We Portlanders know how to do a lot of things well: eat, drink, and—as it turns out—relax. Yup, the Rose City ranked as the fourth most relaxed city in America, according to Forbes magazine’s 2010 stress survey. But just in case the hectic holiday season has left you temporarily frazzled, we’ve mapped out a few surefire paths to peace of mind. Fifty of them, in fact, from soul-soothing comfort foods to knot-melting massages and good old-fashioned retail therapy. So settle in with your coziest sweater and a cup of nog, and indulge in an exploration of Portland’s best ways to unwind. (And, no, wearing a Snuggie is not one of them. Ever.)
1 Grown-Up Mac and CheeseIn the pantheon of comfort foods, nothing says home quite like the gooey warmth of mac and cheese. Victory Bar ratchets the Kraft classic up a notch with a German-inspired version: a bowl of tender baked spätzle doused in gruyère cheese with crispy fried shallots sprinkled on top and a house-made pork sausage on the side. Danke, Deutschland!
3652 SE Division St; 503-236-8755
4 Shave and a Haircut … and ScotchScruff is often a symptom of stress. Banish both with an invigorating trio of services at the Modern Man Barber Shop & Gentleman’s Supply, a new retro-masculine barbering house tucked just off of NE Alberta Street. Forty-two bucks will get you washed, clipped, and clean-cut (or if you’re part of Oregon’s unemployed 10 percent and have a job interview, they’ll shear your head for free). Start with a complimentary beer, whiskey, or scotch; finish with a slap of cologne and cigar. Better already!
5018 NE 22nd Ave; 503-284-6008
5 Super SoakerVisit any of the Portland salon and spa mini-empire Dosha’s five locations, and you’re guaranteed to walk out looking, feeling, and—thanks to their liberal use of herbal Aveda products—smelling better. But only the Hawthorne location offers you free access to a gorgeous slate soaking tub. You’ve got to book either a body treatment or facial to earn entrance to this lavish land of calm upstairs, but it’s well worth it. After your pampering, rinse off in private showers big enough to turn somersaults in, then indulge in the steam room before heading straight for that tub … and jets so strong you might not even need a massage after all.
3490 SE Hawthorne Blvd; 503-228-8280
6 Candlelight YogaMellow music, candlelight, and a room for 15? Make a date with Corepower Yoga, complete with flattering lighting. Monday through Thursday evenings the seven-year-old yoga studio’s NW Quimby Street location transforms its space with a dozen LED candles for an hour of beginning to intermediate yoga guaranteed to help you stretch your way to serenity (chocolates and flowers not included).
2277 NW Quimby St; 503-226-9642
14 Knotty PleasuresTension seems to have a special place in its heart for our neck and shoulders. Fortunately, the muscle maestros at Blooming Moon Wellness Spa know where it likes to hide. Stop into this remodeled foursquare house for a 30-minute head-and-neck massage ($45) … then stay for “Happy Hour, ” a discounted foot soak and massage accompanied by wine and appetizers from nearby Hop & Vine, every night from 4 to 6 p.m. ($45)
1920 N Killingsworth St; 971-279-2757
15 Little ItalyThe moment you walk into DOC’s intimate, candlelit dining room, your worries will melt like a pat of butter in a cast-iron pan. Submit to the bliss of the chefs’ nightly tasting menu, and forget what’s going on outside the enormous curtain-draped windows. Six plentiful courses of bright, flavorful Italian food will magically appear in the flickering glow—oysters, soups, risottos, fresh pastas, hearty entrées, and desserts—alongside liberal pours (and refills) of hand-selected worldly wines. Your only job is to enjoy it as it comes. That part shouldn’t be too hard.
5519 NE 30th Ave; 503-946-8592
19 Beats for the BathtubThe next time you want (or, more likely, need) to fill a bathtub, crank the stereo, and seek oblivion, check out local viola-electronica-drums duo Talkdemonic’s new album, Ruins. Lisa Molinaro’s electronic-processed strings shatter and soar over Kevin O’Connor’s subtle, echoing drums. Talkdemonic doesn’t make comfort music, exactly, but rather meditative rock chamber pieces that pull you deep into their intrigue and atmosphere—and your bubble bath.
20 Lavish Floor DécorYour feet deserve the feel of sheepskin, but your nose doesn’t deserve the, um, distinctive scent that inevitably accompanies most sheepskin slippers. Give them both what they want with Woolmark rugs (from $89). Sourced from Australia, these patches of pure plushness work great individually—at about three and a half feet by two feet, they can be deployed over bare hardwood floors or curled in an armchair. One, however, may not be enough. In that case, for nominal fees, the Sheepskin of Oregon shop will happily stitch together two of them, or four, or….
1218 NW Glisan St; 503-242-0079;
21 Happy FeetSangha in Pali means “group of like-minded people, ” so we suppose you could consider the Dragontree Spa’s Sangha Room, decked out with elegant couches and backdropped by the sound of trickling water and meditative music, a kind of group therapy. Its generous menu of foot treatments (we like the honey foot soak, $25, and 30-minute massage, $37) promises to dissolve your woes while you make new friends with fellow spa mates. Even better, the Dragontree recently opened an airport location, so the next time your flight is delayed, you’ll have a leg up on travel stress.
2768 NW Thurman St; 503-221-4123
22 Z-Ohm OutContrary to its name, the Movement Center’s Monday and Wednesday night meditations present an opportunity for overtaxed Portlanders to take a moment and just be for an hour in the company of the Center’s hatha yoga community. The price for peace of mind? Technically, nothing. Sessions are free, but donations are good manners (and good karma).
1021 NE 33rd Ave; 503-231-0383
23 Hot WheelsSometimes, the best place to find your relaxation zenith is on your own couch—a situation that calls for takeout. SoupCycle lets you find your happy place (and meal) without having to get off your duff. Delivering the hot stuff by bike with a hunk of bread and a fresh salad, SoupCycle offers a menu of three ever-changing organic soups to ensure you get a good supper without having to take off your slippers.