The City of Roses

Portland street row of homes

Exploring Our Favorite Local Spots in Portland

In this 8-part series, we are shining a light on small businesses in the cities where we currently operate. With so many communities struggling today, we’re inviting you to join us in standing by local establishments you know and love. Each week we’ll feature a different city, highlighting five gems submitted by our riders and employees, and give away $1,000 worth of gift cards to these spots on our Instagram account.

Week 5: Portland

Boston, Oregon is a magnificent city in the lush Pacific Northwest. Wait, what? There’s no Boston, Oregon! Did you know, though, that the beloved city of Portland was nearly called Boston? In 1845, Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy both wanted to name the new settlement near the Oregon Trail after their respective hometowns in the East, so they flipped a penny to decide (best 2 out of 3). Pettygrove won the competition, and his hometown of Portland won over Lovejoy’s Boston.

The quirky origin of Portland’s name is fitting for a city that has developed a well-earned reputation of marching to the beat of its own drum. Where else can you find a municipal park that is a mere 2.5 feet in diameter, an annual naked bike ride which attracts 13,000 participants, and a famed pizza parlor, Old Town Pizza, which houses a ghost named Nina?

With a tradition of expressiveness, bold ideas, and ingenuity, Portland lends itself well to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The world’s largest independently owned bookstore and the highest concentration of microbreweries, anywhere, drive the point home. Thank you to all of our riders and employees for their submissions and accompanying stories of your favorite spots. With that, let’s take a look at our 5 featured Portland small business gems!

Pambiche: John Maribona, chef and co-owner of Pambiche, paid his dues chopping and charring in Portland kitchens for years before opening his own restaurant (along with co-owners Salina and Roseanne Romaine) in 2002. Maribona focuses on serving traditional Cuban fare, with recipes passed down through his family for generations. Sofi L loves Pambiche. “They serve authentic Cuban food while putting a huge smile on your face,” she said. “Vaca fritas and a friendly staff always bring me back! And don’t forget their homemade banana sauce!” Visit Pambiche’s website to order takeout or purchase gift cards.

Photos Courtesy of Pambiche

Old Town Pizza & Brewing: Do you remember where you had your 9th birthday party? Probably not. Adam Milne remembers where he had his. It was at Old Town Pizza, the restaurant he would eventually purchase in 2003. He fell in love with the spot and never forgot it. Located in one of the oldest buildings in the historic Old Town neighborhood of Portland, OTP served as a countercultural hub in the ’70s, oft frequented by Willem Dafoe, and by some accounts is haunted by a ghost named Nina. In 2008, Milne opened a 2nd location in the Northeast district and started focusing on world-class beer. Tamara G says, “Old Town Brewing is such a great place to meet friends year round — whether it’s summer on the patio or in the winter around their fireplace. Their beer selection is always varied and has something for everyone.” Check out their website for delivery, takeout, and gift card options.

Photos Courtesy of Old Town Brewing

Blue Star Donuts: Katie Poppe, CEO and owner of Blue Star Donuts, is a recipient of the EO’s entrepreneur of the year award, and rightfully so. She thinks outside the traditional pink cardboard donut box. Why should donuts be limited to the same 10 variations we’re all familiar with? With unique flavors — like blueberry bourbon basil, raspberry rosemary buttermilk, and passionfruit cocoa nib — Blue Star fascinates and delights its customers. Sumner V, a nature enthusiast, is one of those customers. “Every one of my walks in forest park ends with a chocolate buttermilk old fashioned donut from Blue Star,” she said. After your next hike, grab a donut by visiting their website for pickup or delivery. Gift cards available too.

Photos Courtesy of Blue Star Donuts

Portland Gear: As a Stumptown native, Marcus Harvey loves Portland. He loves it so much that when Instagram was in its infancy, he snagged the @portland Instagram handle to create a visual homage to his beloved city. What started as a passion evolved into a business. From initially selling apparel out of a 1973 VW Westfalia, Portland Gear now operates out of a 900 sq ft retail store on 19th and Burnside. The passion mentioned above is palpable to the customers. Jason, a frequent patron, explains how “A big thing that stands out about Portland Gear are the people on their team. They’re some of the most genuine and amazing people I’ve ever met. They work so hard and strive to connect with everyone, and they truly represent the heart of Portland.” For curbside pickup, online orders, and gift cards, visit their website (and be sure to check out their newly released healthcare worker appreciation designs).

Photos Courtesy of Portland Gear

Powell’s Bookstore: Imagine an independent bookstore that spans an entire city block, organizes its titles by 3,500 topics in 9 color-coded rooms, and hosts 500 author events a year. Yep, that’s Powell’s! And if that’s not endearing enough, consider that Emily Powell, the current operator, learned directly from her dad and granddad, who opened the bookstore in 1971. “The place is steeped in Portland history,” Archie Q exclaimed. “Us Portlanders take our books seriously, and a place like Powell’s, which is probably bigger than some small towns in this part of the country, reflects that perfectly.” Order your next great read from their online store or grab a gift card for future purchases.

Photos Courtesy of Powell’s Bookstore

While dining at Pambiche, grabbing a draught at OTB, pleasing your palette at Blue Star, purchasing threads at Portland Gear, or getting literary at Powell’s, a common phrase you’ll probably hear thrown around is Keep Portland Weird. In a city that prides itself on its eccentricity, one way to assure a future of “weirdness” is to support the small businesses which animate it with its unmistakable character. Thanks in advance for doing your part in keeping Portland weird!

We’ll see you next week when we land in Salt Lake City to spotlight more small businesses.

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