I grew up in Gresham, a city that connects to Portland on the east side before you head on up to Mount Hood. In fact, I grew up in Hood’s shadow, spending my winter weekends playing in the snow. After school my friends and I would hop on the MAX (light rail transit system) and go downtown to walk around and window shop. So it was no surprise that when my longest best-friend, Sierra, planned our day together she chose Downtown for shopping, food, and a little adventure.
Sierra and I met when we were in sixth grade, a whopping 20 years ago! And though there has always been a bit of miles distance between us since we reached adulthood, we’ve always found a way to stay connected and involved in each other’s lives. Though we go years between seeing each other we are always able to pick up exactly where we left off and enjoy the company of the other as if nothing had ever changed. This trip was no different… except I got to meet her darling little girl for the first time which was a really BIG deal!
Sierra arranged for us to go to Cartlandia for lunch and then, for our second stop, the Peculiarium in Downtown Portland and… well… the name doesn’t lie. It was certainly peculiar. It was definitely a slice of what is keeping Portland weird!
Sierra’s new boyfriend…
My new boyfriend…
Do you believe?
This beauty came home with me. I absolutely love it!
We drove around downtown just long enough to find a parking spot and then took the streets by foot, stopping in our favorite neighborhood, Nob Hill. The shops are always wonderful to peek into and the food is unmistakeable. There’s another McMenamins restaurant on this row as well as the ever popular Salt and Straw. The line is always out the door for the little ice cream shop, so we went to the place we knew and have loved so well over the years, Vivace – coffee and creperie.
Their savory crepes are amazing, but their sweet ones are the best. And the coffee? Forgeddaboutit! Perfect. They even have hot white chocolate for those feeling particularly indulgent! The cafe is located on the corner and usually has decent parking in the general area. It’s located on the bottom floor of a Victorian house and has patio space. It’s been there since at least 2003 when I first discovered it and worth the Portland traffic to get to it! Just up the street from them is the Stepping Stone Cafe which is another amazing Portland find that is two parts funky and two parts delicious! I highly recommend both places!
After Nob Hill we swung by Pioneer Place so I could hit the Made in Oregon store to get a few must-have items, like pint glasses and a Sasquatch magnet. Yes, I believe.
My favorite part of Downtown, the street music. This guy was wonderful. Talented on his make-shift drums, singing and smiling, and definitely flirting with all the ladies as they walked by. He was a treat to listen to and a true reminder of that special buzz of Downtown PDX. There’s a lot of activity that happens downtown. The sidewalks are filled with people, the streets filled with cars and bicycles. It is always moving. The buildings are tall, but won’t make you feel claustrophobic, and of all different eras of architecture. With all of it mixed together it’s something special to hear above the chaos the melody of a corner trumpeter or the beat of a drummer. Downtown is full of life and it made me terribly homesick.
This cured my homesickness almost immediately. Traffic! What even is that? We don’t exactly have traffic out here in Wyoming. If we are stopped or at a slow down it’s for one of three reasons: Construction, a tractor, or wildlife. If I ever do move back to Portland, I’ll be moving into a high rise studio somewhere close to where I work so I have very little need to drive anywhere!
In true Portlander fashion, our final stop was dinner. Food is kind of a big deal in this neck of the woods, a restaurant lingers on every corner, in every alley, in every little van you cross. But we saved ourselves for somewhere special; a place I used to work at when I first started college in 2004 – Takahashi. I loved working here for the short time I had left in Oregon before moving away. My aunt and her sister worked there (and still do!) moonlighting after their teaching jobs, my cousin worked there… it’s almost a family affair! Oh! The food, really though, the food! They have a thorough sushi menu, incredible options for tempura, and full entrees for those feeling like something a little heavier. It’s a great hole in the wall place that I think every Portlander should visit at least once in their lifetime. The prices are more than fair for what you get and the service is always amazing. If you’re looking for a place to eat on your next visit to Portland, add this one to the top of your list!
Seiji Takahashi, the owner and sushi chef, is pictured far right.
It was the perfect day and the perfect way to spend it. I can’t wait to go back and visit Sierra again and see how much her little one has grown! Next time, though, I’ll stay for longer!