OK - Not really, but we did thoroughly enjoy our trip to Portland over Labor Day weekend. And wow! I've never seen so many Subarus - you'd think Oregon residents receive them standard issue upon registering at the DMV. Besides Subarus, Portland has a lot of great beer and delicious eats. Plus, wine and coffee. One will never go thirsty in Portland.
We stayed downtown at The Hilton Portland and Executive Tower. It's made of two separate building kitty-corner from each other, it's odd. But the accommodations were nice and comfortable despite being in the older of the two buildings (921 6th St). I booked our reservation with Hotwire and secured a good rate for the holiday weekend - I can't recommend them enough. The hotel had great location too. Walking distance to the Riverwalk, Pearl District and other nearby sights; plus, the busses and street car run right outside. We purchased an all day pass for public transit on Saturday. It was convenient until it stopped running at 11:30 Saturday night. We were stranded after getting Ice Cream at Salt & Straw. It took us at least seven blocks before locating a cab. If there was ever a city that needed Uber, it's Portland. While we are on the subject it is desperately needed in Las Vegas, too. Anyhow, getting a taxi back to the airport was no picnic either. It took us walking 5 blocks and waiting on several street corners before successfully finding a ride. We had rented a car from Enterprise, and their location on Pine is a desert for cabs. We saw one whiz by but it was not for hire. I imagine if we were leaving from a hotel, hailing a cab would've been far easier. The car rental was booked last minute. It was easy to navigate our way to Multnomah Falls, Hood River, Mt. Hood and the Pacific Coast. We loved Portland, but we were really happy we chose to get out and explore beyond the city.
We got into Portland around ten, Friday night, and wasted no time finding food and drink. Our first stop was a Raven & Rose, it's in an historic building, the Ladd Carriage House, which has been restored. The lower level is the dining room, it was closed when we arrived, but the bar upstairs, The Rookery (former Hayloft) serves a small menu. The space is really charming, I have a fondness for restoration projects and they did a wonderful job. We were eager to sample local brews and dig into taste bites. We started with Crux Fermentation Project (Bend, OR) and Commons Urban Farmhouse Ale (Portland, OR), both hit the spot! We ordered the charcuterie plate, mac & cheese and corned beef stuffed Yorkshire pudding.
Aside from a few items being too pickled for my liking, it was all fabulous. The mac & cheese was one of the best I can recall in ages and I never thought about stuffing a reuben into Yorkshire pudding, but I'm glad the Raven & Rose has, it was a wonderful blend of Irish and British. We could've easily stayed but we were on a mission to eat and drink our way through Portland. We asked our waitress for a recommendation of where else to go nearby. She recommended the Virginia Cafe, when we said we prefer dive bars to dancing. The VC also has a rich history serving Portland for 100 years. After glancing at the menu, we couldn't resist the VC PBJ & B. We washed it down with two more local beers, didn't note the specifics, though, I do know that I tried Cascadia Dry Cider. I've never liked a cider before, I find them too cloying. The dry cider had a terrible scent, but the flavor was crisp, dry and refreshing. I enjoyed the change of pace. So, this sandwich is PB & J on steroids. Think grilled PB & J with bacon stuffed inside, topped with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup. It's the perfect brunch item! Or snack at midnight, in our case. We chose spicy tater tots for our side and the waitress insisted on Ranch since that's how the locals do it. Oh, it was good!
After stuffing ourselves silly, we had no choice but to go back to the hotel to rest up for a day of drinking. We couldn't help but notice how genuine and kind everyone had been. It must have been a fluke, we thought nothing more of it. Until, we continuously met people that were nice & polite, it was unreal. It was a dreary rainy day. And people were pleasant, huh? What? Portland might just be the friendliest city. I couldn't help but wonder why? After three days all I could relate it to was the free flowing booze. There are breweries, wineries and distilleries galore. If that's not it, maybe it's all the coffee that is consumed.
There are many great coffee shops in Portland, however, most were closed for the duration of the holiday weekend. Thankfully, Starbucks are plentiful (more so than in Seattle, I swear) and open weekends and holidays. We initially refused to give in to Starbucks, and we sought out The Fresh Pot. Neat spot, friendly barista and hot coffee. We eventually caved into going to Starbucks, they were just too convenient... being open and all.
