The PDX experience: My favorite Portland spots from the 4 quadrants and beyond


Just arriving at PDX is already better than LAX, because you don't have to get a cab, uber and fight traffic, you just hop on the max line that will take you downtown. I lived in Portland, Oregon for four years, and try to make it back once a year since I moved away. I am trying to plan a trip this year, although with a new schedule and toddler it's more difficult. In thinking about a trip to Portland I became inspired to write a post about my favorite spots to visit. Portland, for those of you not familiar, is divided into quadrants NW,SW, NE, and SE. The Willamette river divides the East and West sides, and Burnside divides the North and South sides. Here are my favorite places to eat, shop and sight see in all of the Portland neighborhoods and outlying regions.

1. SouthWest

I lived in John's Landing and Downtown Portland, both areas of SW, and have lots of favorite's in this area.

I'll start with mentioning the food carts. Portland was at the forefront of the food cart/truck craze. The downtown food carts are stationed between the downtown blocks and are open during lunch hours M-F and some are open late after bar closings. There is cuisine from Thai, Mediterranean, Mexican, vegan, you name it. You can get a huge meal for $5.00 (which on some days was my last $5.00). If you are downtown shopping or sight-seeing this is a great place to stop and get a bite. I read on the food cart website, that the downtown carts not be in this region for much longer. I used to live downtown blocks, and I would stop and get lunch at the carts on my way to work most days of the week.

Happy hours are big in Portland. One that is worth going to in SW is Portland City Grill. Located on the 30th floor of the Big Pink downtown building, the view is worth it in itself. The regular dinner and lunch hour menus are quite expensive, however their happy hour menu is reasonable. My best friend and I would go Sundays afternoons right at opening since during happy hour their is open seating. We would try to be as cavalier as possible as we ran to the nearest open booth with a view and would stay for hours chatting over drinks and au derives.

Huber's, also in Downtown, is the oldest restaurant in Portland. They are famous for their Spanish Coffees, which the preparation is a production in itself.

Voodoo donuts, is of course a famed Portland donut shop located near Burnside, although locations now exist at the airport and in Eugene. The downtown location is open 24 hours, although you may risk getting mugged during the late night/early hours.

The favorites are the named "voodoo donut" a jelly filled donut with a pretzel steak in its heart, and the infamous bacon maple bar.

Of course I have to mention Stumptown coffee. Stumptown is now available in many locations nationwide, and their beans can be bought at whole foods, but this is still hands down my favorite cup of coffee ever. The largest stumptown coffee shop was right next to my old apartment complex on SW Stark and 3rd, and I used to go get an Americano every morning. The vibe is super pretentious, and the baristas aloof, but they will make an amazing shape in your coffee and it will taste amazing. I recommend getting a cup of coffee, a voodoo donut, and then stroll the esplanade.

Scooter's is on the border of Burnside. It's a small dive bar, but is fun and has the most stiff drinks ever and jello shots. It's a good place to go before a concert at the Crystal Ballroom.

If you want something a little more classy, The Departure the restaurant or lounge in the Nines a beautiful boutique hotel right next to Pioneer Square, is a great spot for cocktails. Check out the deck on the warmer non-rainy months.
Depature photo via

The Rose Garden and Japanese Gardens, both in Washington Park, are beautiful in both rain and shine.

Japanese gardens photo via
The Pearl district in NW, has plenty of fine dining. One of the most raved about is Andina, fine Peruvian Cuisine.  The microbreweries in the Pearl district are a must if you are a fan of craft beer. The Bridgeport Brew Pub is one of my favorites.

On NW 21st street, a favorite spot for happy hour is Serrato. The Painted Hills Burger made with filet minion is amazing!
Painted Hills Burger photo via

Crystal Ballroom and Lola's Room
The Crystal Ballroom is a venue located right next door to Scooters, a McMenimen's bar and music venue with a bouncing dance floor, which is a lot of fun unless you have bad knees.

The Tube is another eclectic bar to check out. I haven't been there for over seven years, but it was at the time a hipster bar literally in the shape of a tube. From what I understand, the building and atmosphere has changed since then.

Powell's on Burnside, is one of the few remaining thriving physical bookstores. You can get lost among the many color-themed rooms. My husband and I ended up spending $100.00 on our last visit to Powell's because I found so many children's books that brought me back to when I was a kid!

Forest Park
Forrest Park accessible from the NW neighborhood has a numerous hiking trails. One trail will take you to the pittock mansion, which is a historic mansion overlooking the city. Tours of the mansion are offered several days of the week.
Pittock Mansion


Mount Tabor Park

If you know me, you know I love Mount Tabor.  I have probably made every one of my friends and family go to this Park at some point. From what I understand it's located on an extinct volcanic ground. The park with the grand trees and view of the city has a magical aura. There are short hiking/jogging trails, scenic overlooks, tennis courts, and playgrounds

Doug Fir Lounge
There are many small pubs and dive bars in SE, however one music venue and pub I iconic to Portland is The Doug Fir. My former roommate used to work here, and so I've seen a number of shows at this venue. The music venue is an intimate basement setting. The theme throughout is of a mountain lodge, and the d├ęcor is uniquely Pacific Northwest.
Doug Fir Lounge Photo via

OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is located on the south waterfront, and has a multitude of hands-on exhibits and a planetarium.

Brunch is a "thing" in Portland. Some of the hot brunch spots, such as Mother's and Screen Door have several hour wait times on the weekend. Portlandia had an episode mocking this phenomenon, called Brunch Village. The best kept secret in the East side is Sanborn's, a cute breakfast spot in the Brooklyn neighborhood. My former roommate and I stumbled upon this place which was down the street from our house one Sunday morning, and were hooked on the veggie breakfast burrito with a side of mango salsa ever since.

Admittedly, I don't have too much to say on this region, the reason being I never lived, or had any friends that lived in this area. I spent most of my time here at the Lloyd Shopping Center, or the now-named Moda Center to see a Blazer's game. Therefore I only have a few suggestions here.
The Last Thursday in the Alberta Arts district is the antithesis of the traditional "First Thursday" wine walks, with fire dancers and other street art and performers.  The Alberta Arts district also has many boutiques and galleries for shopping.

Outside of Portland

Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood
I've been here a few time without going skiing or snowboarding, and I can tell you it's still worth the drive. The lodge itself is literally out of a movie; The Shining with Jack Nicholson, was filmed here.

Carson Hot Springs Resort
This rustic resort north of Portland, offers hot mineral bath soaks and wraps for $20.00. The drive up is very scenic, past the Colombia River and near the Colombia Gorge. The mineral water baths are especially soothing on a rainy day.
Wine Tasting
The Willamette Valley is on the same latitude as the Burgandy region of France, hence the amazing Pinto Noirs in this region. There are many wineries, mostly South of Portland, with tasting rooms. I would recommend  Trisaetum, Penner-Ash, and Argyle.


Post your favorite Portland spots in the comments below.

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