Google Places with Hotpot blog

Last-Minute Shopping in Portland, Powered by Hotpot

Friday, December 24, 2010 | 9:07 AM

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Editor’s Note: While we’re in Portland over the next few weeks, we wanted to bring some local flavor to the blog by asking writers living in the area to contribute Hotpot-style city guides: recommendations on where to eat, where to shop, where to hang. Below, locally based writer Audrey Van Buskirk shares how Hotpot helped her get through the holiday shopping rush. Be sure to join the conversation in the comments below.

If you’re anything like me, you’re still not finished with your holiday shopping. It’s too late to order anything off the Internet—unless you’re willing to suffer the sticker shock of overnight shipping.

Typically, the most difficult aspect of last-minute shopping is finding the right places to go (to say nothing of a parking place). Rather than stroll aimlessly through my nearest Portland, Oregon mall, grabbing stray socks and scented candles, I decided to use Google search with Hotpot to find cool store recommendations. Here’s how it worked out.

I needed a couple of last-minute toys, and I knew I would be in Northeast Portland. I logged into Hotpot and searched “toys, northeast portland.” Because I had already given a four-star rating to Haggis McBaggis (awesome children’s store in Westmoreland), Hotpot recommended I check out Grasshopper on Alberta. It’s locally owned, and a quick click took me to their great list of beautiful toys for under $25. Exactly what I was looking for!

Now on to my husband Chris. He loves anything with a paddle or two wheels. A search for “cycling, portland” led me to a recommendation for Clever Cycles, where I found a sweet wool cap, perfect for keeping him warm and dry. A second search for “rafting gear, portland” revealed that Alder Creek Kayak & Canoe had five-star reviews and the perfect paddle. Impressed, I made sure to go back to Hotpot and give them a five-star rating myself.

One big challenge: something for my husband’s 18-year-old brother Kai, who’s spending his first Christmas away from home with us. I had no idea what he’d like, so I searched for the first thing that came to mind: “video games, portland.” The top recommendation in my search was Ground Kontrol, the retro arcade in Old Town. A t-shirt and some tokens? Perfect!

For my sister, I wanted something kind of frivolous and fun. She’s one of those people who has everything and wants more! So I searched “home décor, northwest portland” and discovered a recommendation for Relish. I also discovered a gorgeous raku vase there — perfect for Amy! Four stars.

How are you using Hotpot recommendations to guide your last-minute shopping? Share in the comments below.

Posted by Audrey Van Buskirk. Audrey has written for dozens of local and national publications including Willamette Week, Portland Monthly, Northwest Palate, The Stranger, Nickelodeon and Everyday with Rachael Ray. She manages three boys from Southeast Portland.