literally my plate was sopping in taco juices) but other than that, phenomenal. I tried a sample of Wiz Bang Bar’s vegan strawberry coconut flavor because I wasn’t in the mood to be sick from the combination of a whole serving of ice cream and saucy tacos but it was pretty good. Very rich in strawberry flavor but I can only imagine that their other flavors were phenomenal. They also make all of their toppings and shells in house!
- Tusk – I had been looking forward to coming here for yeaaars. Truly! It had been on my list for a minute and with good reason. Every city I visit I try to go to a mediterranean, fancier-ish tapas place with an exceptional interior and this was that. Unfortunately, the spot was slammed and service was extremely poor. I heard amazing things about Shalom Ya’ll and Mediterranean Exploration Company which I think would have been better options but I still did like Tusk. We ordered the chicken wings (they came with the most divine yogurt sauce), the hummus with peppers (they offer small and large sizes and the small was perfect for just the two of us), the sweet potato (it came out and looked like a legitimate piece of steak — insane— and super delicious) and I ordered the lamb/pork skewer while Dustin got the chicken. Honestly it was all super tasty I just wasn’t blown away especially with the lack of good service. I would love to try their brunch though!
- Eb & Bean – Another spot that was on my “we must go” list. I told Dustin about it and he legitimately said, “did you call ahead to see if they have dairy-free flavors?” which I thought was the cutest thing and pretty much died over. I try my best to not eat too much dairy when eating out but when it comes to ice cream if it’s high quality, I love it. I love that Eb & Bean has dairy options AND almond-milk flavors as well that are dairy-free. Essentially it’s a frozen yogurt bar with tons of toppings like non-dairy coconut caramel, a non-dairy “newtella” magic shell and dye-free natural sprinkles. I got their seasonal Pumpkin Pecan Pie (non-dairy) with the Madagascar Vanilla Bean (dairy) and toasted coconut and cacao nibs with sea salt on top. It was the perfect amount of salty and sweet. The texture of their frozen yogurt is to die for, too. Couldn’t recommend this place enough!
- Lovely Rita – Located in the lobby of The Hoxton, this place is just absolutely gorgeous. It reminds me of the Soho House, filled with the most beautiful light and velvet seating. I grabbed breakfast here Saturday (just a quick bowl of yogurt, oats and apple) and it reminded me of something I’d make at home.
- Ava Gene’s – This is another restaurant from Submarine Hospitality (which also owns Husk and two other restaurants) and I loved this so much more. We came Saturday for brunch and I was honestly so overwhelmed with their menu (in a good way) that I had a hard time deciding what to get. Dustin got the burger which looked phenomenal (it doesn’t come with any sides), I got the polenta with smoked trout, a poached egg and squash with a side of sourdough that came with salted whipped butter (incredible) and Dustin’s friend got the tagliatelle alla carbonara. Everything was so beautifully presented and the interior of the restaurant alone is just stunning. I would highly recommend it!
- Salt & Straw – If you guys have been to Van Leeuwen in NYC or LA, this is super similar. I’d say it’s as high quality/wonderful in taste as VL and/or Jeni’s. Most of the flavors are out of the ordinary but they also have some classics. When we went, Dustin’s friend tried one of their few Thanksgiving-inspired flavors (Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey) and said it tasted exactly like turkey, ha! I ended up getting their Arbequina Olive Oil and Mint Chip with Theo Chocolate (their vegan option). Honestly, the combination of the two was so so perfect.
- Blue Star Donuts – Let it be known that I’m not a huge donut fan and probably haven’t had one in over two years but we stopped by a Blue Star Donuts before brunch Saturday and since I had heard amazing things, we each grabbed one. I got the lemon poppyseed and Dustin got the old fashioned glazed. Oh my god honestly the best donut I’ve had in a minute. It wasn’t too sweet at all, the glaze was perfect and not too thick… and I mean just the interior of Blue Star alone. It’s extremely spacious and simple.
