One of the perks of living in the Pacific Northwest is a short drive to so many amazing places. Seattle is a great city to live in, but Portland admittedly wins over in the food scene. In addition, I also love coffee, plants, stationery, and I find that Portland has a lot more to offer. And in case you don’t know, Oregon’s sale tax on everything is 0%, so if there’s a designer bag or expensive piece of furniture, do keep it in mind!
My latest visit was on Labor Day weekend (2020), and most shops downtown were boarded up. Here are important tips that I’ve learned to stay safe:
- Please be mindful of the surroundings, especially when in downtown Portland as there are a lot of homeless people as well as on-going protests.
- Do not leave any valuables or anything at all visible inside of the car.
- Avoid parking your car in one area for too long.
- Don’t go out alone at night.
I like shopping and exploring restaurants over on the East side of Portland, and the Northwest area is also a new cool area I’ve recently discovered. Keep in mind that I am not a local here, so I cannot give you specific neighborhood recommendations or local secrets. I’ve been to Portland way too many times, but every trip is just a passing-by or a short 2-day visit.
Food in Portland is my absolutely favorite category when writing up this Travel Guide. Food here is cheap, and there is no sale nor service tax.
When hitting up a new city, I often look at Yelp and search for the ones within a few mile distances that have great reviews and stand-out food pictures. Trust me, a picture speaks a thousand words, and I can confidently tell you that carefully crafted and well-done food must also look good. And of course, the taste can be relative depending on each individual. I’m Vietnamese and do know how to cook, so I’d say I do know a few good places.
- If you’re in Portland for the very first time, it might be worth checking off those popular ones suggested on Yelp or Google first. However, lots of restaurants or places in Portland can get over-hyped, so be prepared to wait in-line if you’re choosing popular ones with glowing reviews on Yelp.
- A lot of the popular restaurants in Portland used to be on a first come first serve basis, meaning you will need to come in and put down your name on the waitlist. Then they will let you know the approximate wait time. To my experience, the wait is usually about 30 minutes to an hour, not bad since you can walk around and check out some shops next door.
- With COVID restrictions, some restaurants might do something different than before, so I suggest calling in and ask for their updated hours and dine-in option. Some restaurants might require reservations, so make sure you read Yelp reviews as well as their website.
- If you don’t like to wait around, I do suggest getting some snacks during the day (like a coffee, bakery, donuts, or boba) and dine in as a late lunch, early dinner (happy hour menu), or late night.
A (*) means it’s my personal favorite. Worth it. Must-visit!
1. Screen Door*
2337 E Burnside St, Portland, OR 97214 | 503-542-0880
We got to Screen Door the first time right at 9 am, and there was already a long line that wrapped around the block. Some even had their suitcases with them, hah! We were short on time, so we drove South and gave up on the brunch idea in Portland.
A few months after, I took my cousins to Portland, and we were able to get in for lunch after 30 minutes wait. I thought it was worth it for the price, and Screen Door food is definitely a great hang-over food (fried and greasy carb-loaded food). I liked my fried chicken and waffles. Their pancakes, mac & cheese, and my partner’s buttermilk biscuits and gravy were also pretty good.
2. Nong’s Khao Man Gai*
417 SW 13th Ave Portland OR 97205 | 503-208-2402
Khao Man Gai means Thai chicken and rice wrapped in butcher paper. There is plenty of street parking, and their fast service and the fact that they’re locally owned business are why I have been here for lunch twice. Their menu is small and straightforward. You can order a PISET (larger) size to share. My favorite is the Khao Kha Muu, pork and rice, with an order of fried chicken skin.
3. Tasty & Alder
580 S.W. 12th Ave., Downtown | 503-621-9251
Tasty & Alder is another Yelp-famous restaurant that has an award-winning sister restaurant called Tasty n Sons. The wait for Tasty n Son was 1 hour and a half, so I have yet to try their food. But we were lucky to get in at Tasty & Alder for some Mid Day food. We stood near the bar to order and got some chairs to sit in before we got our food. We had Spiced Beef Kebabs with tzatziki sauce, some fries, and Alder Bowl, and Steakhouse Sandwich. All cost exactly $40, no tax! Gotta love Portland for this!
