Though architectural flourishes once called attention to their Gilded Age opulence, these days the entrance and lobby of the historic Cook’s Hotel bear the egalitarian trappings of a turn-of-the-century ice-cream parlor. These welcoming sights are just one part of Serendipity Ice Cream’s core mission. Operating as a division of Mid-Valley Rehabilitation—a nonprofit dedicated to providing employment, residential, and transportation services to adults with disabilities—the parlor gives the center’s clients the chance to get real-world work experience and independence. Here, staffers scoop 24 classic and seasonal flavors of Oregon-made ice cream into handmade waffle cones, sundaes, floats, shakes, and banana splits. Sugar-free ice cream and dairy-free sorbets attend to special diets alongside treats such as soups and made-from-scratch cookies baked fresh daily. In addition to the sky-high cones and friendly service, old-fashioned candy, glass-bottled retro sodas, and teenagers who settle their differences by dancing add to the parlor’s period feel.
What started as a refreshment stand during a 1924 Pioneer Day celebration has since grown into Arctic Circle, an eatery that transcends typical fast-food standards by building its menu items from high-quality ingredients. Black Angus patties support burgers stacked with mushrooms or bacon, and 100% Alaskan halibut keeps the fish sandwiches filler-free. Over more than 60 years of business, Arctic Circle has handcrafted original eats, such as a fry sauce blended from tomato and lemon, and the Brown Topper, an ice-cream cone dunked in chocolate and placed atop the heads of nearby gentlepersons. The dessert menu also includes milkshakes, whose creamy contents harvest flavor from real fruit or hunks of candy.
Since 1997, 3rd Street Pizza Company has fused food and film into a ready-made night out. On one side of the business, hand-tossed dough is fired atop hot stones, which yields crisp New York–style pizzas topped with a signature blend of mozzarella, provolone, and monterey jack cheeses. Sauce options also reach beyond the standard red to include thai peanut, pesto, and garlic parmesan. The pies anchor a menu that features calzones, sandwiches, and microbrews, all of which can be taken into showings at Moonlight Theater. Recent releases stretch out across a full-size movie screen that teams up with a 12-speaker surround-sound system as high-tech as the ones judges use to make their verdicts extra scary. The restaurant also supports arts beyond film and pizza—a dining-room wall functions as a rotating gallery space, and live musicians occasionally play during dinner.
Named one of Portland's top-10 most romantic restaurants by Gayot, the Joel Palmer House fills fine china with globally inspired dishes, which fuse locally produced herbs and vegetables with wild Oregon mushrooms. Amorous eaters take breaks from sweetheart staring contests to thaw benumbed tongues with warm bowls of Joe's wild-mushroom soup, a 75-year-old family recipe that combines the rich essence of pureed suillus mushrooms with creamy crème fraiche ($9). The beef stroganoff, prepared with succulent meat, wild mushrooms, and seasoned rice ($30), pleases palates, and the sautéed sea scallops, served with lotus root, wild mushroom duxelles, and a Creole pinot gris sauce ($32), fill abdominal abysses. Fortify fungus fare with a bottle of locally fermented pinot noir from a sprawling list of Oregon wines and achieve a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves.
Renowned for its artisan wines and pinot noir varietals, Willamette Valley Vineyards whips taste buds into flavorful frenzies with elegant quaffs that highlight the pure grapes of the region. Like the cycles of the moon and broken sundials, reserve tastings rotate monthly, featuring a different lineup of five distinct libations. Tasters can count on three Single Vineyard Designate pinot noirs in the sippable quintet, one of which is the 2008 Estate pinot noir. Blossoming sommeliers step up to their glasses and test their scent-sensors under the guidance of Willamette Valley's professional drink detectives, aiding their efforts to detect the notes of cherry, dark chocolate, and spice laced throughout their beverage. Following their consumption and discussion of their glasses, participants receive two "It's Willamette, Dammit" t-shirts, and are welcome to keep their Riedel logo stemware, ideal for future tastings or trapping fancy tarantulas.