With an endless list of restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and distilleries, our initial attempt at navigating Portland feels, well, a bit overwhelming. Yet with just two days to explore, we’re setting off to find the best, most sustainable spots to eat, drink and adventure in the City of Roses, so that the buzz from our microbrew isn’t the only thing to make us feel good.
The Road to Portland
We begin by renting a car from the Hertz Green Car Collection. Not only is our Mitsubishi Mirage extremely fuel efficient, it’s also economical (and tiny). This bad boy averages about 44 mpg highway (48.5 mpg at times), meaning we save money and help the planet during our 10-hour drive from the Bay Area to Portland.
Not surprisingly, it’s raining when we arrive at the beautiful Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. Taking a cue from the building’s original inhabitant, the Meier & Frank Department store, The Nines is a sleekly retro re-imagination of mid-20th century art and fashion. Expertly bridging the gap between eco-hotel and luxury accommodation, the property is LEED-certified, has vigorous recycling, composting and waste reduction programs, and even grows its own vegetables (and mushrooms!) on-site. The hotel’s convenient location across the street from Pioneer Square and cozy rooms make it a perfect home base for our visit to Portland.
What better way to start the day than with a cup of locally roasted coffee? So we go on as Portlanders do and stop at one of the city’s many amazing coffee shops. Some of the best include Courier Coffee Roasters, Case Study Coffee, Coava Coffee Roasters, Barista and Heart Coffee Roasters.
Fully caffeinated — but with hungry bellies — we take off in search of some local eats. It doesn’t take long to locate (one of) Portland’s famous food cart pods. The city is home to what CNN deemed “the world’s best street food” with more than 400 options for fast, cheap and delicious food. This particular pod spans an entire city block.
We can’t pass up The Whole Bowl, a food cart with five locations throughout Portland that serves up a delicious bowl of rice, beans, avocado, cheese and tasty sauces. It’s the perfect nut-, gluten- and wheat-free vegetarian snack we need to explore the city.
To reach Washington Park, which is just a few miles west of downtown Portland, we pick up a MAX day pass for only $5. The pass is good for unlimited rides throughout the city. At Washington Park, we make sure to visit the International Rose Test Garden and the Portland Japanese Garden.
By the end of our visit to Washington Park, it’s late in the day and we need beer. While the options in Portland are plenty, we head to Ex Novo Brewing Company which, since opening in 2014, has donated 100% of the company’s net profits to organizations “working to affect a positive social change both in Portland and around the world.” Surprisingly, Ex Novo isn’t the only non-profit brewery in Portland. A few miles north is The Oregon Public House, which is actually the first non-profit pub in the United States.
For dinner, Harlow, just a 10 minute drive from downtown, is an all-organic restaurant with a diverse vegetarian menu and tasty house cocktails. Following the belief that “everyone deserves a warm, healthy, organic meal” Harlow offers a “Mighty Bowl” on a sliding scale from $2 to $7.
We’re in the mood for some shopping. This city if full of locally owned shops delivering some super cool, hipster goods. First on the list is Union Way, a downtown shopping alley with a number of different retailers selling Portland-made stuff. Next up, Poler because when in Portland, it’s important to not only eat and drink like a hipster, but dress like one too. The downtown location is Poler’s flagship store, a great place to buy a new daypack or snapback hat. Lastly we make a quick stop at Tanner Goods where everything is handcrafted right here in PDX. No trip to this beautiful city is complete without a visit to Powell’s Books, the Portland-area chain which claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.
For lunch we take the MAX to Native Bowl, located in the Mississippi Marketplace on the east side of the Willamette River, which serves up delicious Asian-inspired vegetarian bowls.
Because taking the MAX is so easy, we venture back downtown to Clyde Common for an incredible happy hour. This sleek, modern and hip (without being pretentious) restaurant has a daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Featuring craft cocktails like the Bourbon Renewal and Pacific Standard (just $6), as well as a list of tasty bar snacks including the surprisingly amazing togarashi popcorn ($3), it’s a great place to start (or end) the evening.
Back across the river, we end our trip to Portland with more amazing vegetarian food at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, which, you guessed it, delivers some very tasty, vegan Italian food.
Portland lives up to its reputation.
The city is an awesome combination of weirdness, with a dash of hippie and hipster sprinkled on top.
The result is an urban community with residents that are inherently ahead of the curve, a local government that supports sustainable business (as well as a city-wide, solar-powered recycling system) and a plethora of local bars, coffee shops and restaurants that are doing really cool stuff for the world.
Thanks Portland, we’ll be back soon!