In just a few short years, the ever-changing West End neighborhood has emerged as the epicenter of Portland’s burgeoning fashion scene, with a surprising number of independent boutiques stocking the latest styles from local and international designers. You’ll also find a happening food scene with an eclectic variety of trending eateries — many operated by the city’s top restaurateurs. As a neighborhood it’s compact, albeit loosely defined — stretching about six blocks south and west from Powell’s City of Books. Despite its size, it packs a lot of coolness into a small pocket of downtown, meaning you’ll want to carve out at least an afternoon for window shopping, boutique browsing and, of course, eating.
In West End, many of the city's top independent designers and retailers are located next door to each other. You'll find shopping alley Union Way (1022 W. Burnside St.) in the heart of the neighborhood, and it makes for a central starting point for your fashion excursion. The modern take on an Old World shopping arcade packs nine eclectic retailers into a full city block, with shops ranging from leather outfitters (Will Leather Goods) to suppliers of weatherproof footwear (Danner).
From here, you’ll find a variety of boutiques in all directions, but each just a short walk away. Highlights include handmade jewelry at Backtalk (421 S.W. 10th Ave.), contemporary footwear at Solestruck (417 S.W. 13th Ave.), sough-after designers at Frances May (1003 S.W. Washington St.), badass tomboy styles at Wildfang (404 S.W. 10th Ave.) and tastefully curated goods at North of West (203 S.W. Ninth Ave.). Top it off with an indie record label (Tender Loving Empire, 412 S.W. 10th Ave.) and a millinery (Pinkham, 1012 S.W. Washington St.), and you have quite the browsing itinerary.
If you need a caffeine fix, West End’s café culture competes with every other neighborhood in the city. Next door to the iconic Ace Hotel, you’ll find an outpost of Portland’s most famous roaster, Stumptown Coffee (1026 S.W. Stark St.). And if you wander a few blocks in any direction, you’ll hit a number of other third wave coffee shops, including Heart Coffee Roasters (537 S.W. 12th Ave.) and Courier Coffee (923 S.W. Oak St.). If you seek something a little sweeter, stop by Cacao (414 S.W. 13th Ave.) for a shot of drinking chocolate, or zip around the corner and smell the brioche dough baking in Blue Star Donuts (1237 S.W. Washington St.).
Peering into the kitchen at Tasty n Alder. Photo by Bill Stillwell/Flickr.
Like the rest of Portland, food is among West End’s top attractions, and it’s no surprise that the neighborhood lays claim to a number of brunch spots people line up for. Local favorites include bagel sandwiches at Jewish deli Kenny & Zuke’s (1038 S.W. Stark St.), internationally inspired brunch fare at Tasty n Alder (580 S.W. 12th Ave.) and the sticky, 24-hour dinner The Roxy (1121 S.W. Stark St.).
When you’re ready for dinner, West End won’t disappoint. For something low-key, try Lardo (1250 S.W. Washington), a food truck turned specialty sandwich establishment. Next door, Grassa (1205 S.W. Washington St.) serves handcrafted pasta with local wines in an unpretentious setting. In the Ace Hotel, those working the kitchen at Clyde Common (1014 S.W. Stark St.) receive acclaim for their European-style farm-to-table fare, but it’s also a great spot for a satisfying happy hour, with a special menu including cocktails (concocted by the city’s rock star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler) and delicious burgers.
Hundreds of bottles of whiseky line shelves in Multnomah Whiskey Library. Photo by Matt Boulton/Flickr.
For a nightcap, check out the neighborhood's mixture of low-key but classy drinking establishments. Two immediate favorites include the basement cantina Pepe le Moko (407 S.W. 10th Ave.) and Multnomah Whiskey Library (1124 S.W. Alder St.), arguably featuring the finest selection of whiskey in Oregon. If the wait at the Whiskey Library seems intimidating, just head downstairs and sip a low-proof cocktails made with sherries and vermouth in the Green Room lounge. Nearby, the recently opened Shift Drinks (1200 S.W. Morrison St.) aims to be the place where bartenders drink, with a nerdy craft cocktail menu and an impressive wine menu. Jackknife (614 S.W. 11th Ave.) attracts a rowdier crowd on the weekend to its art deco-inspired space, where you can chow down on some great vegetarian fare.
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