December 29, 2012  |  
By Santina Kerslake

“Portland lies atop an extinct volcanic field known as the Boring Lava Field….” blah, blah, blah.

Skyline of portland, from flickr

Boring lager field perhaps - with the plethora of micro-breweries and the accompanying excellent Ales that abound at every turn, lager should be your absolute last choice - but one thing Stumptown ain’t is boring!

Having never set foot in this fair city but hearing many great things, we finally decided to trek our inquisitive asses south (from Victoria, BC) to see what all the hype was about and let me tell you, it’s no hype – this town’s for real! Simply put, this is one COOL city!!

From the moment you arrive downtown via any one of the (count ‘em) Eight bridges, you see and feel a ‘vibe’ about this place. It seems that creativity abounds wherever you walk….and it’s a great walking (or biking) city.

Shop Local

But not only creativity – local commerce and support for local business fair smacks you in the face; the word on everyone’s lips is Independent. Stickers and signs abound everywhere telling or proudly announcing that the right thing to do is “Shop Local”. You wanna be a P-Towner, you’d better shop local! For an idea of just what we’re talking about here, check out: http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com

And talk about ‘different’ when it comes to merchandizing – we saw display ideas that ranged from 1000+ old LP covers to a 70’s porn theme (don’t ask!). Who knew Linda Lovelace and John Holmes would be hocking shirts to the Portland Power-Set???

Transportation’s excellent, too – get a TriMet ticket for $5.00 for the day and you can get to pretty much any quadrant of the city you’d like to discover (Unfortunately, as of Sept. 1st, 2012, the Free-Zone system within the downtown core ended but as visitor’s, we still found the day rate a great deal).

PDX prides itself on many things; Book-Town, Street-Food, Beervana, Art Galleries, Vintage Clothing etc. etc. and none disappoint. At well over 600 options, the street food is too numerous to mention but from this trip, two are worthy of a shout-out here – Santeria (Southwest Ankeny St.) – a tiny place off SW Broadway, near Burnside. First night in town, getting late, just looking for a snack and a beer sur ce site. Went for the Nacho’s thinking that’s simple enough…..OMG!! Never thought I’d rave over corn chips and cheese but these, my friends, are a lesson in corn gastronomy…. …you’ve got to check them out! A word of warning to the ladies; the building shares washrooms with the Strip-Club around the corner so if you need to use them, make sure you take a left out the back door, not a right…otherwise, you may be the next act up on centre-stage!!

One of the cool districts outside of the downtown core is North Mississippi. If you’re on Max Light Rail, take the Expo Line (Yellow) but don’t make the mistake we did and get off at Albini/Mississippi….unless industrial zones are your thing in which case you’re in for a treat (and a hike) with an up-close and personal view of the underside of the I-5 before you reach the commercial district.

Stay one more stop and alight at Overlook Park. Cross over the I-5 and you can’t miss Mississippi. It’s here we came across another ‘food-find’. There are food trucks right beside Prost at Mississippi & Skidmore; check out Native Bowl. If there’s still anyone out there who thinks Vegetarian or Vegan equals boring, get ready to have your taste buds laid to waste…..try the Alberta Bowl with the Dragon sauce! This is quality food and cheap….

Fifty-Fifty Pizza (also on Mississippi) got both a thumbs up and a thumbs down from us. Perhaps I should say that I like thin-crust pizza while my wife would prefer something closer to Chicago deep-dish. That said and perhaps inevitably, I liked mine while my wife was ‘so-so’ in her assessment.

Anyway, back to downtown. If art is your thing, check out the Pearl District for just about any and every taste and style you can imagine; from the erudite to the everyday.

Books, writing, book stores…anything remotely related to ‘scribing’ will be found in this city. Wordstock was underway as we were leaving, Portland’s annual Writers Fair. Powell’s is legendary, of course (at least for West-coasters), but with numerous independent book stores across the city, who needs Barnes & Noble or, if you’re from Canada as we are, Chapters/Indigo?

If vintage fashion is your thing, bring an extra suitcase (or backpack) because you won’t be leaving empty-handed. We didn’t come down on a shopping trip and still went back with great finds….Hawthorne (SE district) is a particularly good stretch for this.

This trip didn’t afford us (me) the time to check out too many brew pubs and micro-breweries but the claim is there are more than 70 (and counting). While I’m pretty certain they won’t all rate as a fine ale, I think a ‘Craft Brewing Tour’ is well on the cards in the near future…just to be sure (I hear good things about ‘Hair of the Dog’).

Overall, our visit was brief but impressive at first blush and definitely left us with a taste of wanting more.

Oh Portland, you tease…..but you also deliver.

Santina Kerslake

Santina is an creative professional who is flexible in the face of change and resilient in the face of confusion.