Portland, Oregon always appealed to me as the perfect weekend getaway destination and one of the best places visit along the Pacific Coast. Portland is known to have it all in terms of extraordinary food and drink, adorable boutique hotels and eclectic neighborhood charm. Luckily, from my hometown of Vancouver, Portland is just a short road trip away.
Road trips are the quintessential ‘easy’ vacation of no rules and no worries. Vancouver is known for being a painstakingly expensive city to live in, but while we get brutalized on rent, we also get easy access to various road trip options along the wonderful Pacific Coast, Portland being one of the top stops.
Even though we were newly dating, my boyfriend and I decided to take a risk and book a vacation to Portland. The reactions we got from people about this plan were mixed with “are you nuts?” and “that makes sense” but nothing could penetrate our excitement-fueled force-field to hit the open road together to eat, drink and do somersaults on a king sized bed for a few days. We did all the research, made the lists, prioritized and planned. As you may have seen from some of my previous articles, I do not follow any dating rules, so it only felt natural to jump in a car for a 6 hour drive across the border, to a new city with a near stranger for 4 nights of “Eat, Drink and Stay” in Portland, Oregon.
Where to EAT:
Portland is known for being a foodie’s paradise, as it has a fantastic reputation when it comes to food. My man and I did our research and ate our way through Portland in order to tell you babes about the best spots to eat at. It was a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Here’s what we would definitely recommend:
Kachka – Russian Cuisine
Comfort, rustic, peroshki! I’ve certainly had Russian food in my life before (borscht anyone?) but it hasn’t been something to seek out. Kachka has changed the food scene game. The vodka list aside (it’s fantastic, order the local flight) the food is the real star. Chef Bonnie Morales, a James Beard award nominee and co owner of Kachka, has developed a menu that’s landed the restaurant on numerous lists boasting wins for: Best New Restaurant, Best Russian Restaurant (in the country), and the only Portland spot to be listed in America’s Essential Restaurants 2015.
I am still both dreaming about and drooling over the “potato vareniki” which are incredibly luscious yet light dumplings topped with a beurre blanc sauce, scallions, and delicate caviar. Don’t let the plastic tablecloths fool you. This will be one of the best meals of your life.
Ava Gene’s – Fresh Italian Food
Not to be outshined by the Russians but certainly on par, Miss Ava Gene’s is serving up Italian comfort with the freshest ingredients out of Portland’s farm scene, classic cocktails (order the Negroni), and an in your face view of all the kitchen action from the Chef’s counter seating. Award winning, roman-focused, and absolutely dreamy.
The food leaves its mark with house-made pasta by a pasta making #girlboss, the salads and starters have bursts of freshness from local suppliers even through the winter months, and the staff! Some of the friendliest, most passionate hospitality people I’ve encountered in years. These people care. It shows. The kitchen crew moves so gracefully, it’s as if you’re at the ballet. Hushed, fluid, a beautiful sight, they’re happy to strike up conversation about their work while you sip an Italian cab and ask them about their work and themselves. 5 cooks with a wood burning grill in a space about the size of an elevator obviously poses a challenge and there’s not even a bead of sweat on any of their brows. Try the olives. They come slightly warmed, seasoned lightly with fennel and chile. Next, the Caesar salad. Whole anchovies, a creamy garlic forward dressing, and bitter chicories instead of the classic romaine cuts through the weight of your typical Caesar. A special treat from the kitchen, the barlotti beans on toast hadn’t caught my attention on the menu, but was so superb we had to share bites of it with the couple next to us.
Additional Special Mention: PDX Slider Company (for something a touch more casual.)
Where to DRINK:
If you want to drink well-crafted cocktails with an amazing ambiance, Portland has you covered. Here are the spots we loved drinking at:
Multnomah Whiskey Library
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to walk through the doors of a place that you’re sure “Anchorman” would hang at with the “News Team”? Walk up the narrow stairs to the Multnomah Whiskey Library and find yourself entrenched in a room of rich mahogany and scotch, scotch scotch. Take a seat at one of their sunken leather couches in front of the blazing fire or sidle up to the bar and revel in the wonder of one of the most impressive walls of spirits you’ve ever seen.
There’s too many spirits to count but their collection “represents all major, and lesser styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world.“
Not only do they offer the finest spirits to sample on their own, but their cocktail menu has proven to be the best in the city. Cocktail recommendation: Fox on the Run.
Huber’s – Since 1879
Championing as the oldest restaurant in Portland, this small café has stood the test of time. Leaving their room as classic as possible over the years the food menu allows for you to settle into a booth for a meal of sheer comfort.
The hot turkey sandwich flies out of the kitchen for nearly every table, and a classic shrimp cocktail with chiffonade lettuce and spicy cocktail sauce really wets your whistle. The food is fantastic but go to “Huber’s” to indulge in one of their famous Spanish Coffees. The drink itself is made up of Bacardi 151, Kahlua, Bols Triple Sec, hot coffee and topped with fresh whipped cream. That being said, the drink packs a punch and should be sipped slowly. The show that accompanies the drink however is where your tip should go.
The bartenders at Huber’s are all trained in the perfect “Cirque de Soleil” -esque performance of preparing the drink. This isn’t your usual style of flair bartending. This is a routine that has been perfected over 100 years of service. Go for the cocktail and be swept back in time to a world where it was okay to drink 151 with your breakfast.
Additional Special Mention: De Schutes Brewing Company (try the IPA!)
Where to STAY:
The Hoxton, Portland is the boutique hotel I’d recommend. New to the hotel scene in Portland, this modern and hipster screaming hotel, “The Hoxton” is definitely unique. The Hoxton opened in Portland in November 2018 following successful openings in Paris, Amsterdarm and New York. Every detail of your stay has already been perfected by the Hoxton team, letting you just relax and enjoy.
Upon arriving through the doors in Chinatown, you’re greeted with the scent of freshly brewed espresso from the coffee bar to your right. (Be sure to try the Mexican Chocolate Mocha) From there, your approach to the front desk is decorated by plush jewel-toned velvet couches and accompanying tuffets to put your feet up while you work or wait on your guests. To the left is “La Neta”, one of the hotels three restaurants. The libations and bar staff kept us occupied on many in between occasions. Not only were they friendly but they happened to double as handy Portland tour guides, adding many new places to our list of where to go. The front desk team was happy and able to jump to our aid whenever we needed anything attended to in our room. From refreshing our daily breakfast bags, turn down service and even ordering us a pizza whilst searching for NBA tickets after lights out on our first night. The breakfast bags are the Hoxton’s complimentary breakfast service where a bag of your pre-selected breakfast items of choice are hung on your door before you wake up in the morning.
The taco bar upstairs in the hotel, “Tope” offers up classic and unique variations of margaritas, Mexican beer and light tacos to get your pregame started. The room is as chic as the rest of the hotel, as if hipsters took over a small Mexican beach town. White subway tile, palm trees and even floral shirts on the bartenders, you almost forget you’re in the United States for a brief moment. Special thanks to Jacob, of the front desk team that handled our reservation requests with ease. The staff really did go above and beyond to be sure we were well taken care of, with an upgrade to the king room, a bathtub in the living room and a never ending restock of their fabulous in house beauty products by “Blank”, we truly did not want to leave. If you’re thinking of heading to Portland, “The Hoxton” is a MUST to stay with.
Looking for more Portland highlights? Follow me on Instagram at @katestestkitchen and hit the #PortlandPDX story!