Road Trip 2010, Part 3: Portland

After leaving Newport, we bee-lined for Portland, for the longest single stretch of the trip. We love Portland — it’s easy to love a city that’s walkable, loves books, beer, coffee, good food, and pinball.

(I mean, is there another city with a dedicated website and iPhone app for listing eery pinball machine?)

Non-standard Lodging

Instead of typical lodging, we stayed at a “modern loft in the Pearl” which we found through Airbnb. It was definitely the right choice — big enough that we could easily manage the four of us (including Milo), well-appointed (on-site parking, 24-hour gym with elliptical trainers, crazy-fast internet, washer/dryer), and located in a very walkable neighborhood. This was our family’s second use of “vacation rentals” while we travel (the first was in Austin), and it’s definitely a mode I like.

Eating (and drinking)

Thankfully, our Oregon coffee woes ended upon arrival in Portland. Famous for it’s local roaster Stumptown, this city is one where it’s very easy to get a good cup of joe.

Among Portland’s top food trends are street carts, and you can find them all over town. My favorite food cart meal was from a decidedly unhip place — Euro Dish, featuring Polish specialties. Their cabbage roll was probably the single best thing I had from a food cart, and their pierogis were tasty, too. We also enjoyed Ziba’s Pitas (I preferred the spinach to the meat pita), and Smokin’ Pig, with an excellent pulled pork sammich.

Cupcakes have hit PDX, and I preferred the options at Cupcake Jones (in the Pearl) to Saint Cupcake out on Belmont.

We conducted our ritual pilgrimage to Voodoo Doughnut, whose bacon maple bar is better than it needs to be, and where the apple fritter is larger than your head.

For proper restaurant eats, my favorite was Screen Door, offering Southern tasties to the hungry masses. On a Tuesday night it was packed by 6:30, and with good reason. I had a starter of shrimp and grits, which proved delectable, and a side of pork chops, which come serve battered and fried and flavorful and awesome. I also remember that we wolfed down our desserts, though I cannot remember what they were.

For our last night we hired a babysitter, and had a proper date night. At the suggestion of friends, we headed to Pok Pok, a celebration of Thai street food. There was a 30 minute wait, but that was no worry, as they have a bar just down the street, the Whiskey Soda Lounge, where you can enjoy cocktails and appetizers that are identical to what you’d get at Pok Pok. The whole experience was very satisfying (judging by how full we were when we left), and quite distinct — it was a kind of cuisine I’d never had before, and I’ve eaten at dozens of Thai restaurants.


Like with much of our trip, the Rain Gods were with us in Portland, and that definitely curbed our activities. We had wanted to do more neighborhood wanders, but found ourselves indoors more than we had planned. Still, we did manage to have some fun.

Stacy and Jules appreciated Isobel’s Clubhouse, a drop-in family room with all manner of activities for children.

I made a couple trips to Ground Kontrol, an arcade specializing in 80s-era video games and pinball from throughout the ages. Their Addams Family Pinball was finely tuned, and nothing in coin-operated amusements provides the satisfying thrill of Raul Julia’s voice beaming, “SHOW-TIME!”

OMSI is an excellent science museum with a large “science playground” for children 6 and under. If we were residents, we’d most definitely have a membership. I only regret not having gone their earlier in the day — we felt rushed because we got there just a couple hours before closing!

And we spent an inordinate amount of time at Fort Vancouver National Park, just across the Columbia in Washington. A surprisingly engaging historical journey, with a good (and free) audio tour, and interpreters acting the roles of blacksmith and carpenter. What we though would last maybe 90 minutes ended up having us there for nearly 3 hours (some of that extra time due to a fussy 21-month-old who doesn’t yet have the savvy and sophistication to enjoy matters historical, and who much preferred the slide on the playground near the parking lot.)

One final thought

I truly appreciate Portland, but I was struck, even more this time than in previous travels, how homogenous the city is. And I don’t even mean just white… It’s over-educated white hipster with silly affectations (at Pok Pok, a table near us featured three people wearing Mao Caps). It’s such a narrow slice of society, and while in some ways I find it comforting (as it overlaps highly with my personal demographic), it’s also quite claustrophobic.