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August 24, 2004 1:17 PM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: Visiting Portland, OR, for the first time in a few days. Recommended places to go, things to do, people to see? [MI]
posted by spilon to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure how long you'll be there. Or if you'll have a car or not. But I'd recommend a visit to Crater Lake. It's a few hours away, but well worth the drive.
posted by herc at 1:21 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: The wife and I are headed to Portland for the first time, for no other reason than to take some time off and explore a new city. Any tips or info on things to do or things to miss would be greatly appreiated from. Things we enjoy include, but are not limited to: good food, good beer, indie rock, art, architecture, shopping, interesting neighborhoods, local color, whatever.... You know, we're not lookin' for the Hard Rock Cafe....
posted by spilon at 1:21 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: Dang, Herc -- you got back to me before I even finished the whole post! Thanks for the info... we'll be there about a week. We can get a car if we need one. Figured we'd make that decision once we got there and had some things in mind we wanted to do...
posted by spilon at 1:24 PM on August 24, 2004

If you like divey bars, don't miss Hung Far Low. The bar upstairs is ... interesting. Powell's is a great bookstore. The path along the river is nice, and there are good restaurants all over.
posted by luriete at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2004

I gotta plug my old job. Portland Classical Chinese Garden. The Japanese Garden is also a great time.

Both are quick, easy, in or near downtown, plus this time of year most everything is pretty.

Also recommend:

Kennedy School and/or Edgefield - Great beer, interesting locations, good food.
Forest Park and Mills End Park. Respectively the largest and smallest urban parks in the US.
Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Highway. Lots of waterfalls along the way.
Maryhill Museum and accompanying Stonehenge WWI memorial. Almost worth it just for the drive through the Columbia River Gorge.
Highway 101 from Cannon Beach to Astoria. Great day trip/drive allowing you to see Haystack Rock and the Columbia River bar (world's most dangerous).
Portlandia and the Portland Building. First major "post-modern" building and world's second largest copper statute after the Statue of Liberty.
Willamette Week's (alt-weekly) "Best of Portland" issue also has some interesting ideas.
I second Powells. Best bookstore in the world.
posted by karmaville at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2004

Powell's, Powell's, Powell's!
posted by majick at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2004

Drive out to Newport and go to Yaquina Bay and the Rogue Brewery. Not much of a tour, but the beer is amazing.
I second and third and fourth Powell's. Of course a stop at Trader's for some Two Buck Chuck (I also love Fred Meyer, but that is because I am weird).
I went to this British pub, too.. kind of near SE Ader... I will look it up and email, if you like. But I had a steak and mushroom pie there to die for.
Japanese Gardens are nice, as is the shopping district for some conventional fun.
posted by oflinkey at 2:37 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: Awesome info and links so far.... thanks AskMe! Starting to feel like I should head to Powell's straight from the airport.....

oflinkey: yes, if you remember that pub's name, please let me know. Who could pass up steak and mushroom pie?
posted by spilon at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2004

Well first off, Crater Lake is damn beautiful but if you're going to drive that far, you might as well just keep driving down to the Bay Area. It is worth it, but not if you're only here for a week. Save it for a trip of its own.

Regarding Powells, you should check out the main store, but you'd probably be more interested in the Technical Bookstore that is a few blocks down the street.

If you're looking for a great (big) meal, some good drinks, and a hip place, then the Delta is the place for you. A little out of the way, up near 45th and Woodstock, I'd drive if you could, but it is on bus lines too. If there is a wait, just put down on the list that you'll be at the "Lutz" and walk to the other end of the block (46th...), enjoy a Pabst, and wait for them to call the bar to let you know your table is ready. While you're in the area, you should walk down Woodstock (32nd) to Reed College and check out the beautiful campus.

If you're looking for good shows, I'd grab a copy of the Portland Mercury and check out what is playing at Berbati's Pan, Roseland, Crystal Ballroom, Nocturnal, Dunes, Holocene, Meow Meow's, and Dantes. Just to note, there are two alternative weeklies in Portland, The Willamette Week (mentioned by someone above) and The Portland Mercury. Frankly the WW is geared more for the "I wish I was as hip as I used to be 40-somethings..." while the Mercury is aimed strictly at the 20-something hipster crowd. Pick them both up, but I'd suggest the Mercury for better tips on cool "indie" things to do, see, or eat at.

