Portland may be small, but it is jam packed with culture — from a love of bikes and artisanal foods to lush greenery, a buzzing music scene, and hip, tattooed denizens. Its food cart scene rivals that of cities twice its size (though of course they’re much cooler here) and the shops, cafés, and galleries that line Mississippi Avenue are not your usual shopping-drag suspects. The city offers a refreshing dose of mom-and-pop shops, intimate and locally loved restaurants and bars, and beautiful public parks — not to mention a close proximity to the laid-back wine tasting vibe of the Willamette Valley.
Breakfast: Pack yourself into Broder for a Scandinavian wake-up call. Go with savory or sweet, like Swedish hash with potatoes, bell peppers, onions, and ham topped with two baked eggs or the Danish pancakes that come with two toppings such as homemade lemon curd, lingonberry jam, or applesauce. The space is, as you would expect from Portland, a solid mix of charming and industrial. It’s unpretentious with yellow metal bar stools, green chalkboard menus, and old school blue and white checked napkins.
Lunch: Make your way to the Ace Hotel’s bright and airy Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen for the classics — chicken soup with Matzoh balls, corned beef and meshugaletta sandwiches stacked high, breakfast all day, and cheese blintzes. It strikes a chord by being exactly what it is — a New York-style Jewish deli in Portland — meaning it goes further than a local, corner deli may, by buying local ingredients and making Reubens and borscht with a different kind of passion and fascination.
Afternoon Snack: Yes, we know you hate lines. Yes, you should still wait in this one because you’ll praise the day you decided to play games on your iPhone to pass the time at Voodoo Doughnut (the home of the bacon maple bar). These doughnuts don’t look or taste like the ones you’ve seen before. The Voodoo Doll is a chocolate frosted doughnut that’s filled with raspberry jelly and stabbed with a pretzel “stake,” the Captain My Captain doughnut comes with vanilla frosting and Captain Crunch all over it, and the Memphis Mafia is fried dough with banana chunks, covered in cinnamon sugar and a chocolate frosting glaze with peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips on top. Need we go on? (Photo courtesy of Flickr/scaredy_kat)
Dinner: Find the day’s freshest catch at Cabezon. It has the feel of a great neighborhood secret with an elevated seafood menu offering dishes like basil-wrapped white shrimp with lentils and spinach, cioppino with local fish and Dungeness crab, and Totten Inlet mussels with Spanish chorizo. The dessert menu inspires lip-smacking with options like lavender and honey crème brûlée and apricot crisp with homemade ice cream. It’s a fish market during the day and a charming boîte at night.
Drinks: If you’re not opposed to being spotted at the Ace Hotel twice in one day (or weekend), head back that way for an expertly mixed cocktail at Clyde Common, where mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler is in charge of the unforgettable boozy concoctions. The Tuning Fork mixes Johnnie Walker scotch with dry vermouth, orange, honey syrup, and an orange peel and they house-age cocktails for two months in whiskey barrels, like the Barrel Aged El Presidente, which is 4-year-old rum, dry vermouth, curacao, grenadine, and orange peel.
If tapping into Portland’s incredible craft beer scene is more your mission, book it to the iconic Horse Brass Pub (pictured) where beer aficionados have been learning a thing or two for more than 30 years. They offer some of the most obscure brews around and are always more than happy to talk newcomers through it all. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Paul Lowry)