One of my favorite areas of town is the West End. Amidst vacant buildings and a bit of grit are tucked away some of the city’s best shops and restaurants.
Covet, on SW 10th Avenue, is a tiny shop filled with some of the most fashionable and contemporary designs for women in the city. The store displays established designers as well as those up and coming from the United States and Europe. Nearby on SW Washington Street is Frances May, a boutique full of clothing items I crave. It’s a collaboration between grandmother and granddaughter, which just adds to its charm.
Several amazing shops line SW Alder Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues. Canoe is by far my favorite home-centric store in the city, if not the country. Its aesthetic emphasizes good design as well as function, with clean lines and Japanese inspiration. The English Dept. is a small boutique showcasing the designs of owner Elizabeth Dye, as well as other local designers. Had I not got married in St. Augustine, I would definitely chosen my wedding dress from the English Dept.’s bridal collection.
Odessa, on SW 12th Avenue, is somewhat of an institution in Portland. Owner Susan Tompkins opened her shop first in the Pearl District before it was the yuppie-centric Pearl of today. Tompkins stocks her shelves with all matter of cool and stylish clothing which women in this city flock towards.
More than just retail, the West End also offers fantastic food options. Adjacent to Odessa is Cacao, a shrine to all things chocolate. The truffles and candies are pricey albeit delicious, but the real reason to flock to Cacao is the drinking chocolate. Standard milk and more intense dark varieties are the perfect antidote to Portland’s rainy days. The store has numerous blankets on hand for customers to wrap themselves in while sipping chocolate from their window side tables.
Clyde Common is arguably one of the best restaurants this side of the Willamette. Located on SW Stark, alongside the achingly hip Ace Hotel, Clyde Common serves seasonal, innovative fare. The menu is ever changing, but standard snacks like pimenton popcorn and french fries with harissa and créme fraîche are always available. There are numerous vegetarian options and the restaurant always utilizes local ingredients.
Several doors down from Clyde Common, Kenny and Zukes is a great restaurant of a different variety. This large setting provides a typical city diner, but still maintains its Portland roots. The pastrimi is the quissential item here, served by itself, on hot dogs, on hamburgers, but vegetarians are not without options. Kenny and Zuke’s is best enjoyed when its raining, sipping coffee and people watching from the floor to ceiling windows.
I wish I lived in the West End, but given the current lack of housing options there I will have to be satisfied with weekly visits to this part of the city.