Brunch on Division St
Division Street divides Portland in half, and a portion of the eastern section in the Richmond neighbourhood is buzzing with great affordable eateries including Aviv, a plant-based Israeli restaurant (savoury boureka with spinach and tofu feta, $5, shawarma plate $10); Indian street food joint Bollywood Theater, (snacks from $4.25, pork vindaloo, $12); and Pok Pok for Thai specialities (mains from about $14). My favourite, though, is vegan Thai sensation Kati Portland, with its open kitchen, shanty-town chic interiors and delectable food: you may find yourself drooling over the mussa-muhn curry (lunch specials $8.95).
Park culture is big here but for real forest and a decent climb, head to either Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano on the city’s east side, or downtown to Forest Park. Six times the area of New York’s Central Park, it’s one of the biggest urban parks in the US, with 5,000 acres of temperate rainforest and some 70 miles of dirt trails among luminous green mosses, clear streams and towering canopy. The park is connected to the hip neighbourhood of St John’s via the spectacular St John’s bridge, so after you’ve finished hiking or biking, head across the river to Cathedral Park and retro-style Lombard Street, with its lovely collection of low-key shops and restaurants. Have a strong coffee at pioneer-minimalist-chic the Great North, or something more substantial at St John’s Theater & Pub, housed in a building built for Portland’s Lewis and Clark Expo in 1905 (sandwiches from $9.75).
Tap into Oregon beers
Portland has been such a proliferation of brewpubs in recent years that it now has more breweries per capita than in any other US city. It would challenge anyone to visit them all but Loyal Legion, a 112-year-old arts and crafts building in the industrial Central Eastside, has been turned into a slick beer hall, offering the largest tapped Oregon beer collection in the world. There are up to 99 beers from Oregon and Portland breweries, including Loyal Legion’s own, from $2 for a sample glass or $4 a pint. During happy hour (2pm-6pm and 10pm-closing) snacks start at $3. If you prefer wine, two blocks north is Coopers Hall (404 SE 6th Ave), an airy wine taproom and restaurant with 32 regional wines from $6 a glass or $12 for a flight of four.
• 710 SE 6th Ave, loyallegionpdx.com
The Alphabet and Nob Hill districts, leading up to the designer mansions in Northwest, are some of the city’s most affluent, but much of the architecture is still small-scale and original, with little shops and historic wooden houses. Money, much of it from the technology, architecture and design industries, has lent it a mature feel. So if you’re looking for a San Francisco vibe, take two hours to walk or bike the area. Then head to sleek-but-homely tapas restaurant Ataula (1818 NW 23rd Place, patatas bravas $9, paellas to share from $35) with its metal chairs, wooden tables, long bar and high ceiling. The beautifully presented food is worthy of a celebration.
Taste Portland wine
Wine tours of the Willamette Valley can be time-consuming and expensive. One of Portland’s first urban wineries, the Southeast Wine Collective, headed by Kate Norris, makes excellent wine in its small-scale, attractive premises in south-east Portland, and presents a well-edited selection of wines from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California, plus some from Europe. There are frequent free tastings in the winery and the attractive bar and restaurant offers a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere, with a patio for summer weather. A glass of wine costs from $4, snacks from $6, and the five-course tasting menu is $39. Takeaway bottles are hugely discounted.
• 2425 SE 35th Place, sewinecollective.com
The area around Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard is liberal and grungy, and offers almost non-stop browsing and entertainment in the form of vintage shops (clothing and furniture), vintage homes, magic shops, record shops, junk shops, comic book shops, gift stores and thrift stores. Stop off at wonderfully bizarre bars such as the cavernous Bagdad Theater & Pub on the corner with SE 37th. Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard runs from the Willamette River to Mt Tabor; the most interesting shops are between 30th and 50th Streets.
Stock up on outdoor gear
Clothing giant Columbia was founded in Portland, and there’s no better place to load up with quality T-shirts, coats, walking boots and waterproofs – and perhaps a big suitcase or holdall to take it all home in – than the Columbia Factory Store in historic Sellwood. Not only are the two floors filled with items at rock-bottom prices – bundles of socks and pairs of ski gloves from $8 and hiking shoes from $15 – but spend over $100 and staff are apt to hand out another voucher for a further $20 – though this may only be valid from the following month, so time your visit(s) accordingly. Spend the money you’ve saved at Gino’s, a gorgeous Italian restaurant and bar round the corner on SE 13th St, where two can share vongole pasta or cioppino (fish stew) from $18.95.
• 1323 SE Tacoma Street, columbia.com
Best (and cheapest) tacos
Pods of food carts can be found all over Portland, but the quality is often “meh” and the prices can be high. One place you’re sure not to be disappointed is the Brother Express taqueria at the Cartlandia food court on SE 82nd Ave. Yes, the neighbourhood is down at heel, but the Max stops nearby and the collection of 32 food carts is nicer than most. Brother Express offers exceptional tacos at $1.25 each: I like the spicy, juicy al pastor pork and chargrilled carne asada beef, finished with salsa, coriander and lots of fresh red and green chilli sauce on the side. Get four and it’s a $5 dinner. While you’re here, take the number 19 bus to Woodstock (home to Grand Central bakery and the Portland fish market).
• 8145 SE 82nd Ave, cartlandia.com
Cheap eats downtown
It’s crowded from midday, but Pine Street Market, a historic building with a small collection of hand-picked local restaurants in a slick new food hall, does the job. I like Marukin Ramen, with nine locations in Japan and two in Portland (go for the seemingly bottomless $11 bowls of tonkotsu shoyu) and Checkerboard Pizza (delicious slices from $3). Portland newbies might also like to try the weird and wonderful ice-cream flavours atSalt & Straw (rhubarb crumble with toasted anise) from $5,or a fiendishly strong coffee at Stumptown Coffee Roasters round the corner at 128 SW 3rd Ave.
• 126 SW 2nd Ave, pinestreetpdx.com
I’m based in the Mt Scott-Arleta district, as typical a Portland neighbourhood as you can find, centred on Mt Scott Park, with its tall evergreen douglas firs. Within the park is the Mt Scott Community Center, which for a drop-in day rate of $6 you can use all day, including the gym, indoor pool with lane swimming, a fake “river” in the family area and a brilliant hot tub from which to look out into the trees. The day pass also includes classes such as yoga and Pilates. Bring a padlock for the lockers. Across the road, grab a coffee at the brilliantly grungy Space Monkey Coffee.
• 5530 SE 72nd Ave, portlandoregon.gov
Delta operates daily direct flights from Heathrow to Portland from 10 May until October, from around £500 return including taxes.
Where to stay
The newly opened Hoxton Portland has doubles from $132 a night B&B, including taxes.
Best time to go
Winters are generally rainy, so May to October are the prime months; summer begins in June, with dry, warm days. July-Aug can be very hot, with little or no rain and gorgeously clear blue skies.
A coffee is $4; an American pint (16 fl oz) of craft beer around $6 (£1 = $1.27).
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