Portland, Oregon

There’s a rumor going around that Californians are migrating to Oregon due to the skyrocketing cost of living in the Bay Area. While I will neither confirm nor deny our interest in the idea, I will admit that our trip to Portland spawned mainly from a take me anywhere search off Kayak, comparing the absurd costs of Napa Valley, and vague idea that Portland promised food – which I’m sure you can understand, was enough for us to switch gears and start reading PDX Monthly.

Portland, Oregon is definitely a must visit city with something to do for everyone. Coming from the California, Portland is a welcome reprieve with its much lighter traffic through tree-lined freeways, endless local eats, and friendly people (not to mention tax free shopping!). There are both easy food carts and artistic menus, inconsumable amounts of delicious brews whether you’re winding down or up, and plenty of outdoor activities all within a very accessible radius.

What to Eat

Bamboo Sushi

bamboosushi.com, 1409 NE Alberta St, $$$
Definitely worth the splurge if you’re a true sushi lover. Bamboo Sushi is a completely sustainable restaurant, the first I’ve heard of for a sushi spot, so it was one of my main priorities coming to Portland. Their fish was so incredibly fresh: everything melts in your mouth. Even their mackerel was delicious and I’ve never enjoyed it anytime I’ve had it at home. The difference between Coho salmon and Alaskan salmon – it’s completely ruined me for sushi elsewhere.

  • Chefs sashimi
  • Kimono roll
  • Ocean Trout yakumi nigiri
  • Tamago yakumi nigiri

Drinks
Sochu Earth flight (literally earthy, densely smoky, knocks you out in the face strong flavors like whiskey) & the Bartender’s (Sake) flight (super smooth and easy to drink, subtle flavor)

Pok Pok

pokpokpdx.com, 3226 SE Division St (multiple locations), $$
Pok Pok and their famous (Korean) Fried Chicken was the most recommended spot, but neither of us are big KFC fans so we felt a little wary about the hype. Admittedly, the chicken was pretty good, but we thought their other dishes were really the stars. Instead, if you can take the heat, order their boar collar, Muu Paa Kham Waan: I almost died trying it, but Carl loved it. Their clay pot of shrimp and glass noodles was my favorite – it was so flavorful I nearly ate it all by myself. They also have a great curry noodle, and both coconut rice and sticky rice, which you can slather in the remaining curry sauce when you run out of noodles!

  • Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
  • Kung Op Wun Sen (clay pot noodles)
  • Muu Paa Kham Waan (Boar collar)
  • Khao Soi (Curry noodles)
  • Sticky Rice
  • Coconut Rice

Han Oak

hanoakpdx.com, 511 NE 24th Ave, $$
Normally a reservation only prefix restaurant, but on Sundays and Mondays they turn into a more casual noodles and dumplings spot. Totally worth it, especially as they’re open until 11p. Service was impeccable. The open kitchen had great vibes. Try the Pork + shrimp wontons with the chili sauce on the side, not that it was too spicy, but I don’t particularly like when hot sauces overpower the actual flavor of food, so when we ordered a second order without the sauce I was able to really taste the broth inside the dumpling and it was delicious by itself.
Note that it’s a little hidden inside of an alley and without an obvious sign. Just walk into that space between 24th & Meatballs and The Pie Spot, go through the unassuming double doors with the draping greenery, and you’ll find yourself in a really interesting space.

  • Pork + chive dumplings
  • Pork + shrimp wontons
  • Jia Jiang Myun

Andina

andinarestaurant.com, 1314 NW Glisan St, $$$
A reservation is a good idea for this bustling restaurant, but they do have a side of the restaurant that’s a little more casual and open for first come first serve. If you’re lucky, you may just meet Doris, charming owner, and hear a story or two about the dishes you’ve selected. Like how the De Corazn were typically cooked by women of the poorer areas, who would set up their little grills in the streets to try to make a little money. Eventually the government even allowed them to sell the anticuchos outside of the soccer stadiums, and so the smell of these skewers became an integral part of the festive memories. I’m not a big fan of heart (Carl is), but this was very tender and did not have any of that chalky texture or harsh iron-y flavor that you might typically anticipate.

  • Yuca Rellena
  • Arroz Con Mariscos
  • De Pescado 5 Elementos
  • Carne Empanadas
  • Anticuchos De Corazn

Lardo

lardosandwiches.com, 1205 SW Washington St (multiple locations), $
Casual grub spot with plenty of noise and music, come hungry!

  • Mushroom Meatball
  • Korean Pork Shoulder

Drinks
Nitro choco mountain stout & swift cider – PDX pippin *one of our favorite ciders! Very fragrant, just touch sweet, clean finish!

Milk glass market

milkglassmrkt.com, 2150 N. Killingsworth, $$
A small, cozy brunch spot with a simple menu of very fresh and tasty combos. Definitely try a Snack Egg, a single egg halved and seasoned for a mouthful of flavor. A little challenging to eat at first with the strips of unidentified stuff, but worth the short awkward moment!

  • Snack Egg
  • Eggs + Green
  • The Swell

Drinks
Cold brew Stumptown on nitro & Thyme iced tea (really refreshing!)

Portland Mercado

portlandmercado.org, 7238 SE Foster Rd, $
Cute spot but it was pretty quiet when we went. There’s about 7 trucks around some outdoor picnic tables and a market, a smoothie spot, a coffee shop and some seating inside.

Food Trucks

You can’t come to Portland without trying a food truck, they’re everywhere. Be aware that most of them are fairly typical food truck fare and not particularly great, but a few of them have some unique and higher quality offerings. We were in Downtown and found these off SW Alder Street. Check out a map of the food carts on foodcartsportland.com.

