February 19, 2013
A Love Letter To Portland...
I have spent much of my life moving up and down the West Coast, and now to the East Coast. While I love the adventure that goes along with a new community, there is one city that I will always consider my true love. Maybe it's because I spent the majority of my adult years living there or maybe it's the funky unpredictable energy that continues to draw me back.
Long before Fred Armisen developed the quirky vignettes that we fondly know as Portlandia, the residents of this Pacific Northwest city would tell you that Portlandia is the name of the grand statue that sits proudly in the middle of downtown Portland. Although, the yoga practicing, hippie-chic, highly cerebral hilarity that ensues during each episode really is quintessential Portland. It is not uncommon to see a person in the middle of the rainy winter months reading the New York Times while sporting a slicker up top and socks and sandals covering the feet. It is also not uncommon to hear celebrities gush about their experiences during movie and television productions, which frequently take place in this gem of a town.
Long before Seattle and San Francisco stumbled into providing their residents access to the city center via a commuter train, Portland was all over it. You can now travel from all points north, south, east, and west on the MAX Train. For $2.50 you can catch the train directly from the airport and arrive downtown in no time. Once you are in the middle of town, there is really no reason to leave. Unless, for example, you want to take a short trip to the beach, the best skiing in the country, or to a sprawling wine country that rivals any fancy winery that Napa/Sonoma offers up.
While wandering through the city, there is a no muss, no fuss feel. However, you will find the restaurants to be among the best in the country. Portland has also embraced the newest rage in food trucks. In fact, there are multiple lots in the center of town that offer anything and everything, and beckon long lines (even in the rain) for on-the-go foodies who know where to find gourmet options at a reasonable price.
The food, the beauty, and the zero sales tax are, in itself, perfectly good reasons to visit, but it's more than the tangible that cause me to have had a 30 year love affair with this amazing city. It is the energy of this beautiful town coupled with the people that bring me back time and time again. There is a kind soul in the heart of this town that makes it a West Coast treasure. The people of Portland are genuinely lovely and make every effort to extend a friendly smile or hello in passing. You would be hard-pressed to walk away feeling that the people of Portland are not the most inclusive group of city dwellers around.
With that said, I challenge you to check out Portland if you have not done so. As a little gift to you, I am going to make a list of my favorite stuff so you can refer to it when you arrive in the sweetest city on the West Coast. (Yes...I said that, Seattle. You think you're so cool with your flying fish and your Tom Hanks "Sleepless" movie...) So, I dare anyone to visit Portland and not fall in love with this charming city.
Hotels: I always stay at The Courtyard Marriott on SW Oak Street. It is a reasonably priced refurbished hotel and has an upscale contemporary feel, with a HUGE dash of eco-chic. They have a wonderful restaurant called The Original Dinerant. Is it a diner...is it a restaurant? They couldn't decide so they combined the two. My favorite is the quinoa burger. I know it sounds like something they might order on Portlandia, but trust me...Yum! There are numerous other hotel options like the famous and historic Benson Hotel or Heathman Hotel. The Heathman was THE hotel from last year's trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey. (Don't tell me that you didn't read it, we all read it...)
Coffee: If you take 3 steps in any one direction, you will be smack-dab in the middle of a Starbucks. Enough said...
Shopping: Don't think for a minute that there are few shopping options because many of the locals happen to sport fleece and khaki pants for nine months out of the year. Portland has a beautiful Nordstrom, Macy's, as well as Pioneer Place, which offers the likes of many high-end stores like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and J. Crew. You also have the Pearl District, which is a historic area that was developed from a cool industrial part of town and offers expensive lofts, shopping, and eateries to the "beautiful people." You know, the people who shell out a big pile of cash for exposed brick walls, hot-yoga on every corner, and a $4.00 avocado at the Whole Foods down the block.
Restaurants: Portland has some of the top restaurants around. My personal favorite is Jake's Famous Crawfish. It is a staple of Portland and a must if you are only in town for a short visit. An after dinner option is a famous Spanish coffee at Portland's oldest restaurant, Huber's Cafe. They make it a show by preparing the drink tableside, and I promise it will not disappoint. I will tell you from personal experience, though, that if you have more than one, there is the chance that you will be dancing on the tables.
If it is a breakfast you are seeking, Mother's Bistro has an excellent menu with the loveliest atmosphere to boot. It is a fan favorite of Portland so either arrive early or be ready to wait a bit.
And here me now...you cannot leave Portland until you have paid a well-deserved visit to Voodoo Doughnuts! They offer every bizarre combination to make the experience something to write home about. If I were to give you one recommendation, it would not be the coco-puff delight, or even the decadence of the M&M slathered goodness. No...it would be the granddaddy of them all. The maple bar and bacon. I shall say no more...
So, there you have it. And I didn't even cover music, the arts, and sporting events. All within a short walk or train ride from the center of town. I hope I have at least piqued your interest. Oh...and just so you know...nobody uses an umbrella in Portland. It's how we roll...