This past weekend I visited Portland, Oregon for the first time.  I was a guest speaker at the Lola Retreat, a bold money conference for bold women co-founded by my friend and business partner Melanie.

I didn’t know much about Portland other than Nike was based nearby and their motto was “Keep Portland Weird.” Well, they are winning at keeping it weird. I’ve visited a lot of cities and Portland might just top the most interesting list. I was only in Portland for 48 hours but it was enough to interact with a few locals, try a few bites, and explore.

Upon arrival I quickly realized one thing, it’s really white. This isn’t an issue for me as I grew up in Oklahoma city and was one of the only 5 black kids in my entire elementary school. But, you definitely notice the lack of diversity almost immediately. Despite lacking the diversity of a city like Los Angeles,  you feel safe.

I stayed at the Ace Hotel Downtown and that was my first indication that this wasn’t going to be a typical stay. Upon entering my room I came to the realization that this hotel must have once served as a boarding house or a SRO. Rather than key cards they had actual keys, which I guarded with my life. This was my first time staying at an Ace Hotel property and I loved their Malin and Goetz toiletry selection, funky décor, and 90s R&B lobby sounds. My room was pretty dark and had a sink next to the bed. It felt more like a log cabin than a hotel room. But the bed was comfy and I slept incredibly well during my stay.

Portland is affordable. A friend told me that and I didn’t get it, until I got it.

Portland is also a food city. Food carts and trucks line the streets and pepper vacant parking lots. You can find anything from Middle Eastern, to Vietnamese fare and everything in between like BBQ and Thai. I opted for Vietnamese and it was so cheap. I grabbed Basil Chicken and Rice with a Bubble Thai Tea for $10.  The meal rivaled my favorite Thai restaurant in LA and  was made in a space approximately half the size of a shipping container.

Portland is also extremely gluten free friendly. Dare I say it’s a gluten free paradise? On Friday night I had gluten free macaroni and cheese with crawfish and bacon. At a creole Italian fusion restaurant named Le Bistro Montage. It was perfect. The kicker is that they wrap your leftovers in aluminum foil twisted into cruise style animal shapes. I took my macaroni home as a whale.  

That night a friend and I visited Departure, a rooftop bar that boasts beautiful views of downtown and gives you NYC vibes, except it closes at 1am and I got two drinks for $9. I seriously thought the bartender comp’d my drinks because I was a cute visitor. My friendly quickly burst my bubble and informed me that in Portland drinks were just that cheap.

On Saturday I attended the conference all day, but broke out to Stumptown Coffee in the hotel for our break and snagged a Horchatta Cold Brew coffee. Yeah it was as delicious as it sounds. I’m hooked.

For dinner I checked out Bamboo for Sushi since they had excellent yelp reviews and it was within walking distance from the hotel. Shout out to the brother standing in front of the restaurant with his speaker and mic serenading passersby with tunes from  Whitney and Luther Vandross, they weren’t ready young king, they weren’t ready.  I ordered the Kimono Roll and my gawd was it the best Sushi I’ve ever had. It consisted of spicy tuna, crab, avocado, cucumber and gluten free Shrimp tempura. Yes this restaurant has gluten free tempura. Gluten. Free. Paradise.

I ended up calling it a night early as conferences really exhaust me and I can’t really see myself enjoying the PDX nightlife, at least not without a cultured local telling me where I should go. There was a 2 Chainz concert that night, but tickets were sold and and were going for $150 on Stub Hub.

My quick trip was a pleasant success. I ended up connecting with a business owner I’ve long admired, so I plan to return early fall with my husband to continue to build with him as well as discover more gluten free goodies.

Until next time Portland, stay weird (not that you need my blessing).