I always loved the idea of the Pacific Northwest. The rain, the coffee, and the hipster culture seem like my ideal environment. Last spring, I want to Seattle for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was correct. More recently, many people were singing the praises of Portland, OR so when I got the opportunity to spend a long weekend there with a friend, I jumped on it.
Portland is quickly earning the reputation of being a top destination for food and beer. While the whole trip wasn’t filled with beer, it was a recurring theme during my time there. Between landing at noon on Friday and returning to the airport by noon Monday, I visited four breweries, three waterfalls, a donut shop, an ice cream shop, a supposedly haunted ‘castle’ as well as a coffee bar and several local restaurants. Here were the standouts:
This place looked amazing in photos. Honestly, it did look spooky and the hike there and back was fantastic. That being said, turns out it was just an old abandoned ranger station. But the story goes that the woods are haunted and this moss-covered, open top structure just adds to it.
Powell’s Rare Book Room
I love books. However, I find book stores quite overwhelming and Powell’s was no exception. I didn’t know where to start or where to look. That was until we found the Rare Book Room. The rare book room is an enclosed, dimly lit room that you need a pass to get in to. Once inside you can scan through shelves and shelves of signed copies, first editions, and exclusive printings of books that date back hundreds of years. It was fascinating and humbling to see that books have not changed all that much. Plus, if you had a few hundred (or thousand) dollars to throw around, every book in the room was up for sale!
When I was doing research for my trip I kept seeing photos of waterfalls and knew I had to go see at least one. On the second day in town, we headed an hour south to Salem, but then made a b-line for Silver Falls State Park that afternoon. The park, hidden about a dozen miles into to woods, is home to 10 different waterfalls. First we went to the South Falls where you can hike behind it to get up close and personal to the water. Then, after a night out, a local told us we should have gone to the North falls because they are much better and less crowded. So the next morning, we woke up before the sun and looped back around to the North and Upper North Falls. The North one was 160+ feet and fell in front of a massive cave. The upper falls was about a third of the size, but you could get down to the water at the basin and feel the mist on your face. All three were so different that I can only imagine what the other seven are like, but even seeing just one of them is worth it.
Most of the time we either ate at the breweries or the hotel breakfast. We also had thai food and Mexican but neither seemed noteworthy. However, our two last stops in the city sure were.
Blue Star Donuts
There is much debate on whether VooDoo or Blue Star is better. But, the overwhelming majority of people I talked to were on team Blue Star. We got through the line quickly but there were only a handful of stools at the window bars to sit on so we ate our donuts in the car. I went for the OG (horchata glazed brioche) Raspberry Rosemary Buttermilk, and the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch (vanilla custard filled magic covered in dark chocolate and crispy chocolate pearls). It was absolutely less kitchy than VooDoo Donuts and I’m sure the quality was also higher.
Salt & Straw Ice cream
While waiting for our Haunted Brewery Tour (more on that in a second) we sat in the window of a restaurant across the street. Attached to the bar where our tour began was a shop that had a line out the door and around the corner but we couldn’t for the life of us figure out what it was. Our tour guide informed us that is was the infamous Salt & Straw Ice cream shop, so we knew that popularity made it a must on our itinerary. We ended up heading to one in a neighborhood outside of downtown just before lunchtime and there was no line plus an empty table with our name all over it. The staff was super friendly and the ice cream was a DREAM! I went for the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate. It was a light chocolate cream with dark chocolate flakes and a hint of salt to bring out the sweetness. I loved this place so much I even bought an ampersand sticker for my laptop.
Portland is becoming a hotbed of great food and even better beer. So during this trip, Breweries were a priority. We hit four in less than three days.
This was the first stop after the airport. I had a four beer flight, the beer of the day, and a BBQ burger with truffle fries. The whole meal really started the day off right. Reviews said the food was just okay, but I was very satisfied and the five beer samples definitely added to that. By far, my favorite was Straight Outta Newport (or SONP for short). It was a hoppy double IPA that’s only available on the west coast during January so get it while you can!
Haunted Brewery Tour
As I mentioned in the post of New Orleans–spooky things are my favorite. So when I found a haunted brewery tour, I immediately bought tickets! It ended up just being the two of us and our tour guide MyKala so the whole night was casual and personal. Out first stop was at Kell’s Irish Pub basement cigar room built inside of an old Shanghai tunnel. Our guide talked about the history of the city while we sipped on three different beers including an Irish Pale Ale.
We then walked through the city and ended up at Old Town Pizzeria where part of the tunnels are still intact. Though we didn’t see those before trying their Apricot IPA, a beet beer, and they’re Shanghai IPA. All three were some of the best beers I’ve had to date.
The whole tour was interesting, terrifying, and fun. It was super awesome and I recommend anyone who likes ghost stories and beer to check it out.
Since we were heading to Salem the next day, MyKala suggested we check out Gilgamesh Brewing. It did not disappoint! I got a 6-beer flight (which was only $7.50!!) and the best mac and cheese ever. The staff was friendly and the building was like an industrial log cabin. As an IPA lover, Gilgamesh had several so it was a success in my book.
Over all, I had THE BEST time and I already think I’ll go back. Is there anything I missed that I need to check out next time?