Dining Alfresco

There’s nothing like the great outdoors, particularly when it includes a picnic table, a chilled glass of something mildly mood-altering, and some good people-watching. Patios, porches, courtyards, decks and terraces might be useless to us Portlanders for a goodly portion of the year, but when the sun graces us with its presence, we know what to do. At the first sign of something resembling a sunbeam, you and your spindly alabaster legs should make a beeline here.

Bar Mingo

barmingoextStrolling NW 21st Avenue on a warm summer evening, it’s easy to spot Bar Mingo. Bright orange chairs surround the sidewalk tables, and every single one of them is full of people chatting, toasting, gossiping, playing footsie, lamenting their mother’s nosiness (that would be me), and of course, sipping wine and eating cheese, among other things. Bar Mingo has an excellent wine list, tasty antipasti like lamb meatballs and oysters on the half shell, a half dozen or so housemade pastas, and hearty mains that include grilled flat iron steak and cioppino. From 4-6pm daily, there are $6 bellini, martini and wine specials, which will fill you so full of happy hour spirit, you’ll soon be calling your Mom right from the restaurant to tell her how much you love her, nosiness and all.

Café Castagna

cafecastagnaextsquareThe consummate neighborhood restaurant, this upscale but laid back Ladd’s Addition cafe makes a mean roast chicken, excellent thin crust pizza, and one of the city’s most famous burgers. All which can be enjoyed out on the charming side patio, bordered on one side by the kitchen’s cardoon-shaded garden, and set back just enough from busy Hawthorne Boulevard to afford you all the people-watching joys of being on a busy urban thoroughfare, sans too much exhaust all over your arancini.

Canteen

canteenexteriorsquareSimply breathing the fresh ginger and chlorophyll-scented air at this über-charming Sunnyside juice bar will make you a better person, so just wait until you’ve downed a Maca & Friends smoothie, apple and cashew-studded quinoa salad, maple tempeh-topped Portland bowl, and a slice of the shockingly good raw cheesecake. There’s also beer, wine, and kombucha on tap, plus a steady supply of impeccably-underdressed Southeast Portland hipsters of above-average attractiveness to impassively reject your overly enthusiastic E3Live-fueled advances. And for those who must get their 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day (when that’s possible), there’s a wide array of outdoor seating options, from log benches and bistro tables on the front patio to quiet two tops along the side of the building, plus a roomy covered all-weather patio.

Cartopia

cartopiaNobody in Portland does late-night dining quite like the Cartopia food cart cluster at SE Hawthorne & SE 12th, where an asphalt-covered lot hosts popular carts like Whiffies Fried Pies–savory and sweet moon-shaped pies filled with everything from pulled pork to peanut butter and chocolate, Potato Champion–heaping cones of piping hot thick cut fries and a variety of exotic dipping sauces, Pyro Pizza–complete with in-cart wood-fired pizza oven, and funky Perierra Creperie. While most food carts around town hit their stride during the noon hour, Cartopia gets interesting around dinnertime, and keeps things hopping until around 3 am. Now that’s an afterhours party.

Chickpeadx

chickpeadxspreadPortland loves a good from-cart-to-walls-and-central-heating story, and Chickpeadx is yet another—once a lone food cart bravely occupying a small patch of asphalt on no-nonsense N. Interstate, now a full-fledged falafel destination holding court in NE Sandy’s pie-shaped, “dreams”-themed The Zipper, a micro-restaurant project by the same team that developed nearby The Ocean. Owner/falafel master Yair Maidan is turning out the same delicious salads, bowls and pitas as before, but with the added comfort of abundant indoor seating, both at the restaurant’s sunny window bar and in the common area, which unites the complex’s four restaurants via a peaceful indoor-outdoor courtyard shielded from the NE Sandy hustle. If you’re having trouble choosing your meal, order the platter—you can mix and match from Yair’s scrumptious seasonal salads and dips, and don’t forget to request his savory zhug, a Middle Eastern cilantro sauce that’s excellent both drizzled on everything and for pita-dipping.

