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Portland | MM Travel Guide | 15

 

Portland (Oregon) and Seattle are my most frequently requested cities for a MM Travel Guide so I put one together for Portland during my trip there last week. I’ll get to a Seattle travel guide eventually as well. Enjoy.

 

★☆☆☆
Avoid, a waste of time.

★★☆☆
Good, but mediocre.

★★★☆
Great. Worth a visit.

★★★★
Exceptional. A spiritual experience.

 

$
Affordable

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey

 

Sunset Audi

 

★★★★
Beaverton
$$

When I was driving down to Portland from Seattle, a bolt flew off of a truck and hit my Audi’s radiator, making it leak coolant. Thankfully we weren’t too far from Portland and decided to push forward to the city’s largest Audi dealership, Sunset Audi, topping off the coolant whenever it bottomed out. They were extremely hospitable, getting me in a loaner quickly and finishing the repair by early next morning. The dealership noticed that a new protective grille was available in front of the radiator and installed that as well. It was annoying that this happened but was solved painlessly thanks to Sunset’s professionalism.

 
 

Ace Hotel Portland

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☆☆
Downtown
$$

After hearing so much about Ace Hotel, I expect much more from them. It’s amazing what can be considered as “charming” these days. In terms of location, Ace Hotel Portland is phenomenal. It’s right in the heart of downtown and walking distance to the Pearl District. Unfortunately, I found it to feel more like a worn down college dorm room than a trend leading hotel. The poorly painted rooms show dozens of layers of paint, and everything from the air conditioner to the shower knobs look distressed, not gracefully aged. Tiny rooms, creaking floors, weak showers and lack of parking only add to the disappointment and are too much to compensate for the few charming touches like the nice bathrobes and cute keys.

 
 

Pok Pok

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★★★★
Richmond
$

Pok Pok is a thai restaurant focused on street style food done with creative freedom. Last year, the New York location notably received a Michelin star. The Vietnamese fish sauce wings are their signature dish and I can assure you, they are out of control. I’m not much of a chicken person and rarely order it at a restaurant but they're totally mouth watering here. Another notable dish was the charcoal grilled eggplant salad that was topped with a surprising combination of Thai chillies, fish sauce, palm sugar, boiled egg, dry shrimp, and prawns. Everything I’ve had here was fantastic, including the water, which is infused with pandanus leaf (has a nutty flavor). Keep in mind that the dishes are best enjoyed family style and be sure to follow your server’s advice as the menu can get overwhelming in terms of choice. The decor is a bit erratic and maybe overly quirky but tends to work because of its cleanliness. Pok Pok has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants ever, and is a must visit when in Portland.

 
 

DOC

 

★★★
Concordia
$$

DOC is an intimate and charming Italian restaurant with weekly menus. The tasting menu is the best way to experience the restaurant and is shockingly cheap at just $60 per person for a 6 course meal. The tiny kitchen is located at the entrance of the restaurant, giving the restaurant a welcoming, informal mood. My first visit to DOC was absolutely brilliant with every dish absolutely spot on, but this visit, some of the dishes failed to impress, with some of the dishes being surprisingly poorly seasoned. I suppose that’s the asterisk I need to put on my recommendation as experimentation seems to have resulted in a bit of inconsistency for the food here. Regardless of this though, DOC gets so many things right like their humble atmosphere, good wine, perfect pacing, and most importantly, spirit of experimentation.

 
 

Voodoo Doughnut

 

☆☆
Chinatown
$

I don’t get it. This place has so much hype that you’d think they actually had good doughnuts. After waiting in a long line, you’re rewarded with a remarkably average doughnut with either an outrageous topping or a poorly executed decoration. There is absolutely nothing I find redeeming about this place. Save this one for the tourists. No thank you.

 
 

Salt & Straw

 

★★★★
Richmond
$

Salt & Straw is a chain of ice-cream shops based out of Portland that’s doing everything right. Like any reputable ice-cream shop, they make their own waffle cones, which makes the whole place smell delightful when you enter. Their ice-cream is creamy, velvety and has a strong milk flavor which will make you craving for more. My personal pick is always sea salt with caramel ribbons but Salt & Straw is also known for their crazy seasonal flavors like mincemeat pie. What makes this place particularly great is their dedication to quality. For instance, the caramel they use is made in-house and their honey lavender ice-cream is made by using Oregon-grown lavender petals steeped in local honey. They’ll make you ice-cream all over again.