Rain started to fall, we took shelter at The Brunch Box. It has a fun concept specializing in breakfast sandwiches and burgers. You can choose from one of the many varieties and build your own. I made my own, and clearly did not know best because the Trial by Breakfast on Texas toast that Frank ordered is where it's at; it's a fried egg with pepperjack, bacon, grilled onions, jalapenos and hot sauce. It was spicy! We were quickly learning that Portland takes its heat seriously. Nothing had been falsely advertised. Frank also ordered an unbelievably tasty chocolate, banana and peanut butter shake.
The skies dried and we wandered the city. We came upon the Pearl District, you can tell the area has been recently renovated. Old warehouses have been converted into lofts and art galleries. We wandered through a big collection of vendors displaying art in the park. We continued to wander and came upon the Lan Su Chinese Garden. We thought about going, but admission was $9.50pp and it didn't seem worthwhile. We continued to walk toward the river eventually hopping on the street car (and bus) so we could get across the river to Southeast Portland.
We were headed to check out recommendations from a friend, he told us to check out Double Dragon for awesome Banh Mi and Apex Bar. We were a bit early when we arrived, but I quickly spotted the The Beer Mongers were open.
We were one of the first customers for the day having arrived minutes after opening. This is a glorious stop with drafts and wide selection of bottles. Frank had the Epic batch #100 hopulent IPA, I had to try another dry cider. This was by a local brewery, but the name escapes me. It didn't have an odd scent, but it was still crisp and refreshing. I'm totally sold on dry cider. It's like blending a cider, a sour beer and white wine. I like the complexity and appreciate the break from hoppiness since I've been on an IPA kick since Spring. We could have happily made claim to our stools all day, but we strolled over to Double Dragon when they opened.
We ordered the pork belly and duck banh mi. It was the Double mountain IRA (Indian red Ale) for Frank and something called Colleta-I think for me. I should've kept better notes. The banh mi was tasty but I still prefer Saigon Sandwich in San Francisco.
Our next stop was Apex Bar, it was a short walk across the street. It was early so we practically had the place to ourselves. Frank started with Wolfenstein 3D from Alameda brewery and I had Blue Mountain cider. Then, we found Armored Fist Double CDA by Boneyard Brewery (Bend, OR). That's when our afternoon gets a little fuzzy. Frank had a Fantasy Football draft so we stayed at the bar. They sold cigars and had one of Frank's favorites so we got settled under the white umbrella (smoking) and chatted up a local while Frank did his draft. He bought Frank a beer and refused when I tried to buy the next round. He gave us some tips and said we had to try Pok Pok. The rain returned and poured more than Vegas sees in an entire year, but quickly stopped. It was about 2:30 and we were toast. The trouble with good beer is that it packs a punch, I learn now that the Double Fist is 10% abv. No wonder I was done. It was time for food. Frank navigated the way to Pok Pok. There was a line, but eventually we got seated. The famous Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings were a must and Frank also ordered a pork belly like dish with sticky rice. It was delicious. I think we plowed through those dishes like we hadn't eaten in days. All that was left was some bones and sticky hands.
While waiting on the bus, we played punch buggy with Subarus instead of the VW Beetle. We had to quit, I got a sore shoulder from too many punches. Frank killed me. I was still far from sober so it wasn't fair - not that I stand much chance if I were. lol. He's always quicker than me. We're like the turtle and rabbit that way. I was so happy to return to the hotel. A siesta was desperately needed.
We woke and went back out for more. Our next bite was at Lardo. Frank ordered the Crux Outcast IPA and a Korean pork shoulder sandwich. I had the pork belly gyro and a cider - surprise, surprise. We also shared an order of dirty fries. Everything was tasty, but we felt full and bloated. We had overdone it with beers, sodium and pork. Damn, you Portland, you defeated our gut and liver.
Just when we thought we could not consume one more thing, we decided to go to Salt and Straw. It is the place for ice cream in Portland. We arrived after 10 and the line wrapped around the building. We began to worry we would not make it inside before the doors closed at 11. Thankfully, they stayed open long enough for us to get through. Half the fun is trying the different flavors. They're all delicious and not your usual combinations. I had to have more of the honey balsamic strawberry and cracked black pepper and Frank couldn't resist the double fold vanilla. It was the perfect something sweet. Even if it did nearly leave us stranded. I'm still perplexed why public transit ends so early. San Diego is the same way. You'd think you'd keep it running until bars and clubs close down. In any case, once we finally found a taxi, we found ourselves back at the hotel. Anxiously awaiting our road trip in the morning.