Just an hour outside Portland lies Hood River, both a convenient getaway and an encapsulation of what makes this area of Oregon so great—fantastic beer and coffee, access to the Columbia River and the slopes of Mount Hood, and a vibrant outdoor scene. During summer, kiteboarders can be seen darting and swooping across the water; in winter, skis and snowboards top every car as outdoor enthusiasts fill thermoses with hot soup and coffee.
Whether you’re stopping in for an hour or a weekend, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite hangouts in Portland’s neighbor city.
Pfriem Family Brewers
Located across the street from the grassy, populated stretch of Hood River Waterfront Park and the shining expanse of the Columbia River is Pfriem Family Brewers. The 15-barrel brewery has only been open since 2012, but its prominence in the Oregon brewing scene cannot be underestimated as their beers, about one-third of which are Belgian-inspired, are currently some of the best artisanal beers in the state. Their lunch and dinner menus highlight local and seasonal ingredients and feature varied offerings like vegan Moroccan stew, a delicious contrast to other gastropubs serving Caesar salads or cheeseburgers with fries. Their sunny, open-air patio also has a fireplace, so you can continue sipping your Belgian Strong Dark as the sun sets.
Even though this little cafe is in the heart of downtown, Nora’s Table still feels secluded and off the beaten path. It’s one of the best places to get brunch in Hood River, as they buy their meat and produce from local farmers and ranchers and serve it in their cozy, honey-colored wood dining room with the specials written on a chalkboard above the bar. Chef and owner Kathy Watson (“Nora” is actually Kathy’s mother) isn’t from New Orleans, but the restaurant’s take on Southern fare—like the Louisiana eggs Benedict with tasso ham, grits and Cajun hollandaise, or a plate of warm beignets dusted with powdered sugar—is something to remember.
In a city with so many great coffee options, it can be difficult to find a way to stick out. Stoked Roasters’ coffee is excellent and its industrial-chic, vaulted space with floor-to-ceiling picture windows opens out onto views of the Columbia River. But it’s their ties to adventure and the burgeoning local outdoor industry that make them unique. Owner Jax Mariash Koudele worked in marketing for gear companies Lucy Activewear, Crocs and Native Outdoors before giving in to her love of coffee. Outdoor adventure magazines pepper every surface, and artworks created by local outdoor athletes hang on the walls. They’re also in the process of becoming one of the first coffee roasters and shops to sponsor their own stable of athletes.
In the 1990s, the kiteboarding and wakeboarding industries were still in their infancy. Devotees and brothers Jeff and Tony Logosz moved to the board sport mecca of Hood River and realized that the gear supplied by this budding industry could greatly benefit from cross-pollination with burgeoning snowboard technologies—like rockers, reverse cambers and other flex technologies—that give wakeboarders, kiteboarders and stand-up paddleboarders a greater measure of comfort and control. Thus, Slingshot Sports was born. Today, the company has several different branches, including skateboarding company Moonshine Mfg, and Slingshot’s research and development facility, which still calls Hood River home. When conditions are right, their crew of artists, athletes and engineers drive out to the sandbar to test and tweak all the gear until it’s perfect.
Rack and Cloth
Hood River has more than its fair share of attractions. But if it’s a sunny weekend, grab your bike and cruise the Mark O. Hatfield trail through the Gorge, and catch some great views on your way to Mosier. The town’s entire population consists of only 433 people, but it has a surprisingly great bar and restaurant right in the middle of its main street. Rack and Cloth co-owners Silas Bleakly and Kristina Nance run their own farm, and their locally renowned cider, soups, salads and pizzas are made from their own produce. Rack and Cloth also offers a wonderful selection of draft beers and wines made by their neighbors, who own the nearby winery Coyote Wall and use fruit grown in Mosier.
Aerial image by Sam Beebe, all other images courtesy of respective venues