10 Things Guys Should Know When Traveling to Portland, Oregon
We continue to release our BroBible Travel Guides. The guides are intended on being a cheat sheet on food, drink, and fun that can be had in that town or city. We’ll unveil a new one every week.
1 – You’re probably wondering why you’d want to go to Portland given that you know of it as the land of the hipsters and you’re reading this piece on BroBible. We’ll I’m here to tell you there’s more to Stumptown than dudes in tight jeans and chicks with high-waisted shorts. For starters Portland probably has the third best food scene in America behind New York and San Francisco. Portland also has the most strip clubs per capita of any city in the U.S. (I know. That shocked me too.) It’s also a great sports community with the Blazers and Timbers having top notch fan bases. Finally they do have plenty of bars for the non-hipsters because there are more main stream types there as well.
2 – Let’s get this out of the way. The weather in Portland isn’t great. You just have to suck that up from the start. There will be many days in a year in which it will be mild, overcast, with a threat of rain. It’s ok because you weren’t planning on going to the beach anyway. There’s no true bad time of year to go to Portland because it never gets that cold, but you’ll want to go there in the Spring or Fall if you can because incorporating a Blazers or Timbers game would make things more fun. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to do both, which makes April your target month. There are some solid outdoor drinking spots, so you’ll do alright if it finally gets into warmer weather.
3 – There are a couple areas of Portland to rest your head during the weekend, but you’ll be best off in the downtown area because of the ease of finding taxis and being within walking distance to some of Portland’s features. The Nines hotel is the nicest, most modern option. (It’s good enough for NBA commissioner Adam Silver.) It has a good steakhouse on the lobby bar that features a bar with a great selection of whiskey and bourbon. The rooftop restaurant is good too and has a nice drinking deck with views of the city. Otherwise you’ll see your standard hotel chains of every variety downtown. You could also move a little further east and stay on the other side of the river at the Jupiter Hotel if you’re looking to be slightly out of the mix, but still near some good spots.
4 – As mentioned previously, those in Rip City go nuts for the Blazers. Most every game has a full house, but the prices on StubHub are fair even for playoff games. The fans may whine about the referees more than most fan bases, but they’re engaged in the game and show energy the entire game. The Moda Center holds up pretty well despite being 20 years old and has the nice alternative food options you’d expect from such a food-focused city. Fans of the Bunk sandwich empire can grab one of their three sandwich options in the 300 level. You can also grab well known Fire on the Mountain wings and pizza from the locally renowned Sizzle Pie. The Portland Timbers of the MLS haven’t had the success of the team in Seattle, but the atmosphere at their games rivals that of the Sounders or anything you’d see in Europe. Providence Park is even in the heart of downtown like in European cities. Tickets aren’t that easy to come by, but at least they’re not that expensive.
5 – Portland is known as the micro-brew capital of the United States, so hopefully you like to drink beer. There are a lot of breweries to choose from. Migration Brewing Company is one of the better experiences and has an outdoor patio to go with a wide variety of beers. Burnside Brewing Co will bring in some go-go dancers to fill the parking long as you enjoy their beer. Ecliptic Brewing will also attract you with women of the semi-nude variety to go with their beer and quality food menu. Hair of the Dog Brewing offers a beer called “Dave” which has a 29% alcohol by volume. Cascade Brewing specialize in aging their beer in barrels to add some flavor with “The Vine” being my favorite of their options. While beer is a lot of fun, Portland also has a distillery row. New Deal Distillery has a few nice spirits and a tastingsWednesday through Saturday. The two best things to try are the Mudpuddle Bitter Chocolate Vodka and the Hot Monkey Pepper-Flavored Vodka. House Spirits also does tastings Friday-Sunday with tours on Saturday. Fans of gin will enjoy the Aviator.
6 – Food lovers will enjoy their time in Portland more than most. We’ll do the best to cover everything, so here goes nothing. Breakfast is the first meal of the day and the first meal covered on our list. The aforementioned Bunk sandwiches (multiple locations) can provide you a quick and easy bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich that’s as good as any breakfast sandwich out there. Byways Café does one of the better brunches in town, where you’ll enjoy Amaretto French Toast, blue corn pancakes, or corned beef hash at brunch. The pancakes at Stepping Stone Café can match those at Byways. Pine State biscuits is a cult favorite with many a good breakfast brisket. Olympic Provisions (two locations) and The Country Cat are two other well rounded brunch options.
Lunch options overwhelm, but Lardo (multiple locations) is a must stop for a sandwich. All the sandwiches are tasty, but the meatball bahn mi is the best choice and saddle that up with a side of dirty fries. You could go back to Bunk for a pork belly Rueben or over to Big Ass Sandwiches for the braised oxtail sandwich. Pok Pok was so good it made its way all the way to New York, but the original is still the original when it comes to Vietnamese fish sauce wings. (They sound weird, but trust me.) Fire on the Mountain has Portland’s favorite wings in case you don’t make it to that Blazers’ game. You can also grab some of those same wings at Whiskey Soda Lounge. Apizza Scholls is the best pizza you’ll get in town and as good as any in the country. Getting one with sausage or cured pork shoulder will make you full and happy. You can also grab some pies at Oven & Shaker, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, or Life of Pie and go home happy.
