It has many names: the Alphabet District, Nob Hill and Northwest Portland to name some. But this neighborhood isn't lacking identity. Northwest 21st Avenue was Portland's original restaurant row, then anchored by the stalwart Paley's Place, and the now-defunct Zefiro and Wildwood. Two streets west, Northwest 23rd Avenue is a shopping destination and was the first center of Portland's fashionista renaissance. "Trendy-Third" has local boutiques alongside national chains like Free People and Aesop, while upscale fast-casual eating spots abut a new wave of fine-dining restaurants like St. Jack. SAMI GASTON.
Eat: Escape From New York Pizza, 622 NW 23rd Ave.
Drink: M Bar, 417 NW 21st Ave.
Shop: Blush Beauty Bar, 513 NW 23rd Ave.
Go: Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave.
1610 NW 23rd Ave., 503-360-1281, stjackpdx.com. Dinner daily.
St. Jack has evolved into a fully realized vision of what it means to be a fine French restaurant in Portland. Our 2015 Restaurant of the Year runner-up is one the rare eateries that manages to respect hundreds of years of culinary tradition while still feeling fresh. St. Jack serves up unpasteurized country cheeses in unmatched variety, bold drinks that include Champagne magnums and delicate gin cocktails, and food ranging from seared foie gras in tobacco jus to a refined take on a humble fisherman's stew. Chef Aaron Barnett puts it simply: "We're a big-boy restaurant now." $$$-$$$$.
836 NW 23rd Ave., 971-229-1925, bamboosushi.com. Dinner daily.
Bamboo Sushi is peak Portland. It trumpets the fact that it is the "first certified sustainable sushi restaurant in the world," and runs a soundtrack including Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend. Start with a few inventive boozy drinks, then order the specials—they are bound to be delicious. $$.
2309 NW Kearney St., 503-208-3785, boxerramen.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Boxer Ramen is a high-gloss take on the Tokyo ramen counter. The ramen bowls, with a shiitake-mushroom shoyu being the most balanced, are nighthawk comfort with a poached egg on top. Micah Camden's little big touches remain deft, even as he makes Portland look increasingly like a cartoon. $.
Escape From New York Pizza
622 NW 23rd Ave., 503-227-5423, efnypizza.net. Lunch-late night daily.
EFNY comes complete with all of the endearing inconveniences of a hard-assed, old-school New York pizza joint, which is to say this is a wonderful pizza shop, and probably my favorite. The sauce is rich, the housemade sausage bursts with fennel, and the dough is slow-proofed and slightly tangy—a decadeslong consistency wrought from equal parts talent and simple stubbornness. $.
1506 NW 23rd Ave., 971-386-2196, grassapdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Like an old punk rocker who now works in marketing, Grassa has aged surprisingly gracefully. For housemade pasta, the value proposition remains impressive, whether angel-hair "ramen" guided up by broccoli rabe, or a toothsome gnocchi that's secretly Old Bay clam chowder in the form of starchy pillows. $.
Ken's Artisan Bakery
338 NW 21st Ave., 503-248-2202, kensartisan.com. Breakfast-early dinner daily.
Ken Forkish is probably the best baker in Portland, and between this outpost of bread and pastry and his excellent eastside pizza joint (see page 129), he's got you covered no matter how you prefer your dough. $.
500 NW 21st Ave., 503-208-2173, kungpowpdx.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
San Francisco-raised Henry Liu has made an amped-up celebration of the American Chinese family restaurant—oil and heat and spice brought into a concert that's way more Van Halen than Mozart. The wheel has not been reinvented, merely greased for speed. $.
1204 NW 21st Ave., 503-243-2403, paleysplace.net. Dinner daily.
Vitaly Paley is an elder statesman of Portland fine dining, and there's a reason his restaurant has stuck around for over 20 years. $$$-$$$$.
1505 NW 21st Ave., 503-946-1853, please-louise.com. Lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, dinner Saturday-Sunday.
Please Louise is a nice neighborhood pizza shop in this pizza-desolate area whose thin, low-tang crust baked in a Bakers Pride electric oven defies any specific geographic lineage. Order the meat pies, our favorite being the fennel sausage with a nice spritz of Calabrian chili. $$.
413 NW 21st Ave., 971-373-8990, smokehouse21.com. Lunch and dinner daily.
Smokehouse 21's ribs are still the best in town, and the pulled pork is finely shredded and impossibly rich, perfect in a sandwich when slathered in the house mustard sauce. $$.
Sterling Coffee Roasters
417 NW 21st Ave, 503-248-2133, sterling.coffee. Breakfast-lunch daily.
Sterling Coffee stands out from other Nob Hill cafes because it strikes the right balance between finicky nerdery—it roast its own beans and makes a perfect Italiano—and speedy professionalism. You'll be in and out in no time. $.
