Relaxing solo birthday weekend in PDX
January 30, 2020 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a relaxing but fun solo birthday "weekend" in Portland, Oregon.

I'll be there Feb 16-19 (Sunday-Wednesday), over Presidents' Day weekend. I have some friends I may see, but mostly I'm looking for fun things to do by myself. I've had an intensely social few months and I'm really looking forward to the chance to just roam around a city where I don't live and go where the mood takes me. I've been to PDX and have done the big touristy things but have not really ever had time to just wander around.

Currently planning to spend the days eating good food, drinking coffee, window-shopping, and maybe having a soak at Common Ground.

What I'm looking for in terms of recommendations:

- Good places to eat, especially places that are good solo, and food trucks. (Been to Pok Pok, Tasty and Sons, Koi Fusion, both donut empires, Salt and Straw, and Nong's Khao Man Gai and would go back to any of them but would love more recs)
- Especially looking for good Mexican food as it's lacking where I live.
- Fun shopping recs, especially offbeat unique types of places I won't find elsewhere (obviously I will spend several hours at Powell's), and good vintage/thrift stores (especially would like non-Wildfang store recs for AFAB people who like "masculine" clothes). Witchy/occulty places would be cool too.
- Queer stuff
- Interesting cultural experiences or great one-off classes to take
- Two/three neighborhoods to orient myself around that have a lot of the above.

I plan to get an airbnb someplace central and will have a car.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Shalom Y'All is very yummy - the downtown location has better food IMHO. It's can walk to Powell's from there easily if you need to wait. Andina is fancier but if you like Mexican and haven't tried Peruvian, I'd recommend it - they have a bar and you can sit there and eat. You might like the Alphabet district, Mississippi or Alberta.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 2:56 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

For Mexican food, I like ¿Por Qué No?, the Mississippi location. It is always busy with lines out the door, so try to get there by 4:30 for an early dinner. A Portland institution at this point, they almost always have good tunes playing.
posted by nanook at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you go to ¿Por Qué No?, take a walk up the street and check out Paxton Gate, which is a fun oddities/curiosities store.

El Diablito is a yummy Mexican food truck in the NW/Slabtown area. I had a delicious burrito there last summer. It's pretty out of the way, but if you're in the area check it out!
posted by GoldenEel at 3:13 PM on January 30, 2020

If you're already at Powells, I recommend heading over to Union Way - it's a small 'mall' just across Burnside. They don't seem to have a website, but here's their facebook - no login needed.

You'll find Danners Boots there, as well as other micro-shops and foodstuffs, including Ruby Jewel, which is better than Salt & Straw, IMHO. In that vicinity, you'll also find Buffalo Exchange for vintage clothing. Lardo nearby is great for a sandwich, as is Kenny & Zukes Deli. That whole area is great for wandering and exploring.

You may also want to check out Mississippi Ave if you haven't been there. There's a lot of clothing stores and random shops (and another Ruby Jewel!). There's not much off of Mississippi - just head up or down the street - it's about .5 miles long. There's stuff from N. Skidmore to N. Fremont. If you end your journey north at Skidmore, there's a nice food cart pod there with Prost!. If you end your journey at the southern end, you'll find Por Que No referenced above.
posted by hydra77 at 3:21 PM on January 30, 2020

I think Carnelian Coffee is one of the more unique coffee shops in Portland (full caveat; a dear friend owns it, so I may be biased). But the shop really cuts against the grain of sterile, 'modern' coffee shops that are just about everywhere. I'd say if you like rocks, crystals, light synths and plants, you'd enjoy a visit.

If you like records, they're worth a stop on the way to Crossroad's new location. They're one of my favorite record stores for used records.

I like Por Que No as much as the next, but If you're looking for mexican food, don't like lines, and like supporting minority owned businesses, there are a bunch of minority owned food-trucks in the city, one of my favorites has a couple stores as well: Los Gorditos, overall their menu is 9/10, but their burritos are 13/10 all the way. I've ordered other things, but the burrito is the only thing you need. On Foster the Mercado is a really legit spot for food with several food trucks of differing latin cuisines. They are almost all good (except for the one burrito truck...avoid).

HA VL is one of the best restaurants in the city, and I am not alone in this opinion.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:36 PM on January 30, 2020

I haven't been there yet, but Red Light Clothing Exchange on SE Hawthorne is on my list for my next PDX visit!
posted by stellaluna at 3:50 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Duck into Artemisia during their happy hour. Making a scent is a solo journey and a lot of fun!

Also in that area is Lone Fir Cemetery. They do great walking tours.

That entire neighborhood has fun shops and an art gallery that specializes in small works.