4. The Observatory
8115 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 | 503-445-6284
We did a food marathon on our day-trip to Portland with some friends from Seattle. The Observatory was our next stop on a rainy and cold Sunday. We had just had some donuts prior to coming here, so we tried a bunch of their Happy Hour small plates and some drinks. My favorite was the $6 chicken pate plate.
1355 NW Everett St Ste 120 Portland, OR 97209 | 503-894-9528
TILT‘s interior is pretty cool, industrial, and modern. They do classic hearty burgers with lots of options and OMG-humungous portions. Mine had 4 patties, and eating that at mid-night was not a good idea. They open late here, and the restaurant can accommodate a large group of people which is nice!
6. Sivalai Thai Restaurant
4806 SE Stark St, Portland, OR 97215 | 503-230-2875
Sivalai staff was so polite and lovely! I thought their portions were quite small, but the free gyozas and mango sticky rice dessert offer at the end really made it all up. I’d go back here trusty good authentic Thai food, quick service, and easy street parking.
7. Bun Bo Hue*
7002 SE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97266 | 503- 771-1141
This place makes the best Bun Bo Hue in the PNW hands down in my opinion. I am Vietnamese and noodle soups are my favorite things to eat. Their broth is slightly sweet and savory, beefy, and flavorful. It has a depth that requires no extra fish sauce. If a restaurant has a lot of Vietnamese people eating there, that means their food is cheap and good. One thing that I have to warn you about is that the stinky strong smell (from the shrimp paste and fish sauce used to season the broth) right when you walk in, but you’d get past it quickly once you are inside for a while.
8. Pok Pok*
3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202 | (503) 232-1387)
I highly recommend making reservations in advance on Pok Pok‘s website for 5+ people or call them prior to coming. We did not make a reservation and ended up having to wait around 30 minutes for a table for 2. There is a cute stationery store just across the street from Pok Pok, called Little Otsu, so we just went there in the meantime. I had the Papaya Pok Pok, Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings that were a bit too salty, and a Chinese-influenced dish called Kung Op Wun Sen (bean thread noodle with prawns, pork belly, and veggies). Oh, and a Vietnamese milk coffee for the drive home.
1314 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209 | 503-228-9535
Dinner at Andina is such a treat. The restaurant has outstandingly high reviews for good reasons! They offer a huge selection of exotic Peruvian dishes including tapas and shareable plates. Luckily, our group has 5 people, so I have got to try a handful of dishes on the menu (taste tried from my friends’). Quite unique flavors and experience, different than the normal Asian and American food I have tried, so I enjoyed it a lot! The place is huge, so loud and noise is inevitable.
113 SW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97204 | 503-219-9000
We went here for dinner the first time we were in Portland, and I loved every dish I had that night. Lechon serves Argentine tapas, a bit fancy and upscale dining type of bar, so dress up a little bit if you can. We did not make any reservation but were lucky to get two chairs by the bar.
Proud Mary Portland
11. Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen*
835 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97204 | 503-222-0047
This place is so popular! Their price point is amazing considering you’re dining in at such a stylish restaurant in downtown. Plus they’re open until 4 am. You wouldn’t believe it’s Vietnamese food because their menu is definitely on a more adventurous and weird side. I tried their Tom Yum pho which had half of an avocado, quite a weird combo, but it wasn’t that bad at all.
12. Pho Oregon Restaurant
2518 NE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97220
Large menu and very family and large group friendly place! I did not like my pho, but others seemed to enjoy their rice dishes.
13. Rose VL* & Ha VL*
Ha VL: 2738 SE 82nd Ave UNIT 102, Portland, OR 97266 – DAILY MENU HERE!
