Shout out for help from PDX!
January 22, 2013 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Dear Portland, I'll be spending three weeks in your fair city starting this coming Saturday. I'm there for a pretty particular reason- I just had foot surgery at a point in my life when I'm living with my parents, and it's turned out to be pretty toxic for me. A friend has kindly invited me to recover at her house. Looking for foot-friendly adventure and Good Times.

I won't be able to ride a bike or hike Mt. Hood, and my evenings will most likely be early since I tire easily (though I just read about Baby Ketten karaoke in last week's Times and think I have to go- too shy to sing but not to shy to watch). However, thanks to a rental car I can easily drive to any place in the city. I'm looking for locales- cafes, most likely, where I can do stuff like write resumes, finally read Mason & Dixon, play chess against myself on my iPad (I just learned how to play this weekend), knit ineptly, and generally soak in a new friendly environment and feel part of something different. Scene-y places with funky eyeglasses are fine and even fun as long as they're friendly. Would also gladly get together with other Mefites doing same or similar.

Any other misc. suggestions that will help me enjoy my time in Portland, get away from the bad stuff, and are suitable for someone whose mobility and energy are a bit limited are welcome- everything from easy walking trails to strange retail establishments and cultural phenonmena. I can and love to walk and am very much in need of reasons to leave the house, I just need to not overdo it.

Thank you!
posted by Corrective_Lenses to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of the waterfalls along the Columbia gorge are just a few steps off the pavement, and if you're not quite up to that, the overlook from Vista House at Crown Point is well worth the 30-minute drive on a clear day.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:53 AM on January 22, 2013

Minor detail: There is a chance that this trip will serve as a way to see what Portland's like, and like during the cold months, as a way to think about whether moving there might be a good idea. I know work's hard to come by if you're not DIY, but that's another story. Suffice to say that I'd especially appreciate places and experiences that would give me an idea of what it's like to be a permanent inhabitant.

Even more minor detail: I'm trying to find a wonderfully curated small art book store cum gallery run by a friendly guy in his thirties or forties that I visited the last time I was in town and would love to go to again- I know that's not much to go on if you have any idea what establishment this might have been I would be grateful for suggestions!
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2013

Well for low-key hanging out, and writing, one could do worse than Oblique Coffee Roasters at SE Stark and 30th.

Near this, you can drive almost to the top of Mt. Tabor and get out and and enjoy the view of the city.

Stroll N Mississippi Ave., seeing odd little places such as Paxton Gate.
posted by Danf at 10:56 AM on January 22, 2013

Some decent coffeehouses around the city for people-watching and/or getting some work done: Anna Banannas (3 locations although I've only been in the NW one under their ownership), Bipartisan Cafe, Southeast Grind (open 24 hours), World Cup Coffee inside the downtown Powell's, Fresh Pot (a few locations including the Hawthorne Powell's). That's by no means all the good ones.
posted by treblemaker at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2013

Definitely try to make it to Twisted for knitting. The folks there are incredibly nice, the couches comfortable and the tea is good too.

Was the art book store Ampersand on Alberta?
posted by ugf at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2013

Dude, if you do a Baby Ketten IRL Metafilter meetup, I absolutely promise to attend. It is, hands down, the best karaoke ever.
posted by redsparkler at 11:13 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

ugf, you nailed it! It was Ampersand. Thanks!
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2013

My hostess and I have sworn to attend a Baby Ketten night, so once we settle I'll post it as a meet-up. Will stop threadsitting now!
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on what you like, you might want to check out downtown Lake Oswego. It's a little village, and would be easier to hobble around in than downtown. There's a great independent coffee shop there, Chuck's. You'll see more Range Rovers than tattoos, but in my experience the people are nice.
posted by greptile at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2013

Behind the Museum is a wonderfully calm cafe with lovely tiny Japanese sweets and expertly brewed tea.

We stayed with friends in Laurelhurst, which has a lovely neighborhood park. It might be a bit of a hike to some of the nearby commercial cross streets, but it seemed like a good way of getting to see how the neighborhood was changing in different ways (like increased food businesses.) If you do spend time in that area, the crepe place on SE Belmont is amazing and so is the Happy Sparrow cafe!
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cathedral Park under the Saint John's bridge is lovely, compact, and also gives you an excuse to check out St. John's. There are tasty restaurants and a lovely second run theater as well as one of the Anna Bananas.

For yarn, I like Happy Knits on SE Hawthorne, and there's always a group of people sitting around knitting when I've been in. There are cozy chairs and a woodstove. Also across the street from Yarn Garden and near a cart pod and various tasty eats.

Do you like brunch? A lot of brunch places suit what you're looking for, and I think brunch qualifies as a cultural phenomenon. Cup and Saucer or Genie's should be slow enough on a weekday that you could hang out and read a bit.

Portland's libraries are also a civic gem and pleasant places to hang out and work (well, there may be a stinky dude or two, but it doesn't faze me).
posted by momus_window at 12:26 PM on January 22, 2013

Backspace is a coffee shop/beer place/wifi-hangout/sometimes concert venue/sometimes nerdy games venue where half the Portlanders I know hang out either during the day or at night (though if you want to minimize walking you may want to park at Lloyd Center and take the green line Max in, as you may have a hard time finding a parking spot right near Backspace).

