You may have noticed the array of boutique hotels have popped up downtown Portland and in the hip Pearl District and central eastside — all geared toward visitors with an eye toward style and personality. Think: local tea and coffee in each room, colorful art and book collections in the lobby, and rustic, modern decor. Much to the delight of hungry visitors, most of these hotels are home some of the most exciting restaurants in town — either for their bold cuisine, killer rooftop views or high-energy ambiance. Here are some of those spots to explore.
Visitors have been carousing at Departure at The Nines, directly across from Pioneer Courthouse Square, since the space opened in 2009, in the early years of Portland’s foodie revolution. The classy cocktails, modern pan-Asian cuisine and rockstar popularity of executive Chef Gregory Gourdet, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist, have made it a go-to spot to see and be seen while tossing back a martini and noshing on an artfully plated sushi roll. The panoramic rooftop views of the city skyline make for a glamorous Instagrammable backdrop.
Imperial at Hotel Lucia has been serving up some of the city’s best steak, burgers, fried chicken and other sophisticated spins on classic fare since opening 2012. Smack in the middle of downtown, the space reverberates with energy, especially at happy hour, when worker bees gather over frites and whiskey drinks. Owner Vitaly Paley, James Beard Award winner and a pioneer of Portland’s food movement, launched this as his second spot after Paley’s Place, a Rose City institution since 1995.
Theater-goers have been flocking to Nel Centro before and after the show since this classy yet approachable place opened in 2015. Chef David Machado brought his culinary cred to the dynamic gathering space with happy hour favorites such as fried calamari and woodfired pizzas, along with opera-themed drinks and desserts. Adjacent to The Hotel Zags, the bright and colorful lighting and a large patio with umbrellas and inviting fire pits make it feel like a private oasis in the middle of downtown, an inviting space for couples and groups of all sizes.
With dramatic lighting on its 16th-floor space, xport Lounge at The Porter Hotel sets the tone for glitz and glamor. You can enjoy your bubbles and bites inside, or take them outside to one of two large covered and heated patios with sweeping views of the West Hills and Willamette River to the east. Bring your sweetie here to kick off date night, followed by a show at Keller Auditorium (two blocks away) and then a leisurely dinner at Terrane Italian Kitchen & Bar back at The Porter, on the ground floor.
While many Portland restaurants and bars are wine- or cocktail-focused, Altabira City Tavern at Hotel Eastlund is for craft beer lovers. Just off the MAX line near Lloyd Center in Northeast Portland, this sixth-floor rooftop restaurant, also by David Machado, offers 16 local beers on tap and celebrates them with suggested pairings. While it’s packed in the summer, visitors have regularly voted Altabira’s patio as one of the best happy hour spots around. Cold pints, juicy burgers, beautiful people and sunset views on the urban landscape complete the picture.
Tacos just might be one of Portland’s favorite foods, so it was smart for Tope at The Hoxton to launch as a taqueria, inspired by the street food of Mexico City. The hipster-styled rooftop bar opened in Old Town in 2018 as part of the latest generation of hot spots serving up a double-whammy of views and booze. Pair your spicy lamb sausage taco, roasted cauliflower taco, queso fundido or Sonoran hot dog with a dizzying array of smoky and spicy cocktails, mezcals and tequilas. Hit up Ground Kontrol old-school arcade, a block away, for more fun.
New and buzzy spots
If you couldn’t tell by the San Antonio chicken and T-bone steak dinner on the menu, Bullard, the marquis restaurant at the new Woodlark Hotel, is an irreverent ode to Chef Doug Adams’ home state of Texas. The former chef de cuisine at Vitaly Paley’s restaurants is also a Top Chef finalist and active part of Portland’s buzzy chef scene. He’s known for his masterful slow-smoked meats — particularly local beef, pork and lamb, with braised elk and a rainbow trout plate for good measure. It’s a fun space in the turn-of-century renovated Woodlark building.
Portland is not lacking for incredible homestyle Italian food. And yet, Il Solito at Hotel Vintage provides an alluring trattoria for handmade pasta, soups, meatballs, chicken parmesan and other red-sauce Italian soul food. Part of it may be the history of the place; for 25 years, the location was home to Pazzo Ristorante, an icon in Portland dining. Matt Sigler, former chef at the award-winning Renata, brought his skills to Il Solito and diners are clinking their red wine glasses in celebration every day.
We might call the concept crazy if we didn’t already known Vitaly Paley’s genius, but Rosa Rosa at Dossier takes inspiration from Paley’s broad family roots — in the European countries of Turkey and Georgia as well as New York City, where he and his wife and partner, Kimberly, met and lived for many years. Come for Paley’s innovative takes on the familiar, and taste something new — crispy fried sea bass, spaghetti pomodoro, chicken chkmeruli (a Georgian pressed chicken), Ciya-style lamb meatballs and more in this funky, modern space downtown.