My final day in Portland began with a morning visit to Bijou Café for their infamous pancakes. While the idea of heading up to Stepping Stone in the Alphabet District and tackling their pancake stack featured on Man vs. Food was quite tempting, I was urged to go to Bijou instead, and I’m glad I did. Bijou is quintessential Portland, with an old fashion yet slightly hip vibe. The diners were more mature than other places I’d been, with an equal number locals and businessmen alike. I had never had oatmeal pancakes, but my shortstack was fantastic. Best part of the pancake experience? Marionberry syrup. In no time at all, I concocted a dipping sauce of maple and marionberry which I happily dipped my pancakes in while people watching and making small-talk with the waitstaff.
After filling up on the pancakes and Stumptown Coffee I began exploring with no specific destination. I made my way through Old Town, which is Portland’s Chinatown. Unfortunately, Old Town has not experience the gentrification as other Chinatown communities across the nation have. While it was interesting to see, Old Town lacks any interesting shops, restaurants, or bakeries.
From Old Town, I made my way back through downtown and up through the Pearl District. With gorgeous new lofts overlooking the river, trendy stores, amazing restaurants, and a number of nightlife destinations, the Pearl District is my favorite area of Portland. I visited a quite a few stores including Icebreaker (a New Zealand-based company selling merino wool outwear), Covet (clothes and jewelry), and my favorite shop of all, Urbino Home. I’m typically not one to be attracted to a home décor store, but I was immediately drawn to Urbino once I spotted their shabby chic furniture through the window. The store was filled to the brim with chair, couches, luxury linens, jewelry, hand soaps, and other miscellaneous merchandise. For lunch, how could I pass up Cupcake Jones, one of Portland’s two cupcake boutiques? As a cupcake fanatic, there was no question that I HAD to sample their goods. I am happy to say the Pearl (vanilla/vanilla) and S’Mores cupcakes passed my test.
My day of exploration ended on Northwest 23rd street, an area of Portland I’ve been visiting since I was a child. While Portland in general has changed quite a bit, Northwest 23rd has been a popular shopping and dining street since I can remember. Blush Beauty Bar for cosmetics and Seaplane for women’s clothing are the stand-out stores on the street.
It became quite clear to me as soon as I entered Bluehour that this was a place to be seen. Being located in the Pearl District, it certainly attracts a less hipster, more Gucci-clad clan of urbanites. Meaning “of heightened emotion” in French literature, Bluehour is borderline sensory overload. The space itself is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been: the height of the sky-high ceilings is only magnified by mirrored walls and solo-hung chandelier in the center of the dining room. The people are beautiful. The service is fantastic. And my food was pretty damn good, although I will admit say my pan-fried rissoto cakes were not worth $26. But $26 for a the Bluehour experience? Well worth it.
Finally, Teardrop Lounge. Remember that review of Drink I wrote about a while back, an innovative new cocktail lounge in Boston? Well, Teardrop blew Drink out of the water. Daniel Shoemaker is my new favorite bartender, and Teardrop is my new favorite bar. Why is Teardrop so amazing? They can make a custom drink for you based on your spice, liquor, mixer, and herbal preferences; however, they also have an innovative cocktail list, so no pressure if you aren’t one to name off random flavors. They display their alcohol, so you can be certain as to what brands you’re being served. They have over 40 different bitters and squeeze the juice your drink requires when you order it. And my favorite part of the evening? When my cocktail called for crushed ice, Daniel took a handful of ice, placed it in a hemp bag, and beat the heck out of it with a wooden paddle! Conversely, if your beverage calls for a slow-melting ice, Daniel will go in the back and get an “ice spear” to place in your glass. The highlight of my Teardrop experience was when I requested a Gingery Mojito. My beverage include such ingredients as homemade ginger beer, Martinique rum, Jamaican bitters, cloves, vanilla, fresh lime juice, all-spice, and… I’m sure a few other ingredients I am forgetting!
My three days in Portland were some of the best three days I’ve had in a long, long time. There’s something to be said about exploring a new city, especially if you are by yourself. Sure, it’s fun to travel with friends, but if you’re by yourself, you can go exactly where you want and make new relationships. Not only did I have a blast experiencing new neighborhoods, stores, restaurants, and nighlife destinations, but I left with a renewed appreciation for Portland and the people who live there. I can’t wait to go back.