Travel Guide | Portland

15 Things to Check Out in Portland, Oregon

Places to eat, drink, shop and chill out at in the Rose City

We were in a cute little gift boutique, and my friend Lilian picked something up at random – a tote bag perhaps – that had a sparrow silk-screened on it, and whispered, half-incredulous, “It’s true…Put a bird on it.” If you have ever watched the sketch comedy series Portlandia, you’d understand this (kind of old) reference. Basically, it’s a dig at the hipsters that seem to be everywhere in Portland, and their general need to use birds as their company logo or plaster it on the handmade home goods they sell on Etsy. Some may claim to hate this sort of lifestyle/aesthetic, but we were there to spend as much time in cafes and second-hand stores as possible, and just soak it all in. I had a lot of fun just wandering around, but here are 15 places I went to, so you know what to keep an eye out for.

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Where to Eat, drink and Hang out:

Jam on Hawthorne (2239 SE Hawthorne Blvd) – If you’re a fan of breakfast food, here’s a good place to grab a late brunch. They are only open from 7.30am – 3pm, so if you go a bit later, don’t feel bad ordering a cocktail with your wrap or waffles. The portions are massive, so take it slow.

Grassa (1205 SW Washington St, Portland) – The giant eagle on the wall will let you know you’re in the right place (also staying true to the “put a bird on it” motif). You can sit at the bar, or at one of the long communal tables, and get an up-close view of the chefs making the pasta fresh. They’ll probably be playing rock on the record player.

Food Carts (Various locations) – You can find them popping up in parking lots, parks or on sidewalks all over Portland in little clusters called “pods”, and people have dubbed them things such as “lunch wagons” or “snack shacks”. To find out specific locations, cart names and cuisine types, visit http://www.foodcartsportland.com/

Harlow (3632 SE Hawthorne Blvd) – This vegan/vegetarian counter-service restaurant serves delicious and healthy food (it’s also all gluten-free!). If you’re feeling adventurous, try their raw veggie burger, and if you’re looking for something warm to fill you up, opt for the Chili Bowl. I saw that draft beers were served in mason jars – there’s a first for everything, right?

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Bushwhacker Cider (1212-D SE Powell) – There is only cider at this pub, but there are enough kinds to keep it interesting – over 300 to be exact. If you get overwhelmed by choice, pick the flight. For $13, you can try all 8 ciders on draft. It’s a little of a gamble (I had to drink a really spicy jalapeno cider), but what’s the point of sticking to what you know?

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Tea Chai Te (3403 SE Hawthorne Blvd/ 734 NW 23rd Ave/ 7983 SE 13th Ave) – Take your pick from over 120 different types of teas. Everything is made from scratch, and you can choose if you want your drink hot or iced, as a latte, with sugar or without. The level of customization is crazy! It is a very peaceful environment, and a great place to take a break from walking all day.

Ground Kontrol (511 NW Couch St) – This place is a dream: $4 pints and over 60 classic video games like Street Fighter, Pac-Man and Tron. Change a couple dollars into quarters (each game is only a quarter or two) and you’ve got yourself a good night.

 Where to Shop:

Really Good Stuff (1322 SE Hawthorne Blvd) – If you’re looking for a film camera, a keyboard or want to dig through some antiques/junk for fun, this is a super cool place to wander under the teetering stacks of plain old stuff.

House of Vintage (3315 SE Hawthorne Blvd) – The amount of clothes and knick-knacks in this superstore is staggering, but be aware that not all of it is truly “vintage”. I picked up an extremely cute Fisher-Price tape recorder/player from the 80’s.

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Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside St.) – There are over one million books at Powell’s flagship store, which has to be sectioned off into color-coded rooms. My friends and I had to tear ourselves away – we could have stayed there for hours.

Bee Thinking (1551 SE Poplar Ave) – “What exactly do you do with beeswax?” We were perplexed by the sticks you could buy here. The store assistant rattled off everything from using it to make your own lip balm to styling moustaches. If you’re stumped for souvenirs, get something you know you’d use – the honey soap bars are handmade in Portland, and smell amazing.

Portland Saturday Market (2 SW Naito Parkway) – Every weekend from March 1 through December 24, over 300 Pacific Northwest artisans gather at the largest open-air marketplace in the country. There is a great supportive vibe between the vendors, and picking up some jewelry, sculptures or prints could both help the artist community, and give you something beautiful to remember your trip by.

 Where to Stay:

Portland International Guesthouse (2185 NW Flanders St)  – This quiet guesthouse features private rooms, and shared bathrooms, a kitchen and common room. It was spotless, very cosy and pretty affordable.

Go on, do that touristy thing:

International Rose Test Garden (400 SW Kingston Ave) – Portland is the Rose City, so no visit would be complete without spending some time enjoying one of their gardens. This public garden in Washington Park is the oldest of its kind in the United States, and has over 500 varieties. Flowers may not sound like the most exciting thing to go see, but I would highly recommend it – it is simply beautiful.

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Voodoo Doughnuts (22 SW 3rd Avenue) – A local tried to dissuade us from going here – “They sold out, man” – but it was one a.m. and I wanted a ridiculously-named confection, damn it! I was rewarded with the “Diablos Rex” doughnut for my persistence, and my friend Eva decided to get the Bacon Maple Bar doughnut, for the novelty.

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Taina Teravainen

Emerson College | 5 stories

Taina is a semester away from graduating from Emerson College with a BFA in Writing, Literature & Publishing. She hails from the little island city of Singapore and often writes about the search for home.


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