If you haven't been to Portland yet, you are missing out. It's got city, it's got mountains, it's got more beer and coffee options than one could drink in perhaps a whole lifetime. I lucked out when my parents moved here a few years ago and I was introduced to this Pacific Northwest gem. It's a major city with a neighborhood-centric, welcoming feel. It's gorgeous, it's green and, most importantly for a food-lover like myself, it's filled with some of the best eating an drinking one could ask for. I'm proud to call Portland my US home base and always look forward to my next visit.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should visit Portland (as if you need any persuading):
1. The Food
Oh, the food in PDX... so, so good. Coming from San Francisco, I admit my standards are pretty high, but Portland delivers. Everything from the renowned - Pok Pok's award-winning chef, Salt & Straw's swoon-worthy, oft-Instagrammed ice cream flavors and 4-time Food Network's Cupcake Wars winner Kyra's Bake Shop - to the smaller, more diet-specific and neighborhood staples can be found - and enjoyed.
Whether you choose to eat vegetarian or vegan, or must follow a strict gluten-free diet like I do, Portland not only has a plethora of options, but the people in food service here are unbelievably knowledgeable and willing to help you find the food that you need. I was often asked about the particulars of my needs by waiters if I requested an allergy menu, and even pointed in the direction of other safe establishments if one didn't offer what I needed. Portlandia did a great sketch poking fun of how allergy-friendly Portland is, but it's truly a treat for those of us who constantly fear the pitfalls of eating out safely. I just call it my gluten-free mecca.
2. Always Something To Do
The first time I visited Portland, I was rather taken aback by how small the downtown area was. The Nordstrom was laughable. Malls were practically shutting down. But capitalism isn't Portlanders main concern, enjoyment of life is. In addition to all the nature surrounding the city (more on that below), there are so many things to within the city itself: kayaking on the rivers, visiting countless tap rooms and coffee shops (also below), and two of my favorite things while I was there - playing ping pong at Pips & Bounce and watching the Rose City Rollers kick some roller derby ass. Portland always has something going on.
Just look at any Pacific Northwest-related hashtags on Instagram (#theNWadventure #northwestisbest), and you will have a feed full of green. Forests, waterfalls, mountains - it's a nature-lover's paradise. Sure, you've got to get out of the city proper to reach a lot of the more spectacular sights, but there's still plenty of green within the city limits in various parks and the dreamy International Rose Test Gardens situated overlooking Portland. Just 20 minutes outside the city is the spectacular Columbia River Gorge and string of waterfalls, completely with hiking trails. The coast is just over an hour away. Washington's greenery is just across the river. The unreal-looking Mount Hood towering over the skyline, with its surrounding lakes and forest, is a couple of hours drive. When visiting Portland, it would be a crime not to get out and be one with nature!
4. Coffee and Beer Capital
When looking at great coffee and beer capitals of the world, Portland ranks pretty high, some say it's even better than Seattle, the oft-believed US capital for the caffeinated. Whether you're looking for a pick-me-up cup of coffee or that next microbrewery's glass of ale, Portland has it all - in spades. Sure, somehow there are still Starbucks on every corner, but seek out the gems serving up truly great coffee (there's also fantastic Chai in this city, too!) and pouring beers that owners are passionate about making. One noteworthy spot: Coava's team has placed first in several Barista Competitions, not to mention its Brew Bar shares a large, warehouse space with bamboo workers, who have transformed it into a warm, modern-meets-industrial space.
If you're gluten-free like me, don't fret about being left out of this great beer city. The US's only dedicated gluten-free brewery is in Portland, complete with a gastro pub serving only gluten-free fare. With beers like Campfire (aged Dark Ale with rum soaked French oak, vanilla, and cacao nib) and Ollalie (ale brewed with blackberries and rose hips), not to mention classic IPAs, it's a must-stop for any gluten-free beer fans. Even Whole Foods has an impressive assortment of gluten-free beers for your backyard BBQ. And don't even get me started on all the amazing ciders...
5. The Creative Vibe
Just take a walk down the main street in the Alberta Arts District and it's easy to see the creativity all around you: sprawling street art, independent food and drink spots, shops filled with wares by local artisans. While it's a bit more polished, not to mention expensive, than my more rough-around-the-edges home in Berlin, it retains that same up-and-coming, artistic atmosphere. There are many pockets like this around the city, filled with art, great food and a homey, neighborhood vibe. Don't miss the Portland Saturday Market - the nation's largest continually operating open-air arts and crafts market - for more of what this city's creatives has to offer!
Stay tuned for more from Portland on the blog this month! Just like May was all about France, July is going to be all about PDX!