Downtown Portland: Best Outdoor Dining

Portland is rainy and gray-skied for 9 months of the year. When the sun finally comes out, people behave like some kind of miracle happened. Never mind that it happens every year (summer truly starts around mid-July). So when the sun finally arrives, the same thought is on everyone’s minds – what is the best place to hang out outside?

The following are some spots in the core downtown retail district, each suitable for a different mood, event or crowd. Enjoy!

Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro:

Wine Country in the City – on the Waterfront!
315 SW Montgomery Street
Portland, OR 97201
(503) 295-2747

Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro provides several heavenly environments for sipping wine: at an outdoor waterfront table where you can watch ships passing by, inside the bar, or in a private meeting/party room with a catered feast. Comestibles are of the “modern comfort food” variety, and include treats from local Northwest food purveyors, like 7-hour braised pulled pork with truffled polenta, brussel sprout salad and bittersweet chocolate bread pudding. The focus is on Northwest wines, but Thirst now also serves spirits, cocktails and local microbrews. Watch for the dragon-boat races around Rose Festival time (June)!


Adventurous, Exotic and Vegan-Friendly
525 SW Morrison Street
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 802-5370

The adventure starts as you exit the elevator and enter this 15th floor lounge in The Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. Views from the Departure balcony, surrounded by a mere glass wall, show Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s “Living Room” far below. The menu, which includes vegan options, is “modern Asian,” complete with sushi, salads, dim sum, and exotic fruit cocktails. Desserts include ginger, green tea or condensed milk ice creams.

Elephants in the Park:

Zany, Fun and Family-Friendly
877 SW Taylor Street (at Director Park)
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 937-1073

Elephants Delicatessen has 6 retail locations in the Portland metro area, and is famous for their fresh, flavorful, colorful menu. Using the term “deli” when discussing Elephants is like describing Oz as black-and-white. Their newest branch, Elephants in the Park, is smack-dab in the middle of Director Park, one of the most entertaining places to spend a summer afternoon or evening. The piazza contains a fountain for children to play in, a neon-lit glass ceiling, a giant chess board, and – now – Elephants’ sassy red outdoor tables. Sit and watch everything while enjoying their “healthy take on grilled favorites,” like burgers, dogs & brats, and hand-spun milkshakes.

Veritable Quandary (VQ):

Casually Elegant and Relaxing
1220 SW 1st Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 227-7342

Portlander’s affection for the Veritable Quandary’s flower-lined patio overlooking the Hawthorne Bridge is legendary. This is one of those places that locals bring their family for brunch when they are visiting. The garden ambiance is amazing at sunset in the summer as well. The menu is “classic Northwest” with ingredients from local farms and an extensive wine list. Head to the VQ by pedicab!


Cute and Edgy
232 SW Ankeny Street
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 248-1600

Valentine’s – a hipster refuge where you can sip wine, eat sandwiches, and listen to a DJ or a poetry reading – is one of several restaurants and clubs that line a tiny diagonal street in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown. The city agreed to partition off the street, put in picnic tables, hang festive outdoor lighting, and make the area a fun outdoor seating area. It’s a fantastic place to relax after exploring Portland Saturday Market in the daytime, or partying in Old Town Chinatown late into the night. Oh, and one more thing – Voodoo Doughnut, Portland’s infamous “Anthony Bourdain says to try it”  treat locale, is also there!

So, whether you would like award-winning Pacific Northwest fine dining, or something that helps to “Keep Portland Weird,” there is a hot summer outdoor dining venue in Portland that will be suitable to the tastes and atmosphere you are craving. And if you notice the awe-struck, rapturous looks on the faces of locals regarding a sun sighting, remember, this is “Twilight” country!


Impressive and Memorable
901 SW Salmon Street
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 326-1300

SouthPark’s unbelievably fresh pacific seafood menu, award-winning wine list and commitment to sustainability make it one of the must-dine spots in Portland. And their cheerful outdoor seating next to the strollable South Park Blocks and near the Portland Art Museum draws a crowd each evening.

Merlin Varaday Written by:

Merlin Varaday was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised in Ashland, Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – and has spent the last ten years in infamous “keep it weird” Portland, Oregon. With a B.A. in Tourism Marketing from Portland State University, Merlin’s day job is to answer questions for visitors to Portland and tell them about everything awesome in the grey-skied City of Bridges. Additionally, Merlin has contributed to the writing, editing, and layout of the Old Town Chinatown Crier ( Currently working on a blog about Living the Good Life on the Cheap in Portland (web location to be announced shortly), Merlin’s immediate plans are to stay in her hometown and write about all that the quirky metro has to offer. Which is a lot: leading developments in sustainability, an award-winning transit system, eccentric annual traditions like the Santacon, and culinary anomalies such as Voodoo Doughnuts. Because of this, Merlin considers herself a “stay-put writer” (as apposed to a travel writer). “Maybe sometime soon I’ll get to travel some place fantastic,” she says, “and then I will be a travel writer. For now, Portland offers a tremendous amount of material.”