My favorite coffee shop to spend a few hours in, though, is Albina Press. I like the North Portland spot better, but Hawthorne is also very nice. Both are near nice urban shopping district, with North Portland being somewhat more up-and-coming and Hawthorne being more established. (Both are pretty well established at this point.)

Check out GeekPortland for fun and geeky events during your visit.

Definitely spend some time at Powells -- maybe try to go to a reading at the main store?

If it stops raining while you're here, you may want to pick a food cart pod to eat at. They're a very Portlandy thing these days.

There's not really that much "bad stuff" to avoid in this town, except for rain and a more visible homeless population than most cities. I mean, we've got ugly sprawl and suburbia, but not a ton of it. We've got poverty. But crime rates are low and most of the city is green and interesting.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:36 PM on January 22, 2013

I think you'll find that some of the districts will suit your needs quite well; lots of interesting shops and restaurants interspersed with cute coffeeshops. Portland City Walks will lead you through some of these areas, while dropping interesting factoids about the history and nature of the area.

SE Hawthorne from, say, 30th-52nd will be that way, and I think the Albina Press at 52nd and Hawthorne is cozier than the Fresh Pot at 37th and Hawthorne, since Albina Press has couches. However, Fresh Pot does have the bookstore attached.

North Mississippi is fun; Baby Ketten is held at Mississippi Pizza every Tuesday at 9, and the Albina Press in this neighborhood is nearby and quite cozy. This is the same area that has Paxton Gate, an amazing chocolate & salt shop called the Meadow, a super friendly sex shop, a comic book store, a fried chicken and sushi joint, a mac & cheese & booze place, a super cute art gallery/shop, a rad burger place, and a variety of other super fun shops. All within a few blocks.

The Alberta area around Ampersand is also a fun neighborhood; check out Townshend's Tea on Alberta for a very snuggly sort of place on rainy days. Random Order is only a few blocks away, and they've got coffee AND pie. Delicious pie.

A few other favorites: Oui Press is an adorable coffee shop just a block or two away from Happy Knits. No couches, though. Woodlawn Coffee is one of the prettiest coffee shops I've ever seen, complete with adjoining bakery and lots of space, but it's not smack dab in the middle of a fun neighborhood like the other shops.
posted by redsparkler at 1:29 PM on January 22, 2013

If you liked Ampersand you will probably also want to check out Division Leap, which is a block away from the downtown Powell's.
posted by Tsuga at 2:26 PM on January 22, 2013

Red Sparkler and interested others, I just created an IRL for Baby Ketten next Tuesday night.
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 3:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Portland is filled with beautiful gardens that are perfect for sitting, thinking, writing, etc.. Of course, weather luck will determine your ability to enjoy them at this season. Not great for meeting people, but great for a quiet game of chess.
posted by bargex at 10:15 PM on January 22, 2013

Oh, pish posh, Portland's bicycle scene is anything but ableist. I bet if you called around to rental places like Clevercycle, they could rent your friend an xtracycle that you could ride on the back of or a handcrank bike for when you're a little further along in your recovery.

Okay, okay, that was just a brainstorm for you to mull. Portland's brew and views theaters are top notch. You could spend a whole day bar and restaurant hopping in Kennedy School and never go outside. The Hawthorne District is for walking but is pretty compact for a day where you want to test your legs. Mississippi is similar. Alberta is a bit of a hike from end to end. The aerial tram is a good way to get all the aesthetic benefits of climbing a hill without doing any of the work. The Chinese Garden is also super compact, accessible and you can top it off with a restful beverage break at the tea house. Save your strength for Powell's because it is huge, but the window seat facing the corner of 11th and Burnside in the coffee room is the best place to people watch, sip and read in the city.

The Portland City Grill bar is a popular place to take in the view. It's the meat market for Portland's few remaining yuppies during the prime after work and weekend hours, though, so aim for an unbusy time to ensure you get a good window seat.

The *east* Burnside Voodoo is your best bet for avoiding standing in the tourist line and still getting the voodoo experience. There's a parking lot and seating.

Keep an eye out for any events at Pioneer Courthouse Square or hit the farmers market there since it is also a high density location for observing Portland culture.

I was always fond of taking a day and riding MAX end to end, but I'm nerdy like that.

The Avalon is also a pretty great place to spend a day if you like grungy old school video arcades and discount theaters.

I could also hunker down in a booth at Sushi Ichiban on Broadway (formerly Takahashi) during the slow hours and spend an hour or so nibbling and chatting with a friend. Never been to the drag show at Embers next door but I imagine there are good seats to be had.

First Friday, Last Thursday and Saturday Market are good events if your strength is up. Last Thursday tends to be pretty dead in the winter and requires a lot of walking, though.

Also, you could take a pedicab along Tom McCall waterfront park and the esplanade.
posted by Skwirl at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you favorited my earlier, similar question, but for others who come across this thread, those answers I got about exploring Portland in the time we were allotted were almost uniformly excellent.

I particularly enjoyed Ground Control, though given your ambulatory situation, the trip up the stairs to the pinball machines may be a bit tough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:24 PM on January 23, 2013

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