  • Bao Bao – just opened up, grab some freshly steamed handmade Chinese buns. Delicious!
  • Dump Truck – handmade fusion dumplings slathered in sauce, which was a little overkill, but was still fun to try

What to do

Outdoors

Mt Hood

The ever famous Mt Hood is a fairly busy area, especially around Multnomah Falls. We opted to hike the trail rather than drive through it, though all these waterfalls are accessible by driving and a short walk. We took this moderate trail of waterfalls from Wahkeenah Falls to Ponytail Falls (4 visible waterfalls) for what would have been about an 8 mile hike roundtrip, but we accidentally went past Horsetail Falls Trail, thinking that we would find Lower Oneota Falls on Oneota Trail, but that’s not where it is! Oneota is a fairly strenuous climb with some steep rocky parts, so I don’t recommend it unless you’re able to handle that kind of terrain.

  • Wahkeena Falls: This one is more of a quick photo opportunity, not too many people hang out here but it does have a picnic area and its less crowded. From here we took the 1.5mi trail to Multnomah Falls. Tip: Use public bathrooms at Multnomah Falls if you need to, as the ones at the Wahkeena picnic area are gross.
  • Multnomah Falls: This will be the biggest and most crowded waterfall, it’s very impressive and actually quite difficult to capture well photographically. If you can get there earlier in the day, you can avoid the crowds. From there you can take Gorge Trail to Horsetail Falls Trail. Gorge trail also has some loose rock areas, narrow paths, but otherwise it’s mostly dirt with rocks (many jutting out, so watch your steps!). It was also entirely green and beautiful, even though you’re right along the highway it’s fairly quiet and peaceful surrounded by the trees. This limits your views of the river but it also means it’s a mostly covered trail.
  • Lower Oneota Falls: was unimpressive compared to the rest of the falls. It’s also not much of a stopping point, there’s just a small bridge over it.
  • Horsetail Falls: is much more interesting space. The mountain side creates a bowl shaped cavern with a path that goes around the fall. We stopped here to eat a snack.

See a Google map of our trail here.

Forest Park

Forest Park is a beautiful area we really wished we had more time to explore. It’s much more accessible in terms of distance when you’re staying in the middle of Portland and there are plenty of great hikes there. Based on a recommendation from PDX Monthly Magazine, we decided to go up towards the northern end to avoid the crowds. We took a beautiful easy (and very quiet) 3 mile trek from the Firelane 12 trail head until BPA trail. It definitely was an adventure getting there, since you drive up some hill residential roads until you basically go all the way up a one way lane. The trail starts right after the last house, where some dogs in a big outdoor cage are guarding the entrance! As you can imagine, it’s a tad bit difficult parking, and you’ll likely have to reverse your way out. Bring bug repellent as this trail is mostly covered and very lush and humid. We also saw lots of giant slugs out and about!

Check out PDX Monthly’s handy printable Forest Trail map.

Japanese Garden & International Rose Test Garden

japanesegarden.org, portlandoregon.gov, Washington Park, $/Free
These beautiful gardens are right next to each other, so when you find parking, allocate enough time for both areas. We took about 4 hours and that was plenty of time to see both areas. The Rose Garden is astonishing in its size and variety, definitely a must-see for any flower lover, and there’s  plenty of green nooks around the garden for people to hang out, picnic or just relax with a book.
The Japanese Garden is lovely and quite sizable. There’s a number of ponds and rock gardens, and there are plenty of places where you can take a seat and enjoy the atmosphere.

The Japanese Garden was $15/person, price depends on the season, while the Rose Garden is free.

Willamette Jetboat

willamettejet.com, 1 Hour Downtown Bridge & Harbor Tour, $
With the intense heat of the weekend, my cousin recommended the Willamette Jetboat. Carl and I have been on the amazing Shotover Jet in New Zealand, so we weren’t sure how this would compare, but it did not disappoint! It was the perfect activity for such a hot day. We had a really fun guide who somehow made all that education about Portland’s history and bridges feel like an exclusive treat. Be sure to wear dri-fit unless you’re planning on changing right after and don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses, but skip the hat because it will likely come off in the strong winds. As they promise, everyone will get wet, but those sitting on the sides and towards the back will be the most drenched.


Shopping

Mississippi Ave

Great little neighborhood of boutique shops, most don’t open until 10am and some are not open regularly. Check out an interactive map on MississippiAve.com. When you’re all shopped out, grab a donut from Bluestar Donuts and a comic from Bridge City Comics towards the Southern end of Mississippi Ave. Some of our favorite shops are listed below:

  • Land Gallery – a mini gallery upstairs and a bunch of art prints and swag downstairs, makes for great gifts.
  • Worn Path – a unique and more masculine boutique shop with skateboards, incense, and camping gear.
  • PedX – for cute jewelry, leather goods and shoes.
  • Pistils Nursery – a gorgeous plant nursery with interesting gardening knickknacks and raw semi-precious stones and even a DIY terrarium building station.

Saturday Market

We mistakenly thought it would also be a Farmer’s market, but the Saturday (and Sunday) Market is more like a flea market and we were a little disappointed. There are a ton of stalls for browsing some interesting craft products and also some food stalls, but they really don’t compare to what you can find anywhere else in Portland.

Where to Stay

We were lucky with our AirBnB find, staying in Maria and Kenyon’s lovely little one-room apartment styled guest house in Multnomah Village, which was 15 minutes away from most areas in Portland. It’s got a kitchen and a full fridge, so you can skip that line at Salt & Straw and just buy a couple pints to bring back and savor before bed! Maria was very responsive and had tons of suggestions for our visit, she even had flowers for my birthday, which started our stay with the perfect touch.

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