The first time I was in Portland Oregon was some twenty odd years ago. I was living in Phoenix, and my roommate was from Newburg, Oregon. To beat the summer heat, we decided to take a summer road-trip, sort of a Thelma and Louise trip minus Brad Pitt or anyone remotely like him tagging along. We loaded up my metallic green Oldsmobile Toronado with creamy leather interior, with snacks and cassette tapes of homemade music and hit the high road. Two 19-year-old gals were making their way up the middle of Nevada towards Newberg Oregon. It was epic.
I was really excited to check out Portland as I had never been and had only heard horror stories of too much rain, and not much else. It did rain, and there was not much else besides green rolling hills. Newburg was sleepy. Portland was sleepy. I had no opinion at all really, and, to be honest, wasn’t all that impressed. Especially after living in the big city of Phoenix. After that trip, I never went back besides a few drive byes during road trips. Until last year during a business trip…..
Three weeks ago FullView Media had a business up in Portland. It had been a year since our last project up that way, which left me wanting more. I was curious, would I feel the same way I did in 2014. I didn’t need to be on this particular trip, but decided to tag along, see some friends, check out some places, take photos and basically wander while Lenny worked. It was kind of perfect. I walked all day snapping photos and didn’t have to hear him complain about “his feet being tired.” That is kind of a joke, but not really.
After our business trip up that way in 2014 we knew we enjoyed Portland, so this trip was kind of the confirmation we needed. Yep, we liked it, and we played the “what if” game. Often! Portland has definitely evolved from the sleepy community it was 20 years ago. It is thriving now with the hustle bustle of a cool small town. Grungy (as in a good way, I love grunge) like New York, but small and walkable. The food scene is pretty epic, not to mention affordable. They make killer beers up that way, and there is coffee on every block, not to mention doughnuts.
I had a solid 24 hours to explore on my own, and I set off with no real plan or intentions. I knew I wanted to take photos but wasn’t so inclined to focus on taking only “pretty ones”. I am reading a great book on how to make your photography better, and it is about shooting in the moment. That became my goal on this ultra bluebird day – I had secretly hoped for gray overcast skies for shooting. As well, I focused on strictly eating along with a little shopping (no taxes) this trip; next time I want to indulge in some sites as well as art.
After fueling up on breakfast sandwiches and damn good coffee, I kissed Lenny good-bye, slipped on comfy shoes and headed out with my camera. I had some time before meeting a girlfriend for lunch at the Picnic House, so I strolled around the shopping area of Portland, did some window shopping and stumbled upon the cutest little Farmer’s Market. I was completely taken in by the abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers. The selection was even better than what we have at home, and I was jealous. Honestly, I could have meandered around the market all day if I didn’t have a lunch date. After a more than enjoyable lunch, both company, and food at Picnic House, I jaunted over to my favorite part of downtown Portland along Stark Street near the Pearl District. I spent the rest of the day, walking around and taking it all in, snapping photos, eating donuts and drinking coffee before meeting back at the hotel. Then we spent the evening trying cocktails at new spots and enjoying an epic sushi dinner.
Hotel Lucia – This is the only hotel we have stayed at during both trips to Portland, and we love everything about it. It has an urban and modern vibe, all the rooms are tastefully decorated and the amenities from coffee in the room to bath products is perfect. Great customer service as well as reasonably priced. On both sides of the hotel there are two options for dining; one is casual Penny Diner, which has wonderful coffee, baked goods and sandwiches (both breakfast and lunch options). On the other side, is The Imperial which we love, and they serve impeccable cocktails. We have yet to enjoy dinner there. I did have breakfast one morning and the hash with eggs was perfectly cooked – seasoned properly, not saucy and just the right size to fill me for a morning of walking.
The Picnic House – I had lunch at this sweet little spot with an old friend. It has a very inviting atmosphere, and is casual and comfortable. The food was spectualar. We both had the combination which consisted of a mini soup, salad and a sandwich. The carrot soup was silky and flavorful, the wedge did not disappoint with a creamy blue cheese, sweet cherry tomatoes and bacon. We both went with the grilled cheese with caramelized onions and aged white cheddar – outstanding! My girlfriend that this spot is also great for brunch, and that they use the freshest ingredients from the area.