Besides Hung Far Low, if you're looking for dives, I'd recommend Club 21, in my opinion the most depressing bar in the world, the Sandy Hut (the later the better), and The Basement Pub. All are within 20 blocks from the river on the east side, directly across from downtown.

Don't forget, anywhere downtown the buses, MAX (train) and streetcars are free. Just hop on and get off before you're out of downtown and you don't need to pay anything.
posted by pwb503 at 2:47 PM on August 24, 2004

IIRC, the record shop across the street (Burnside?) from the main Powell's has a pretty decent selection too. If it's still there.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:00 PM on August 24, 2004


Re: Powell's.

Don't worry, it is so important there are actually three in the airport.
posted by karmaville at 3:30 PM on August 24, 2004

Go up the old Crown Point Highway to Crown Point, see the view in the gorge. Then keep going up the river a bit to Multnomah Falls.

Go wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.
posted by Nelson at 4:47 PM on August 24, 2004

Abou Karim is a very good, reasonably priced Lebanese restaurant downtown. I really miss it. The previously mentioned Japanese Garden is world class. None of the Japanese gardens around Seattle even compare.
posted by lobakgo at 4:49 PM on August 24, 2004

I'll second the Basement Pub. It is, however a very small, smokey, local bar, but if you want to be somewhere the local folk congregate, it's a great piece of portland. Also check out the Crow Bar which is owned by the same people.

Before getting sauced, however, check out the Japanese Gardens. I take my parents up there whenever they're in town and they always love it.

As far as dinner goes I'd hit Three Doors Down Cafe, clarklewis and Cafe Castagna. All three are somewhat pricey, but worth it. They are also all on the eastside, but, well, eastside is where it's at! Anyway, if your looking for cheaper eats, I second The Delta and I'd add in Dots.

Oh, and I think oflinkey is thinking of the Horsebrass Pub
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:37 PM on August 24, 2004

Go to Abol's. Best Ethiopian food in Portland, and cheaper than Queen of Sheba. Sweetest people in the world too. If you for some ungodly reason want karaoke AND a tiki bar, go to the Alibi. Hawthorne/Belmont is good for funky hipster shopping, NW 23rd and the Pearl are good for yuppie stuff. Catch a movie at Cinema 21 or the Clinton Street.
posted by calistasm at 7:04 PM on August 24, 2004

Response by poster: Karaoke AND a tiki bar? Now yer talkin'!
posted by spilon at 8:49 PM on August 24, 2004

If you are here on Aug. 27, you should go to last Thursday, on Alberta Street. Alberta is in NE Portland, somewhat near North Portland. Go to Alberta, between 33rd and MLK.

On the first and last Thursdays of each month, a bunch of art galleries around town open themselves up late at night. The first Thursday is a more staid event, I've been told. Last Thursday is funky, with art, yes, but also with funky random bands playing, bars and restaurants open late, craftspeople selling stuff on the side of the road and a very fun, young atmosphere.

Because it's a Thursday, it's a bit of an early night. I would head out around 7 or 8 p.m., to be safe. There are plenty of bars open later, but most of Portland is shut down by 2 a.m.

There are several very good restaurants within a few blocks of E. Burnside and 28th. Taqueria Nueve is interesting, Giraldi's Rennaisance is good and La Buca has pretty good prices for straightforward American Italian food.

Two trendy neighborhoods in SE Portland are along Belmont and Hawthorne.

Belmont is somewhat smaller--there are interesting boutiques and good brunch places between maybe 32nd and 39th. On weekends, Portland is a huge brunch city, and Belmont is a good place to go. Recommendations near Belmont: The Cricket, Zells (further west, maybe near 12th or 14h), the Blue Monk (33rd & Belmont; high quality live jass guitar late Sunday mornings), Utopia Cafe. Later in the day you can get Mediterranean/Lebanese food at Hodas, a fresh West Coast wrap at the Laughing Planet Cafe, and vegan choices at Paradox.

Hawthorne has quirky shops and restautrants between cross streets from the high-20s thorugh the low-50s. Noodlin' (SE 34th and Hawthorne) serves a wide range of delicious pasta dishes--from yaki soba to mac and cheese--at great prices ($4 to $8 per dish).

