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Portland Travel Guide

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via Shopping’s My Cardio | Photo Credits: Becki Singer

As some of you may have noticed (particularly if you’re following me on Instagram), I’ve been spending a little more time in San Francisco and a little less time in Portland, OR lately. But, last month I decided it had been too long, so I hopped a plane. And I’ve been missing so much! One thing about Portland is that it’s always, always changing – turn your back for a moment, and there are 15 new restaurants, 7 new boutiques and at least 2 new hipster food trends you can’t miss.

So, I thought I’d share an updated list of my favorite things to do in the City of Roses. Some are new finds, others are old favorites, but all are 100% SMC-approved!

  • Breakfast: I should tell you about some trendy brunch spot like Tasty n Alder (which is amazing, for the record). But honestly, I’ve searched far and wide, and nothing makes me happier on a Saturday morning than a morning bun from Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Fresh orange zest wrapped in a buttery crisp croissant, just barely sweet from the crunchy sugar crystals on top. I promise you, it’ll change your life (and ruin you for all other pastries).
  • Shop: The new Union Way – my friends at Quin are there, as well as the fantastic Spruce Apothecary, a new Steven Alan outpost, Will Leather Goods…you get the idea. Hipster shopping heaven: it’s no accident they’re right across the street from the Ace Hotel.
  • Buy in bulk: Basically anything from Alma Chocolate. I think chocolatier Sarah Hart and I are cocoa-soul mates. If you’re a true dark chocolate snob, you’ll forgive me for using words like bright, fruity and well-rounded to describe these bad boys. If you’re not, just believe me when I tell you these are very likely the best chocolates I’ve ever eaten. Try the new Boozy Bonbons in particular: I’m still dreaming about the rum & Maderia-soaked prune filled with star anise-infused chocolate ganache. Yep, you heard me.
  • Lunch: If the food carts aren’t your scene (though really, Whole Bowl is a religious experience), head for Luc Lac Kitchen, a trendy Vietnamese joint downtown. This is real Vietnamese street food – expect the best version of your standard-fare favorites, or branch out and try something new. But be prepared to wait…the secret’s officially out about this place.
  • Shop some more: Union Way is just the tip of the West End iceberg, which is undoubtedly the new hot spot for shopping in PDX. Must-stops: Frances MayParallelCanoewoonwinkel and the brand new location of Alder & Co., which doubled in size and tripled in awesome if you ask me. And as long as you’re in the West End…
  • Indulge: Oh, Blue Star Donuts – you had me at Red Berry & Rhubarb. Or was it the Meyer Lemon & Key Lime curd-filled? No no, it must have been the Dulce de Leche & Hazelnut. Whatever you choose (oh, get one of each…you’re on vacation), decide fast – this is definitely the new cool kid on the block. They’re open every day, but only until they sell out.
  • Drink: Alfresco champagne cocktails at Brasserie Montmartre (most likely after spending some time doing a bit of tax-free shopping at Nordstrom next door). Locals tend to overlook this spot, as it’s not the slightest bit hip or new, and a little Parisian oasis in the middle of Hipster Heaven can feel a bit out of place. But I adore it, and I’ve indoctrinated more than a few people into the ways of duck fat fries and Champagne as an afternoon snack.
  • Dinner: If it’s a Portland experience you’re after – that is, excellent and innovative food, wildly complex cocktails, and a crushingly hipster vibe – it’s Irving Street Kitchen or bust. I have yet to have a bad dish here, let alone a bad meal. And when you ask the server which bourbon he recommends for your Manhattan, it will unfailingly devolve into a 15-minute debate on the merits of various regional distillers.
  • Sleep: The Sentinel Hotel (formerly The Governor) was the first hotel I ever stayed in when visiting Portland, and honestly, it’s still my favorite. Their recent rebrand/remodel has taken them firmly into cool-kid territory, with Pendleton blankets on every bed and pints of Salt & Straw ice cream available via room service. Think of it as the Ace Hotel for grown-ups.
  • Adventure: I lived here for five years, and never knew this existed. Turns out, there is a sloth preserve about 30 minutes north of Portland. And I can tell you firsthand, there may not be anything better on earth than cuddling a baby sloth while feeding it little bits of zucchini. The place is a little wacky unconventional (in the best of ways), and sloth-cuddling doesn’t come cheap, but this absolutely has to be on your agenda.

Portland friends, I know I’ve missed a lot of changes…add your favorite new finds in the comments, won’t you?

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