A weekend in Portland generally consists for four things – food, beer, bridges and being outside.
Portland is an outdoorsy city with historic Downtown neighbourhoods built on the banks of the Willamette River. Portland is also the biggest city in Oregon (but not the capital, that’s Salem), is a proud member of the Pacific North West, and boasts some 11 bridge crossings.
et=”_blank”>Bolt Bus from Seattle (four hours).
Our accommodation, the University Place Hotel, was about a 15 minute walk from Downtown. An upper-end motel style hotel and conference centre, the hotel’s prices were fair (at the time of booking, as a couple we found it cheaper than the hostels Downtown), the room was large, the queen bed comfortable and private bathroom clean.
After checking-in, dropping our bags off and a quick scan of our Lonely Planet guide for dinner inspiration, we wandered into Downtown.
Piazza Italia, Portland’s highly recommended and raved about pizza place, must really be that good because it is still loved by locals. We turned up and they said it was at least a two hour wait. That was never going to happen, we were hungry, so we walked back down 12th to Everett Street where we spotted a cute little corner Italian restaurant called Piattino.
What a great find it was too. Small but well laid out and busy yet we didn’t have to wait for a table. The reclaimed wooden furniture suited the space, they had a good wine menu and the food – really good, delicious, handmade authentic Italian style dishes.
Piattino wasn’t exactly new, but it was still being ‘discovered’ by locals, going by the conversations we heard around us. Friendly staff and decent meal sizes – we definitely recommend Piattino to anyone going to Portland.
Our last ‘find’ of the night was stumbling across a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour – we couldn’t resist.
After breakfast, we wandered into and around Downtown via the waterfront. By late-morning we’d found ourselves at the insanity that is Voodoo Doughnuts.
About 20 minutes after joining the queue (outside), we had our doughnuts. There is a reason why Voodoo Doughnuts has been featured on probably every American Food TV show, including Man Vs Food – these creative doughnuts are exactly as you expect – big, tasty, sweet and over-the-top deliciousness’s.
The place is always pumping and the only seating available is outside. We skipped their beer, skipped their merchandise and bought three doughnuts. Three was more than enough for us – it was mind-blowing watching the majority of customers leaving with boxes of Voodoo Doughnuts – crazy!.
We took our Voodoo Doughnuts and wandered around the nearby waterfront markets.
The forest leading into the gardens is both huge and vertical. And while the roses were not in bloom, the park and gardens are always worth a visit, especially on a clear day with its stunning distant mountain backdrop.
A detour north via 23rd Ave and the hip Nob Hill area, we made our way to Bridgeport Brewing for a pint and eight tasters. Bridgeport = good quality, good variation, great beer.
Later that afternoon we stumbled across a tiny microbrewery called Pints where we particularly enjoyed their pints served in glass cowboy boots.
For dinner we made our way to Henry’s Tavern on 12th. An American sports bar and grill, the food menu is as expected, decent priced meals that are tasty and fill you up. What you don’t expect is the 100 beers on tap, or that the huge factory building the Tavern sits in is an old brewery. So if you love history, beer, retrofitted industrial bars or sport, this place is well worth a visit.
We hadn’t eaten anything from Portland’s famous food carts yet, so we decided to make our first, Portland’s first. Nong’s Khao Man Gai – Chicken and Rice. Whilst so simple, it’s honestly every bit as good as what has made Nong such a Portland icon.
Her success story effectively drove the rest of Portland’s food cart scene – check out the Food Cart website – it has details on every food cart, and the number of carts that exist is unbelievable.
The next two items on our Portland ‘to do’ list was Pok Pok and cross one of the historic bridges. So, as we always do, we walked. Over the river, through the industrial estates, through the residential areas, and through the suburbs. We started questioning where Pok Pok is – you feel like you’re walking right out of town.
A little over an hour later, we found Pok Pok, we were seated and we got stuck into their world famous spicy wings. They are SO good!
Now for a little secret that’s not so secret. From 4pm, if Pok Pok is too busy and you have to wait to get your fix of wings, walk 100m down the road to the Whiskey Soda Lounge. They serve Pok Pok wings!
After lunch we walked a few blocks north to have a look at one of McMenamins Cinema brewpubs (this one is the Bagdad Theatre). We didn’t plan our trip to fit it in, but it’s such an awesome concept. The perfect date night – craft beer, dinner and a movie, all in one place. Next time!
On our walk back to downtown, we stopped into Cascade Brewing, home of some of the best sour beers we’ve ever tasted. The quality of the beer, the alternative brewing/aging style and the variations offered are all a testament to the passion of the master brewer. We thoroughly enjoyed our Cascade Brewing beer experience.
Deschutes Brewery – a trip to Portland is not complete without visiting the Deschutes Brewery at least once. Although founded and based out of Bend, Oregon, the Portland location is probably the company’s staple location. We sat at the bar and had a flight, and like all good craft breweries, Deschutes offers quality with a good combination of beer varieties.
Later that evening in search of dinner, we found our way to Rock Bottom Brewing. If there is one thing you must have you when you go to Rock Bottom Brewery, it’s their Salted Caramel Cheesecake in a Mason jar dessert. We were too full after dinner, so we paid the $1 extra for the lid and took it with us. When we got around to eating it, or should I say, devouring it – it was a heavenly taste experience.
The last morning
Our weekend in Portland was now coming to an end. We packed up, had breakfast, checked out, wandered into Downtown, grabbed an early lunch (Mick, a street vendor burrito that was waaaaaaaaaaaaay too big and Tahlee, a more healthy salad option), and we boarded our Bolt Bus to Seattle, happy knowing we ate, we drank, we walked and we ‘did’ Portland, but leaving enough for another adventure in the future.
What are your Portland suggestions for food and beer and things to explore?