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Travel: Portland

Apr 7, 2014

36 hours in the city of roses

I recently realized that things picked back up so quickly after the new year that I never got the chance to post about our trip to Portland! Growing up on the outskirts of the city in a little town called Corbett (it has a couple stop lights, one tavern and two “markets” that can barely pass as grocery stores) you would think I would have been less of a tourist in my own city — but because my family moved to Arizona after 4th grade, I never really got a chance to experience this amazing city in, you know, my post age 21 glory. Despite our short time there, it didn’t take long to fall in love with Portland’s distinct personality. Here are our favorite highlights:


Bijou Cafe

We walked into this charming little cafe not knowing what to expect. Feeling defeated due to the hour plus wait at the top two locations on our original brunch list, we happened upon Bijou Cafe. It turned out to be the best surprise of the entire trip. We scored the last two spots at the counter before the mad brunch rush (and believe me, it was insanity). So much that Neal started answering the phone (ringing off the hook) that was perched next to us on the bar. Pair the incredible waitstaff that makes you feel like part of the fam (“Neal, can you grab that phone again? Tell them it’s at least a 25 minute wait!”) with the best hash you’ve tasted in the Pacific Northwest. The experience we had at this place alone was worth the plane ticket. It also is worth noting that Bijou Cafe turns into a supper club on Friday night with live jazz. We. Will. Be. Back.

Any of the hash dishes are a must do here!  Any of the hash dishes are a must do here!

“Neal, can you grab that phone? Tell them it’s a 25 minute wait!”

The Bloody Mary's at Cafe Bijou were spicy perfection  The Bloody Mary’s at Cafe Bijou were spicy perfection


Papa Haydn

Confession: We didn’t make it to Papa Haydn this trip, but it makes up some of my favorite memories growing up. Me and my mom would jump in the ole mini van and drive to the big city to have a fancy lunch at Papa Haydn and go shopping in Northwest Portland. It continues to be one of the best go-to lunch spots in the city. If you’re in the Alphabet district, the least you can do is stop in for one of their famous desserts!


In typical fashion, we frequented a number of dives, pubs, swanky bars and everything in between. These three places came out at the top of the “don’t miss” list.

Dive bar: Scooter McQuades

Wandering into Scooter’s with some time to kill on New Years Day, we immediately made friends with the bartender, who offered us complimentary New Years Jell-O shots. (Suspect? Absolutely.) Regardless, we decided to live in the moment and down them (haphazardly) like shadows of our 19 year old selves. We had a couple beers here and felt like we were living in our own version of Cheers. Scooters is the kind of place that offers a free turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, and where the bartender (literally) knows everyone’s name. If you love dive bars, this is about as classic as they come.

Not-so-divey bar: McMenamins

If you’ve ever been to Oregon, you know the name McMenamins. There’s one or two in every major city in the state. Don’t be mistaken though, it’s not a chain. The furthest thing from it, really. McMenamins is an incredible collection of old historic buildings, renovated and made into pubs, restaurants and hotels. Many of which boast incredible concert venues and even charming movie theaters, you definitely need to hit up a McMenamins! Go for the cajun tots, The Ruby (my favorite) which is a light, refreshing, grapefruit ale. Neal opted for The Terminator — their rich, flavor-packed stout. You can’t go wrong with this place!

Unexpected favorite: Huckleberry Pub

Strolling through Northwest Portland on New Years Eve afternoon, we were in need of a snack and an afternoon adult beverage. Huckleberry Pub, a restaurant and bar disguised as an adorable old house, was right up our (fine…my) ally. We opted for a seat at the upstairs bar, where the bartender made us a couple Hot Toddy’s with their house-infused apple cinnamon whiskey (yep, the same exact recipe that inspired this!) Another fun fact? This places is haunted! And the staff have the ghost stories to prove it.


Northwest Portland (AKA the Alphabet District or Nob Hill) has always been my favorite part of the city. I love the eclectic mix of clothing shops, shoe stores, coffee shops, cafes and pretty much everything else in between–all housed in beautiful historic Victorian homes. Every business in Northwest Portland has a very distinct personality unlike I’ve seen anywhere else.

Another must-see (or must-shop!) area is The Pearl district. Previously a district limited solely to warehouses, this now on-trend area is full of art galleries, incredible food, and you guessed it, more amazing shopping. Did I mention that Oregon has no sales tax?


One cannot make a Portland OR travel guide without mentioning the coffee. Well known for their local beaneries, this city is a coffee-lover’s paradise. With a local shop just around every corner, there are plenty of opportunities to get your caffeine fix. Arguably the most well-known Oregonian coffee is Stumptown, which opened in Portland in 1999 but is now carried in hot spots around the country (Chicago’s Little Goat being one of them)! Your stay won’t be complete without a Stumptown cappuccino (or three),


Have you been to Portland? What are your favorite spots?

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