Northwest Portland

North of Portland’s downtown and a fast dash across West Burnside Street, lays not only the opulent Pearl District, but also the flagship store in the local Powell’s Books chain. It’s a mammoth structure that takes up a full city block, a temple dedicated to reading material dusty and rare or hot off the bestseller’s list. This is a bookstore whose legend precedes it—nearly everyone who comes to Portland for the first time is advised to take a sojourn among its charmingly cluttered aisles. It’s a crucial stop for visiting authors sharing a few pages from their latest works, and is also the home of the Anne Hughes coffee room, a spot where well-read singles routinely gather, gazing inquiringly at the tomes being leafed through by intriguing strangers at nearby tables. Epic bookups have been known to result. Did you know Portlanders buy more books per capita than the denizens of any other U.S. city?


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While some refer to it as “Snob” Hill for its high rents and proximity to all the upscale boutiques and eateries on NW “Trendy”-third Street, there’s no denying that this neighborhood is loaded. Even on rainy days, the sidewalks are stuffed with shoppers and sightseers in search of precious Portland meals and mementos. Locally owned shops like Sloan Boutique, Lena Medoyeff Studio and Ether are popular destinations for clothes-minded types, while Bellini’s Spa provides facials, waxing, and assorted body treatments to restore youth and vigor.

Dining options are sensational. Basta’s is an Italian joint with a generous happy hour and a can’t-miss menu of pizza and pasta. For a slightly fancier upgrade, Café Nell, recently named one of the country’s Top 100 Neighborhood Gems, serves up seasonal specials for lunch, brunch, happy hour, and dinner. And North 45 is the place to be for mussels, frites, and heady Belgian beers, a culinary combination that will liven up even the most jaded taste buds.

Sloan Boutique, 738 NW 23rd Ave, 503-222-6666,

Lena Medoyeff Studio, 710 NW 23rd Ave, 503-227-0011,

Ether, 600 NW 23rd Ave, 503-295-7959

Bellini’s Spa, 2326 NW Irving St, 503-226-1526,

Basta’s Trattoria, 410 NW 21st Ave, 503-274-1572,

Café Nell, 1987 NW Kearney St, 503-295-6487,

North 45, 517 NW 21st Ave, 503-248-6317,


For the boutique browser, the Pearl District is nothing less than a paradise of potential purchases, fraught with temptations that may cause friction in the checking account. Tucked amid sleek high-rise condo towers are smart shops that cater to the fashionista (Mabel & Zora, Parallel, Lizard Lounge), interior designer (Cargo, Moulé, Jonathan Adler), and famished consumer in need of a memorable meal. In that case, you might try Bluehour, an elegant establishment with a dazzling array of sensibly portioned food and cocktails, Andina, a purveyor of exotic Peruvian dishes, or Irving Street Kitchen, a favorite dining spot of newly minted Portland celebrity K.D. Lang.  

Gerding Theater is the truly awe-inspiring home of local theater powerhouse Portland Center Stage, a dynamic theatrical company that entertains its audience with a stimulating season of musicals, dramas, and comedies ranging from Shakespeare to David Sedaris. In addition, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, located in the heart of the Pearl, hosts a much-ballyhooed annual arts extravaganza called TBA (Time-Based Art), a two-week festival of performance and visual art that manages to be both challenging and wildly entertaining to the uninitiated.

Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, 503-228-4651,

Mabel & Zora, 748 NW 11th, 503-241-5696,

Parallel, 1016 SW Washington, 503-274-8882,

Lizard Lounge, 1323 NW Irving, 503-416-7476,

Cargo, 380 NW 13th, 503-209-8349,

Moule, 1225 NW Everett, 503-227-8530,

Jonathan Adler, 1165 NW Everett, 503-222-1217,

Bluehour, 250 NW 13th Ave, 503-226-3394,

Andina, 1314 NW Glisan, 503-228-9535,

Irving Street Kitchen, 701 NW 13th Ave, 503-343-9440,

Gerding Theater at the Armory, 128 NW 11th, 503-445-3700,

Portland Institute for Contemporary Heart, 415 SW 10th, 503-242-1419,


Gravitating west from the Pearl and leapfrogging the freeway leads one to yet

another buzzing hive of conspicuous consumption that stretches from NW 21st to 23rd avenues (the latter is known as “Trendy-third” thanks to its abundance of au currant shops and cafes). Cinephiles congregate around Cinema 21, the popular movie theater that typically gets first dibs on art house, avant-garde, and alternative films that have proved so irresistible to Portland’s highly educated populace. And after a show, many ramble across the street to the Gypsy or further on to Voicebox, both of which have formidable followings among the karaoke crowd. For bashful beginners, Voicebox is highly recommended for its private karaoke rooms, so that your first time behind the mike will be among friends, rather an indifferent audience of strangers.

Those in need of home décor are advised to check out the inventory at Eclectic Home for a handsome, sustainable variety of furnishings that thankfully doesn’t require a trip to Ikea—where the crowds have been known to swallow stragglers whole. If you’re more inclined toward self-décor, Gilt is a shiny den that’s stacked to the rafters with unique and vintage jewelry; a must-see for any would-be member of the local glitterati. Gaia Couture, a retail space given over to organic clothing, is like Portland in a nutshell, blending a selection of eye-catching outfits with a friendly eco-conscious vibe.

After all that shopping, anyone’s energy can flag under the weight of bags and bundles. Not to worry! Northwest 23rd’s formidable array of spas, wax centers, and salons are designed to reinvigorate the weary. You’ve worked hard enough stimulating the local economy; let the personal pampering commence!

Dining destinations are plentiful, whether your tastes run to upscale cuisine (23Hoyt, The Fireside) or more traditional fare, in which case the Nob Hill Pub & Grill prepares enormous hamburgers with multiple patties and a galaxy of condiments. Just make sure to pay a visit to storied steakhouse The Ringside for one of two daily happy hours that are among the most bountiful in town. 

Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st, 503-223-4515,

The Gypsy, 625 NW 21st, 503-796-1859,

Voicebox, 2112 NW Hoyt, 503-303-8220,

Eclectic Home, 2259 NW Raleigh, 503-224-0551,

Gaia Couture, 921 NW 23rd, 971-266-8650,

23Hoyt, 529 NW 23rd, 503-445-7400,

The Fireside, 801 NW 23rd, 503-477-9505,

Nob Hill Pub & Grill, 937 NW 23rd, 503-274-9616,

The Ringside, 2165 W Burnside, 503-223-1513,


Yes, everyone loves to shop and nosh in the Pearl District. But if you continue to wander north, you will be quick to note that the amenities don’t taper off appreciably. Spiffy diners are numerous, including Seres Restaurant and Bar, a Chinese eatery with a voluminous menu that includes intriguing cocktails and gluten free options galore. The Bent Brick is a newish tavern with a modern sensibility; stiff, creative drinks and upscale pub grub like New Mexico-style chorizo tacos and a truly symphonic porchetta sandwich. Here too, residents can casually motor between destinations on the easy-to-catch streetcar line, a wise transportation option, especially if you’re paying a happy hour visit to the Bridgeport Brewpub for a couple pints of Blue Heron Pale Ale.

In Portland everything gets the artisan touch, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Olympic Provisions Northwest, a restaurant and butcher shop noted for its expertly cured meats. In fact, no less an authority than Saveur magazine wrote that it serves some of the best regional charcuterie in the country. Among the expansion plans for 2014 is the opening of a New Seasons market at 21st and Raleigh.

Seres Restaurant and Bar, 1105 NW Lovejoy, 971-222-7327,

Bent Brick, 1639 NW Marshall, 503-688-1655,

Bridgeport Brewing, 1313 NW Marshall, 503-241-3612,

Olympic Provisions NW, 1632 NW Thurman, 503-894-8136,

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