Quilt Market Guide to Portland: Downtown

You might think of Portland as the place where young people come to retire, but seriously, it is so much more than the Portlandia show makes it seem. Next week fabric retailers, designers and bloggers are descending on the city for Spring Quilt Market and I am stoked. What could be better, really? So many of my online and industry friends will be in my hometown. I wish I could show everybody everything, but since I can’t… well, this is the next best thing.

Quilt Market is being held at the Convention Center, which is fine, it’s a lovely venue and all, but it’s in one of the most boring areas of town (sorry, folks). It’s all chain stores and office buildings. The only thing over there that I’d suggest you hit if you aren’t from the Pacific Northwest is Burgerville. It’s actually pretty good fast food with lots of local ingredients, plus they have gluten-free buns, which gets me every time.

Besides getting a burger and asparagus spears there, I’m afraid to tell you, there isn’t much around. Better advice than wandering around there is to hop on the MAX and head downtown. It’s quick and easy, but don’t forget to pay the lousy $2.50 (or $5 all-day pass) before you get on board. Believe me, the fine for not paying is waaaaay more than that.

Powells Books

Powell’s Books (1005 SW Burnside) claims to be the largest independent used and new book retailer  in the whole world and once you step inside, you’ll totally believe it. They stock more than a million books in this block-size, multi-story building, so chances are if you want it, they’ve got it. Sewing books are down on the first floor near the corner of 11th and Couch. It’s right off the streetcar line to make it simple and they’re open til 11pm for you late-nighters.

Ringler’s Annex (1223 SW Stark) is two blocks up on Burnside (at the weird intersection of 12th, Burnside and Stark), if you’re looking for a quick bite and a drink. It’s tiny, triangular, and part of the McMenamins empire in Portland. Nearby you’ll also find the Crystal Hotel, the Crystal Ballroom, Ringler’s Pub and Lola’s Room–all McMenamins properties.

While you’re at that intersection, make sure to look for the toddler bikes chained to a light pole.  Yeah, it’s weird, but hey, it’s Portland.


The bikes belong to the Zoobombers, a loose pack of mostly-young adults who do crazy things on these baby bikes at night. Curious? This is what it looks like from the helmet of my BFF several years ago.

If you are are sucker for buttons, don’t miss out on Josephine’s Dry Goods (521 SW 11th). The only fabric/sewing store downtown, it’s well known for their Italian wool, Thai silks and lots of trims, including an entire wall of buttons.


You can’t go downtown without trying out at least one of the city’s famous food carts. Don’t worry, they’re hard to miss and everywhere.  With more than 500 in the city, you seriously can’t get away from them. They can be a little hit or miss, but it’s a fun way to try out new food and so much better than fast food.  An enormous pod of them is right down the block from Josephine’s between 9th and 10th, including Brazilian, Thai, Cajun, Mexican, Vietnamese, Cuban, Egyptian, German and Greek dishes. My favorites: DC Vegetarian, Big Ass Sandwiches, and The Whole Bowl (also a locale on Hawthorne and SE 45th).

If you’re down there, you might as well swing SW 4th and Main to see Portlandia, the statue not the TV show (though you may run into that, as well).



She’s the second largest copper statue in the U.S., only surpasses in size by the Statue of Liberty. I personally love this girl–I remember when they shut down the streets to bring her downtown and years later when, for April Fools, some guys hung an oversized yo-yo from her hand. Good times, good times.

I adore downtown Portland, big enough to find pretty much anything you might want, small enough to traipse around sans vehicle.

Other places to you might want to visit:

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