Coquine

coquinealbacoreWell past the bustle of Belmont’s commercial core, where the popular Southeast thoroughfare meets 69th street, sits pretty Coquine, joint venture of husband-wife, chef-manager team Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski. The surrounding Mt. Tabor residents seem pleased as punch by their new neighborhood joint, and rightfully so, considering that the kitchen opens at 8am every morning with bowls of chanterelle and Shishito pepper hash and hazelnut cocoa nib granola, then come evening, turns out refined dishes like oil cured Oregon albacore with new potatoes and sorrel-scallion vinaigrette, black pepper molasses glossed short ribs, and carrot cake with rosemary crème anglaise and smoked almond brittle. Pre or post-meal walk around Mt. Tabor: optional, but recommended.

Cyril’s

cyrilspatioAh the Portland winter—frosty harbringer of cold sores, elbow eczema, and legs so white they glow in the dark…through your flannel long johns. Bring your sexy back at this glammy inner SE wine and cheese bar, where Clay Pigeon Winery winemaker Michael Claypool and author/former affineur Sasha Davies preside deliciously over their respective passions, uniting them on a well-rounded menu that includes simple, comforting foods like blue cheese gougeres and the Monger’s mac ‘n cheese, outstanding seasonal salads like butternut farro and cabbage kumquat in apple lime vinaigrette, and rich desserts like apricot almond tarts and a deep, dark, mascarpone-iced chocolate cake that doesn’t care a whit if you haven’t shaved your legs since October.

Departure

departuredeckFifteen stories above downtown Portland,  perched atop the luxurious Nines Hotel, sits space-agey Departure Lounge and its incomparable outdoor terraces. The distinction of being Portland’s highest open rooftop drinking and dining experience comes with a price–during peak times you’ll have to snarl/elbow/ pinch/trip/flat out sprint your way to a table. My advice is to take the afternoon off work, stow away in a service elevator, hide behind the gauzy curtains that line the space shuttle hallway between the restaurant and the west terrace, then pop out at 3:59 pm, one minute before the rabid hordes begin spilling from the three elevators, and leap onto the L-shaped South facing loungers, using your entire body as a human place marker for your hopefully grateful friends. Then order yourself a glass of Veuve Clicquot and order me one too–I’m on my way.

Firehouse

firehousesquareThis magnificent renovated city firehouse sits proudly in the center of the Woodlawn ‘hood, and strains at the seams nightly with devoted locals. The wood-fired pizzas fly through the dining room, but if you’re in the mood for meat, get the roast chicken, it’s the best in the city. As though you needed another excuse to head straight there, if the weather is fine and the garden patio’s set up, you won’t find a more tranquil and picturesque al fresco dining setting in which to savor a pizza bianca and pint of Heater Allen pilsner.

Free House

freehouse cocktail Minimalist surroundings let you focus all the harder on this Fremont pub’s excellent house cocktails (you can even order a No Hassle Night, only in liquid form though, the rest is up to you) and elevated bar menu—please, please get chef Eric Moore’s smoked cheddar mac n’ cheese, it’s at the top of its class. For those who need a breath of fresh air with their bourbon and bitters-blessed Wormburner and sherry pickled eggs with house anchovies, there’s even a pretty patio hidden in the back.

Hedge House

hedgehouseextsquareI have a thing for redwood chips. And champagne, and peonies, and shar peis, and Hugh Jackman, as long as we’re discussing what I have a thing for. Lompoc Brewing’s Hedge House happens to have a lot of delicious-smelling redwood chips, namely in the nicely manicured area they’ve set aside for your bike. Thus, you can ride your bike there, easily park it, and then walk it home, because Lompoc makes some good beers and you will probably drink quite a few Fool’s Golden Ales sitting at one of the sturdy picnic tables that line the long, sunny patio along the left side of the quaint little yellow Craftsman-style bungalow that houses this SE Division Street brewpub. If all that bike-riding, patio-sitting, and beer-drinking has awoken your digestive system, pair your beer with a hearty turkey and pastrami Cubano sandwich, spinach Cobb salad, bowl of award-winning chowder, or garden burger with a side of redwood potato chips.