Babydoll pizza is right there, which is a good place for a slice of pizza, as is Ken's Artisan if you want the whole wait in line forever full Portland experience ;)
posted by haplesschild at 3:53 PM on January 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you go to Los Gorditos, their shrimp burrito is SO GOOD!
posted by hydra77 at 3:53 PM on January 30, 2020

SE Division St has Artifact and Village Merchant, two of my favorite thrift stores. Xico is a delicious, slightly upscale Mexican restaurant in between them. (Park once and walk to all three) That would be my suggestion for an afternoon!
posted by girlalex at 3:56 PM on January 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far! In my original post, I actually thought about saying that I don’t really like Por Que No but decided against it ... guess that was the wrong call!
posted by lunasol at 4:29 PM on January 30, 2020

The Hawthorne District - on SE Hawthorne - has some neat, eclectic shops and music venues. On the other side of the river, the shopping area on NW 23rd street is cool and very "Portland-y." Cinema 21, which shows independent films, is nearby on NW 21st. And if you've never tried a sensory deprivation "float" tank, The Float Shoppe is on 23rd and has them for rent. I went once and enjoyed having complete solitude for an hour and plan to go back.
posted by tacodave at 4:47 PM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ichiza Kitchen is a beautiful, tranquil teahouse serving kick-ass vegan Asian food; I'm not vegan and I found it delicious, plus the atmosphere is lovely.

Rum Club is one of my favorite bars anywhere; delicious drinks, great food, great atmosphere.

OK Omens very cool and reasonably priced wine bar with food, associated with longtime fancy stalwart Castagna but quite relaxed.

Hale Pele one of the best tiki bars in the country.
posted by Gadarene at 5:40 PM on January 30, 2020

The best witchy store in the city is Seagrape Apothecary. It's also my favorite place in PDX. The owner Maria and everyone who works there is really lovely and the energy is amazing. They have their own line of bath and self care items, and also sell other PDX makers' work as well. I love it.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 7:01 PM on January 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mexican: Tamale Boy (Dekum location is comfier but Russell location has Labrewatory if you're into beer), Mi Mero Mole, Nuestra Cocina (fancier than the first two).

Peruvian: I prefer Casa Zoraya over Andina, but you might need to make a reservation as it's a small place.

Southeast Asian: Top Burmese, Wajan (Indonesian)

Israeli: Shalom Y'all. The SE location has a bar where you can sit solo. I don't recall seeing a bar at the SW location.

Food cart pod: I really like the Barley Pod on Halsey, but it's been half a year since I was last there and I don't know what carts are there right now. A big one called the Asylum opened on Hawthorne. With your interest in Mexican food though, Portland Mercado might be a good choice.

Grassa for counter-service pasta
posted by bread-eater at 7:42 PM on January 30, 2020

+1 to Carnelian for coffee, for both quality and atmosphere. I also really like Courier, which has the bonus of being right next to the excellent "pastry luncheonette" Maurice, and very close to Powell's. On weekends they sometimes have interesting pop-ups, too.

Either/Or makes interesting coffee drinks from a rotating list of roasters, and is a great place to sit and leisurely enjoy your coffee and read or just rest in between other things. There's a coffee claw machine in the back.

Expatriate is one of the best cocktail bars in the country, and has an interesting and thoughtful food menu, as well.

Danwei Canting is an excellent casual-but-delicious Chinese dumpling and street food restaurant that's great for solo diners. They also have great cocktails, or you could pop across the street to the already-mentioned Rum Club.

Also +1 to Grassa for great fast-casual pasta.

If you're looking for more relaxation and pampering besides Common Ground, luxurious foot soaks and massages are to be found at The Barefoot Sage.

if such a thing would be up your alley, She Bop is a great queer-friendly sex toy shop. The one in the Mississippi neighborhood is also around the corner from The Meadow, which has a whole wall of chocolates, a whole wall of bitters, and a whole wall of gourmet salts, and a great comic shop, and a whole host of little shops and carts.

I don't know if nail polish is part of your aesthetic, but if it is, an (advance-scheduled) appointment at Finger Bang for some fun nail art is totally a way I want to celebrate my birthday in Portland one year.

Enjoy your birthday weekend!
posted by rhiannonstone at 8:42 PM on January 30, 2020

Food wise, on our most recent trip we really loved Lechon, great wood-fired South American food.

It might be too rainy or cold, but if you can go I love the Japanese Garden, I definitely dream about it, it's just such a beautiful place to wander around and experience a few hours at peace. (IDK if that counts as a big touristy thing, it probably does now that I think about it)

Definitely n-thing Expatriate!

If you like Tiki I would definitely recommend Hale Pele.

Would also recommend Eem, though that was definitely a wait when we went.
posted by Carillon at 10:52 PM on January 30, 2020

If you in the NE area, Costello’s Travel Cafe on NE Broadway is great for breakfast (I think they have the best croissants in Portland). Across the street is Taco Peddlar, nice little Mexican place. Grain N Gristle on NE 15th and NE Prescott is great for a burger break from Mexican. You can sit at the bar and read or chat with the staff if you want conversation. Cruz Room on NE Alberta has great drinks and fusion tacos. Oh and the Rose City Book Pub on NE Freemont is a great place to read and have a pint. Enjoy your Birthday!
posted by herda05 at 2:19 AM on February 1, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks again! I wound up booking an airbnb down the street from Pok Pok (SE Division).
posted by lunasol at 9:33 AM on February 3, 2020

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