Natural Home Goes to Portland

Explore, relax, and eat in the progressively green Oregon.


Photo by Howard Silverman

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Even if you’ve never visited, you’ve probably heard about Portland, Oregon’s progressive ways. Portland is a city that replaced a downtown parking garage with a public square and ripped up a freeway to make way for a park. The city boasts more public transportation options—bus, light rail, streetcar—than many cities twice its size. It’s a great town for walking and biking (Bicycling magazine named it the most bike-friendly city in North America last year). And if you’re looking for a restaurant, shop, or hotel in tune with your natural lifestyle, you’ll find no shortage of those, either.


All major hotels in Portland are encouraged to follow a green policy: Housekeeping carts include recycling bins, and guests are asked to forego daily linen and towel changes.

5th Avenue Suites Hotel
5th Avenue Suites Hotel goes one step beyond with its Spend the Night with Doug program, which offers guests the company of a Douglas fir tree. Each tree comes with a profile, including birth date, ambition, turn-ons, and turn-offs (“chainsaws, lumberjacks, and Christmas”). When the trees mature, they’re donated to the Hoyt Park Arboretum. 506 SW Washington St.; (800) 711-2971


Portland Classical Chinese Garden
The largest Suzhou classical garden outside of China, the Portland Classical Chinese Garden features nine pavilions, including a teahouse, a bridged lake, and acres of plants, rocks, and poetry. Guided tours are available. Northwest Third & Everett; (503) 228-8131; admission $6 adults; $5 students and seniors; children under 5 free

Powell's Books
Among the roughly 8,000 titles on the shelves at Powell’s Books for Cooks and Gardeners, you’ll find books on organic gardening and vegetarian cooking, rare cookbooks, and books on food writing and floral arrangements. You’ll even find fun and funky gifts, one-of-a-kind furnishings, and beautiful stationery. 3747 SE Hawthorne Blvd; (800) 354-5957


Plainfield’s Mayur
Plainfield’s Mayur restaurant has earned Gourmet magazine’s Top Table award and has been named critic’s choice by Vegetarian Journal. Seventy percent of the menu’s Indian cuisine is vegetarian, and Plainfield’s Mayur is the only restaurant in town offering Ayurvedic selections. Dinner only. 852 SW 21st Ave.; (503) 223-2995

Old Wive's Tales
It's all about choice at Old Wives’ Tales. You can order vegetarian, vegan, or opt for seafood or chicken. There’s also a fresh, homemade-salad bar, and the restaurant is famous for its Hungarian mushroom soup. Families with young children will appreciate the playroom. 1300 E. Burnside; (503) 238-0470

Paradox Palace Cafe
“If you are hungry and want a really good meal, a comfortable meal, come here,” says Michael Brooks, manager of Paradox Palace Cafe. The cafe is noted for its reasonable prices, vegetarian comfort food, and sumptuous almond gravy. 3439 SE Belmont; (503) 232-7508

Peanut Butter and Ellie's
The menu is soups and sandwiches, yogurt and fruit dishes, and everything in the place—from the chalkboard-painted walls to the play space—is kid friendly. Organic peanut butter is ground on the premises, jam comes from a local berry farm, and the bread is baked fresh daily. 1325 NE Fremont; (503) 282-1783


Guests at this Aequiz spa, decorated with an exotic Middle Eastern feel, begin their visit with a relaxing foot soak, followed by aromatherapy. Ayurvedic treatments include facials, massages, healing rituals, eye therapy, and body treatments. 1306 NW Hoyt Street, Suite 201; (503) 223-7847  

A living monument

Completed less than a year ago, Ecotrust’s Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center is already being hailed as an environmental landmark. The former nineteenth-century warehouse in downtown Portland, Oregon, underwent a $12.4 million renovation that saw 98 percent of construction debris recycled and reclaimed. Interior materials include recycled tire flooring, wheatboard cabinets, reclaimed timber, and recycled paint. The 70,000-square-foot center opened in September 2001 as a marketplace for eco-minded tenants. In January, it was recognized as one of the country’s top green buildings when the U.S. Green Building Council awarded its gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.