First published on 17 Jul 2012. Updated on 18 Jul 2012.
It wasn’t Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s Portlandia that drove Time Out’s desire to visit Portland – we went in search of the cool-climate pinot noir of the nearby Willamette Valley. But after two days exploring a city of food trucks, bookstores, fantastic craft beers, the best coffee in America and top-notch wine, Portland soon had us wishing we lived there.
See and do
Like it has done for Central Otago in New Zealand, pinot noir has put the Willamette Valley on the wine map over the last decade. The Willamette is a region that boasts over 300 wineries that produce 72 varieties of wine. At Raptor Ridge (18700 SW Hillsboro Hwy, Newberg), expect arguably the finest single vineyard pinot noirs in the district – the 2007 Yamhill Springs and the 2009 Stony Mountain. Rex Hill (30835 N Hwy, Newberg) is another of the region’s oldest wineries and here it’s about good quality sustainable wines for both the winery’s master label and junior star A-Z, which is available in limited quantities in Australia. Time Out recommends doing a wine tour with an operator out of Portland, such as Evergreen Escapes.
Those who have seen Portlandia will know the ‘put the bird on it’ episode when Brownstein and Armisen walk into a shop on North Mississippi Avenue and start putting bird logos on everything from cushions to toast. The area surrounding the avenue is Portland’s equivalent of Williamsburg in New York, just with slightly fewer people and bars but about as many bikes with baskets. Over here, head to Land Gallery (3925 N Mississippi Ave), where the episode was filmed, and Flutter (3948 N Mississippi Ave) for hip homewares, along with Animal Traffic (4000 N Mississippi Ave) for vintage and western threads. In downtown Portland, another must-do is stopping by Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside St), the world’s largest bookstore, which takes up an entire city block.
Eat and drink
On the corner of N Mississippi Ave and North Beech St, Amenesia is one of 45 microbreweries in Portland and here you can enjoy a locally crafted brew in the courtyard while taking in the Mississippi Ave foot traffic. Their Desolation IPA is famous across the Northwest, as is the Slow Train Porter. 832 N Beech St, Portland, +1 503 281 7708.
Up the road is ¿Por Que No?, a taqueria with a focus on sustainable southern-influenced Mexican food. Order some Pollo Asado (chipotle-rubbed chicken) tacos and a Michelada – a Tecate with lime juice and Worcestershire sauce over ice served with a chill and salt rim. 3524 N Mississippi Ave, Portland. +1 503 467 4149.
Up the other end of N Mississippi Ave at Skidmore, you’ll find several permanent food trucks. Just recently Portland was recognised by US News as the city with the world’s best street food and is home to 475 of them. Another top spot is at the corner of SW 10th Avenue at Alder Street Stop by Ngong’s Khao Man Gai, the People’s Pig and Savor Soup House.
A few blocks away, chef Gabriel Rucker’s Little Bird bistro has been a local favourite in recent times and serves up an impressive menu of French fare with a Pacific Northwestern influence. Don’t go past the signature burger that’s been a hit since the restaurant opened. 219 SW 6th Ave, Portland. +1 503 688 5952.
For a more refined brewhouse experience, book a table at Deschutes Brewery, where you’ll find 18 beers on tap from masterbrewer Ryan Schmiege alongside good fare in a venue that’s jumping night in and night out.210 NW 11th Ave, Portland. +1 503 296 4906.
The city’s best cocktails are to be had at Clyde Common, a restaurant and bar on the ground floor of the Ace Hotel. You’ll love the barrel-aged cocktails, the 50 whiskies by the glass and the carbonated-in-house sparkling Americanos. If you’re peckish, try the fried oysters and crispy pig’s head. 1014 SW Stark St, Portland. +1 503 228 3333.
On the other side of the Ace’s front door, you’ll find the best coffee in the US at Stumptown Coffee Roasters.1022 SW Stark St, Portland. +1 503 228 2277.
Where to stay
Hotels don’t get much more hipster-chic than what’s on offer at the Ace Hotel. It’s about great coffee, food, drinks and repurposed materials – in the rooms expect to see reclaimed timber, army disposal items, sinks in the lounge rooms and re-upholstered vintage furniture. Free WiFi is on offer, and there’s a vintage photo-booth in the lobby and bicycles that can be borrowed for touring the city. 1022 SW Stark St, Portland. +1 503 228 2277.
Qantas flies daily to Los Angeles and Alaska Airlines will then get you to Portland. Some trans-Pacific Qantas services are operated by A380 superjumbos and onboard expect comfy Marc Newson seats, great food from Neil Perry, top notch wine and seat-back entertainment across all four cabins. Air New Zealand also flies to Los Angeles via Auckland.