39. Portland, Oregon

Portland–oh, Portland. What can I say that won’t take me 20 hours to write–and you 5 to read?

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Overview:
This city may be my personal paradise. I’m not saying it’s got everything. The job market, I’ve heard, leaves something to be desired for people in a variety of different professions. There are lines out the door for a lot of the places you might want to eat or drink. You need to carry cash, to which I (and other miles hoarders) have an aversion. And it does rain a lot. But I’m also not moving there (yet). Seriously though, if you’d asked me right after I visited, I might have given you a different answer.

Portland is stunningly beautiful. The food is incredible. The summer climate was absolutely perfect. There’s amazing beer everywhere. And it’s cheap!!! Plus, it’s in day-tripping distance from some seriously awesome natural sites, which we’ll get to later.

A few quick observations: Portland, like DC, is divided into quadrants, though unlike DC, it doesn’t take a lifetime to drive between them. Average driving time seemed to be 12 minutes, no matter where we were going or when. Not that you’d necessarily even need to go between quadrants that much as a tourist–it seems that every place you hear about has a second location in another quadrant. Consequently, a lot of the time, you can find what you’re looking for close by, and there’s some overlap between main drags like SE’s Hawthorne and Division and NE’s Alberta and Mississippi. I’d still recommend you check out all of those streets. I also can’t imagine how bad the food lines would be without the extra locations.

And one last one: Portland has a lot of entertaining street names, which only make the exploring that much more fun. See: Winning, Failing.

How I got there: 
United. It was expensive. We also then rented a car, which was expensive. Not going to play that part down. The nice part is that it’s always expensive, meaning at booking time, it didn’t seem to cost us any more in July than it would have in September. So that always makes you feel a little bit better about surrendering large sums of money.

Another bright side: We got a non-stop from Dulles to PDX, and on the way home, there was a red eye option with a connection through San Francisco. That may not seem like a bright side to everyone, but I’m all about maxing out the amount of time spent exploring, and non-stops and red eyes do just that.

Also, sidenote–PDX is the best airport ever. Or at least the one best geared at getting me to want to buy everything. That would become a recurring theme in Portland. Read on!

Where I stayed:
The details of where I stayed aren’t really important; suffice it to say that it was a miserable Airbnb experience in NE (the NE part was great, but that was about it). Our last night, we moved to an airport hotel because it was just that bad. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of great Airbnb options in the city. It only means that I searched too late and chose poorly from my remaining options.

What I did:
First off, I ate (and drank) everything. I know that’s going to come in the next section, but I want to underscore how large a role culinary discovery played on this trip.

Second off (is that a thing?), I bought everything. As I mentioned in this post, I was having trouble narrowing it down, especially since my shopping was largely confined to the gap between when I finished working from home and when Jake finished working from home a couple hours later. While I poked my head into tons of different shops, I only did real damage at home goods stores. Beam & Anchor, Canoe, Alder & Co. and hammer + vine stole my heart, as well as the remainder of my money (actually, I forked that second one over willingly in exchange for TREASURES).

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Beam & Anchor

Actually, that was a lie. I also did real damage at the flagship location of Powell’s Books, which says it’s the largest independent bookstore in the world. I’d believe it. It’s absolutely gigantic, with floors and floors dedicated to every type of book, game, map, etc. that you could imagine. The magic of Powell’s even convinced me to buy an artisanal cookbook–and, even more magically, I’ve actually used it since then.

The Portland Saturday Market was also fun to walk around, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy anything there, too. They’ve got a huge variety of arts, crafts and food, and it’s right on the water.

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There was more to this trip than boosting the local economy, though (sort of). We also checked out the International Rose Test Garden, which had more varieties of roses than I ever knew existed.

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And then there was the suggestion we took from a stranger on whom we were eavesdropping, which led us to Mt. Tabor, a volcanic vent that’s either dormant or extinct. Either way, it offers great views of the city and a great park in which to picnic and hang out, the latter of which we did until it started raining on us.

Where I ate:
I put more time into figuring out what to eat and when in Portland than I have into most things in my life. And either I chose really well, or all the food in Portland is truly spectacular. Not sure which. Here we go…
Pine State Biscuits – This place had a line out the door AND around the corner, and for damned good reason. I got a blueberry lavender pop-tart to go and devoured a biscuit with butter, honey and jam on the scene. I think it was the best of my life.

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Bunk Sandwiches – Better than I thought sandwiches could possibly be.

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Mother’s Bistro – Loved the decor, and loved the breakfast nachos even more. They didn’t last long enough to pose for a photo.

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Por Qué No – A vibrant, brightly colored taqueria with great food and a great atmosphere. The drinks looked great, too, but I couldn’t fit anything else into my stomach.

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Olympic Provisions – This was probably my best find, if I do say so myself–and I don’t even eat the salami, kielbasa and assorted other charcuterie that they’re famous for. We hit up the NW location, mostly because I wanted to try an apricot-cherry-burrata situation that doesn’t even appear to be on the dinner menu  anymore. A lot of other amazing-looking stuff is, though. And the SE dinner menu is now looking even better. Ahhhhhhh why did I just do this to myself.

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Tin Shed Garden Cafe – This is the last place we went for lunch before leaving town, and MY GOD was it a good decision. We waited more than an hour to get in…but I’m struggling to even begin to quantify how long I would be THRILLED to wait if I could have those black-bean-bedecked potato cakes again.
Voodoo Doughnut and Blue Star Donuts – I don’t even really like doughnuts (donuts?), but I think you have to (wait in line to) try both of these renowned places. IMO, Voodoo’s are better (I had a maple bar), but Blue Star’s are more artsy and complex (Meyer lemon & Key lime curd). At Blue Star, though, the problem isn’t just lines. They sell out for the day. Frequently. You’ve been warned.

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Waiting in line at Voodoo

Salt & Straw – Have I said anything about lines yet in this blog post? (Kidding). Because we definitely had to bail on this ice cream place multiple times (in multiple locations) before we finally found a line short enough to brave. It was completely worth it though, and good news: When you do finally reach the front of the line, you can order a FLIGHT of ice cream flavors. We also had a super friendly scooper who said it was all about me and that I could take as much time as I needed and try whatever I wanted. People on the East Coast are NEVER that nice. Anyway, I tried pear and blue cheese, Stumptown coffee and Burnside bourbon before landing on some kind of snickerdoodle brownie concoction. Heaven.

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Where I drank:
We tried as many breweries and beer bars as we could; my favorites of those were Base Camp Brewing Company, where you can sit around a fire pits outside and drink a S’more Stout (complete with a toasted marshmallow on the rim, if you’re into that); Cascade Brewing Barrel House, which is devoted to sours; and Ex Novo Brewing Company, home of beers such as Damon Stoutamire and [The Most Interesting] Mexican Lager. (It’s flaked corn that makes it interesting. I now believe all lagers should include flaked corn.) Oh, and I almost forgot the legendary Stumptown Coffee in the non-beer division. The line out the door was also legendary. Plan ahead!

What I missed: 
This is a hard one. I feel like I barely scratched the surface in four days. But here are a few breweries/beer bars/bottle shops I wanted to get to but didn’t: Breakside Brewery, Ecliptic Brewing, Bridgeport Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Fat Head’s Brewery, Burside Brewing Company, Tin Bucket, Beermongers

And a couple food places: foodcart pod at 10 and Alder in SW, Pok Pok, Burrasca


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