Hop & Vine

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 11.04.19 AMMismatched thrift store furniture and a relaxed demeanor make this North Portland hipster bar an excellent spot to savor a belly-warming red in the winter, and in the summer, the charmingly tousled garden is just the place to take down the house bacon burger and an absinthe-rinsed Remember The Maine cocktail (you may not, in fact, remember much of anything if you decide to have another and then another). If you need a bottle of beer or wine to go, duck into the adjoining bottle shop—the savvy staff will steer you towards exactly what you need, even if you didn’t even know you needed it.

Interurban

interurbanextsquareIt might take a while to elbow your way through this crowded bar to order the whiskey chicken liver mousse, Murphy’s lamb stew, and Luger burger, but the 14 taps and excellent house cocktails make it worth the effort. If you manage to shake off the effects of last night’s bottled Manhattans and rise early enough, however, weekend brunch is a breeze–come at 10am and have your pick of upstairs tables or a breezy perch on the hidden back patio, then relax with what’s possibly your second Walk of Shame of the day (Interurban’s involves Rainier and a shot of Fighting Cock bourbon), the salted caramel French toast, fried egg-topped Breakfast Burger, and a skillet of steak and eggs-smothered johnnycakes.

Irving Street Kitchen

irvingstreetfloatsquareThe sort of place you can take almost anyone—dates, colleagues, family, friends, tipsy girls’ night out expeditions—and have an excellent time, this Pearl District restaurant’s creative Southern-influenced New American cuisine feels both sophisticated and hearty, with dishes like creamed white corn soup with chanterelles, maple-smoked brook trout and arugula salad, grilled duck sausage over gingersnap basmati rice, and divine desserts like the pecan skillet pie, strawberry soda floats, and legendary butterscotch pudding. Service is friendly and accommodating, and little curtained booths offer you sanctuary from the merry melee–if you’re a recluse, want to get romantic or just need a nap after downing the blackberry crème fraiche-smothered cornmeal waffle during brunch, you can close the curtains and hide/smooch/nap, whilst plotting how to nick the milk-bottle chandeliers. Read full write-up>>

Jade Teahouse

jadeteahousesquareJade is not the contemplative nest of tranquility that might come to mind when one thinks “teahouse.” It is an aesthetic win, blessed with copious amounts of natural lighting and a tidy bamboo-fringed patio, and it’s a lively meeting place for all manner of local folk—toned Lycra short pants-wearing patrons of the nearby Sellwood Yoga studio having heart-to-hearts over prawn and pork-stuffed lettuce rolls, Eastmoreland Ladies Who Lunch taking an exotic grilled tofu salad-fueled minibreak, and stay-at-home moms and dads sharing platefuls of stir-fried rice noodles with towheaded pixies in pink cowboys boots whose swinging feet don’t quite reach the floor. The great unifier? The bright green pandan-dyed Vietnamese wedding cake, one of the many delightful pastries you’ll find in the case on any given day, and a unique delicacy that goes very well with a pot of one of Jade’s beautifully-curated 70+ teas.

Kukai

kukaiyuzuramenI tend to stick close to home for my ramen, after all, Umai’s within walking distance so why stray, but this snazzy Beaverton izakaya is well worth a pilgrimage into the suburban wilds. Understandably, this Japan-based chain takes noodles very seriously, as evidenced by the strict and sensible instructions for ordering extra: “Order the extra serving of noodles when you are almost finished with your first serving. Please leave enough soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles.” As far as your first serving goes, you’ll have a dozen ramens to choose from, if you’re a pro, you’ll likely gravitate towards your favorite shio or shoyu, if you’re a ramen novice, let the pretty pictures be your guide (my strategy).

