I’m planning a short visit to Portland, Oregon for a magazine story. I make detailed Google Docs for every trip we go on—short or long. It’s the best way I have found to track all the things I want to do, plus I can include Google Maps links for quick navigation. These docs also serve as a memory bank of trips past. If friends request recs, you just share the doc.
Anticipating this visit, here’s a list of 10 of my favorite Portland spots right now.
Canard: When my friends at Leave Work Now rhapsodize about a dish, it always delivers. Case in point: Canard’s steam burger. It’s a juicy slider blanketed in melty American cheese on a soft bun. It’s got that McDonald’s basic-cheeseburger magic but the setting’s way better. Sit at the counter by the window and watch Portland passersby do Portland things.
Pok Pok: Can’t go to Portland and not eat at Pok Pok. I love a long, mellow lunch and this is one of the best spots on earth to enjoy one. There’s the funky-hot chicken wings, the juicy cocktails, the searing steak salad. We used to stay in downtown Portland hotels, but lately we’ve been trying out Airbnbs in the neighborhood between SE Division and Hawthorne. Would be lying if I said proximity to Pok Pok did not play a large part in that decision.
Tasty n Alder: People loiter on the sidewalk for hours to sample the brunch dishes. Those are great, but my favorite thing of all is the fried brussels sprouts. Also noteworthy: midday cocktails at Tasty n Alder are $8. (Drinking is dangerously good in Portland, you gotta space it out.)
Broder: Portland’s full of freelancers and people who work from home, I’m told. This goes a long way to explain the proliferation of restaurants serving weekday breakfast and brunch. Broder’s one of the best—order any of the baked egg dishes.
Tusk: First time I came here, I concluded this restaurant was mostly hype. Second time, it all came together. The ethereal hummus, cloud-like and creamy, feels conjured from a world where the raw ingredients are simply better than ours.
Ox: Probably my favorite restaurant in Portland. Go early; reservations aren’t a thing. The perfect meal here: ribeye licked by the flames of an open fire, blackened asparagus dressed in tangy Romesco, and a bold Argentinian red.
Pepe Le Moko: Okay, this place is an underground bunker with a milkshake made with Crème de menthe, vanilla ice cream, and Fernet. If you’re staying at the Ace, or nearby, you’re in luck: You can start your evening at Clyde Common and end it here—perfect bookends for a Portland evening.
Whiskey Soda Lounge: Another spot from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker. This one has tons of whiskey drinks and some epic bao. It’s also seriously chill, relaxing in a particularly Portland sort of way.
Powell’s Books: The mothership’s downtown, and I usually plan to be there about two hours. It’s massive and you want to explore the stacks leisurely. I always find books here I didn’t plan to buy but ended up loving. Examples include A Little Life and The Family Tabor. I do have some feedback around how they organize graphic novels—so few book stores get that right. But given the majesty of Powell’s, that feels like quibbling. There are also a couple of bonus Powell’s up on Hawthorne. I plan to hit up all of the above.