21st Avenue Bar & Grill
721 NW 21st Ave., 503-222-4121, 21stbarandgrill.com.
Look out front: There's always two guys smoking and advertising a life you don't want to lead. But behind this hard-luck dive, there's one of Portland's least likely Edenic rear gardens. Get a pitcher. Stay awhile.
417 NW 21st Ave., 503-228-6614.
This matte-red broom cupboard of a wine bar is tiny, sultry and unparalleled as an intimate date spot on 21st Avenue. On the chalkboard of rotating taps and wines, pick from German rieslings, local pinots and syrupy ports that are rare on any list.
Pope House Bourbon Lounge
2075 NW Glisan St., 503-222-1056, popehouselounge.com.
Pope House has a generous happy hour, but you should spend the extra cash on the regular cocktails. The $10 house Old Fashioned is a marvel—Buffalo Trace, brown sugar and bitters in perfect proportion, and with more than double the booze of the discount drinks.
2112 NW Hoyt St., 503-303-8220, voiceboxpdx.com.
If there is anything Portland loves as much as beer, it's karaoke. Grab a date or a group of innocent bystanders, or just rent a private room for yourself ($6 to $10 an hour). Bask in one of the best song lists in the city while lathering your vocal cords with sake and Jell-O shots.
21st Avenue Bicycles
916 NW 21st Ave., 503-222-2851, 21stbikes.com.
A premier service shop, the midsized 21st Avenue Bicycles sells a nice selection of Surly, Salsa, Specialized and Globe bikes, plus accessories. It's also valuable for rentals and service—fixing a flat is only $13 (including the tube), and the shop will rebuild your wheel for $50.
Blush Beauty Bar
513 NW 23rd Ave., 503-227-3390, blushbeautybar.com.
Blush Beauty Bar is Portland's slightly nerdier alternative to Sephora, complete with testers of practically every product in stock, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. Blush is armed with all the shades, concealers, polishes and skin-care products to have, and if you require more than the basics, sign up for a makeup lesson, get a facial or have your eyebrows threaded.
Bull in China
2109 NW Irving St., 971-888-4085, bullinchinapdx.com. Open Wednesday-Saturday.
Founded by three service-industry veterans, Bull in China specializes in handcrafted and vintage barware. Expect to find the same hand-blown mixing glass your favorite cocktail bar stirs its martinis in, alongside bar spoons, bitters, cocktail books and jiggers.
736 NW 23rd Ave., 503-228-9143. Closed Monday.
You won't know until you go. Rachel Doran's well-curated women's consignment shop has been a highlight of 23rd Avenue for years, outfitting its sharpest-dressed residents. The offers turn over frequently, but expect to find designer brands like Tory Burch on the racks alongside vintage pieces and J. Crew sweaters.
Will Leather Goods
816 NW 23rd Ave., 503-290-7479, willleathergoods.com.
If bovine is part of your sartorial consumption, then check out Eugene-based Will Leather Goods for well-built, classically inspired bags, wallets, totes, belts and purses. Be sure to survey the belt buckle selection, which ranges from Glen Campbell dinner plates to hip-hop bling.
Gem Set Love
720 NW 23rd Ave., 503-226-0629, gem-set-love.com. Closed Monday.
Looking to finally pop the question? Need a band of gold or silver as unique as your partner? Ensure he or she responds with a "oui" by perusing the selection of vintage and estate rings on display at this boutique.
616 NW 21st Ave., 503-223-4515, cinema21.com.
Beyond Cinema 21's grand marquee, you'll find the comfort of a modern theater, with indie and cult titles that Regal would never touch. Grab a beer and a slice of pizza in the lobby and head up to the balcony in the main theater for the best view.
Laura Russo Gallery
805 NW 21st Ave., 503-226-2754, laurarusso.com. Closed Sunday-Monday.
When you need a reprieve from the clatter of Nob Hill, duck into Laura Russo Gallery and chillax with some of the Northwest's top visual artists and emerging talent. Monthly exhibitions showcase inspiring collections—with price tags to match. But don't be bummed out by your lack of buying power. This gallery is like stepping into a free annex of the Portland Art Museum.
Vaux's Swifts at Chapman Elementary
1445 NW 26th Ave. Late summer, nightly.
Every year, beginning in late summer, flocks of Vaux's swifts roost in the chimney of Portland Public Schools' Chapman Elementary during their migration to warmer weather. As the sun begins to set, thousands of birds swarm above the chimney and spiral in orderly aerobatics to tuck in for the night.
In multiple locations
Grant's Philly Cheesesteaks, 1203 NW 23rd Ave.
Lompoc Tavern, 1620 NW 23rd Ave.
Salt & Straw, 838 NW 23rd Ave.
Tender Loving Empire, 525 NW 23rd Ave.