There is no place in the country better known as a bastion of good living, leisure and happy inebriation than Oregon's largest little city, the low-lying mini-metropolis of Portland. Bisected by a river and surrounded by peaks, Portland is nothing if not a very pretty and almost preternaturally pleasant town. But much of its appeal comes from being, for better or worse, one of our national capitals of cool. The city’s sensibility — its stylized aesthetic, its thoroughly hyped food culture, its taste for irony — is celebrated, imitated and satirized. Portland is at its best, though, when you step back from its overwrought reputation and appreciate its appetite for simple pleasures: beer and bike riding, day trips to the Columbia River or Sauvie Island’s farm stands, movies in vintage theaters and cocktails in ornate lounges.

"Go for the Garden | 7:30 p.m. In a city noted for its casual dining culture, Ava Gene’s feels like an occasion. If possible, sit at the chef’s counter, where the kitchen provides a beautifully orchestrated show to accompany your meal. Resist the urge to order a main course and instead focus on the “Giardini” menu. Though each is described only by its eclectic ingredients (“citrus, avocado, fennel, bottarga, pistachios,” for example, or “chicories, olives, egg, Meyer lemon, anchovy”), these vegetable-centric dishes ($11 to $13 each) are exceptional."