La Calaca Comelona

lacalacacomelonapatiosquareLa Calaca Comelona’s back patio is something of a local legend. Huge, lush and seemingly never-ending, this hidden garden stretches on for a half a block between SE 23rd and 24rd just off of quirky SE Belmont, and is accentuated with sculptures, skeleton murals, flourishing foliage, and margarita trees. Or maybe it just seems like there are margarita trees, because just when you finish one margarita, a barely perceptible nod later, another one is dropped on your table like a ripe mango. Which makes an afternoon or evening spent in La Calaca Comelona’s beautiful gardens kind of like an evening spent in Mexico, except without the scorpions, jellyfish, and kidnappers. And, they have taco trees and mole waterfalls, so you certainly won’t stagger home hungry.

Lardo Eastside

lardoeastintsquareIf you’re going to stray from the caloric straight and narrow, you might as well do it right—and there are few more enjoyable failings than this super popular Ladd’s Addition hotspot’s pork belly sandwich—glistening, hot fat-streaked slabs of this most hallowed Portland mainstay laid to rest on a pillow-soft, golden-crusted Fleur de Lis Bakery brioche bun, or the bacon-topped cold fried chicken sandwich slathered in buttermilk blue cheese dressing, or the epic Double Burger, or the pork scrap and marinated peppers-littered “dirty fries,” or the three microbrews/ grapefruit margaritas you wash it all down with. No need to steer clear if you’re an herbivore either, the meat-free offerings and salads are some of the best around. Get your meal to go, or settle into a picnic table on the vast Hawthorne-fronting patio.

Lovejoy Bakers

lovejoybakerssquaresammiePearl District residents, office workers and bread aficionados alike flock through the doors of this light and airy, thoughtfully-designed, delicious-smelling bakery for the delicious breads and lengthy lineup of sandwiches, salads, soups, and just-baked triple chocolate cookies, chewy chocolate brownies, flaky croissants, walnut-studded cinnamon gooey buns, pecan strudel coffee cake, and hazelnut orange danishes. Bring your New York Times/Utne/Marie Claire and linger over a Stumptown latte and ham and egg breakfast sandwich at an outdoor sidewalk table, or eat cerebrum-to-cerebrum with the brilliant creative minds of nearby Ziba Design and Keen Footwear at the T-shaped table across from the kitchen, or head outside to lounge in one of the comfy Adirondack chairs lining NW 10th Avenue.

McMenamins Empire

mcmenaminspatiosquareThe McMenamin brothers have built a one-of-a-kind Oregon empire by rehabilitating old buildings with storied pasts and turning them into casual pubs, theaters, and hotels with bold personalities, good drinks, and no-frills eats. And while there are few things as cozy as a McMenamin’s pub in the winter, the McMenamin brothers haven’t neglected their properties’ fair weather curb appeal either, cultivating park-like grounds, 12-hole golf courses, multi-level rooftop terraces, and at the very least, in their more fiercely urban establishments, long rows of sidewalk tables. A few standouts include Edgefield–a winery, golf-course, and European-style hotel located in the beautiful wilds of Troutdale, the Cornelius Pass Roadhouse in Hillsboro–a former pioneer homestead, complete with pot-bellied stove and barn turned sprawling pub and garden oasis, and Northeast Portland’s beloved Kennedy School–where classrooms are now meeting rooms, no bell will interrupt your time in the soaking pool, the gymnasium hosts prom-themed birthday-parties, the Detention Room is a bar, and frosty pints are served at patio tables in the schoolyard.

