Portland had been on my travel wish list for several years. I have heard so many great things about it and was anxious to check it out. Luckily for me, I have a great friend who moved from Chicago to Seattle a few years ago who was willing to drive down and meet me for a girls weekend in Portland.
Liz was one of my first roommates when I moved to Chicago so I have known her for many years. She is married now and has two adorable kids so I was very excited to see her and catch up!
I flew from Chicago to Portland on a Thursday night. Liz didn’t drive down to Portland until Friday morning so I had several hours on my own on Friday morning to sleep in and then walk around the city to get the lay of the land before she arrived. Portland is a small, very walkable city. While we walked everywhere, there is also a light rail train system that seemed to come quite often to take people to various other areas around Portland.
After Liz arrived and we dropped her stuff in the hotel room, our first stop was Mother’s Bistro and Bar to get brunch and some mimosas. Mother’s is a well known restaurant in Portland. I read about it several times as I was doing research before the trip so I was excited to eat there. It was good (I had the French toast) and probably worth the 45 minute wait to get a table but it wasn’t my favorite brunch place in Portland.
After brunch, we set out to explore the city and walk off our food comas. We didn’t really have a destination in mind but we ended up at Powell’s Bookstore, which touts itself as the world’s largest independently owned bookstore.
Let me tell you, it was HUGE! You could get lost in there for days. I love books and it was fun to explore all the different genres and nooks and crannies as we wandered about.
When I told people I was heading to Portland, inevitably I would hear “you need to try ____ donuts. They’re the best!”
A block or so from Powell’s was Blue Star so we decided to make that our next stop. Blue Star has many donut flavors to choose from. It was a bit overwhelming! We ended up going with the “popular local favorites” – PB&J and Blueberry Bourbon Basil. Both of them were delicious!
Between the French toast for breakfast and these donuts, I was beginning to get loopy from too much sugar.
After walking about and exploring the city for a few more hours, we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. We decided we wanted Asian food for dinner. We chose a Chinese place several blocks from our hotel that had good reviews on Yelp. Along the way, we got thirsty so we stopped at a bar for a drink to hold us over for the rest of the walk.
While enjoying our drinks, we started chatting with the bartenders and asked them where we should go for Asian food. Locals usually know best after all. They threw out several suggestions and after discussing it, we decided to change course and set out for a place a few blocks away in a different direction. It was a Chinese place with “ducks in the window” for reference because the bartenders couldn’t remember the name.
Away we went, chatting merrily along. As we walked, I looked out for happy yellow duck decals in the window of a restaurant. We walked a few blocks and Liz stopped and said “there it is.” I twirled around a couple of times but didn’t see it. “Where? I don’t see the ducks” And then she pointed to the restaurant right in front of me and I realized how far the expectation in my head was from reality.
They weren’t happy yellow duck decals in the window….they were real ducks, with the bills still attached roasting over a flame on the other side of the window.
I was mortified by what was in front of me and told her I couldn’t eat there but then I couldn’t help myself from a fit of hysterical laughter as we walked away.
Could I have been any more wrong about what “ducks in the window” meant?!?! Even as I type this story three weeks later, I cannot help but laugh at myself and the look that must have been on my face as realization dawned. (UPDATE: 2020 Carmen here: I actually love duck. There is an amazing place that serves a Beijing Duck Dinner in Chicago called Sun Wah BBQ. If you visit Chicago, you should check it out).
As we were walking away from the place with the ducks in the window, we encountered a woman as we were waiting for a stop light. She heard us discussing where to go from there. She recommended a Thai place…so that’s where we ended up going for dinner…and it wasn’t good.
So after all of that, we had my least favorite meal of the weekend. It was a fun adventure with lots of laughs though so it was worth it!
Day 2 of our Girls Weekend in Portland
The next morning, Saturday, our girls weekend in Portland continued. We consulted Yelp again for breakfast ideas and chose a place called Tasty n Alder. The place didn’t open until 9:00 am. We got there at 8:45 am and the line was already around the corner from the entrance. We considered leaving but decided instead to get some tea and coffee from the coffeehouse across the street and wait it out.
I am so glad we did.
This place served my favorite meal in Portland. In fact, we liked it so much, we went back on Sunday morning. I would have it again now if I could. My favorite of their brunch dishes was the Bim Bop bacon and eggs. It was delicious. It was so flavorful and the rice at the bottom was crispy, giving it a great unexpected crunch. If you go to Portland, you must go here! You will not regret it. I am now on the lookout for good bim bop in Chicago.
After breakfast, we continued our girls weekend in Portland by setting out to exploring the surrounding area. Our destination? The amazing Multnomah Falls. You can read about our time at the falls here.