It has been said that "The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland..." where "young people go to retire." If you haven't got this reference yet... check this great clip from Portlandia out before reading this post. Honestly though, I had heard many, many legitimately good things about Portland, all of which seemed to appeal to me quite a bit. I'd been looking forward to getting there for a long time, and I finally got the chance in November 2014. So here is the story of my brief but very enjoyable trip to that quirky city in the Pacific Northwest.
My first stop in Portland wasn't a food market... it was a book store. Powell's Books has been in business since the early 70s, providing Portlanders with an incredible selection of books for their reference and reading pleasure. The store is amazing and, for me at least, truly dangerous for the bank account. They have a great variety of genres and options, including many rare editions and difficult to find hardcovers, all over multiple stories of floor to ceiling book stacks. It is a glorious place for any true bibliophile!
Now, onto my second stop: beer. Portland boasts a whopping 58 breweries within the city limits and 83 total within the metro area. Add to that the fact that Oregon itself is a microbrewery Mecca, and you have Heaven for any beer lover. Needless to say, I spent a good portion of my days there sampling what I could and visiting the various brewery tap rooms.
Portland certainly has an enlightened beer culture. With so many breweries, competition is fierce, and many brewers have developed their own special niche in the market. For example, Cascade, which specializes in sour ales. I am a HUGE fan of sour beers... and the trip to Cascade's tap room was one of the highlights of my visit. In particular, their kriek ale (sour cherry) was stellar.
Then there is this awesome whiskey bar too... they do things right in Portland. You can't argue with a library of whiskeys from all over the world, and the sliding ladder system required to reach those on the top shelves, There is also the perfectly comfy lounge-style bar they have set up with leather chairs and couches and dim lamp light. Great place to stop in for a tipple.
OK... ignoring the gentleman's lounge seen on the right half of this picture (this is in the heart of downtown, Portland truly has no shame), Portland also boasts some great food. One of the things I appreciated most were all the food trucks and street food options all around downtown. This area over by Chez Dodo (Mauritian food, no kidding) had a whole string of semi-permanent street carts set up. It was glorious.
But the demand for great food doesn't stop out on the street... Portland's restaurants are also some of the tastiest in the country. My favorite was this place, Frank's Noodle House, which offers up a variety of pan-Asian noodle dishes using only homemade noodles and authentic ingredients. This was most definitely the tastiest place I ate in the city. It was so good, I ended up going back twice! Some other places that I really enjoyed were Lardo, for those that love that anything from the most delicious of animals: the pig, and Racion, offering up some great Spanish style tapas. The nice thing about the restaurants was the clear demand for fresh, local, in season ingredients. There are many farm-to-table places around the city too.
Apparently the doughnuts and coffee around town are really good too... though I'm not a huge fan of either so I didn't sample. A few of the people I was with though highly recommended this place, Voodoo Doughnut for both coffee and those sweet, fried rings of dough.
Two more things can most definitely be said about Portland: 1) it is super bike friendly; 2) it is super rainy.
Portland also has a highly visible community of homeless and drug users. This adds quite the gritty and somewhat uncomfortable (concerning the drug users really) edge to the city... This homeless camp, run by the Right to Dream Too nonprofit on private land, is one of the more hopeful sights concerning those poor souls who go night after night without permanent shelter.
Nothing much to say here... I just really liked these train pictures taken while wandering across one of the bridges over the river.
This shot seemed so ruggedly patriotic somehow...
And just a few blocks away from that exemplary picture of American strength: Portland also has a relatively good sized Chinatown... and you definitely don't see that flag flying over too many places in the US either.
Adding to the quirkiness of the place is this cool mix of architecture around town, from the newer condos down by the river to the old 20s era stone monumentals to the glass and steel modern skyscrapers.
This old bank building was just awesome, but I must admit that I was surprised there wasn't a homeless guy camped out in front of this place.