Travel Journal: Portland, OR
I’ve only been to Portland once, but I’m already itching to go back. After making it into our 30’s without a visit, it felt like a must-do for my husband and I and the perfect place to have a chill long weekend celebrating our first year of marriage. We spent four days walking around in search of cool shops and great coffee, neither of which are in short supply in Portland.
It’s easy to spend hours browsing through boutiques, especially on good walking streets like Mississippi Avenue, Alberta Street, and NW 23rd Avenue. Now that I make my own jewelry and home goods, I get even more enjoyment out of seeing what local lines shops carry and finding cool little souvenirs to commemorate my trips.
These spots are some of my favorite finds, but I've just scratched the surface. Hopefully, another visit is on the horizon soon.
My shopping style is to research a few cool neighborhoods ahead of time, then walk around the area and pop into anything that looks enticing.
In Downtown, North of West was on my to-visit list after seeing their graphic printed textiles and modern shapes at several craft shows in the Bay Area. Their not-so-basic basics could work in a wide range of styles. Their kids line is super cute, and they’ve curated a nice mix of other independent artists’ clothing, jewelry, and home stuff. Wildfang is another Portland must. Expect strong feminist vibes, cool kid clothing with a touch of the '80s, and an androgynous look I’m into. Backtalk is in the same neighborhood and has a nice selection of vintage and emerging designers, with a particularly on-point jewelry section. They support female designers working in the US. I picked up an opal ring by LA Kaiser Jewelry here.
Over in the Alberta and Mississippi areas, I had to use all my willpower not to buy every single pair of clogs at pedX Shoe Shangri-la. I escaped with minor damage to the wallet and an enamel pin (my collection of which has grown exponentially in the last year). Collage on Alberta also had me close to hyperventilation with the sheer amount of craft supplies and decorative knick-knacks jam packed in every inch of the store. Rainbow wall of washi tape? Check. On Mississippi, I snagged a blue animal print Baggu backpack at, appropriately enough, Animal Traffic. I liked their combo of Western meets grunge vintage clothing, outdoorsy themed home goods, and modern accessories. For my fellow plant lovers out there, Pistils Nursery has you covered.
Old Town also had a couple spots I’d like to go back to. The handmade goods in Orox Leather - camera straps, wallets, bags, belts - were simple, clean, and well-made. Pop into Kiriko to check out their bags, scarves, and clothing made from reclaimed fabric. I’m talking centuries-old denim and hand-dyed shibori fabrics from Japan sewn with traditional techniques.
Collage on Alberta
As drinking coffee is a necessity at least three times a day while on vacation, we ended up sampling the goods all over town. With about a million (only a slight exaggeration) coffee shops in Portland, I’m sure there are many other great ones, but these are the ones I happened to visit. The evidence in support of a return trip continues to pile up...
On the Eastside, Cosube was one of my favorites. We found this coffee shop / surf shop after walking by Burnside skatepark (of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater fame, so I’m told). There’s a great selection of teas on the menu as well as coffee, and the store’s design feels really cozy. Coava Coffee Roasters has several locations in Portland, but we stopped by the flagship shop on Grand that shares space with Bamboo Revolution, a sustainable furniture design company. Vibe = industrial, spacious, and serious as shit about coffee...but still friendly! Fresh Pot on Mississippi appeared before me right as I was crashing from cup number two. I remember the coffee being good and the space, renovated from an old drugstore, being comfy, but mostly the coffee-drinking shark logo being badass. Which is why I brought home a souvenir mug. That, and because it reminds me of this Dave Grohl video that I never tire of watching.
In the Downtown area, Heart was an adorable spot to people watch. And in Old Town, Deadstock Coffee was a refreshingly snob-free (their words) take on coffee by a bunch of sneakerheads. It’s no frills and completely legit coffee in a cool, tiny shop.
Eats and Drinks
For donuts, I recommend Blue Star Donuts. I actually tried Blue Star first in Ventura, CA, while walking around Abbot Kinney. I remember the moment vividly. My husband asked what I thought of the donut, and I said “Shhhhh...I’m not ready to talk yet. Still appreciating this moment of silence post donut.” Just writing about it makes me want one.
Pine State Biscuits was one we waited in line for. It felt like a true taste of the South, with high-quality ingredients and bangin' gravy. Worth it if you’re craving a delicious biscuit, which can be surprisingly hard to come by on the West coast, and you’re not in a hurry.
For sushi, check out Bamboo Sushi. The staff have great recommendations for whatever you’re craving and the menu rotates frequently as they focus on fresh, sustainable ingredients and fish.
For drinks, sneak into Pepe le Moko for a fancy cocktail. I say sneak as it is in a basement and somewhat difficult to find. It’s also veeery cozy, which just adds to that speakeasy feeling. Stormbreaker Brewing was a chill stop for a beer over on Mississippi Ave, with fire pits and picnic tables on a outdoor patio. The beer was good, but their kale and bacon salad was the standout, inspiring me to concoct a version of it once we returned home.
This list is not comprehensive, but I’d say we got a pretty good taste of the city over a few days. And we definitely walked at least 10 miles. Thanks for the good times, Portland!