7 – There are legit burgers in Portland too. The double foster at Foster Burger can take additions, but the meat and bun itself is a thing of beauty. The bacon cheeseburger at Produce Row Café is a styled up version, but you can pare it with one of Portland’s best bourbon selections. Your burger overload continues with the Monstrosity, a double-bacon cheeseburger with grilled cheeses as buns, or a Burgermeister at Brunch Box, a spot with brunch all-day. Keep it going with The Special at Stanich’s sports bar because you like an egg, bacon, and ham on top of your burger. Killer Burger has numerous locations and numerous delectable options, but the Epic with pulled pork, bacon, slaw, and other fixings soothes the soul. Speaking of pulled pork, Podnah’s Pit Barbecue can go head to head with any barbecue in the country despite its location in the northwest. The brisket is a thing of beauty and there are those who say the smoke prime rib on Saturday is worth fighting over. (They do breakfast too if you’re feeling wild.) The al pastor burrito at La Bonita has gotten national attention as one of the best burritos in the country. You can also grab a carnitas burrito at La Sirenita if you prefer that to al pastor. It might be weird to find great tacos in the back of a neighborhood grocery story, but that’s what you get at Taqueria y Panderia Santa Cruz. IT’s cheap and you can mix and match varieties like al pastor and chorizo. You may end up back at Pine State Biscuits for fried chicken and no one will complain. A simple grilled cheese and tomato soup or mac and cheese with bacon at Blue Plate works if you’re in the mood to keep it simple.
You can also get fancy with a dinner at Beast, a prix fixed dinner that’s full of meat. Ox is an Argentinean steakhouse of sorts where the meat hits the grill and then melts in your mouth. While keeping with meat, Olympic Provisions has two locations and some great meat plates to start off your dinner. As previously mentioned, your best destination for steak is Urban Farmer. Laurelhurt Market is a less trendy option, with dynamic oysters and nice cocktails to warm you up for your steak. Little Bird Bistro and Le Pigeon have the same owner and bring you France’s best. The Country Cat is a simple place known for its fried chicken, but the braised beef is the better choice. Toro Bravo has a wide ranging menu where you’ll enjoy empanadas, drunken pork, salt cod fritters, or any flat bread option. Finally there’s quality Italian at Nostrana that’ll bring you back to the mother country. But as you’d expect in a food-centric city, you better get these reservations in early for all these places or you won’t eat up there.
I’d be remiss to talk about Portland without talking about the sweets. Everyone knows about Voodoo Doughnut, which has lines at all hours and I mean all hours because its open 24 hours. It’s known for its bacon maple bar, but there’s crazy stuff like donuts with captain Cap’n Crunch or Fruit Loops to go with the regular varieties. Blue Star Donuts can match Voodoo on taste, but you gotta get there before they run out (usually around 6 p.m.). They have their own bacon maple bar variety, but maybe you’ll want to kick things up with a crème brulee variety that comes with Cointreu that you squeeze in. Ruby Jewel Scoops is the local ice cream chain and can satisfy appetites big or small. There’s obviously late night food too when the bars close. You can head back to Bunk for the Tuna Melt. Sizzle Pie serves good enough late night pizza that you’ll think you’re in New York. Al pastor tacos at Robo Taco are down the street from a few bars or strip clubs you’ll probably be stumbling out of. I love poutine just as much as the next guy and you’ll get a little taste of Montreal at the Potato Champion food cart. (Food carts are a thing in Portland, but there’s only so much time to cover things.) And there’s always hot cakes (they’re huge), hash browns, and chicken-fried steak at the Original Hotcake House, open 24 hours.
8 – After that food overload, you’ll hopefully have the ability to drink. McMenamins is an operation that takes places that wouldn’t normally be bars and turns them into one. You’ve got movie theatres like The Mission and The Bagdad, The Kennedy School where you can drink in detention because you always wanted to, or the Crystal Ballroom which does the music scene, the bar scene, and incorporates a floor that moves. Jones has all the 80s and 90s music you ever wanted and a pickup scene to boot, but the line starts early so get there around 10 p.m. Down the street you’ll find Dirty, a typical club ready for you to make some bad decisions. The Barrel Room and Dixie’s Tavern in the same area give you a little dueling piano or country if that’s what you’re looking for. There’s also an EDM spot called The Whiskey Bar for those who enjoy that music. (Yeah I didn’t expect to experience that in Portland either.) Doug Fir Lounge at the previously mentioned Jupiter Hotel gives you some of everything, plus maybe you’ll meet a girl who’s staying at the hotel.
9 – There’s also the bars you’d expect to find in Portland, but hey maybe you’re looking to experience a little hipster while you’re there. Dig a Pony has an eclectic crowd looking to hook up and dance to some 80s tunes. Think hipster meat market. Holoscene has dancing and a boozy slushie machine if you’re into that. Goodfood gives you two stories of pool, pinball, and dancing. Eastburn has a bit of a combo between hipsters and party people, plus there’s skee-ball, which is never a bad thing. The Blitz chain of sports bar is the best place to watch a sporting event. You can also get some day drinking done at Rontoms where there’s a patio and ping pong. There’s also a patio at Radio Room, where the bloody marys make it fine place to day drink
10 – Finally we’ll end our stay in Portland with the strips clubs because Portland does thave the whole most strip clubs per capita of any city in the country thing. Once you shake that smile over your face, you’ll have more than a few options to choose from. The best looking girls in town can be found Spyce with the only caveat that they’ll be covered on the bottom. It’s everything you’d expect in a mainstream strip club from VIP area to multiple stages. The Magic Garden down the street is completely different. It’s more like a dive bar where there just happens to be a chick dancing naked on stage on the other side of the bar. Mary’s is Portland’s oldest strip Club and its one stage can keep you satisfied for a little bit. Jump across the river to Sassy’s, probably the second best option in town. The drinks are cheap, the chicks are cute, and you can get a seat on the balcony for $10. Dv8 Gentleman’s Club is a nice place to enjoy a Blazers game and a lap dance, but you probably won’t be focused too much on the Blazers’ game. Finally there’s Golden Dragon, which is open to 4, lets in people under 21, but doesn’t serve alcohol. You’ll make do.