Matt and I traveled to Portland to look at and (well, obviously) eventually buy Tezarae, our 1964 camper, but we spent a few days seeing a little of what Portland has to offer.
If you’ve ever seen HBO’s Portlandia, Portland probably conjures images of a super liberal, super hipster, pretty strange, pretty wet place. In some ways, Portland lived up to that reputation: it rained both days we were there, we were able to locate 8-track cassettes at the first music store we walked into, and the homeless people on the streets had an interesting fashion sense (a la ‘90s umbro shorts and leggings). But dig just a little bit deeper and you’ll find that Portland has so much more to offer within it’s lovely bridges.
Here’s how we spent our short 48-hours in Portland:
- Devouring some of the most unique ice cream I’ve ever had
I’m a complete ice cream addict. I never liked cigarettes, and I’m a pretty terrible drinker, but I can down a pint of ice cream in one sitting and only feel a little sick ;-). So, naturally before we even got there, I started researching best places for ice cream in Portland and I quickly discovered Salt and Straw.
I’ve been very spoiled by amazing local San Francisco ice cream shops like Bi Rite Creamery, Humphrey Slocombe, Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous, and Mitchell’s (which sells amazing pre-packaged half gallons for $10, #protip). As far as unique flavors go, Salt and Straw blew all of these highly-regarded SF spots out of the water. It’s definitely some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
We were there near Thanksgiving and the monthly flavors included imaginative choices such as Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey, a caramel turkey ice cream base speckled with fried turkey skin brittle and Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. I went with one of the monthly specials as well as the classic Almond Brittle Salted Ganache. TO DIE FOR. See the flavor list for for current selections. By the way, there’s also an LA location. Edited to add: HOLY CRAP! They’re opening one in SF too. This is dangerous news my ice-cream loving SF friends (esp. Ty).
Fresh local ice cream doesn’t get much better than Salt & Straw.
- Eating some amazing fusion foods
I’m not a foodie, but since I grew up near NYC, and have lived in SF, I do know about quality eats. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Portland, and I was pleasantly surprised with what we found: awesome fusion food that kept me quite satisfied. We especially liked Boke Bowl’s fried chicken, mushroom, and pork belly steamed buns, which we enjoyed at the Night Market.
- Barely waiting in line at Voodoo Doughnut (pro tip: come right after a torrential downpour)
Okay, so I also did research on the best donuts, and while Voodoo rates pretty highly it’s not the highest ranked donut place in Portland as far as taste/quality/price go. That said, this felt like more of a quintessential part of the “Portland experience.” The first few times we drove by the line was pretty nuts, but as we were heading out, we tried one last time. We arrived right after a big downpour and didn’t even have enough time in line for me to choose the donuts I wanted. We got the maple bacon stick (the voodoo doll one), an ‘Old Dirty Bastard’ and some other crazy flavors. The donuts were still pretty good. I liked the pink box and overall branding. Nom nom nom.
Lots of hype, but also honestly really good. There may be better doughnuts out there, but Voodoo gets credit for creativity and selection.
- Finding 8-track tapes at the very first record store we walked into
Most of you reading this probably won’t be in the market for 8-track tapes, but when we were in Portland, we’d just acquired Tezarae, complete with an 8-track player and we weren’t sure whether it worked or not. The first record store we walked into, Everyday Music, right near Powell’s, had a large record collection and a small but acceptable collection of 8-tracks. We found three 8-tracks for 10 cents a piece, and confirmed that our 8-track player did indeed work. That music powered us on our drive back, so thanks for being weird and hipster Portland.
Our 1964 Clark Cortez has an eight track player…and it STILL works
- Appreciating the local artisan shops and Night Market
One thing that stood out as we walked around was the many storefronts proclaiming “local.” Portlanders support what is Portland-made, and we sort really liked that. And of course the stuff they make feels very true to Portland– things like wool blankets (Pendleton was founded in Oregon), leather bags, fancy nut butters, and various kinds of beard creams (yes beard creams are apparently a thing). If timing works out, check out the Portland Night Market (100 SE ALDER ST.) for a whole lot of local Portland all in one location.
Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent bookstore. It’s massive, amazingly stocked (over 1 million books), with great collections and timely employee recommendations, and honestly, a bit overwhelming, but that’s part of the fun. Make sure to budget a few hours to get lost wandering around, and if it’s at all your thing check out the Rare Book room. They also host events, which we didn’t get to check out, but I’d definitely look at the schedule to see if anything speaks to your book-loving soul.
- Charging our devices (and using the free wifi) at the Public Library
The cat’s out of the bag: if you’re sick of cafes with limited plugs or don’t want to spend money, public libraries are an awesome place to catch up on some work, and charge your devices. We spent a couple hours editing photos, writing, and charging up at Portland’s main public library and we definitely were not the only ones. The library was hopping and we even heard the tail end of a concert series that they run sometimes, along with other events.
Matt doing some Photoshop work at the Portland Public Library.
Thanks to everyone who made our short stay in Portland awesome (including King, who we purchased Tez from, and our friends Lori and Paco). Despite the rain, I really enjoyed Portland and can’t wait to get back. If my time in Silicon Valley taught me something, it’s that much of what you see on television as far as parodies go is inspired by truth, but it really only just scratches the surface. This most definitely applies to Portland.