Northwest Portland: Sublime Dining, Shopping and So Much More
Enjoy a Day in Northwest Portland
Northwest Portland stakes out some of the most diverse real estate in the city—and one of its major hubs for shopping, entertainment, dining, and nightlife. Within a stone’s throw of downtown, you can easily plunge into the heart of urbanity—or escape to an equally immersive gardened or woodsy retreat. But at the end of the day, as the sun eases west, flaring the skyscrapers and highrises in warm late afternoon glow, steer your way back to Nob Hill and right into its gathering thrum. Stroll up NW 23rd, window-shopping the boutiques and people-watching the outdoor seating, then cross over to NW 21st for a happy-hour drink at Besaw’s (1545 NW 21st Ave) or Bar Mingo (811 NW 21st Ave). As challenging as it can be to narrow down dinner options in this epicurean paradise of a district, you’ve made a fine choice in Paley’s Place (1204 NW 21st Ave): a legendary purveyor of Pacific Northwest cuisine.
One of the pioneers of Portland’s now world-famous dining scene, Papa Haydn has a lovely and seasonal bistro-cuisine menu of appetizers and entrees. It’s best known, however, for its out-of-this-world dessert case, which includes among other confections a really epic inventory of cakes. Papa Haydn West in Nob Hill was the second of the restaurant’s trio of locations to open and remains one of the neighborhood's premier eateries.
Pittock Mansion is one of Portland’s high points—and yes, we’re indulging in a bit of a pun here. This historic chateau commands a famously fabulous view east over the city toward the High Cascades. The vista, though, is only part of the appeal. The mansion itself, finished in 1914 as the residence of the Oregonian newspaper’s then-publisher Henry Pittock, is an architectural show-stopper with its grand French Renaissance Revival design and spectacularly preserved furnishings.
In Northwest Portland, you don’t even need to head uphill to Forest Park to find glorious expressions of Mother Nature in the raw. In September, hundreds of Portlanders gather at Chapman Elementary School at sundown to watch an even greater aggregation of birds perform a jaw-dropping mass ritual—staging for migration south to the American tropics, as many as 16,000 Vaux’s swifts spiral in a feathered vortex into the school’s chimney to roost. You may even spot a hawk or falcon trying to snatch a morsel from the tornadic horde….
Forest Park, with its 5,100-plus sumptuous acres in the heart of the West Hills, makes both a transcendently beautiful retreat for Portlanders and one tinged with not a little wildness. Here the human realm recedes and the hiker holds company with mossy bigleaf maples, cloud-splitting Douglas-firs, fern ravines, and the occasional raven and black-tailed deer. Macleay Park makes one of the busiest entryways to this unrivaled urban forest; besides remnant old-growth and the cascading Balch Creek, it dazzles with the lovely ruin of the Stone House, a 1930s-era WPA structure.
“Farm-to-table” is bandied about left and right these days, but Meriwether’s Restaurant embodies the philosophy as few other establishments do. Besides relying on local farmers, Meriwether’s actually runs its own five-acre spread along Skyline Boulevard that provides much of the toothsome produce on the menu: from chicory to cabbage, leeks to lettuce, and beets to berries. Enhancing the exceptional flavors on your plate is the gorgeous ambiance of the restaurant’s historic digs and the luxuriant gardened patio.
A walk through Restoration Hardware is worth the visit even if you don’t end up walking out with something. Not all the luxury furniture and fixtures here are going to jibe with your personal style, but nearly everything’s eye-catching, from the reclaimed-wood desks and the Victorian-style clawed bathtubs to the ornate chandeliers and galaxy’s worth of ornate doorknobs.
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