Updated: Jan 17, 2020
Portland’s hipster reputation, award-winning food and drink venues – 70 draft breweries and counting – and outdoorsy attitude have helped make this unassuming Pacific Northwest city a world-famous destination, writes LYNN ELSEY.
The Craftsman-styled RiverPlace Hotel is a welcoming place to relax after a long flight or day of exploring the sights. From the laid-back staff to the warming stone fireplaces surrounded by cosy armchairs, the riverside hotel reflects Portland’s low-key vibe.
It's nearly impossible not to slow down and enjoy the surroundings here. The hotel is a couple of blocks from the heart of the city centre and close to the Willamette River that runs through Portland, so there’s no excuse not to get out and stroll or cycle along the river’s pathways – when the weather permits.
The Heathman Hotel personifies Portland’s knack for blending tradition with modernity. The hotel’s classic, understated elegance – complete with Beefeater- costumed doormen – provides all the “mod cons” in a soothing atmosphere. Rooms are beautifully turned out, with lots of wood panelling and crown moulding. And the hotel’s mezzanine library, a favourite haunt for visiting authors, is home to more than 2,700 signed books.
Award-winning chef Greg Higgins has a passion for Pacific Northwest cooking and focuses on local, seasonal ingredients at Higgins Restaurant and Bar, a Portland favourite since it opened in the early 90s. Vegetarians and meat- lovers alike will find attractive options on the menu. Don’t miss the wild salmon when it’s in season.
With Ken Forkish, one of Portland’s best-known bakers, at the helm, it’s no surprise that Trifecta’s wood-fired oven plays a starring role in many dishes at this popular restaurant. Along with full meals, the tavern is a favourite spot for cocktails and happy hour. You can also sample Ken’s well-loved pizza at his outpost in the city centre.
Bar Mingo opened to accommodate the spillover from its larger sibling next door. The relaxed Italian trattoria is now equally popular for delicious and reasonably priced food, fabulous wines and an atmosphere that makes every guest feel like a local. Portland’s food carts are legendary, drawing rave reviews from Bon Appétit magazine and CNN. Most are in fixed “pods”, making it easy to track down and try out an array of cuisines, including fish and chips from the Flying Scotsman, Mauritian vegetable samosas at Chez Dodo or the much-feted Nong’s Khao Man Gai garlic and ginger chicken and rice. The Alder Street and Fifth Avenue pods are the most central; night owls may want to check out Cartopia.
Although Portland has a global reputation for craft beers and pinot noir, lovers of international wines and champagne should make a beeline for Bar Vivant, which is frequently included on “Best Champagne and Sparkling Wine” honours lists. This wine and tapas bar is a convivial place to try out wines and bubbly from lesser- known small producers.
On a rainy evening, knocking back a flaming Spanish coffee (made with rum, triple sec and Kahlua, topped with whipped cream) at Huber’s Café is the perfect way to escape the elements. The atmospheric bar and restaurant features on the US National Register of Historic Places, replete with wood panelling, marble floors and showpiece bar.
Sample an array of interesting wines at Park Avenue Fine Wines. Housed in an old French bistro, the wine bar and retail store also serves up small plates and nibbles to accompany local and international wines, while you ponder which bottle of wine, or one or two, to take home.
Out of Town
Oregon’s leading wine region, the Willamette Valley, is home to two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards. With a similar climate to France’s famous Burgundy and Alsace regions, the valley is acclaimed for its pinot noir. The area is easy to explore from Portland, and mushroom-lovers will want to book a place at the Joel Palmer House Restaurant in Dayton, where the menu revolves around wild mushrooms and truffles.
Heading east from Portland, the Columbia River Gorge is America’s largest national scenic area. Dozens of waterfalls and a network of hiking trails provide opportunities for exploring along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. The winds that rifle through the gorge have also made it a global hotspot for board-sailing sports.
Mount Hood’s year-round snowy peak provides a stunning reminder of the Pacific Northwest’s volcanic roots, and is a favourite spot for skiing, snowboarding and hiking. Perched partway up the mountain, Timberline Lodge is a National Historic Landmark and a majestic example of American mountain retreats that still thrives as a ski lodge, hotel and restaurant.
Originally published in the July 2018 edition of the NSW Law Society Journal.