I'll second (or third, or whatever), the recommendation that you head to Powells.

I would also recommend the Powells of movie rentals: Mike's Movie Madness, at SE Belmont and 44th. This video shop has a broad selection of movies, including mainstream, quirky, pornographic, hard-to-find, and more, all oddly categorized (psychontronic, Sundance Films, Algerian movies; Billy Wilder--some of hte categories). It also has display cases showing costumes worn by actors in major films over the decades, framed props, and other movie paraphernalia, making it a museum of sorts.

There are some neat strange venues in Portland that you might enjoy.

Someone already mentioned the Kennedy School. It was once a local grade school, but it's been converted to a school-themed bar/resaurant/hotel. The honors bar closes first at the Kennedy School. Detention closes last. The old auditorium shows second run movies. The courtyard is a restaurant. Eerie paintings of disturbed children hang in the instututional hallways, lending a haunted air.

I recently went to the Fez Ballroom for the first time, which is at 316 SW 11th, and was reasonably impressed. They have theatrical performance, DJs and live music at The Fez. On Aug. 28, I'll probably be there when DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid perform Bhangra Bollywood Hiphop. (There's a $6 cover.)

Whenever I have a guest out here, I always try to take them to Burgerville, as well. Burgerville is a local fast food chain, but it has higher quality (and costlier) fast food than you'll find in most of the rest of the country. Everything the joint sells is from the Pacific Northwest. Their burgers are natural, hormone free beef. Their salmon are from the Northwest. They sell Gardenburgers. And they have incredibly good fresh seasonal milkshakes (blackberry at the moment, I think, but that changes with fresh fruit availability).
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:56 PM on August 24, 2004

Ufez, I think you are referring to the sadly defunct Django's.

Spilon, I've said it before and I'll say it again - Portland is a town that knows Breakfast. There's plenty of good eating all around, but most of the best meals in town are at breakfast. Life's too short to mention all the good ones in town.

If you are downtown, besides everything else noted above, spend some of your sales tax free dollars at the gift shop of the Oregon Museum on Broadway, give generously to the change-grubbing trustafarians down in Pioneer Square (watch out for flying hacky-sacks and pre-drunk Wookies), grab some amazing Indian food at the Taste Of India II trailer at the corner of 4th and Harrison (best chicken jal-frazee around), grab a t-shirt from the aforementioned Hung Far Low (guaranteed conversation starter anywhere in the world), enjoy the Farmer's Market every Wednesday and Saturday at PSU, go to the again aforementioned Powells' technical and Powells too (disregard the frequently surly service that can mar an otherwise wonderful experience) and don't be afraid to ask for a recommendation from anyone.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 10:23 PM on August 24, 2004

For breakfast you have to go to Juniors, it is the best (and hippest) joint in town. Only open until 3pm, so make sure you get there. Avoid it on the weekends or during the lunch hour as you'll be in for a wait, but the food is good, the music playing inside is great, and the staff are super friendly. Cricket Cafe (on Belmont) is also pretty good and usually doesn't have a wait. Milo's on Broadway is a little pricier but really good, and if you're in NE Portland then Bridges is great.

On another note, if you have a car you should drive out 26 up through Government Camp and to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. A beatiful drive, clean air, great views all along the way, and you get to see where The Shining was filmed.

posted by pwb503 at 10:54 PM on August 24, 2004

You must go out of your way to get an expresso milkshake from the Coffee People. So SO good.

Also, The 24 Hour Church of Elvis is great.
posted by ssmith at 6:01 AM on August 25, 2004

ssmith, unfortunately, the Church of Elvis closed a couple of years ago. But the Black Tiger Shake from Coffee People is very good.
posted by karmaville at 10:36 AM on August 25, 2004

I believe the record store Ufez refers to is not Django's (which IS now defunct), but Ozone. The yuppies moved in up the street in the Pearl and priced them out of their space, and now it's a shitty used clothing store. Half of the Ozone collective is still across the street from Powell's, but across 10th rather than Burnside. It does mostly UK import stuff. The other half of Ozone is on 5th and Burnside across the Willamette. Haven't been there yet, but people tell me it's nowhere near as good as the original. But Everyday Music is still up on 12th and Burnside, and Music Millennium is on NW 23rd and Johnson.
posted by calistasm at 8:06 PM on August 25, 2004

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