It’s time to put aside the Portlandia references and actually get down to what this rad city is all about. Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, Portland is filled with fresh air and a community of welcoming, open-minded, genuine people. Seriously, it’s no shocker when people go out of there way to help others here. The creative energy is high, the support system is strong, and “the food, it’s really f**cking delicious,” according to local Marisa Howard, designer behind Seaworthy. And that’s no exaggeration. We knew finding Portland’s treasure spots was a must so we asked Marisa along with our favorite Portland designers, boutiques and style bloggers on the best places to eat, drink and people watch. You might want to ask for vacation time now.
WHERE TO EAT
Choosing where to grab a bite to eat might be a little difficult and not because of a lack of options. It’s the exact opposite. “There are so many good places to eat in Portland,” says 100 Year Party‘s Noel Weisenbacher. “If you’re craving a classic like pizza, Handsome Pizza is delish. If you want authentic, fresh Mexican, Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz in St. Johns is a must—I’m dreaming of their tacos right now. If you want killer rotisserie chicken Pollo Norte is the place,” she adds.
Handsome Pizza, 1603 NE Killingsworth St
Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz, 8630 N Lombard St
Pollo Norte, 5427 NE 42nd Ave
Shea Christner from Open Air Museum is currently crushing on Tusk (above): “A modern take on Mediterranean food. I think about their hummus and flatbread everyday. Oh, and the Eastern Maid cocktail. I die. It has the perfect Palm Springs vibes that I crave living in a damp and overcast city. It is an escape!” Lindsay Reif, designer of REIF, chimes in. “The food is delicious, and the decor is beautiful.” The praise didn’t stop there. Kristen Robinson, founder of Minoux, also loves it there and swears that their “vegetables that will change your life.”
Tusk, 2448 E Burnside St
In the mood for Mexican? Then Tonya Smith, the Portland style blogger behind @themoptop, swears by Porque No. “The margaritas and chips are great!”
Porque No, 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Sarah Donofrio from One Imaginary Girl divulged that La Moule (above) is one of the best places to eat in the Clinton neighborhood. “A restaurant based around mussels and fries?? Sign me up.” Us too, please.
La Moule, 2500 SE Clinton St
Laura Housgard, owner of Johan, let’s us in on Portland’s best ramen. “Afuri! The truffle miso is vegetarian and will 100% blow your mind.” For some more vegetarian options we looked to designer Laurs Kemp: “I’m vegan/vegetarian, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new restaurants! Here’s my perfect food day. Brunch (and the city’s best Bloody Mary) at A.N.D. Cafe. Lunch at Van Hanh, a Vietnamese restaurant run by Buddhist nuns! And I’d cap the night off at Revelry, a fantastic new late-night spot.” Sounds like a (yummy) plan to us.
Afuri, 923 SE 7th Ave
A.N.D. Cafe, 5420 E Burnside St
Van Hanh, 8446 SE Division St
Revelry, 210 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
“Sweedeedee’s will forever have my heart,” reveals Jen Vitale, owner of Association Shop. “It has the best breakfast/brunch in town hands down. The honey cake and breakfast rice bowl are favorites.”
Sweedeedee, 5202 N Albina Ave
“I love Milk Glass Market (above), it’s a tiny cafe close to my house in North Portland that is never too busy (at least on the weekdays). They serve farm-to-table style dishes that are insanely delicious. The Veggie Sandwich comes highly recommended,” says Lizzie Falkenstein designer of Primecut. They also have an endless array of sweets that change up on the daily.
Milk Glass Market, 2150 N Killingsworth St
Diana Kim, owner of Stand Up Comedy, favors Rose VL for the best Vietnamese. It also happens to be the most colorful space with purple and yellow hues to brighten up those gloomy gray Portland days.
Rose VL, 6424 SE Powell Blvd
In August we took a virtual trip to Portland with Jen Szeto, the style blogger behind @windowofimagination, and she revealed some of her go-to spots. Firstly there is Nong’s Khao Man Gai (which also happens to be on our top three things we love in Portland list): “their famous thai-style chicken and rice is so simple, yet delicious.” For dessert she recommended the soft serve at Cheese & Crack.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai, 1003 SW Alder St
Cheese & Crack, 22 SE 28th Ave
WHERE TO DRINK
It’s happy hour in Portland so, where do you go? “I love the cocktail selection at Circa 33 (above), and their neighbor, Aalto lounge, has $2 happy hour cocktails. You can’t go wrong on Belmont S.,” Sarah reveals.
Circa 33, 3348 SE Belmont St
Aalto Lounge, 3356 SE Belmont St
Britt Hawkes (@seaandpattern), another Portland style crush of ours, heads to the Sandy Hut to get her drink on. “Make sure to order their Chi Chi cocktail which is similar to a piña colada and will make you feel like you’re sitting by the ocean.”
Sandy Hut, 1430 NE Sandy Blvd
When Brookes Boswell, milliner of the best hats and owner of Shop Boswell, is sticking close to her studio she likes to head to “a brewery called Commons which also has a cheesemonger inside and brews unique saison and not-so-hoppy beers. For a fancy cocktail I go to Holdfast, which is a tasting menu restaurant, except on Monday nights they have an a la carte and cocktail menu that is exceptional.”
Commons, 630 SE Belmont St
Holdfast, 537 SE Ash St #102
“If you like a good dive bar then head to Sloan’s Tavern,” says accessory designer Sara Barner. With a semi-truck built into the wall and the best jukebox in town, this place is truly one of a kind.
