1) It’s Quirky
“Keep Portland Weird” is the cities motto, enough said. I particularly enjoyed the witty restaurant names. We sampled excellent falafel at Shalom Ya’ll, while seeing some of the most bizarre flavors ever at Voodoo donuts.
From block to block places like Pizza Schmizza made me snicker. The city seems to embrace it’s happy-go lucky reputation. Any place that endorses a naked-bike ride (for charity) must fall into the quirky category.
2) It’s Green
No, not that kind of green (all though marijuana is legal in Oregon). One of the first differences I noticed between Portland and Seattle was the amount of trees in the downtown, especially walking in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In fact, Forest Park near downtown has eight-miles of hiking trails to explore!
I was impressed to learn that five days a week there is a farmer’s market varying between different locations in town. With fresh local produce available for purchase, it is a must stop for visitors to PDX.
3) Food Carts
Seven hundred to be exact. I learned that during the 2009 recession many unemployed individuals decided to take small business loans and become “cartrepreneurs”. One block from our hotel on Alder street were 35 food trucks in a small cluster. It felt like walking around the UN, with carts from all countries and some funky fusions (Russian-Vietnamese anyone). Of all the options, I went with a sudden craving for cheese steak at Steak Your Claim. I was not disappointed. Olga decided to go to the Mac & Cheese Bar, and wait through a nice size line for a Mac & Trees bowl.
4) The Breweries
I heard about the many breweries in town, and asked the Hotel Concierge, “Are there any good breweries near the hotel?”. His eyes lit up as he showed me on the map an area that was even labeled “Brewery Blocks”.
Most of the breweries downtown were brewpubs, which didn’t brew their beer on site but still offered a great deal of selection. We sampled two local places, the first called Deshutes Brewery that was jam-packed with people. At the Bar for $12 dollars we got a flight with six beers to sample. I loved the Black Butte Porter dark beer.
The other brewery we sampled was called Fat Head Brewery, whose Logo resembled a middle-aged High School Guidance counselor. With drinks to sample like the Blueberry Ale and Shooting Blancs Pilsner you can do no wrong.
In New York brunch is a sport like nowhere else. So much to my surprise, rolling into Cheryls on 12th before 10 AM there was already a massive line. Game on Portland.
It wasn’t just the commitment that impressed me, but the food itself. The French toast casserole I was served with pecans and blueberries was from another world.
I went with a greasier, but oh so good choice on Sunday at the Brunch Box. A tiny-hole in the wall that was “surprise” filled before 10 am with joggers and fans before the Portland Timbers game (another obsession in town).
Here’s the bottom line: If your in Portland, be prepared to wait for your brunch and just as ready to enjoy it.