I love Portland. I’ve lived in the city of roses not once or even twice but on three separate occasions for a grand total of 8 years in all. I assume I will someday call this beautiful corner of the Pacific NW home again but for now, an occasional weekend will have to suffice. Unlike most “Weekend in Portland” stories mine revolves around visiting friends and going to the places they frequent in their neighborhoods. What better way to see a city than with those who live in it. Some of these spots are in every Portland story you’re likely to come across while others are a bit off the beaten path.
My current home is sunny Southern California which is an easy 2-hour flight away. Coming from a city known for its chaotic sprawl it’s very pleasant to arrive at PDX where you can simply hop on MAX (Portland’s rail system) mere steps from the terminal and easily head downtown. In our case, we quickly make our way to our car rental as our trip continues to other corners of Oregon after our 48 hours here. Portland is easy to navigate and quick to travel although I’ve been repeatedly told traffic is much worse than I remember. Stumptown coffee in hand we set out to enjoy Portland.
Lunch, Coffee & Shopping on S.E.Grand Ave.
At the suggestion of one of our friends, we head to S.E. Portland to Figlia Americana. Being vegetarians, we had plenty to choose from and enjoyed the fava bean sandwich with broccoli rabe on ciabatta. The kids devoured the grilled cheese while sipping on chai. One of our friends mentioned their exceptional avocado toast so we tried that as well and she wasn’t kidding. Delicious! In addition to the great food, the café is very charming and in my opinion, that’s half of the equation when dining out. This space won the hospitality design award for Café Culture.
Adjoining the cafe is a Portland mainstay, Rejuvenation Hardware, so before we moved on we took a quick look inside. This is one of the few places we visited on this trip that existed during my years in Portland.
After lunch, another friend suggested a post-meal coffee and we all happily obliged. We walked to the other end of the block to his favorite coffee house, Coava Coffee which is located in a large, airy space. I opted for an iced coffee and added a bit of the syrup they have handy for those who like a little sweet to their coffee. Keep in mind, this is Portland on a summer day experiencing record heat, near triple digits so ice in my coffee was a necessity. This hit the spot. Coava is the creation of Matt Higgins who started the company in 2008 with this location being the flagship. Since then multiple Portland outlets have been added as well as a Coava in downtown San Diego. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be able to stop by a Coava, we can always order their coffee online.
Once we were done here we headed down a few doors to a shop that both groups of friends recommended, Wildfang. They state their mission as one “to create a home for badass women everywhere”. This “female-founded, and women run” boutique has raised over $300,000 for causes which impact women. So, while you shop their fantastic selection of reasonably priced wears you know your dime is also going to worthy causes.
Dinner in Multnomah Village
Later that evening we headed to Multnomah Village which is a five-minute drive from Downtown Portland. This quaint district has shops and restaurants housed in historic buildings along Capital Highway. We met up with another friend and her family for dinner at Tastebud.
This fantastic wood-fired pizza restaurant started as a farm then grew into a food truck and now is a brick and mortar sit down restaurant. We had originally planned to go elsewhere, to a restaurant we used to go to back in our years here but at lunch a friend strongly recommended Tastebud and wow, they were right. We had the fungi pizza and the kids the classic pizza. All delicious. The drink menu had a good selection of Pacific Northwest beers and wines. When it was time for dessert we shared a sticky toffee pudding which honestly didn’t sound all that appetizing to me or to anyone but the kids. We were so wrong, it was fabulous!
The Pearl District
We began day two by exploring downtown and The Pearl District. After some sightseeing, we met up with another friend at Powell’s. Nothing is more “Portland” than Powell’s Books. This is the largest independent bookstore in the world and a staple in Portland since 1971. A visit is worth devoting a few hours to as it takes time to browse the books contained in the maze of connecting rooms. I’ve spent countless hours here and could spend many more, but I only have two days, so we must move on.
On to lunch at one of my favorites, Deschutes Brewery. The quinoa burger is a hit with not only me and my vegetarian family but our carnivorous friend. And of course, we sampled a variety of Deschutes beers. Not a single sample that I didn’t like. Luckily, I can find some Deschutes beer at home in Los Angeles but nothing like the selection here. This Bend Oregon based brewery has been producing quality beer since 1988 and remains family and employee owned and operated.
S.E. Clinton Street for Ice Cream
Portland is well known for Salt and Straw ice cream which is fast spreading along the west coast, and while their ice cream is delicious we opted for a less known spot for a late afternoon treat. Back across the river to S.E. Clinton Street and 50 Licks ice cream mere steps from one of my former homes. This is ice cream made from scratch with that rare homemade taste. Delicious! As we leave we stop to get a quick photo in front of my old house, aptly named “Clinton House” as the current residents likely wondered what exactly we found so special about their house.
One thing a visitor to Portland quickly notices is it’s a town divided not by cuisine or attitude but by the Willamette River. There are 12 bridges connecting the east and west sides of the city, including one railroad bridge and the new addition of Tilikum Crossing, a pedestrian bridge. They are an integral part of the city, a picturesque backdrop allowing the residents to not only drive easily to the other side of town but often walk or bike. During our visit, we ventured back and forth many times and despite the geographical division of the Willamette River, the city of Portland feels more uniform and compact than any city of its size that I’ve visited.
Walk along the Waterfront
After our afternoon ice cream, we headed back downtown and as may be obvious from reading this we have eaten a lot. That’s what happens in Portland, people eat too much because there is a multitude of really good food to choose from. That said, after the food-filled weekend we were not at all hungry for dinner. A friend came to our downtown hotel for a drink and we took a walk along the Willamette riverfront. We ended up at Poet’s Beach which opened in 2017 providing residents with a sandy beach to relax at on these hot summer days. In the evenings this location provides a beautiful view of Portland’s city lights and trademark bridges.
This trip was far too short to enjoy even a fraction of the beauty of Portland, not to mention the food and drinks. It’s not the Portland I knew, and although I can get a bit sentimental about the lack of boss sauce and Coffee People, Portland still retains its quirky character and boasts impressive local food and drink selections. One thing is for sure, you won’t leave hungry. Until next time.