My Favorite Places in Portland
Hello, fair reader! This is my personal guide to the beautiful city of Portland. Whether you're local and looking to try something new, or visiting and wondering where the good stuff is, this is a list of my favorite places in the city. Adventure on!
In the digital age, as book stores around the world close their doors, Powell's remains a thriving hub of literature. Even if you haven't picked up a book in years, Powell's will remind you of the power books have over us, and make you thirsty for knowledge. You'll be wandering aimlessly, not sure what there is for you there, then find yourself thinking 'I bet that vegetarian cookbook would help me cook at home more instead of getting takeout', or 'Oooo, I haven't read Phillip K. Dick in years. I used to love his books', and the game is over. The book worm, occasional beach reader, skeptical technophile, wonder-filled child, and dormant literature lover will inevitably find themselves drawn to one of Powell's 1 million books and fall in love all over again. Even if you just come for the corgi-socks, it's worth the visit!
Rose Test Garden
The International Rose Test Garden is one of the most traditionally beautiful places in Portland. With several football fields of roses and several hundred million types of roses, it's easy to lose all sense of time and space amidst the fragrance and brilliance of the Rose Test Garden. All kidding aside, the RTG is a must during the summer months when roses are in full bloom.
That's right, marijuana is legal in Oregon now, which has resulted in some of the cutest and friendliest shops popping up around town. I think there are a few things that make marijuana shops super great: 1. They're combatting some pretty harsh cultural taboos. Pot is still frequently seen as "bad" or seedy (see my parents reaction when they read this post), so the best marijuana stores combat that by being very well lit, open spaces that are beautifully designed. The staff are often very friendly and knowledgeable too, so you don't need to feel uncool for asking a million questions or leave without knowing what you're putting in your body. 2. Everything is local, by necessity. Because marijuana isn't legal in other states it can't cross state lines, even if it's legal in both of those states (ie. Oregon and Washington). This means you're by default supporting amazing local businesses who are often supplying 100% locally made and extremely high quality products.
I love Serra because it epitomizes both of these qualities. All of their shops are in gorgeous old buildings, and are staffed with folks who will stand there for literally hours answering all your questions about strains and chemicals and neurology and side effects. And honestly you guys, I like consuming (not smoking) marijuana so much more than drinking. Beyond a glass or two of wine alcohol really doesn't agree with my system, and has ruined a few nights and mornings. Marijuana doesn't have those terrible physical side effects, and provides equally enjoyable inebriation in the right doses. If you're in town and haven't tried it yet, I highly (ha) recommend!
McMenamin's is more than a brewery, but an eclectic variety of refurbished vintage buildings providing places for communities to gather. The Bagdad Theater is one such place. Located at the heart of Hawthorne, the Bagdad is the perfect "Portland" place for dinner, a movie, or both! When my SO was living in Portland over the summer we would go there almost every Saturday, get a large order of tater tots, and enjoy the movies they screened there. It's a staple of our lives, and a staple of Portland culture.
Whether you love comics or not, you must make a stop at Books With Pictures. A "comics" store doesn't do it justice, it's more of a graphic art store focused on diversity, inclusion, and representation. The staff is super friendly - I visited knowing almost nothing about comic books, thinking of 'comics' as the likes of 'Get Fuzzy' in the Sunday papers, and the staff were approachable and recommended some reading for me. There's no "Oh you haven't read...?" or shame for not liking Superman. A mainstay in Portland's book-culture if there ever was one!
If anyone ever asks where I want to get lunch or dinner, I always say Gorditos. Catering to most dietary needs (with extensive vegetarian and vegan menus), Gorditos has something for everyone and is consistently incredible. Their food isn't too pretentious or too greasy, their portions are generous, and I've literally dreamed about their breakfast tacos. If you only have time to visit one place in Portland, make it Gorditos!
The food may just be OK, but E-San has a special place in my heart. My co-workers and I often go there for lunch on Fridays, and I have so many fond memories of us squeezing 10-18 people into their loft, laughing together and enjoying a meal. I always get the same thing (Pad See Ew with Carrots) and have never tired of it! It may seem blase at first, but take your time at E-San. Admire the old wood and sturdy construction, the elaborate decorations, the scratches in the tables and floor that let you know this place is lived in and loved.
Portland is also known for it's Food Carts, and while I can't say I've tried enough to tell you what that best in the city are, I will tell you that whenever I go to a food cart for lunch it is always to DC Vegetarian on 3rd and Alder. Their vegetarian and vegan sandwiches are better than their meaty counterparts, and my go-to meal is just $5.50, the cheapest lunch you can get downtown at lunch hour. I highly recommend the vegan BLT, with avocado of course!
It's my duty as a native Portlander to tell you that VooDoo donuts are entirely overrated, and that if you really want the Portland Donut Experience you absolutely must go to Blue Star. With classic and exotic flavors, Blue Star donuts are fresh and doughy, not too sweet, and 100% satisfying. My personal favorite is the Blueberry Bourbon Basil, but you'll just have to try them all to see which is your favorite.
Drinkable. Chocolate. Need I say more? Cacao is a super fancy chocolate place, with a few locations throughout Portland. They have all the high-quality chocolate your heart could desire, fancy people who use words like "earthy" and "floral" to tell you about it, and did I mention the drinkable chocolate? Warning: you will be consistently disappointed in hot chocolate after going here.