Ok, these two Viet restaurants are owned and ran by a family in which I believe Ha VL is the mom who started it first. I was recommended by a good friend of mine in my most recent trip, and luckily, I made it to Rose VL right before they ran out for the day. I had called Ha VL first, but the owner referred me to Rose VL because they had some dishes that I wanted to try. Turned out they only make a few selective dishes a day, so I recommend you to look them up before arriving,
I know that Rose VL restaurant is newer, and Ha VL is like a hole-in-the-wall kind of restaurant. Either way, I can guarantee that you will get a very good bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup here. Some dishes I have never even heard about before such as Cao Lau. I will find any excuses to go back and try other dishes for sure!
3354 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214
I love the vibe, so vibrant and fun, the food, also vibrant and fun, and how the restaurant is basically a mansion. You’d get your temperature checked, and masks are required unless you’re sitting down at your table. Everything here is more like a fusion creative Thai food, so keep that in mind.
15. Proud Mary Portland*
2012 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211
Proud Mary is an Australian-style cafe, and it is hands down the cutest place. I love the industrial chic interior decor and vibrant food options. Super fun and welcoming vibe, great for brunch with the girls.
Tusk is such a cute brunch spot! I think their food portion is a little small, and their service can be better. However, it’s a cute place with great food.
17. AFURI Ramen + Dumplings
50 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR 97204
Tokyo ramen shops offer a vending machine ordering experience. Food is priced affordably. Bright and welcoming location!
If you are a fan of the delicate, briny, sweet, and raw oysters, Pacific Northwest oysters are the best. While they can be a bit pricey at times, there are a few spots around town that I have bookmarked on my phone. Spots with dollar oysters during happy hour include Trifecta Tavern, La Moule, Jacqueline, Headwaters, and EaT: an Oyster Bar, the last of which offers them all day on Tuesdays.
DRINK & DESSERT
Coffee shops are ubiquitous in Portland, and there is no excuse for grabbing Starbucks, really, please!
1. Good Coffee*
4747 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97206
2175 NW Raleigh St #106, Portland, OR 97210 (This is the new location I last visited, located in Northwest Portland. It’s bright, open, and has lots of cool plants used as decor.)
Their other 2 locations that I have not been to: 813 SW Alder St, Portland, OR 97205 and 1150 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
2. Coava Coffee Roasters*
1300 Southeast Grand Avenue (a), Portland, OR 97214
539 NW 13th Ave Portland, OR 97209 – A block away from MUJI store, downtown.
4. Upper Left Roasters
1204 SE Clay St, Portland, OR 97214 – I’ve been here once per a friend’s recommendation. I thought my latte could be a bit stronger, but it’s a great spot run by some lovely people.
5. Case Study Coffee Roasters
802 SW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97205 – Conveniently located a block away from the Nordstrom in downtown Portland.
My Portland coffee list that I have yet to try: Stumptown Coffee, Prince Coffee, Oui Presse, Never Coffee, Peaks Coffee PDX, Street 14 coffee, Figlia Americana, Water Avenue Coffee, Compass Coffee, Dapper & Wise Coffee Roasters, POA Cafe, Heart, Never, and Nova Coffee.
It is quite difficult to find a good and unique bubble tea shop here in Portland I have got to admit. I feel like people here like coffee and tea much more. Seattle definitely wins over for good authentic Taiwanese boba tea options. DM me for recommendations!
1. Bubble N Tea
3496 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, OR 97005
Bubble N Tea does huge $5 fresh milk tea, pretty good but it is quite a far drive from downtown.
Alberta St., Division St., Mississippi Ave., & Montavilla
Townshend’s teahouses kept coming up in my search for bubble tea. They are more famous for their home-brew kombucha and a large selection of tea. I stopped by a Townshend’s in Bend (quite far South from Portland) and tried their fresh milk tea once. I picked up some kombucha to-go as well!
