Whenever I visit Portland, I am immediately struck by the city's laid-back, informal vibe. Even the restaurants that serve haute cuisine that — in any other city, would demand a dress code — have casual diners. Given that prior experience, stepping into Hotel deLuxe came as an unexpectedly upscale surprise.
Hotel deLuxe is located on a seemingly innocuous corner of 15th Street in downtown Portland. A small awning marks the entryway and a set of steps leads to the hotel's foyer and check-in desk, off to the left is Gracie's, one of the breakfast-loving city's most beloved spots along with the Driftwood Room cocktail lounge. What is remarkable about the space is that you are at once transported back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood, thanks to the hotel's motif: stars of the silver screen.
Check in was an easy process and we discovered that the friendly clerk hailed from our same home county on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Once inside our top floor suite, we were thrilled to see stunning views of the city as well as a separate sitting room, sizeable closet and spacious bathroom. Like the rest of the hotel, stars of the stage and big screen decorate its walls, making this L.A. resident feel right at home.
While a Hollywood-themed hotel at first seems out of place and possibly a little cheesy anywhere other than La-La-land, I later learned that Portland is obsessed with movies and has more movie theaters per capita than any other city in the nation. Because of the hotel's tasteful art deco décor, the behind-the-scenes-look of stars from the 1930s-1950s are more charming than anything else. As we explored the hotel, I discovered that each floor has a theme like Hitchcock, dance and music stars and more. They all come together in the lobby's video wall, which resembles a movie screen.
Like the Hotel deLuxe's sister hotel, Hotel Lucia, it is also devoted to guest comfort with pillow, spiritual (a digital collection of religious books) and iPod menus. Because of its location far enough away from the immediate downtown area, you don't need earplugs and our room was located so high above the street level that we rarely even heard cars as they sped by. We also enjoyed multiple views of the city and sights like Jeld-Wen Field, the home of Portland's Major League Soccer club.
The property is a little distant from many of the best known highlights of the city, but it is walking distance to the Pearl District, which is where many of the city's newest and hottest restaurants and shops are located. The Pearl is a great place for foodies to explore with specialty food stores and cafes that feature seasonal ingredients, reminding us of an episode of Portlandia. For shopaholics, there are upscale chain stores mixed in with boutiques that have everything from décor from the Far East to vintage jewelry of the West.
After a day of family events one evening, we ventured to a nearby McMenamins property, a uniquely Portland experience from what could otherwise be your everyday-chain restaurant. While sitting in the bar surrounded by a wedding after-party, I spotted a local celebrity: Project Runway Season 11 winner Michelle Lesniak Franklin coming out of the neighboring music venue.
On our last morning in Portland, we ventured down to Gracie's. Like the rest of the hotel, it is elegantly furnished, complete with gilding and chandeliers. True to the city's vibe, the clientele is dressed in a decidedly casual manner. We were greeted and seated nearly immediately, ready to enjoy one of the most popular breakfasts in the city.
Other visits to the City of Roses have made me familiar with a Northwest favorite: the Dutch Baby, a kind of raised, eggy pancake. There it is known as the Thieles Original German Pancake and I couldn't resist it, because it is so hard to find outside of Portland. Gracie's version proved to be the best I have ever tried; the traditional accouterments of lemon and powdered sugar accompany the plate-sized treat, made it both sweet and refreshing.
We also tried the Eggs Benedict with House Smoked Salmon (salmon is another local specialty). While the salmon was a little too smoky for my taste, I appreciated the generous portion and the fact that it was homemade. Even the coffee proved to be excellent; the hotel uses Portland Roasting Coffee and is better than your average brew; which is to be expected in the Northwest, where coffee and beer houses abound. As we departed for the airport, we were sad to be leaving such a luxurious experience behind and an unexpected treat in the casually-cool city.