10 Great Portland Places to Eat, Drink, and Buy Books

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.


Clyde Common: Food’s serviceable, but I say skip a meal here and come for happy hour, then order popcorn with piment d’Espelette, honey, and butter, and a barrel-aged Negroni.

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.

More stuff
Tour of our last trip to Portland on Instagram
My weekend guide to Portland in Condé Nast Traveler


The QUTD Goes to Scott Berkun

I’m reading Scott Berkun‘s book The Year Without Pants. What a writer he is. This section stopped me in my tracks.

The promise of a trend is grand, but the result never is. Rarely do the consultants championing, and profiting from, these ideas disclose how superficial the results will be unless they’re placed in a culture healthy enough to support them. No technique, no matter how good, can turn stupid coworkers into smart ones. And no method can magically make employees trust each other or their boss if they have good reason not to.

The best approach, perhaps the only approach, is an honest examination of culture. But culture is harder to understand than a meeting technique or a creativity method. And culture is scary because unlike techniques, which are all about logic, culture is based on emotion. Few people have the skills to evaluate, much less change, a culture, even if they have the courage to try. It’s far safer to simply wait for the next trend to come along and rally behind it, hoping the excitement for the new method distracts everyone from noticing how little impact the previous method had.