PORTLAND: A recent visit to my hometown of Portland, Oregon was unexpectedly pleasing. With friends and family still located there, periodic visits are necessary. The recent Trump years have not shown that great city in its best light, so much so that you’ve possibly been postponing that trip “there!”
While ANTIFA erupted a bit in the downtown area on Veteran’s Day (do they use every occasion for anger?!) we were pleasantly unaware of it. Only a few blocks in the downtown area are affected, particularly around Pioneer Square.
Nevertheless, let this article give you positive encouragement to visit the city sheltered by Mount Hood on the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Both scenic areas are little more than an hours’ drive from city center.
Here are a few “insider” tips on places many tourists may miss in Portland:
The Ringside West Bar (website not accessible):
Leaving the downtown area on S.W. Burnside Street one passes a solid black wall with a tiny neon sign identifying this Portland institution of grace and charm. After giving your key to the valet, you step inside a smallish bar and restaurant. It’s the best steakhouse in town and often one sees celebrities and sports stars holding down the bar.
Boxing gloves hang from the rafters, waiters are dressed in tuxedos, and music of the 30’s and 40’s plays softly in the background. As you sink into a red leather chair or banquette, the discrete, excellent – may we say “Old World” – service begins. The best onion rings in the world must be ordered. And as you sip your first drink, you are brought along into the clubby, cozy atmosphere that showcases old Portland at its best. Their steaks and burgers are prepared with aged meat, and the halibut and other Pacific Ocean fish also are yummy.
This long street, otherwise called N.W. Twenty-Third, is located in Northwest Portland, where locals come to walk and shop. One may begin at the Burnside Street end and walk ten-fifteen blocks along this upscale street. There’s New York pizza, Rose’s Delicatessen, Papa Haydn’s, Kitchen Kaboodle and a bunch of other fine emporia.
Portland’s requisite soft mist may be falling as you first see the many holiday lights from one end to the other. On one corner one may see a large-scale art-horse sculpture or inside a store purchase a super long cashmere scarf. The trendy clothing stores feature the newest and most fashionable attire with a Northwest Boho vibe. Portland’s Trendy Third is the perfect place for your Christmas shopping. If you can’t find the perfect gifts on this street, there’s no hope for you.
Located two blocks east of Trendy-Third on N.W. Twenty-First, is Café Mingo. Taking a step inside this small and intimate Italian restaurant is to dine in Roma without the long plane ride. Singles often sit at the small open bar where they can discuss wines and watch as the chef performs his magic.
Flames shoot up in controlled cookery and soft lighting creates a cozy ambiance. Everything at Cafe Mingo is fresh, from scratch and first-rate. Think about the food ethic begun in Berkeley of exquisitely prepared local ingredients. Mingo is a unique dining experience. They are closed Mondays and reservations are suggested.
This restaurant located on S.W. Ankeny Street in the downtown is a Norwegian sailor’s dream. They’ve been slinging oysters and chowders since 1907. Tucked out of the way, this nautical standard serves up bowls of milky oyster chowders, the butter still melting on the surface. Eschewing “designer lettuce,” one may get authentic Crab and Shrimp Louis here. There is a community table and a bar area. There are the carafes of oyster crackers as well as wonderful local beers and wines. For a touch of history and a great meal, drop by Dan & Louis.
Forget IHOP, no offense. Take a short drive west on S.W. Barbur Boulevard to The Original Pancake House. This is the real deal. A single room is open to the kitchen. Knotty pine walls and dozens of old plates run along the walls. There are waits on week-ends, no reservations. To beat a wait, try out the singles table. There, you may catch up with locals decade after decade. Gossip and pleasant chats go along with the Mandarin Pancakes, Dutch Babies and Swedish Pancakes. Loads of butter, lingonberry jelly and poufed, the exotic fare is worth the trip.
If you have time, a one-day visit to Cannon Beach is worth the effort. Travel due west of Portland on Sunset Highway for an hour and half to get there. This chic, old Oregon beach town features craft beers, French restaurants, terrific shopping, and its own play-house.
Visit the iconic Haystack rock formation, fly kites, ride horses or just walk along this uber scenic beach.
There are seasonal rental houses at Cannon.
Go east from Portland for an hour and you will find yourself on Mount Hood. With its year-round glacier, the site of Olympic summer ski training, Timberline Lodge is a must-see, an old WPA project that defies description. The lodge, with rooms for rent, is on the side of the mountain. Its’ entrance is often covered by snow. French Bernard dogs laconically greet you. Inside is a gigantic stone fireplace, with hand-carved animal newel posts, restaurants and bars, and views of the top of the mountain.
Soak in the outdoor heated pool, if you stay over as skiers glide by the glass fence.
Japanese Garden, Washington Park, and the Skyline Cafe:
Back in Portlandia, do not miss the Japanese Garden and Washington Park located in the city’s west hills. After a day outdoors, head up to one of Portland’s best-kept secrets, the Skyline Café located on Skyline Boulevard. As you walk into this road-house, you instantly believe you’ve made a mistake.
We’re talking fifties kitsch, here. This dumpy little café serves the best hamburgers, shakes, and fries this side of Denver.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that’s our tour for now. So head on out to Portlandia without fear. Avoid the ANTIFA idiots and take in the best this great city and area have to offer. But there is one warning: If you should happen on a visit during good weather and decide to move there, get ready for raincoats, galoshes, and umbrellas.
Later, after you’ve lived there a while, you just toss out the umbrella and go full monty. Most of the rain is misty, after all. And you get used to it.
Lead Image: Mt. Hood – US Forestry Department –