29 Sep 56 Hours in Portland: Coffee, Beer and Botany in the City of Roses
We’re very much into the whole “buy experiences rather than things” thing. So when Ryan suggested we celebrate my birthday by going to Portland, I said, “Put a bird on it!” and by “bird” I mean me, and by “it” I mean the City of Roses.
This was our very first trip to the gorgeous green city that is Portland, Oregon. We explored it two weekends ago, over three sunny (!), fast-paced days of garden visits, soccer shouts, coffee shop hopping and bellying up to brewpubs. At the end of it, we were absolutely smitten with PDX.
Stay tuned for more in-depth stories of our favorite stops, like the famed International Rose Test Garden. But today we’re excited to show you our journal from our whirlwind 56 hours in Portland…
Day One: Saturday.
After a somewhat painful 6:30 AM departure time from SAN, we land in PDX’s emerald embrace a little after 9 AM. First impression: Everyone there is so friendly. At the Enterprise rental car place, we hook up the car’s Bluetooth to iTunes, and play Monuments by Ume, an Austin-based band that we’ve been listening to obsessively.
9:30 AM: But first, coffee. We get coffee (pour-over for Ryan, cappuccino for me) at café/flower shop/interior design store Christopher David per the recommendation of Eater’s list of its top Portland coffee shops. While caffeinating inside the shop’s stylish serenity, we hop on the flossy toast bandwagon, eating slices topped with avocado, tomato and balsamic vinegar while watching a bocce game underway at Jamison Square Park through the window.
901 NW Tenth Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
10:15 AM: A mid-city garden tour. After coffee we head to Lan Su Chinese Garden, a collaboration between Portland and its sister city Suzhou, in China’s Jiangsu province. Watch this space for the full story about this Ming Dynasty-style garden that joins plants like lotuses, waterlilies, osmanthus, magnolias and rhododendrons with 16-century-inspired architecture and tea culture.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 NW Everett St.
Portland, OR 97209
12:20 PM: A food cart lunch! After learning via Time magazine that Portland is famed for its food carts, we make a beeline to one of the city’s cart clusters, extending the entire block of SW 5th Avenue between Oak and Stark, where we had delicious curry and pad Thai at Khob Khun.
SW 5th Ave. and SW Stark St.
Portland, OR 97204
2 PM: Check-in. Did we mention that we had no idea where we would be staying when we landed? Thank goodness for Hotel Tonight! We book two nights at the Hotel Rose downtown near the waterfront. The central location means most of our stops are between six and fourteen minutes away.
2:50 PM: We join the Timbers Army. We catch the second half of a Portland Timbers soccer match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Seated in the Timbers Army section we feel like a couple of befuddled squares at first, but soon we get with the rowdy program, learning the NSFW chants and watching the Timbers shut out Vancouver 3-0. This is a pivotal match for the team’s late-season run in an effort to secure the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Timbers games are no joke, and it felt a bit like being at a European football match. (Or in Braveheart.) We’re into it!
1844 SW Morrison St, Portland, OR 97205
4:15 PM: Plant-walking through Portland. Riding the energetic wave leaving the stadium, we head back toward the waterfront, grabbing delicious juices (“Farmer’s Favorite” for me, “Winning! (at Life)” for Ryan) at Kure. Then we pick up a bottle of one of Oregon’s famed pinot noirs.
9:05 PM: A farm-fresh feast with old friends. We meet up with our friends Sarah Conrique and Graham I. Haynes of The Vegan Stoner (blog and book) at the Farm Café for drinks and dinner. It’s housed in, well, a converted farmhouse and offers cocktails like the divine RCTID (stands for “Rose City ‘Til I Die,” a song/motto of the Timbers Army), a bracing gin/honey/lemon/sparkling wine elixir with a Clear Creek Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir float.
The Farm Cafe
10 SE 7th Ave, Portland, OR 97214
Day Two: Sunday.
9:14 AM: More coffee! We grab coffee downtown at Courier Coffee Roasters, a no-frills space that plays excellent vinyl and serves a great espresso made from a peaberry coffee from Othaya Farmers Cooperative in Nyeri, Kenya. Ryan went with a drip coffee from Gedeo Yirgacheffe in Ethiopia. The coffee is roasted offsite, and steaming cuppas are also delivered by bicycle.
Courier Coffee Roasters
923 SW Oak St., Portland, OR 97205
9:35 AM: Book me. What better way to kick off Banned Books Week than a visit to the famed Powell’s City of Books? The world’s largest used and new independent bookstore, the landmark is an entire city block of over a million things to read. There are author quotes written on chalkboards at the ends of the shelves, and the Charles Dickens section alone extends into outer space.