Meriwether’s

meriwetherspatiosquareMeriwether’s patio is right out of Sunset Magazine. It’s got everything–the redwood pergola, burbling fountain, luxuriant efflorescent foliage, wrought iron furniture that matches, beautiful mosaic style patio masonry, and yellowjacket catchers. It’s a serene spot for brunch with the family, a late afternoon glass of wine, or even a wedding reception, if you’re into that sort of thing. Happy hour enthusiasts looking for patio digs beware, even if the patio is completely empty during happy hour, the staff will still insist on sequestering you in the bar.

Mint/820 Lounge

mint820patiosquareWhen I visualize this North Portland lounge, I see tea lights flickering in a sophisticated brick-walled speakeasy, a procession of sugar-rimmed martini glasses gliding down the bar, bowls of fresh shiny citrus, sexy sunken lounges for commingling and canoodling, and of course, easy-to-drink cocktails from Portland’s original Mistress of Mixology, bartender/owner Lucy Brennan. But I forget that this pretty duo also has a noteworthy patio, a hidden urban treasure slipped in between 820 and neighboring White Eagle Saloon. Softly shaded tables line the narrow wooden deck, sunlight warms your arms, and the avocado daquiris, O-jitos, and Aniversario Manhattans just keep on coming, along with contemporary pub grub like lamb burgers with mint chimichurri and crab cakes with ginger caper remoulade. Commingling and canoodling are still encouraged out of doors, but they come with tan lines.

Nel Centro

nelcentropatioWhen my friend Beth texted an SOS on the first beautiful Friday of summer, I deciphered it instantly: Start Our Suntan. Five o’clock quittin’ time was looming and we needed a downtown patio on which to roll up the sleeves of our sweater sets and get a dose of much-needed Vitamin D. I racked my brain, trying to think of a nearby destination with a mellow atmosphere, good food, and chilled sparkling wine, when it hit me–Nel Centro, obviously. This eatery’s beautiful patio is tucked into the courtyard of fashionable Hotel Modera, a private, tranquil setting accentuated by striking rectangular metal fire pits filled with rugged chunks of amber-colored granite that blaze brilliantly when turned on at dusk. Sit back and share “Italian Riviera”-influenced cuisine like hazelnut-crusted chèvre, thin crust pizzas, and spinach gnudi with Gorgonzola cream, plus a few cocktails, which might look dainty but pack a punch, so don’t be surprised if you end up asking about hotel vacancies when the patio closes.

Noble Rot

noblerotpatiosquareIf you venture past the plush white leather booths lining this swanky wine bar that sits atop the Burnside Rocket Building, you’ll be rewarded with a perfect patio boasting unmatched views–panoramic stretches of downtown, the West Hills and Forest Park, the Willamette River, East Portland, and beyond. And thanks to the full bar, 300+ bottle list, 40 or so wines by the glass and tempting Pacific Northwest menu (many of the dishes are made with produce from the 3,000 square foot rooftop garden above your head), you’ll have plenty of excuses to stay and enjoy the scenery all night.

Oven & Shaker

ovenandshakerJames Beard-award nominated chef Cathy Whims (Nostrana, Genoa) and Aviation Gin co-founder Ryan Magarian joined their culinarily complimentary forces to open this sleek Pearl District hangout, where the white hot wood-burning pizza oven bakes and blisters a steady stream of thin crust Neopolitan style pies while hot bartenders shake up icy Anejo Manhattans and Pineapple Trainwrecks for a trendy crowd. Lovers of the widely-worshipped Nostrana radicchio salad, it’s on the menu, along with three other pretty young leafy things, and a handful of “finger and fork” small plates. On weekends, go off the beaten pizza path with the inventive brunch dishes like broiled grapefruit with brown sugar caramel, duck Eggs in Purgatory, and the prosciutto plate with pimento cheese and a biscuit. Weather permitting, have your wood-fired meal and White Lady cocktail outdoors on the beautiful sidewalk patio–you’re smack dab in the middle of some of the Pearl’s prime people-watching terrain.

