Northwest 23rd Avenue is the heart of the district known as Nob Hill. In British parlance, nob means toff, swank, or aristocrat, which sounds about right for a street replete with jewelry shops and designer boutiques.
Name notwithstanding, NW 23rd has its share of frugal-friendly treats. We’ve scouted the best places to eat, drink, browse, and buy without having to sell the family silver. Here are eight to get you started.
Flex your frugal muscles at Crossroads, a sprawling second-hand/consignment store that buys and sells clothes, handbags, shoes, and more. You can bring your back-of-the-closet hangers-on, get some cash, and reinvest in new looks, creating a virtuous fashion circle where staying in style doesn’t break the bank, or the landfill.
Yes, it’s on 21st, but no tour of Nob Hill is complete without a pit stop at Coffee Time. In a city where coffee shops spring up like mushrooms, it has weathered the seasons for over two decades. In the summer, grab an iced coffee and use it to fuel your ramble. In winter, settle in for a long afternoon with a book.
Another Northwest institution, 3 Monkeys has been keeping Portland weird since before that was a thing. Owner Ron Wallace oversees a rambling shop crammed with vintage clothes and jewelry, antique furniture, costumes, masks, and sundry essentials. “Only place I could find fake mustaches,” noted an appreciative Facebook fan.
If you think artisan ice cream is much of a muchness, Salt & Straw will change your mind. My skepticism was not so much laid to rest as clobbered into submission by its inventive, exquisitely realized flavors. Kids will tuck into chocolate gooey brownie with glee, while grown-up palates will rejoice in ice cream made with Arabequina olive oil, or green fennel and maple.
Maybe it was my recent stint in Memphis, but I’m in love with the smell of barbecue. I don’t even eat meat, but hang around for that hickory smoke smell. Enter Southland Whiskey Kitchen, the perfect place to satisfy a yearning for BBQ and strong drink. Hit it during happy hour (daily from 3 to 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. to close) for mint juleps and staples like pulled pork sandwiches or country fried chicken strips.
Fat Straw is ideal for those whose refreshment tastes run to something lighter than bourbon. It serves teas, smoothies, coffee, and sodas, but the specialty is bubble tea, so named for the addition of tapioca pearls. The texture alone makes it a valuable diversion for kids, and it comes in a gazillion flavors. You can also refuel with bahn-mi, Vietnamese-style baguettes.
One of the many great things about Portland is that it is a balanced city. For every bacon-slinging BBQ joint there’s a vegan shoe shop up the road. Ether is an emporium dedicated to footwear and accessories that didn’t start out attached to another creature. Good karma, if you believe in such things. Even if you don’t, you will appreciate the style range and reasonable prices. Check their FB page for regular sale updates.
An outpost for those of us who would happily eat Thai food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Not to mention happy hour, when Thai Bloom! comes into its own with a generous menu of 20 dishes plus an extensive wine, beer, and cocktail list. Happy hour runs daily from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., the last hour before close, and all day Sunday. Founder Walter Bowers recommends the Kao Soi Noodles with a glass of Cooper Mountain Pinot Gris as the ultimate summer supper.
So there you have it. From consignment shops and fake mustaches to bubble tea and vegan shoes – and everything in between – NW 23rd Avenue offers up Portland at its quirky, funky, delightful best. Check it out soon.