Blue Star Donuts – Who doesn’t love a doughnut that is filled with vanilla pastry cream, glazed with a crisp creme brûlée topping and served with a viril of cointreau. Everyone knows that Voodoo is the cult doughnut shop of Portland, but, my opinion these guys blow them away! I ended up going twice in two days for their ultra fluffly brioche style doughnuts with unique glazes such as blueberry basil or passion fruit with coco nibs.
Heart – Had to hit a coffee shop that was listed as a must visit before you die. The decor is simple and modern, white with hints of warm wood and black. The coffee was spectacular. I opted for a latte as I had just finished a doughnut and regular. The expresso was dark and sultry, and the milk creamy. Rich in flavor, and not bitter. The way a good coffee should be.
Shigezo Izakaya – We stumbled upon this spot during a cold and blistery trip to Portland, when we were hungry for ramen. It did not disappoint the first time, nor did it the second visit. Think of it as mom and pop Japanese restaurant in decor. You can sit in the front of the restaurant that is brightly lite with a sushi bar or off to the side and back at a cozy booth style table. The fish is very fresh, and the ramen is perfect. Both trips we had sashimi (chefs choice) as well as ramen. I had the Tokyo ramen, and Lenny had the chef surprise him. Both were comforting as well as flavorful. I have to admit, I kind of liked his spicier version better. Either way, it is simple home cooked Japanese food at a very affordable price.
Masu Sushi – We have a running joke that we cannot find good sushi in our neighborhood since moving to Oakland, but we tend to find it on business trips. Masu, again was a stumble upon spot over a year ago. Now it is a must when we go to Portland. Charming spot with gorgeous paned windows bringing in beautiful light and mid-century flare throughout. We like to sit at the sushi bar, which is inviting, comfortable (mid-century modern bar stools that are killer) and the chefs are charming as well as knowledgable. The fish is very fresh, and the types of rolls are innovative; the Japanista is a favorite. The miso has been declared by Lenny as the best he has ever had. The staff is very knowledgeable with the sake selection, and have always recommended exactly the perfect match for our meal.
Tasty n Alder – We could not get a table at this hipster spot so we opted for drinks at the bar. Very cool, industrial vibe and the drinks were good. We both had the same cocktail which was a bourbon drink called the Rawhide. I am a fan of usual ingredients used in cocktails and this one did not disappoint. Made with salted bonal honey, genepy, lemon and bokers bitters as well as the bourbon it was rich, slightly sweet and salty. It definitely made us want another, if we did not have places to be.
The Roxy Diner – An old juke box plays music from the 80’s in the corner and music posters done the walls of this small diner. Perfect if you want an honest to goodness egg breakfast for an affordable price. Not fancy just casual, good eggs.
Kenny and Zukes – This spot is always packed from morning til the end of the day. Killer pastrami sandwiches and a darn good matzo ball soup. They craft everything there from the bagels and rye bread to the pastrami. From what we heard brunch is standing room only, as well they are supposed to have a killer fried chicken special on Wednesdays. Great spot for breakfast or lunch.
Food Trucks – Portland is the food truck mecca, well, as least next to Austin. The trucks are everywhere, and you really should go hungry and wander around trying a little of this and that. You will not be disappointed.
Shopping (no sales tax in Portland)
Radish Underground – Great little spot in downtown Portland featuring unique items created by local independent fashion designers. Sorry guys there is only stuff for us ladies in this little shop.
Canoe – Think of this shop as your one stop for simple and useful household items; everything from gorgeous Heath dishes to beautiful Akari lamps and locally grown honey. I could have wondered around for hours in this beautiful spot.
Woonwinkle – Loved this spot which is located right across from the food trucks. They have unique items from jewelry to trinkets for the house as well as unique gifts for kids. As well, as sweet chocolate nibbles that are to die for. I was really digging the Bend Seating items from the chairs to the gazelle; just wasn’t sure how to carry onto the plane. There is something for everything at this unique little spot.
Alder & Company – Another lovely spot filled with clothing as well as household items and seasonal flowers. I swooned over the fresh peonies that had. I thought of this store as fresh from the clothing to small ceramic coffee mugs. Casual and friendly staff who were also knowledgable about their products. I ended up coming home with some trivets that I had been looking for forever as well as a sweet little honey jar. Loved everything about this space, and will definitely be back.