P’s & Q’s Market

psandqsmarketIt’s no secret that I like a good picnic, that’s why I founded the Portland Picnic Society, after all. Nothing’s more convivial than gathering a group of friends, picking a park, spreading a blanket, and commencing a fuss-free deviled egg and baguette sandwich-fueled al fresco fiesta. And speaking of fuss-free, this darling Woodlawn community cafe and market makes the picnic process as streamlined as possible–just borrow one of their beautiful wood and wicker picnic baskets, fill it with market goodies like housemade roast beef, BLT, and ham and gouda sandwiches, Castelvetrano olives, fresh stone fruit, just-baked fleur de sel-sprinkled chocolate chip cookies, and a chilled bottle of something sparkly from the cooler, head a half block down the street to lovely Woodlawn park, picnic your afternoon away, then return the basket and go home…no mess, just memories. Genius!

Por Que No

porquenoWhen you need a taco fix with some feel-good South of the Border atmosphere, head to Por Qué No–the festive terracotta and aqua blue façades and vividly colored kitsch all over the walls, bustling kitchen and equally energetic dining room filled with mouthwatering smells, cold Mexican beers, big jars of fresh juices and horchata, and gracious staff are all crowd pleasers, hence the long lines that never seem to let up. Take a spirits-lifting minivacation on the patio (heated in the winter for year-round use) with orders of fresh guacamole and cebiche, a plastic basket filled with deliciously fresh fish and wild shrimp tacos, and of course, plenty of ice cold beer.

PREAM

preampizzaThe first time I went to PREAM (Pizza Rules Everything Around Me), I developed tinnitus within 20 minutes, even though the hip hop wasn’t even that loud, reminding me that a) I’m getting old. That said, from salad to polenta to pizza to olive oil cake, the meal was solid, beautiful and inventive, and who really needs to be able to hear to enjoy a great pizza, anyway?

Relish

reslishdessertIf you like hanging out in idyllic Sellwood AND have always wanted to eat Fourme d’Ambert-stuffed potato croquettes in a former mortuary, we’ve got just the spot. Chef Josef Valoff crafts sophisticated eats like Quinault River steelhead and mussel stew and a silky chocolate tart nestled in peanut butter mousse in a relaxed, many-roomed space rumored to have a (friendly) ghost or two. There’s lots to like here–glass pours are both voluminous and affordable, booths are plentiful, and patios come in two varieties…sunny and shady.

Renata

renatapastaBringing a touch of gloss and glamour to the Central Eastside, this pizza and pasta-centric eatery anchors a block of deliciousness, with adjoining sister enterprises including Mi Piace specialty market, Ancient Heritage Dairy’s creamery, and beloved Alma Chocolate’s production space. Kickstart your meal with one of the excellent cocktails, dabble in the bites and antipasti, then dive into the pasta and pizza sections of the menu, which hold such delicacies as mint pappardelle with braised beef shank and leek ash corzetti with clams, pork sausage and black garlic, and a handful of nicely blistered pies, from a classic margherita to the robust beef tongue, bone marrow and peppers. Early bird eaters, flit in for the bar-bound weekday Punch Hour.

Skyline Tavern

skylinetavernsquareThere are all sorts of interesting urban views in Portland–views of parks filled with dubiously potty-trained toddlers splashing in a four-foot-high stone waterfall, views of your portly neighbor’s uncurtained attempts to be the next Naked Chef (literally), views of sidewalk dog doody on the bottom of your new Keen Mary Janes. All these urban views can often prompt the sudden urge for a decidedly unurban view, and quick.  So it’s great to know that just 8 miles up NW Skyline Boulevard lies viewriffic old school Skyline Tavern, positioned just above Forest Park, where you can sit on a deck amidst the evergreens with an extravagant view of: Mother Nature, a pitcher of ale, a juicy burger, the BBQ, the horseshoes, and the dartboard. It’s way more picturesque than your apartment building’s Naked Chef, unless he looks like Henry Cavill, of course.

