JS Guide to Portland, Oregon
Portland's weird, it's wacky, and it's totally worth your while — especially if dining, shopping, and sightseeing rank high on your vacation to-do list. Here, our guide to the city's best, from a concept store stocked with local wares to an authentic Russian restaurant and an Elvis-inspired drinking den.
The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Set inside the historic Meier & Frank Building, which housed a department store for most of the 20th century, the luxurious Nines Hotel nods to its retail past with fashion-forward interiors and an air of glamour and sophistication. Guestrooms have Tiffany blue-velvet accents, Louis XVI-inspired armchairs, mercury glass lamps, and spacious bathrooms with corner-mounted vanities and mirrors and marble floors. When you’re not kicking back in your chic accommodations, wander the hotel’s art-filled corridors, where there are over 400 pieces by local artists on display, or head to the handsome, leather-clad library to browse more than 3,000 titles on loan from Powell’s. The hotel’s main restaurant, Urban Farmer, is a modern steakhouse serving grass-fed Oregon beef and local spirits (try the Moonshine punch), while the rooftop Departure Restaurant offers modern Asian cuisine and an extensive sake list (the largest in Portland) in a sleek, modernist space. During the warmer months, rub shoulders with hip locals and sip craft cocktails on the rooftop deck, which looks out over downtown Portland, the Willamette River, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens.
It’s hard to pick a favorite coffee shop in a city as caffeine-crazed as Portland, but Heart Coffee—a local roaster from couple Rebekah and Wille Yli-Luoma—pours some of the city’s best. Visit the roaster’s original location in Eastside to sample espresso and specialty drinks (order the honey cardamom latte) and watch small batches of beans being roasted every Sunday.
This downtown boutique is a cool-kid emporium stocked with designer duds from international labels like A.P.C., Rachel Comey, and Common Projects, as well as Portland-based names like Tiro Tiro and Portland Garment Factory. There’s also jewelry, leather goods, and perfumes, if you’re working with limited suitcase space.
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Chances are if you’ve been to Portland, you’ve stopped in at the world-famous Powell’s Books. The so-called “city of books” covers more than 68,000 square feet of retail space and offers more than a million used and new books (so you’ll want to set aside at least an hour to lose yourself among the deep stacks). And even though the store’s collection is vast, there are plenty of employees to make recommendations or guide you to your desired section.
Pepe le Moko
With heady cocktails, intimate seating, and dimly-lit interiors reminiscent of a glamorous railway dining car, Pepe Le Moko is the definition of a killer date-night spot. Go early in the night to score a spot in an intimate booth and order the Long Island iced tea—the bar’s specialty (and one of the best we’ve ever had). Also on offer: amaretto sours, daiquiris, and bar food (spicy shrimp chips, deviled eggs, cumin roasted nuts) worth pushing back your dinner reservations for.
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This authentic Russian restaurant specializes in the kind of put-meat-on-your-bones cooking to offset Portland’s rain and cold. We tucked into the dumplings stuffed with beef, pork, and veal and topped with a dill and sour cream sauce; the rabbit braised in Smetana, and served with procini, sour cherries and garlic; and the “Herring Under a Fur Coat,” a picnic dip of potatoes, onions, carrots, beet, mayo, and eggs. There’s more than 50 different brands on vodka on offer—including a house-infused horseradish variety— plus creative cocktails like From Russia With Love (Russian standard vodka, dolin dry, organge bitters, olive) and Tasrina’s Curse (old tom gin, lillet blac, cocchi Americano, lemon, absinthe).
Donuts are a staple of any Portlander’s diet, and Coco Donuts — with its classic donuts inspired by decades-old family recipes—is our go-to spot for indulging our sugary habit. There are more than 20 flavors to chose from, but you don’t want to miss the lavender glazed and the chocolate glazed topped with coconut flakes.
Whether you’re looking for ceramics, vintage, designer threads, or cool new coffee table books, this stark, minimalist concept store is sure to satisfy all your sartorial and design needs. We especially love the jewelry by Portland local Britt Campagna and the leather bags by Pacific Northwest native Amber Arambul.
Tasty n Alder
For brunch, make your way to this ever-popular corner joint for hearty American interpretations of international dishes — think Korean fried chicken with house kimchee and eggs two ways; house-smoked trout board with flakes of tender smoked fish, a fresh celery salad, and thick creamy yogurt dill sauce; and Korean bibimbap (rice, veggies, and chili-pepper paste) with bacon and eggs. Thirsty? Skip the bellini and opt for a “grown ass milkshake” like the Grasshopper, a creamy blend of crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and chocolate bitters.
The Elvis Room
The King lives on at Portland’s Elvis Room, a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired watering hole described as the kind of “bar where Elvis would like to drink.” The design borrows a page from Graceland’s playbook—blue-suede booths, white columns, flue pipes from a pipe organ, and throwback art— while the drinks (try the Bedroom Eyes, with vodka, applejack, apricot and lemon) are delicious without taking themselves too seriously.
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