Sloan’s Tavern, 36 N Russell St
“The summer is coming and it’s all about patios and sunshine and day drinking. That means the Bye & Bye,” Seaworthy‘s Marisa Howard tells us. “I might be biased, because my husband is one of the owners and my brother bartends there (he’s the one with the huge beard and the tattoos…haha!) but it really is my favorite bar in the summer.” The drink pictured above is the infamous Bye & Bye (peach vodka & bourbon, lemon, cranberry juice and soda). It is promised to cure just about anything.
Bye & Bye, 1011 NE Alberta St
Owner of WM Goods, Whitney Goodman admits, “I’m the biggest homebody of all time and suck at drinking, so on the rare occasion that I go out, it’s usually to the Multnomah Whiskey Library. The food is awesome, they are super knowledgable about their booze. Also, the place is gorgeous.”
Multnomah Whiskey Library, 1124 SW Alder St
“Dame is our favorite and fanciest female-owned establishment that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside while sipping a tall glass of their best French cider,” explains Alicia and James Buford, owners of Infashuated.
Dame, 2930 NE Killingsworth St
Erik Prowell from Portland’s Bridge & Burn has three go-to spots: “Sweet Hereafter, Bazi and Reel M Inn.”
Sweet Hereafter, 3326 SE Belmont St
Bazi Bierbrasserie, 1522 SE 32nd Ave
Reel M Inn, 2430 SE Division St
“Well I have two small children, so I don’t get out drinking much these days,” explains Shana Beth, the designer behind womenswear line Beth. “I did recently have day drinks at Victoria Bar and that was dope. I also like this super low-key place called My Couch. They always have exactly want I want and you can wear your PJ’s and watch movies.”
Victoria Bar, 4835 N Albina Ave
Taking our minds off happy hour and onto our other favorite beverage: coffee. There are countless cozy cafes in Portland. Never Coffee (above) is Kristen’s favorite. “Who knew coffee could be even more perfect? The Oregon latte with Cascade hops, dulce de leche and Jacobsen Sea Salt” is a must-try.
Never Coffee, 4243 SE Belmont St
For coffee Britt hits up Commissary. “A laid back coffee shop tucked away in the alphabet district serving Water Ave. coffee and fresh baked snacks.”
Commissary, 915 NW 19th Ave
Self-taught designer Kate Towers loves “Coquine for coffee, pastries, and a walk on Mt. Tabor,” which is also one of Sara’s favorite places to people watch “if it’s nice out.”
Coquine, 6839 SE Belmont St
Laurs speaks on coffee’s frenemy: “if you’re looking for a hot drink, Tea Bar has marvelous non-coffee options. And it’s also woman-owned! Woohoo!” This spot has the world’s best selection of teas sourced from family farms from around the world.
Tea Bar, 1615 NE Killingsworth St (+ 2 other locations)
“It’s been so long since I’ve really enjoyed a meal out or a cocktail, so I don’t think I’m much help here. Currently all I want are Blizzards from Dairy Queen,” reveals Amber Arambul from ARA. This is because she is seven months pregnant! So, big congratulations and blizzards for everyone!
WHERE TO PEOPLE WATCH
“There are so many unique personalities in this city, that it’s hard to narrow down one inspiring spot,” explains Sarah. But we managed to get our experts to confess the best of the best. Lizzie makes clear that Portland’s Pioneer Square (above) in the heart of downtown is “the most condensed people watching.”
Pioneer Square, 701 SW 6th Ave
The next spot, The Ace Hotel, was a fan favorite of many. Kate goes straight to the lobby while Whitney likes to “pull up to a stool in the Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel for some pretty prime people watching.” And then there is the Sundaze Collective: “A curated monthly fashion pop-up featuring Portland’s favorite designers and makers located in The Ace Hotel event space,” explains Kristen. Laura adds on that “Sarah from The Yo! Store puts it on, we (Johan) participates every other month. It ends up drawing a huge crowd and is always a blast—like one big party in the heart of Portland.”
It’s a fact: “Anywhere around the Ace Hotel is great people watching. It’s a mixture of tourists and locals, and you’re sure to catch some amazing street style,” expresses Lindsey.
The Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark St
Stumptown Coffee, 1026 SW Stark St
Learn more about the Sundaze Collective here.
“There’s always lots of people out and about, so taking a stroll through the Japanese Gardens, Laurelhurst park or farmer’s markets (above) can give you a great peek into local culture,” explains Brookes.
Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Ave
Laurelhurst Park, SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St
Laurs Kemp has her people watching day mapped out to a T. “For daytime people-watching, I’d start with a coffee at Courier Coffee and then go to PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art) and get a bird’s-eye view from their rooftop—which is open to the public during their weekday business hours! You can also peruse their art book library while you’re there! For some nighttime people-watching, I’d suggest The Lovecraft Bar, a goth-themed dance bar!”
Courier Coffee, 923 SW Oak St
PICA, 415 SW 10th Ave #300
The Lovecraft, 421 SE Grand Ave
“I absolutely fell in love with this landmark (Ira Keller Fountain Park). The fountain is located in the heart of downtown, and is an architectural sight for sore eyes,” explains Jen. This beautiful fountain brings a lot of people to one space so it often doubles as a pretty awesome people watching spot.
Ira Keller Fountain, SW 3rd Ave & Clay St
Tonya says that “pretty much any of the main streets of Portland such as Hawthorne, Division, Alberta or Mississippi” are great. “There’s always people walking around!”
So, when it comes down to it the answer is clear: “in Portland, anywhere,” admits Noel.