Tamale Boy

tamaleboycollageTamale caterer turned tamale cart turned tamale cantina, this super cute Woodlawn resident charms with bright muraled walls, cold beer, mezcal-spiked hibiscus flower iced tea, melon mint margaritas, and mucho, mucho masa—the menu is divided into Oaxacan-style tamales, Norteño-style tamales, and dessert tamales dulce-fied with sweet peanut butter crunch masa and jam or strawberries and chocolate chips, all of which are handmade by owner Jaime Soltero’s very own tias.

The Baowry

baowrybunssquareThis St. Johns bungalow is yet another Portland food cart rags to brick-n-mortar riches heart warmer. After laboriously renovating a dilapidated North Portland bungalow to its former glory, Ross Skomsvold and Molly Scott were able to move their mobile bao operation into a real kitchen, where they dream up Asian-inspired culinary innovations like confit duck buns, bacon black bean mussels, and miso butter noodles with shaved shiitakes, served with unique house cocktails best sipped in the tiki torch-lined garden. Hungry night owls and insomniac whiskey enthusiasts rejoice–the bourbon ‘n bun fun goes until 2:30am every night of the week.

The Farm Cafe

thefarmcafepatiosquareThis longtime staple of the lower Burnside dining scene has launched a thousand first dates, with their old-fashioned décor, homey food, and well-crafted cocktails. Come fair weather, the side patio’s a grand place to hide out when escaping the office early–tucked around the corner of the building, just off the main drag, it’s a roomy umbrella-shaded oasis for anyone seeking a quiet time-out with a cheese plate and a bottle of wine or Gamle Krogstad Aquavit-fortified Old Fashioned.

Uno Mas

unomastacosWith vibrant azure walls, Baja sunshine-hued barstools, a Pacifico-packed cooler, and nearly two dozen tasty tacos both tame (chicken, steak) and adventurous (octopus, tripe, blood sausage) to choose from, this itsy bitsy new cantina tucked into NE Glisan Street’s The Ocean mini-restaurant mall offers a cheery south-of-the-border escape in foul weather, and thanks to the giant roll-up doors, a breezy sun-splashed hangout when skies are fair. Grazers, hearty eaters, and those who have difficulty making decisions should indulge in the Taquiza Surtida—a kitchen’s-choice collection of 12 tacos for $20.

Veritable Quandary

veritablequandaryIt’s one of those dreamy womb-warm summer evenings in Portland, and even though you should be heading to bed because you have to go to work early tomorrow, you eschew that in favor of doing something fun, like sitting on Veritable Quandary’s beautiful flora and fauna-lined garden patio sipping Hendrick’s G&T’s and sharing an order of duck confit spring rolls off  VQ’s bar menu, which is served daily until midnight. Conversely, if the weather is proving frigid and precipitous, sit in the cozy old-fashioned saloon drinking hot toddies and eating bacon-wrapped dates and discussing the merits of the Jerome Robbins ballet piece you just saw, bashing the boss who made you work until 8:45pm tonight and is making you come in tomorrow morning at 7am, or  just sitting and eavesdropping on the regulars who cling to the barstools like merry-making limpets.

Xico

xicopatiosquareGet your capsaicin fix at this airy, elegant, fresh flower-filled Division Street cantina, where chiles reign supreme and the mezcal mingles freely amongst the merry crowds that populate the sleek marble bar and hidden back patio. Chef Kelly Myers incorporates seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients as she puts her own unique stamp on Mexican classics (definitely try the trout pozole), and specializes in eye-openingly (and sometimes eye-wateringly) inventive salsas. A small but mighty lunch menu is served most days via the kitchen window, and the smoky molé-drenched rotisserie chicken dinner can be ordered daily by noon for evening takeout. And as far as dessert is concerned, missing out on the Woodblock chocolate cake with passion fruit chile ganache is no bueno.