3. Ding Tea
9244 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, OR 97266
Another franchised, alright boba tea shop!
4. Fat Straw
806 NW 23rd Ave, Portland, OR 97210
I didn’t quite remember if their bubble tea was good, but my cousins said they liked it. If you’re nearby, I’d suggest getting some ice cream from Salt & Straw, just next door from Fat Straw.
1. Pip’s Original Doughnuts & Chai*
4759 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR 97213
We waited for almost 45 minutes in line for donuts here! We got a flight of chai (5 flavors) and 2 of everything donut on the menu. Note that these are MINI donuts with toppings. My favorite was the bacon topping for sure, sweet and savory. Other sweet ones were okay since I am not a fan of sweet desserts. It’s a nice place to hang with a group of friends on a cold rainy day, sipping some hot milk or chai and enjoying these tiny treats.
2. Blue Star Donuts*
Fancy brioche-style donuts. There are 4 locations in Portland and 3 in California. MENU HERE!
3. Voodoo Doughnuts
Voodoo is known for its eclectic store decor to the pink boxes with an illustration of a voodoo priest. Its flagship location in Old Town Chinatown, Portland, is always busy, so I’d recommend the Davis location instead.
If you’re into traditional fluffy donuts (similar to Krispy Kreme), then I think you will like Voodoo. I only enjoy the classic sugar-glazed Krispy Kreme when they’re freshly made and hot out of the oven and don’t care so much about the fancy toppings. So Voodoo is a no for me next time.
1. Salt & Straw*
Salt and Straw is originally from Portland, and their ice cream is so loved. It is a MUST, and I think reviews say it all. If you’re a fan of their ice cream or have yet to try, definitely stop by for their Portland flavor!
Blue Star Doughnuts
621 SW 5th Ave, Portland, OR
MUJI’s name derives from Mujirushi Ryohin, meaning No Brand, Quality Goods. We picked up some oak benches for our apartment last time at the pop-up store. They had opened a permanent store in November last year. I highly recommend checking out their stationery section, pens, travel accessories and pick up some acrylic makeup storage and brush holders.
935 SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97205
If you are into home goods, furniture and unique Scandi designed things, Woonwinkle is your dream. It’s by far my most favorite stationery shop to shop at ever.
3. Little Otsu*
3225 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202
Little Otsu is located right across the street from Pok Pok in Division Street. “Otsu” means strange, quaint, stylish, chic; spicy, witty, or tasty depending on the context. They have a great selection of paper and stationery goods like notebooks, maps, calendars, and pens, etc. Make sure to talk to the owner as they can literally tell you the origin and story accompanied to how they have acquired their pieces sold in store.
4. Frances May Portland
1003 SW Washington St, Portland, OR 97205 – High-end designers for both men and women, worth checking out if you’re in town.
5. The Good Mod
1313 W Burnside St 4th floor, Portland, OR 97209
The Good Mod is hands down one of my most favorite furniture stores that I’ve visited. The store is basically a showroom and where they actually make and also repair vintage furniture here. It’s huge! You’d need to walk up a few sets of stairs if the elevator is not working. They have all sorts and styles of furniture from Midcentury to modern, Danish & vintage furniture, plus art & lighting.
1405 NW Johnson St, Portland, OR 97209
REI is one of many outdoorsy stores I always find excuses to stop by whenever in Portland because of no tax shopping.
7. Fjall Raven
1165 NW Everett St, Portland, OR 97209
My partner loves Fjall Raven products, and he owns so much stuff from them. I’ve recently picked up a new hiking backpack from them and do own quite a few things from them myself. We love shopping here, especially when there’s a sale going on. No tax shopping is so nice!
8. NIKE Employee Store
638 SW 5th Ave, Portland, OR 97204
You can’t stop here without a guest shopping pass which you retrieve from a Nike employee who has to request one for you. I’ve got to go in once thanks to a relative’s pass. Lots of new-in items at 40% discount price for family & friends whose names are on the pass. Pretty insane! Note that their stuff is NEW, and it is not an OUTLET.
