A trio of new hotel-bound concepts—one entirely new, the other two reboots—are making a strong case for the hotel lobby as the next great place to wine and dine when you're downtown.
The simplest of the three is Craft PDX (320 SW Harvey Milk St.; 6:30 am-11 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-11 pm Saturday-Sunday), a straight-ahead burgers-and-beers joint on the bottom floor of the Hi-Lo Hotel. Inhabiting the space formerly occupied by beleaguered "modern Mexican" restaurant Alto Bajo, Craft swaps overpriced chips and guac for a more honest approach to garden-variety bar food. The appetizer menu flirts with seafood (shrimp cocktail, $13), finger food (wagyu meatballs with orange gochujang glaze and pickled slaw, $14), and at least one bizarre combo of the two (smoked salmon mousse, $16), but you're better off skipping a light nosh and cutting right to the action.
The right side of the menu features what Craft refers to as a "burger lab," which starts with a 4-ounce smash burger ($11 for one patty, $14 for two, $17 for three) that contains an entire spectrum of fatty flavors and a crispy, charred exterior, minus the gut-busting girth. If you're looking for something heftier, the plentiful add-ons empower you to build it yourself. Light flourishes like pesto, onion crisps and CBD olive oil run just $1 each, while more significant indulgences, such as brisket, shrimp and smoked chicken, are priced at $3. The house beer, a CBD-infused IPA co-created by Coalition Brewing, runs $10, which is pretty steep, but no one drinks in a hotel lobby expecting a deal.
A few blocks away, on the main floor of the Hoxton, Lovely Rita (15 NW 4th Ave., 503-770-0500; 7 am-11 pm Sunday-Thursday, 7 am-midnight Friday-Saturday) is the second coming of since-departed head chef Johnny Leach's vision of upmarket fusion fare. The menu is pared down significantly from that of prior tenant La Neta, with just a handful of entrees filling pages that used to be cramped with underwhelming Mexican plates.
The wonderfully funky and smoky burger ($15) has been spared, and a decadent sweet potato gnocchi ($16) tops a small list of "mains" that also features veggie-forward dishes, like smoked mushrooms in a zesty chermoula sauce ($14) as well as a generous portion of rib-eye (a low-key steal at $23). Herb-crusted fries ($8) and a raclette-soaked pile of broccoli ($6) pair well with the lightly overhauled cocktail menu, which steers away from its tequila-heavy origins toward flavors like Fernet, pisco and St. Germain.
What the Hoxton has always been good at is appealing to indecisive diners on the run at odd hours, and the small upgrades from the rebrand that extended to the cafe adjacent to Lovely Rita are worthy of praise on their own. Some of the best grab-and-go Mexican-inspired pastries available downtown now lie behind the glass next to the counter, including a lime scone ($3.25) and a citrus concha ($3.25)—ideal snacks for an afternoon spent laptopping on one of the overstuffed couches strewn about the lobby.
Venture another mile northwest and you'll find Vaux (425 NW 9th Ave., 971-351-0258; 6 am-11 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-11 pm Saturday-Sunday), the multipurpose living room-turned-bar at the street level of the Canopy Hotel. A more cynical barfly might recoil at the idea of loitering in a space that looks as if Anthropologie and Pendleton teamed up to shoehorn a fine-dining establishment into a co-working space, but the result is a much more pleasant experience than the sum of its parts.
Indeed, the sight of tech dudes pecking away at their MacBooks while chowing down on sizzling plates of New York strip ($28) is strange, but it's nice to know the hustle doesn't need to slow for a plate of juicy, high-end beef. The crispy kale salad ($9) offers a shocking amount of greenery—plus peaches, manchego, hazelnuts and a pickled onion vinaigrette—for under $10. And the Cuban nachos ($10) highlight a happy-hour menu stocked with quick and easy options for when you have time to kill on the couch or at the giant community table.
Vaux is still deciding what it really wants to be. But for now, it's one of the better places to loaf around with a cocktail in one hand and a laptop in the other.
Related: Local's Guide to Luxury Hotels.