- Sizzle Pie – Since Dustin’s food pyramid is basically pizza and ranch, we went to this spot that was about a 10 minute walk of The Hoxton. We got there around 10:30pm and it was packed. It has very little seating and is more of a grab and go pizza place. They have tons of options including garlic knots, vegan pizzas, creamy basil cashew spread (that tastes like the best pesto ever), creamy caramelized onion spread and even buffalo jackfruit as a vegan meat option. We ordered the pepperoni, cheese and I got the “spiral tap” which was just marinara sauce and the caramelized onion spread and nutritional yeast. I love how many options they have, how thin the crust was and you can even get half slices since their slices are pretty big. Oh and the garlic knots are like pillsbury biscuits — so good!
- Stumptown Coffee – I’ve been a huge fan of Stumptown forever and was super excited to head to one of their storefronts in Portland. Of course, I ended up getting matcha (that they actually source from a brand in Chicago – what are the odds) but I loved the space and their options. Also their cold brew is served almost everywhere, I swear!
- Proud Mary Coffee – This place reminds me of something similar to The Butcher’s Daughter in NYC/LA or Bluestone Lane but a little bit more elevated. I had no idea it was a sit down restaurant so I’m glad we got there before 10am on Sunday or else we would have been screwed. get before 10am sunday or it will be slammed. I got the avocado toast which had two huge slices of avocado, hemp seeds, asparagus, broccoli rabe and goat cheese and an iced almond milk latte (I love that they use Califia’s Barista blend). Dustin just ordered a side of hashbrowns and bacon and the hashbrown came in a little square. Truly all super tasty. Price wise I feel like it’s a bit extreme for what you’re getting but when it comes to presentation… they nail it.
- Dapper & Wise Coffee – We spent most of Saturday on SE Division St and this was one of the many coffee shops I found. Such cute seating/vibe and they had Mizuba Tea matcha. Would be perfect for a coffee date or studying!
- Serra (dispensary) – I had only been to a few dispensaries in Colorado before but this was honestly one of the most beautiful storefronts in general I had been to. Tons of greenery, marble floors and neon signs. They partner with Tea Bar and Stumptown Coffee for certain edibles and their cacao nib edible chocolates looked absolutely insane. If you’re into cannabis I would strongly recommend going here.
On my list for when I return:
- Good Coffee – Incredible branding from what I can tell and open spaces with tons of lighting, great for getting work done.
- Little Bean – Everything here is based out of chickpeas from their desserts to their ice cream… no dairy and completely vegan. Truly unsure of how they do it but I’ve heard it’s absolutely fantastic. Plus they have a neon sign that says “chickpeas, really?” which I need in my apartment.
- Virtuous Pie – A plant-based pizza shop that serves cashew-based cheeses, gluten-free crust and makes all of their sauces in house. Honestly everything looks too good to be true.
- Heart Coffee – Apparently one of the best coffee shops, this place was recommended to me by so many of you. I passed by it in the car on Friday night and I love their black + white vibe.
- Pine Street Biscuits – Honestly after having the biscuits with honey butter at Saint Lou’s Assembly here in Chicago, I swear I dream about biscuits. We passed by a location of PSB near Proud Mary Coffee on Sunday and the line was far out the door so… it must be good! They have local honey and strawberry jam so that alone on a biscuit sounds absolutely heavenly. Definitely a tourist-y spot.
- Tov – Authentic Egyptian coffee and tea in a double decker bus… with an extensive menu of coffee and tea. A fun little option that’s definitely not something you can find anywhere else.
- Broder Café – Traditional Swedish food that looks so unique and delicious. Danish pancakes with Lingonberry jam and lemon curd… oh my god hi.
- Coquine – Cozy American restaurant with farm-to-table options and a small menu but their brunch looks incredible.
- Olympia Provisions – My brother recommended this to me and I wish I could’ve gone for their seafood benedict for brunch. The actual “plates” portion of the menu is pretty small but they’re mainly known for their charcuterie/meat selections.