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W Burnside St., Portland, OR 97209
10:15 AM: Scrambling for breakfast. We have a classic homestyle breakfast at Byways Café, nestled among its wall of antique plates and shelf of vintage hat boxes. We eat veggie- and cheese-filled scrambles and soak one of the diner’s delicious homemade biscuits in butter and honey and don’t leave a crumb behind.
Downtown, Pearl District
1212 NW Glisan St, Portland, OR 97209
10:45 AM: More plant-walking, back to the rental car…
11:55 AM: We visit a breathtaking Japanese garden. We get lost inside the elevated, enchanting Portland Japanese Garden, filled with graceful sculptures, black pines, feisty koi and feathery maples already starting to change color. (It was hard choosing just a few images for this journal — so stay tuned for the full photo tour!)
Portland Japanese Garden
611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
2:15 PM: A rose city within Rose City. Of course we’d be remiss to visit Rose City and not sniff some actual roses. Luckily we find masses of them — still in bloom in late September! — at the famous International Rose Test Garden. Don’t let the serious-sounding name sway you — this place is pure play for visitors. Established as a testing space for new rose varieties, the garden is a Shangri-La of roses in every color, size, fragrance and habit you can imagine. Leathery-leaved ‘Shreveport’ Grandiflora detonates shapely flowers in hot coral. The ‘Lagerfeld’ blossoms are tall and icy, a silvery shade of lavender. Romantic climbers dangle overhead. It is like walking into an actual ocean of roses. Full story to come.
International Rose Test Garden
400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205
3:45 PM: A coffee shop that transforms into an after-hours bar. Onto the Alphabet District, where Ryan gets coffee and I have an espresso at Sterling Coffee Roasters, whose iconography is almost as fabulous as its drinks. The café shares a space with M Bar, which takes over afterhours.
Sterling Coffee Roasters/M Bar
417 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR 97209
4:30 PM: More carts! For a late lunch/early dinner, we check out another cart, Small Pharaoh’s, which serves some good gyros.
Corner of SW 5th Ave. and SW Stark St.
Portland, OR 97205
6:30 PM: Feeling sudsy, we decide tonight to explore some brewpubs. We also want to meet up with friends: Tyrone Spencer of menswear blog I.CON and Emma Alpaugh of Portland’s own Timber Press, who recommends our first stop Ex Novo, a 10-barrel non-profit brewery that supports some excellent causes for social justice. It also has on tap a delicious farmhouse saison and a refreshing guest cider.
Ex Novo Brewing Company
2326 N Flint Ave., Portland, OR 97227
9 PM: Hello and goodnight, Breakside Brewery! “The Horticults” and Tyrone end the night here over passionfruit sour. A beer that tastes like our spirit fruit? Yes, please — and it is even better than we could have imagined. So good, in fact, that we close the place down.
820 NE Dekum St., Portland, OR 97211
Day Three: Monday.
9:20 AM: Roaster stop. As cavernous and high-ceilinged as it is, Coava in the Industrial District serves up a welcoming Chemex pour-over and cappuccino. Both are phenomenal.
Coava Coffee Roasters
1300 SE Grand Ave, Portland, OR 97214
10:40 AM: First hike of fall. We can’t think of a better way of celebrating the autumn equinox than hiking to Wahclella Falls on a trail with stratospheric views of trees changing color — right before our eyes, practically — contrasted with thousands of eternally emerald, stubbornly terrestrial ferns. Fall is also the season you can spot salmon swimming upstream. Wahclella Falls is located 10 miles east of the ever-popular and mightly Multnomah Falls. While quite a bit smaller than the Mulnomah Falls’ 500 foot drop, Wahclella offers a 1 mile nature hike along the Tanner Creek River before an intimate approach to the base of the two tier falls (49 and 79 feet).
A much larger post on this, comin’ your way!
I-84E from Portland, exit 40, Bonneville, OR 97010
1:15 PM: Pre-flight beer flights. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten were eaten after a hike. Belgian-influenced pFriem Family Brewers (another Emma recommendation!) in the nearby town of Hood River was like a beery beacon after we left Wahclella Falls both awestruck and hungry. Ryan’s Mt. Shadow Cheeseburger is absolutely cosmic, and my fabulous moules frites do not skimp on the saffron. The his-and-hers flights of beers we drink include the clean-but-spicy Strong Blonde and the Strong Dark, a complex figgy wallop that I can’t wait to write home about.
We also do a blind guess-which-beer-this-is contest. Would you guess who won that?
Pfriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave, Suite 101, Hood River, OR 97031
4:10 PM: One for the road. Before we catch our evening flight home, we hoof it back to Portland to get one last coffee shop fix at Barista, where I have a macchiato and Ryan gets siphon coffee (reminding us of ours one back home!), and we buy some Fernet Branca-flavored chocolate to go.
539 NW 13th Ave., Portland, OR 97209