9. Powell’s Books
I don’t read, but if you’re a reader, this place is famous! Must stop if you’re in Portland, and they have quite a few locations.
I usually would stock up some makeup products at Nordstrom, or pick up some home stuff at the West Elm store downtown. If you have a car, drive to Woodburn Premium Outlets if you love shopping for outlet clothes. Some other stores in my list that I have yet to check out: Wild Poppy Goods, Rejuvenation, Maak lab, Maven Collective, Vintage store: House of Vintage.
815 NW 13th Ave, Portland, OR 97209
HAY is a design shop in case you’ve never heard of them before. They sell all sorts of things from furniture to stationery and cool functional knick-knacks. I love stopping by for color and design inspiration. It’s right next to Design Within Reach, one of my favorite design and furniture stores to go in for some inspiration, so definitely stop by both.
The Good Mod
1. Pistils Nursery*
2 locations: 3811 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227 and 2139 NW Raleigh St #108, Portland, OR 97210 (new location in Northwest Portland)
I’ve been a big fan of Pistils Nursery for such a long time, and I’m glad I’ve got to visit both locations. Definitely stop by if you’re into plants. Their shops are so cute!
2. Arium Botanicals*
2046 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR 97212
Their shop is a big garage, and parking is inside their own parking lot. Pretty convenient and safe, and I love it there! Follow them on Instagram HERE.
My plant shop list to check out: Solabee Flowers & Botanicals, hammer + vine, Gurton’s Plant Shop, thicket, Portland Nursery, Marbott’s Greenhouse & Nursery, Garden Fever!
1. International Rose Test Garden
400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
An iconic must-visit spot if you’re in Portland in the spring and summer season. There are 8000 roses here, crazy! It is free to go in here, and all you need to do is pay for your parking meter. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, and it’s a nice way to spend an hour or two. I snapped so many rose photos last time I was here in June!
2. Director Park
815 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205
NW 10th Ave & Marshall Street, Portland, OR 97209
SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97204
8840 NE Skidmore St, Portland, OR 97220
The Grotto is a Catholic outdoor shrine and sanctuary located in the Madison South district of Portland. We did pay for $7 to go up the elevator where the garden, the Chapel, and the redwood trees located at the far right end. It is peaceful and relaxing, especially for those of you who are Catholics or spiritual.
6. Lan Su Chinese Garden*
Pretty sure it costs $10 per person here, but bring your student ID for a discount. This small garden is so packed with so many photo ops, architectural and plant-filled. I highly recommend it!
7. West Union Garden
7775 NW Cornelius Pass Rd, Hillsboro, OR 97124
I paid $5 for an entrance fee to their sunflower field on the Saturday before Labor Day Monday. It was definitely a late arrival to sunflower fields at this point, and I was glad that they had their second field up a bit later. Glad to support local growers, and I appreciate their effort in keeping the field nice for people who want to take photos.
Lan Su Chinese Garden (left) – South Park Block (right)
Follow me on Instagram for any travel ideas and what I am up to. I have some Oregon highlights saved on my Instagram bio, so definitely check them out HERE.
I typically don’t recommend hotels nor Airbnb because I book it very last minute. As long as the place has free parking and a somewhat decent bed and is clean, I am good. I like the Hotel Tonight app to find a last-minute room, and this works out perfectly for us two people.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, Portland is great for food and hang out for a day or two. If you have a few days to spare, I highly recommend you drive to explore other parts of Oregon such as the iconic Cannon Beach, Cape Kiwanda (my most favorite Oregon coast town), Columbia River Gorge (many waterfalls), Crater Lake (that deep blue lake I swear will blow your mind!), Painted Hills, Mt. Hood, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Willamette Valley (wine tasting) and many great stops along Oregon Coast.