On business in Portland

By: Crai S Bower

March 30, 2016

The green accolades Portland amasses annually could fill a recycling centre. A first time business visitor might assume all this green focus means higher visitor costs, but MAX, the World-Class transit system, alternative meeting spaces, and an absence of state sales tax combine to keep budgets in check. Here’s how to get the best out of being on business in Portland.

On business in Portland
Portland always seems to have a leap on trends © Travel Portland


Where to stay: The Benson Hotel remains Portland’s signature grand hotel. The lobby celebrates Portland’s past timber riches, with impressive pillars cut from Douglas fir old growth trees that arise from the Italian marble floors. The Sentinel Hotel’s art collection of cultural renegades will inspire that conference call. The Sentinel’s Jake’s Grill provides, along with the Ace Hotel lobby, a working salon for visiting and local creative types. The Nines combines boutique chic with business acumen in the heart of the city, while the not-to-be-missed Departure Restaurant and Lounge launched Portland’s current rooftop dining trend.

On business in Portland | The Benson Hotel
The Benson is still the city’s signature grand hotel © The Benson, A Coast Hotel


Where to eat: Begin the day at Tasty N’ Alder for comfort food cuisine such as Andalusia baked egg, truffle omelette with beef bacon, and Sicilian hash with braised pancetta. Sure, there’s a lot of hype, but check your cynicism and duck into Pok Pok for lunch. Don’t miss the papaya pok pok or muu pass kham waan, a charcoal grilled boar collar rubbed with garlic, coriander root and black pepper, then glazed with soy and sugar. Clam chowder along the Willamette River? Visit OX, where this traditional New England soup gets twisted with smoked bone marrow, spring onion and jalapeño to create a broth so delectable, diners have been known to revoke sharing privileges around a common table.

On business in Portland | Pok Pok
Pok Pok launched America’s street food movement © Jamie Francis


Where to go for evening cocktails: Once known exclusively for brewery bliss, Portland now claims craft cocktails among its “Best in USA” bravado. Stop by Pepe le Moko, Nate Tilden’s hidden stash located “below stairs” from the Ace Hotel to sip an Amaretto Sour or Hotel Nacional Special in secret. Multnomah Whiskey Library proffers 1,000 different whiskeys and ridiculously knowledgeable staff, on hand to help you pick the perfect tipple after a busy working day. Request an overstuffed leather chair near the fireplace when you make your reservation. One can’t visit Portland without putting a little time into a brewery. The Commons captures everything good about the Portland brewing scene, run by a former home brewer who transformed his passion for crisp ales into a neighbourhood celebration.

On business in Portland
There seems to be a brewery around every corner © Travel Portland


Top sights: The Japanese Garden offers the finest decompression environment in Portland. Set high above the city in the middle of 400-acre Washington Park, the view of Mt. Hood, the gurgling waterfalls and peaceful rock garden help one transcend the business day. The Portland Art Museum may be the seventh oldest in the U.S. but it regularly offers the most provocative contemporary exhibitions in the Pacific Northwest. Portland’s surrounding environment remains its top attraction, best viewed while ascending 500 feet aboard the Aerial Tram from the South Waterfront. Spend a free afternoon while on business in Portland exploring the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway, about an hour away, site of spectacular Multnomah Falls among other cascades, easily accessed trails and breathtaking views of the mighty Columbia.

On business in Portland | The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden invites calm and contemplation © Jamie Francis


Great Gifts: From adventure telescopes to magnetic wooden blocks, Finnegan’s Toys remains the best toy store on the West Coast – don’t miss the tin toy windup collection and other thoughtful unplugged curios. Made Here PDX features a six-pack holstered steel bicycle, gorgeous woollen apparel and custom kayaks, as well as other handcrafted selections. Crafty Wonderland displays the work of more than 200 local artisans, many of whom also sell their wares at the famous Saturday Market. Of course no trip to PDX is complete without a browse through Powell’s, the city-block sized independent bookstore that continues to thrive. And why, you ask, must you stand in a long queue to order novelty doughnuts? Because you’re in Portland, and one is not permitted to leave the airport, state or city limits without a distinctive pink box from Voodoo Doughnuts.

On business in Portland | Powell's
City block-sized Powell Books is a must visit © Jamie Francis


Going Local: Portland offers both streetcars and an intricate light rail system, aka Metropolitan Area Express, or MAX. The trains run to all four urban quadrants and reach the airport from downtown in 38 minutes. Bunched together in pods, more than 650 food cart entrepreneurs compete for the benefit of the mobile diner. The impossible-to-miss pods, planted throughout the city, provide plenty of variety from which to choose. Rarely costing more than $7 US, you can find everything here from Peruvian to Paleo to popsicles. No fable portrays Portland’s food cart mythology like Nong’s Khao Man Gai, the 10th and Alder staple that offers just one (utterly delicious) menu item. The Chicken and Rice is so good that a line forms well before lunch and lasts until the “Sold Out” sign is placed in the window. Portland Pedal Tours delivers your two-wheeled steed then leads you off to breweries, food carts or the trek of your choosing. Ask for directions to the River Trail and you won’t be disappointed.

On business in Portland | Food Carts
In Portland, a food cart pod is never too far away © Jamie Francis

Where to Break Curfew: What better way to release some energy after a busy day of meetings and presentations than by slamming a Ping-Pong ball around? Pips & Bounce celebrates the merger of table tennis and cocktail lounge, with a happy hour that extends from 11pm to close during the week. The Doug Fir lounge has seen the likes of Vampire Weekend and Alabama Shakes breakout before going on to Billboard and Grammy fame. Mississippi Studios also books entertainment most nights of the week in the heart of Portland’s current “It” neighbourhood. “Distillery Row” is also located on the city’s trendy Eastside. Many, like New Deal Distillery’s Hot Monkey Pepper-flavoured Vodka, have already garnered national awards.

Our partnership with Delta connects you to a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it easy to travel to Portland on business.

Have you been on business in Portland? Where did you spend your time between meetings? Let us know in the comments section below.


Crai S Bower

Award winning travel writer, photographer and broadcaster Crai S Bower contributes scores of articles annually to more than 25 publications and online outlets including National Geographic Traveler, Journey, American Way magazines and T+L Digital.

Categories: Our Places