Providing travel recommendations is one of my favorite things to do. I get green with envy when I meet someone who writes for a guidebook or travel blog. Can you even imagine how amazing it would be to be paid to seek out the best food, shopping and entertainment the world has to offer? One can only dream. We get a lot of tourists here at Lille, visiting from New York, San Francisco and LA – particularly during our lovely summer months. Upon request, I always inundate them with lists and maps of the best and brightest Portland has to offer. So, in the spirit of extending a helping hand to anyone out there who is thinking about visiting our fair city in the near future, here is a tiny travel guide for your perusal…
Much has been written about the burgeoning foodie scene in Portland. The New York Times has frequently cited the allure of the city to hip, talented young chefs and the indie spirit that is pervasive in all aspects of our cuisine. My best advice to the newcomer is to seek out the restaurants that feel quintessentially Portland – those laid-back gems that use organic, local produce and highlight the veritable bounty that springs from the Pacific Northwest in innovative ways, all the while managing to pull it off with great style and a sense of humor. At most of these places, you may wait awhile for a table, but trust me, it will be worth it. A few of my favorites:
Le Pigeon – 738 E Burnside St, www.lepigeon.com
Toro Bravo – 120 NE Russell St, www.torobravopdx.com
Noble Rot – 2724 SE Ankeny St, www.noblerotpdx.com
Clarklewis – 1001 SE Water Ave # 160, www.clarklewispdx.com
Clyde Common – 1014 SW Stark St, www.clydecommon.com
Masu East – 310 SE 28th Ave, www.masusushi.com
Portland has an eclectic and irreverent sense of style that ranges from dirty hipster rocker to high-end label fashionista, with a little bit of everything in between. Like any major metropolis, you will see the clichéd uniforms of the punks, goths, skaters, hippies, etc., but within each demographic, there is usually some individual sense of personality injected into the mix that you might not see in New York or LA. More often than not, the kids on the street will have an indefinable style that doesn’t adhere to a set standard or list of rules. The DIY design scene in Portland is always innovative, if sometimes a bit rough around the edges. Our own Leanne Marshall is duking it out on this season’s Project Runway, and established local designers like Adam Arnold, Holly Stalder and Anna Cohen are showing the world that Portland has a serious fashion scene. Independent shops like Lille have been popping up like crazy for the past few years, and the end result feels more like a small European city than a major American one. Portlanders tend to stray from big box stores and embrace local shopping, and some of the best boutiques have been featured in worldwide publications like Vogue, Lucky and Elle. These are the ones you can’t miss:
Le Train Bleu- 1905 NW 26th Ave, www.letrainbleu.com
Local 35- 3556 SE Hawthorne Blvd, www.local35.com
Stand Up Comedy- 811 E Burnside Ste 119, www.shopstandingup.us
Seaplane- 827 NW 23rd Ave, www.e-seaplane.com
The English Department- 1124 SW Alder St, www.theenglishdept.com
Una – 2802 SE Ankeny St, www.una-myheartisfull.com
Like most Portlanders, I am painfully addicted to caffeine. I simply cannot start the day until I’ve had my 16 oz. Double Americano from Floyd’s. Every time I go to back to New York, I bemoan the dearth of skilled baristas (which, thankfully, will change with the opening of the new Ace Hotel on 29th and Broadway- there will be a Stumptown in the lobby! Rejoice!) Here, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a café, which lends further credence to my theory about the European vibe of the city. Likewise, we are a city populated by alcoholics connoisseurs. There are some incredible mixologists in this town who are devoted to the art of the bar, and amazing bars are opening up every day that rival world famous cocktail lounges. Speaking of which, I can’t wait for the opening of Beaker & Flask this Fall! Until then…
Aalto Lounge – 3356 SE Belmont St.
Rontoms – 600 E. Burnside St.
Bye and Bye – 1011 NE Alberta St.
Morrison Hotel – 719 SE Morrison St.
Night Light Lounge – 2100 SE Clinton St.
Chesterfield – 1101 E Burnside St.
It’s no secret that Portland has a phenomenal music scene. It often feels like the Indie Rock Capital of America, where you may run into a member of Modest Mouse at the grocery store, or someone from the Shins is on your softball team. Just about everyone you know is in a band or dating someone in a band or best friends with someone in a band. It makes sense that musicians would flock to a town with a low cost-of-living index, where you can make your rent in the service industry in just a few nights a week, leaving you with plenty of time to rehearse and, you know, hang out. The countless music venues help bolster the scene, and on any given night, you can catch an amazing show, dance to your heart’s content, or sit at a bar while an accomplished DJ entertains you at no charge. Check out the lineup at the following hot spots before your next trip:
Doug Fir Lounge – 830 E Burnside St, www.dougfirlounge.com
Holocene – 1001 SE Morrison St, www.holocene.org
Wonder Ballroom – 128 NE Russell St, www.wonderballroom.com
Someday Lounge – 125 NW 5th Ave., www.somedaylounge.com
Rotture – 315 SE 3rd Ave., www.rotture.com
Berbati’s Pan – 213 SW Ankeny St., www.berbati.com
For more personalized recommendations, stop by Lille anytime – I swear, I won’t mind at all, and I’ll even draw you a map.