I spent my Memorial Day weekend in Portland, land of hipster and according to Portlandia where the young go to retire. I'm not sure how much merit there is in the last part, but I do know one of my friends seems pretty happy to live there and work at a cat cafe.
Let's get this out of the way first: I didn't go to Voodoo Donuts. Yes, it's a tourist tradition, hailed on many lists as a Must Do, blah blah blah, but...
See that line? LOLNOPE. If I'm going to queue on vacation it's got to be for something amazing, and we already have a similar gag in my city with Psycho Donuts. But it does smell quite tasty walking by.
I got in late Friday night, didn't take a picture of the carpet at PDX which is apparently a thing, but I was tired and wanted my rental car and bed. After about a 25 minute drive I was downtown on the West side of Portland at the Portland Hilton and Executive Towers. As a Hilton Honors member, I had put in the $9/extra a night option for an upgrade if available, and was upgraded to a rather nice Executive King room. Since it was late, I decided to turn in for a good start the following morning. Let me tell you, the bed in my room was heavenly. The mattress was great, the comforter just the right amount of soft and the pillow were an excellent degree of fluffy. I can't remember the last time I slept so well in a hotel, and I end up in a lot of hotels for conventions and travel in a year. The other nice thing about this hotel is it's in walking distance to pretty much everything downtown- Pioneer District, Powell's City of Books, Pearl District, etc. etc.
Saturday morning I got a quick mocha latte and canela at Courier Coffee Roasters. The canela was pretty delicious- it's basically custard baked in a beeswax shell that makes it slightly crispy on the outside and light and soft on the inside. After my caffeine fix, I headed to Powell's which is daunting in size. I only got around the first floor and had to stop because I was already going to buy more books than I could carry home. Next time I need to check out the other floors but this place is a book lover's dream.
After I explored around Pearl District a bit, and had a great rigatoni dish at Grassa. Pasta is their game, and they do it charmingly well. I then stopped by Ace Hotel to grab more coffee at Stumptown Coffee, which was excellent, and to hang out a little and read some of the Angela Carter novella I bought. Ace Hotel is hipster cool. It's the sort of joint where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway would hang out while day drinking and wringing their hands over Zelda. It's a bit of a thing to just hang out in the lobby, even if you don't stay there. The main lobby has comfy green couches and newspapers with old timey wooden newspaper holders. On the second floor there's a decent sized balcony that overlooks the lobby with a few Mac computers for guest use, an armchair, a bookshelf, a large canopied couch, and an old library card like filing cabinet that people can leave notes in. It's a great place to just relax and write.
I wandered a bit more, then drove over to the East side for Happy Hour at Secret Society, which is charmingly small and makes solid cocktails. They also have a pretty nice ladies' room.
After, I headed back to West side and to Clyde Common for some small bites and more cocktails. Their Parisienne Gnocchi with milk jam vinaigrette was really interesting, and I wish it had been a bigger serving. But the star of my meal there was their Pacific Standard cocktail, a delicious lemon, ginger, honey, vodka concoction that was really refreshing.
I capped off my Saturday by taking a less fancy dinner approach and ordering Japanese pan noodles from Noodles & Company and side of their outstandingly amazing Tomato Bisque. With my delicious eats in hand, I returned to my hotel, ate, relaxed, and slept.
Sunday I brunched back at Clyde Common, walked around a bit more, visited my friend at Purrington's Cat Cafe where she works, wandered back to West Side for happy hour at Imperial where I had some truly excellent steak frites served with a great tomato jam. I explored a bit of the Lan Su Chinese Gardens, bought a cute blue scarf at Nordstrom, and then got a sipping chocolate flight at Cacao next to my hotel. Cinnamon spiced sipping chocolate is pretty amazing, for the record.
As the hours waned on, and Raven and Rose turned out to be closed on Sundays during summer hours, I went over to the other Hilton building at had some food at their Hop City Tavern. It satisfied my jonesing for a soft pretzel and mustard quite well. I was quite impressed in general by how nice this particular Hilton was room and food wise. It's pretty hit or miss, but the Portland one really has something going for it.
Monday came, and I went down to Milwaukie, a suburb outside of Portland, to have greasy spoon diner food with my friend before flying back. I tried to hit up Barista for coffee beforehand but alas, a surprising amount of places were closed. A lot of the food carts I wanted to check out were also closed, so alas, I did not partake in that other staple of Portland tourism.
Overall, it was a pretty easy going trip that involved more or less eating and drinking, a bit of anxiety driving over bridges new to me, and learning that next time I should take MAX public transport to the Washington City Park because you are basically never going to find parking, especially on a holiday.
There are some places great for seeing alone, and some where you really wish you had someone with you. Portland is a bit of both, and maybe I'm not sure what I expected it to be, but in a lot of ways it reminded me of hanging out in downtown San Jose or Palo Alto.
If you like good food, good drinks, easy to walk around, chill vibe, and fair weather depending on the time of year, Portland is a good bet. It's cheaper than San Francisco, and if you're there long enough and get bored of the city, Tillamook and Cannon Beach are just an hour and half drive away.