Portland, Oregon is more than just a massive version of London’s Stoke Newington, it’s one of the bloody nicest cities in north America. A land where a beard, a woollen plaid coat and your own personal craft brewery are a prerequisite, Portland also has a rich musical history, home to the Dandy Warhols, The Decemberists, Beth Ditto and Red Fang, as well as some of the downright loveliest, most inclusive venues in the states.
Here’s where to go when you get there. Scroll down for a map too.
Best Bars in Portland
The Sandy Hut
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Like a bar from Mad Men after its gone through a rough divorce, The Sandy Hut is an old school tiki bar that’s been stuck jutting out of a junction since 1923. It suits it though, somehow, and this bar is anything but middle of the road. Cheap drinks, good vibes and a pool table with massive silver lion heads on each corner. What more could you possibly want?
My Father’s Place
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If you want some resolutely no frills drinking then head to My Father’s Place. It opened in 1978 and hasn’t changed much since then, with strong ‘nan’s living room’ vibes. Doors are at 7am too – perfect for all night benders or early rising boozehounds. Hit up happy hour for $1.50 beers.
The Old Portland
A wine bar owned and operated by The Dandy Warhols, the Old Portland is the band’s old front office. Their mega, but off-limits, rehearsal space sits behind the small, cosy room but there’s plenty out front to keep you entertained, including a rotating cast of specially selected local reds and whites and The Cramps and Fugazi on the stereo, as well as loads of amazing old gig posters lining the walls.
Pepe le Moko
Oysters and cocktails – name me a better combination in the world and I will accuse you of absolute slander. Pepe le Moko is a classy joint, the kind of place where good-looking rich people have affairs or discreet fourth date drinks are held. Situated underneath the Ace Hotel – and another very good bar Clyde Common, also run by kind-of-a-big-deal cocktail dude Jeffrey Morgenthaler – they do corny drinks like a Blue Hawaii or a Long Island Iced Tea but make them swish AF.
Every self-respecting Portland muso seems to have their very own bar. Poison’s Rainbow is the brand new baby of Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse. It opened in March 2018, but already is known for selling the best pizza in Portland, as well as some lethal tequila shots, boilermakers and sub $10 cocktails. Decent.
The bar looks like something out of Twin Peaks and there’s a venue downstairs. Basically every 29-year-old graphic designer’s dream.
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Shopping in Portland
House of Vintage
A sprawling, massive indoor market, stocked by numerous sellers, this is the place to come with a small budget and big ideas. You can buy vintage badges for a dollar or a groovy 1960s skirt for $10 or a Letterman jacket for $25. Bargains galore and a rummager’s paradise.
Tender Loving Empire
The perfect place to pick up a local souvenir, Tender Loving Empire stocks sweet lil knick knacks by local designers; stickers! soap! cards! woodsmoke candles! They also run their own little record label, signing the best under the radar Portland artists.
Unlike your average British head shop, this place doesn’t stink of patchouli oil and actually sells weed. Yes, marijuana is legal in Oregon, so as long as you have your passport with you, you can get stoned. Just remember to empty your pockets before you fly back home.
The world famous Powells bookshop covers an entire city block. You can pick up cool ‘zines there as well as bestsellers and the rare book room up the very top of the building is a must-see for all literary junkies. We spotted signed first editions of Infinte Jest as well as Johnny Cash’s autobiography. Swoon.
There are two branches of this extremely well curated vintage store, which specialises in western wear. They also have a decent selection of vintage Pendleton – Oregon’s famous, rugged plaid shirt dons – as well as cowboy boots and boilersuits. More for men, but there’s a few decent women’s items to pick up here too.
Forgive the bizarre use of the olde English spelling – this isn’t the kind of place where you can get a cream tea and scone, but rather an excellent selection of 1950s to 1990s women’s vintage. Though it is a little crammed; a lot like that place your nan took you to in Dorset once. Wrangler shirts are $20, 1970s dresses $40, and remember, like other states, you don’t pay any extra tax at checkout. Which is nice.
Janelle Monae once came after hours and spent five hours basically buying everything in this shop. Unisex, workwear inspired basics and shirts emblazoned with feminist slogans, Wild Fang is also a favourite of the ladies of Broad City, Lizzo, SZA, Pussy Riot and Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry. They’re about to open their first New York branch, but come to Portland and see where it all began.
Coolest restaurants in Portland
Little Big Burger
These guys are dotted all around town, and are basically Portland’s own homegrown, sustainable answer to Five Guys. Small, perfectly formed burgers made from natural beef and sweet, sweet truffle fries. Say hello to your next, highly affordable dream lunch.
Blue Star Donuts
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Sure, you’ll hear lots of chat about Voodoo Doughnuts, but if you don’t want to queue an hour for your sugar rush – and are after something a bit more swank – then hit up one of the many Blue Stars in town. Grab a coffee and a raspberry rosemary buttermilk donut. Or a blueberry bourbon basil. Or a cinnamon sugar. And so the beautiful list goes on.
I am shitting you not – Pok Pok make the greatest chicken wings in America. These Vietnamese fish sauce coated treats are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and amazing all over. The cult Asian inspired restaurant always has a massive line outside, but for once, it’s worth getting into the queue. Blow your head off with the papaya salad, why don’t you.
Nothing to do with the 1979 Fleetwood Mac album of the same name, Tusk serves up Middle Eastern food full of rose petals and gorgeousness, including outrageously Instagramable plates full of vibrant veg, “aggressively seasonal” produce – their words not ours – and the best cocktail we’ve ever drunk. No word of a lie; find it on the brunch menu. It’s called Hazy Jane and features vodka, almond, lemon, yogurt and rose water and tastes like heaven.
For more information, visit travelportland.com or visit You Can, In Portland, which takes place April 19 – May 7, 2018 at Units 7 and 8, Dray Walk, The Old Truman Brewery, London.