 
 

Multnomah Whiskey Library

 

★★★★
Downtown
$$

A bar known for their multi-hour long waits, Multnomah Whiskey Library is best enjoyed on a quiet weekday. The place feels classy from the moment you enter, and has a mood that perfectly demonstrates what a whiskey bar should be like. The bar is dominated by massive library-esque shelves that hold 1500 whiskeys, showing off that they have the most extensive whiskey list in town. When sitting in a booth, a bartender dressed neatly in a vest comes to your table with a cart to make your cocktail in front of you. This isn’t just for entertainment though, as the drinks were top notch, with thoughtful attention to details like the perfectly clear oversized ice cubes and the leather coasters. If you love whiskey and a good old-fashioned, visiting this place is necessary.

 
 

Stumptown

 


Downtown
$$

Stumptown has locations sprinkled across the US but are headquartered in Portland. They’re regarded as one of the best roasters in the country and have a cold brew that is straight up amazing. In terms of execution, this shop at Ace Hotel is neatly done and located conveniently while shopping in downtown. Stumptown coffee is always good but I had to knock a star off for lack of consistency at this particular location and absolutely disgusting croissants (I warn you, just get coffee here).

 
 

Quin

 


Downtown
$$$

In theory, Quin should be a four star establishment. They make hand crafted candy from high quality, local ingredients, all wrapped in a modern, clean package. Unfortunately, their candies just don’t taste that special. Sure, they’re good, but I don’t think their worth $16 for a pack of 20 caramels good. These guys either need to up their game in terms of flavor and execution or dramatically reduce their pricing.

 
 

Canoe

 

★★★
Downtown

$$

Canoe is probably my single favorite store in Portland. They curate design objects from glassware to watches and do a beautiful job of it. There’s interesting objects from brands like Iittala, Snow Peak, Braun and I find myself buying something every time I visit. Something I really enjoy about Canoe is how they have a card for each product telling its story. A product without a story is like a car without history, and Canoe seems to get this. These kinds of design oriented stores are a rarity in most American cities and ones that curate good products even more rare. Canoe is one of those rare gems and it’s unfortunate none like it exist in Seattle. I’ve found the staff to be friendly as well and they always give you a bag of Haribo gummy-bears when you make a purchase.

 
 

Aēsop

 

★★★
Downtown
$$$

Aēsop is an Australian company specializing in skin care products with a particularly big emphasis on design. I’m a huge fan of the brand, not only because they do a superb job on design but also because they make fantastic products. They primarily use plant-based ingredients, smell great, but also work really well. Every proper city has an Aēsop store and this one is a pretty good one. A wash basin stands in the center of the store where you can test out their soap products and end with a sampling of their lotions. Staffed with friendly employees, they help you find products you like and sell the brand’s friendly image spectacularly. Little touches like the way they spray their perfume on the shopping bag really demonstrates Aēsop’s masterful ability to sell a retail experience.

 
 

Snow Peak

 

★★★
Pearl District

$$

This is the only retail location of the Japanese camping brand, Snow Peak in North America. I’ve always liked their honest, craftsmanship driven approach, so it was a delight to find this store in Portland. The selection here is pretty comprehensive from camping gear to apparel. The store isn’t particularly attractive but the products themselves make it worth the visit. This is the brand that pretty much invented the modern glamour of camping - if you like the Japanese approach to design, you’ll like Snow Peak.

 
 

Steven Alan

 

★★★
Downtown

$$

Located across the street from Ace Hotel, Steven Alan is where I usually end up spending the most amount of money in Portland. They primarily carry Steven Alan but also carry some of my favorite brands like Acne and Norse Projects. The design of the store is a bit underwhelming but the great curation and helpful staff totally make up for it. If you can’t find anything to buy here, there’s something wrong with you.

 
 

Table Of Contents

 

★★
Chinatown
$$$

Located in Chinatown, Table of Contents is a tiny store that carries a variety of products from apparel to objects. Desirable brands like Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake dominate the store but I’ve found the selection to be a bit too thin. It’s worth a visit for some of the quirky curation that happens here - there was a Jack Nicholson book this time that was pretty great.

 
 

Nike

 

★★
Downtown
$$

Nike is headquartered pretty close to Portland so I was hoping that this downtown location would be something special. Unfortunately, it’s not all that special and falls short of it’s New York counterpart in both retail design and selection. This one is in need of a redesign. Portland’s sales tax-free shopping experience is the one thing that saves this place.

 
 

Powell's Books

 

★★
Pearl District
$

Powell’s Books is headquartered in the Pearl District and is called Powell's City of Books. It’s supposedly the largest independent bookstore in the world, which in itself makes it an attractive tourist’s attraction. It’s always a fun visit and a place where you can easily spend an hour browsing through random books. The sheer number of used books is truly impressive and finding a bargain purchase is inevitable. Like most book stores though, the selection of design books isn’t all that great, which is something everyone can learn from Tsutaya Books.