- Dick’s Kitchen – Better for you burgers and burger bowls… and sweet potato fries. So much local goodness! Tons of my friends who are paleo/gluten-free have been and love.
- Cultured Caveman – An entirely paleo and gluten-free option. It all looks super simple and clean if you’re looking for that while traveling.
- Lechon – Casual South American tapas restaurant right near the water. The braised brisket empanadas with golden raisins and avocado and smoked trout toast would 100% be my picks if I visited!
- Upper Left Roasters – Absolutely stunning space with tons of natural light and yet again… great branding. Two locations with a menu of open-faced sandwiches and croissants.
- Guero – This was on my list of must-haves as well but once again, you can only do so much in 46 hours haha. They’re known for their tortas but their snacks/sides and the $9 “cart bowl” which is essentially a gluten free, vegan burrito bowl sounded phenomenal. You can add carnitas, shredded beef, chicken or organic egg and avocado to the above. I need it!
- Allora – An italian restaurant and bar with about 16 pasta options including gluten-free pasta. Their ravioli with browned butter sauce and sage… give it to me!
- Prasad – A café and juice bar that serves breakfast and dinner. From burritos and mac and cheese to bowls, juices, smoothies and everything in between — all completely vegan and plant-based. I’d say it looks pretty comparable to Café Gratitude in CA.
- Harlow – Similar vibe to Prasad as it’s a sister restaurant. Their breakfast options offer eggs if you don’t vibe with soy products (tempeh/tofu) which is nice! The banana walnut pancakes sound insane.
- Tea Bar – Four locations, beautiful interior/light and the most extensive tea latte menu I’ve seen. They have coconut and oat milk for their lattes and some of the ones I’d love to try include their london fog tea latte and of course, the matcha. They deliver on Caviar and Postmates too… like okay I’d love to get a matcha delivered to my doorstep, thanks!
- Gumba – My friend Sari recommended this food truck to me. It’s all Italian and she claimed it was the best pasta she had ever had. They use fresh ingredients and source locally (you’ll find this as a very common thing in Portland).
- Lauretta Jean’s – A café serving pies, quiches, etc. Coconut cream, lemon meringue, classic pumpkin.. All available! A brunch menu serves biscuits, sandwiches, a daily quiche and your classic sides like breakfast potatoes and bacon. Yum.
- Bar Palomar – My brother gets me heavily because he recommended this place. I wish we could have gone! Mainly known for their drinks like an extensive daiquri list (with pina coladas, my favorite) and cuban-inspired sandwiches and plates. All of their salads are vegan + they offer fried plantains… aka the best things to ever exist.
- Pambiche – Traditional cuban food with brunch, lunch and dinner. A lot of the plates come with rice and beans. Apparently my brother couldn’t stop raving about this place.
- Pok Pok – Thai food that looks pret-ty phe-nom-e-nal. Jack Martanovic recommendation, yet again. This is another popular place a ton of tourists seem to go to.
- Fifty Licks Ice Cream – We passed by this place while in the car Friday night and I thought it was the cutest branding ever. Reminds me of Mitchell’s Ice Cream in Cleveland combined with Jeni’s. Simple, clean and intricate flavors. They have a vegan golden milk ice cream that sounds SO good!
There were a few other spots that I was thinking of hitting but this is it for the most part! Portland seems relatively small to me but honestly, there are so so many places to pick from and almost all of them are local. It’s incredible how we didn’t see a single chain (aside from Whole Foods) at all. No CVS or Walgreens on every corner. Few Starbucks’. It’s incredible.
One thing Portland does not lack is coffee shops. Honestly just walking a mile down one street you’re bound to see 5 coffee shops minimum, which I loved.
I hope to go back soon but it definitely will be during this time of year because it’s the most gorgeous.
I’m feeling so lucky that I was able to take this trip, especially with my boyfriend and do a little adventure like this. I hope you guys love all of the photos, light, food, etc and if you go to Portland and try (or have tried) any of these spots, let me know what you got!