This city rocks. From art to food to drink to dance, Portland lives to play.
The wine revolution has taken hold. Oregon Wines on Broadway, downtown just off Pioneer Square, is a great place to taste hard-to-find Oregon wines. Price per glass won't break ya, and you can score small pours for a buck apiece. They also offer antipasto and cheese plates to squelch your hunger. If you're lookin' for a little romance, take your hottie to The Empire Room. Candles, seductive jazz and whatever follows accompany a nice selection of imported wines, European-style light meals and appetizers.
Two other wine bars to check out: Alto Lounge and Fernando's Hideaway.
Restaurant wise, Cafe Lena is definitely the hip place for breakfast. Laminated tabletops with poetry and art from the beatnik era try to distract your attention from the fab food. Enjoy noted works, like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," whiule you enjoy one of Lena's fabulous egg dishes with a dark Sumatra coffee chaser. Another find is Junior's Cafe. THE best breakfast potatoes, plus a decor that makes you feel like you're stepping back into the '50s. And Beaterville Cafe features delectable Dutch Baby-style waffles that'll turn you into a Pavlov dog.
Portland and Munich (Germany) have a lot in common: they're both clean, respectful and have great brew houses, which are especially important around lunch time! The Portland Brewing Co. (with it's Taproom & Grill), Widmer's Gasthaus Brew Pub & Restaurant and the Bridgeport Brewing Company all offer great, affordable edibles and a tremendous slew of suds.
For dinner, Montage is it, with its spicy Cajun seafood and a list of sassy varietals to match. Saucebox features Pan-Asian-style food accompanied by fantastic infused cocktails. Il Piato offers intimate authentic Italian dining. And Brasserie Montmarte is the French connection, with a bountiful selection of Burgundian-style wines and a playful wait staff. Other notable restaurants include Wild Wood and Higgin's.
McMenamins Brewery has a number of pubs scattered throughout the city. Three of them - Bagdad, Mission and the Kennedy School, offer an interesting twist: libations and movies in the evening. For a mere buck you can enter and enjoy movies like Mash, The Crow, Repo Man or Robert Altman's Gosford Park in one of these refurbished theaters. We're talkin' classic big screens and pints of their trademark beers - Ruby, with its raspberry accent, the hoppy Hammerhead ale and the legendary black hole known as Terminator Stout. If you're not wined-out, the company makes its own Edgefield wines in Troutdale, east of Portland. Try pairing the Communication Breakdown Burger, laden with Oregon's own Tillamook cheddar, grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms, with a glass of the Edgefield 1999 Merlot. Big Foot meets Wonder Woman and it's coming up roses!
Overall, lodging is very reasonable, especially if you stay around the periphery of the city. My choice, however, is the Mallory Hotel, near downtown. Not only is the building historic, but the rates are definitely in line. The Benson (also downtown) is more expensive, but it's also the place where rock stars and politicians stay. Who knows what you may find there! Or, try the Hotel Vintage Plaza, which offers a complimentary tasting of local wines during happy hour. Transportation's also reliable. If driving, though, keep a good heads-up for all those one-way streets.
Shopping's a must. Why? No sales tax! Hot couture shops litter downtown, from boutique salons, to vintage shops (like Avalon and the Magpie) to department stores in Pioneer Square selling the latest modern fashions. Nearby is the intellectual playland: Powell's City of Books, the largest bookstore in the world, with more than a million new and used books in stock.
Powell's Cafe also offers a great place to read on a rainy day. (Lotta readin' done in Portland!) Malls abound in the suburban areas, and Nike Land resides in Beaverton, west of Portland.
Local bands, including the Dandy Warhols, Sister Hazel and the Pink Martini's, fuel Portland's butt-kickin' music scene. Roseland is the best place to see alternative music. Crystal Ball Room has a much broader range -- from world beats to country to rock. And Satyricon (near Roseland) is THE place to experience hardcore sound. If you're tryin' to mellow, The Mad Hatter Lounge, Dot's and Fellini's all offer more relaxed, non-pretentious atmospheres If you gotta dance (and we all gotta, right?), Poly Esther's Culture Club is the place for '80s retro; the Lotus Cocktail Lounge for go-go and bump 'n grind; and Lolo's for a high-energy mix of everything.
If you're still culture-deficient, check out the mixture of contemporary and period art at the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and unique cinema presentations at the Northwest Film Center. And, if you're into the macabre (who isn't?), the knickknacks at the Church of Elvis are a definite must.