For those who love to travel, you know it can be both rejuvenating and inspiring. Time away from home offers a new perspective, shakes up your daily routine and provides the opportunity to experience new things. As I explore each destination, whether new or familiar, I find sources of inspiration that I can bring home to enhance my project work. The lush Pacific Northwest, specifically weird and wonderful Portland, is one of my more recent design muses.
I've been intrigued by Portlandia, this city of multiple nicknames (City of Roses, Rip Town, Little Beirut, Beervana, P-Town to name a few), for quite some time. In particular, I have wanted to explore the Pearl District. This former site of abandoned warehouses near the rail yards, originally developed in the late 1800s to house blue-collar European immigrants, is now an urban oasis of reclaimed brick and steel. It is the new home to galleries, hip indie boutiques, furniture stores, bars, restaurants, artisan coffee houses and there is more to come. The redevelopment of this area only began 20 years ago so it continues to evolve. With its abundance of art galleries and festivals, this is a fabulous destination for sourcing unique art and accessories, and an ample supply of inspiration.
Set aside some time to explore Powell's City of Books, claimed to be the world's largest independent bookstore. And I believe it, because it is enormous—an entire city block and multiple floors! EWF Modern is one of my favorite stops. It offers an interesting mix of locally made items and other fun, modern pieces.
The numerous restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the area will give you plenty of design savvy settings for resting and refueling in-between shopping stops.
Speaking of food…some might say a synonym for Portland is Food Truck, or rather Food Carts. The Food Cart Pods are a long-standing icon of this city. I of course had to see firsthand what the hype was all about. I started by visiting the largest pod located at SW 9th and Alder. When they say large, they aren’t kidding. It’s an entire city block! I sampled Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai, and one of the most delicious pulled pork sliders I have ever had at the Dinner Bell Barbecue food cart. Shout out to chef Sam Mouzon for taking his BBQ seriously – Yummy!
As I ventured to other parts of the city, I visited two other pods where I sampled delicacies like Korean tacos at Korean Twist and a delicious lamb wrap. Portland is a walking city and thank heavens because I needed to walk off some calories after tasty snacks from seven different carts at three unique pods. Go big or go home I always say! If you’re intrigued by Portland’s food cart pods, make a trip soon! On my trip, I discovered that sadly the largest pod will be closing in a year due to a high-rise development slotted for that city block.
Another food item Portland seems to have a deep connection to is—the doughnut. And the infamous pink box being carried all over Portland is none other than Voodoo Doughnuts. In my opinion, the hype is worth the visit. It’s simply a fun venture! Once inside, it’s sensory overload with pink and purple walls, checkered floors, funky chandeliers, giant doughnut wall art and a rotating display cart with all of their sugary offerings. Who doesn’t love a maple bar topped with strips of bacon or a handful of Fruit Loops atop a glazed doughnut? Perusing the menu with names such as the Viscous Hibiscus, Dirty Bastard and Memphis Mafia is entertainment alone. Don’t let the weekend lines deter you, they move quickly. If time is of the essence, the weekday lines are much shorter. Once you are armed with your pink box, take the half block walk to Stumptown Coffee Roasters, plop yourself down on one of the many seats or comfy couches and enjoy the tasty delights.
The food fun doesn’t stop there. My friend and I ventured to the Southeast Wine Collective’s Oui! Wine Bar + Restaurant as we were intrigued by this intimate neighborhood spot that touts wine-centric food and 60 wines by the glass. We weren’t quite sure what to expect with the family style, five-course meal costing only $39 per person, but we were pleased with the entire experience. The food was delicious and the wine offerings a plenty – try the Oregon Pinot wine flight! They do offer an a la carte menu, but reservations are only taken for the Chef’s Choice tasting. You won’t be sorry.
If you are in the mood for delicious coffee and canelés, then grab a chair at the front window counter of Nuvrei and watch Portland do its thing.
…just to name a few…
As you can see, Portland is an inspiring city that can satisfy a variety of appetites.