Portland had been on my travel wish list for several years. I have heard so many great things about it and was anxious to check it out. Luckily for me, I have a great friend who moved from Chicago to Seattle a few years ago who was willing to drive down and meet me in Portland for a weekend getaway. Liz was one of my first roommates when I moved to Chicago so I have known her for many years. She is married now and has two adorable kids so I was very excited to see her and catch up!
I flew from Chicago to Portland on a Thursday night. Liz didn’t drive down to Portland until Friday morning so I had several hours on my own on Friday morning to sleep in and then walk around the city to get the lay of the land before she arrived. Portland is a small, very walkable city. While we walked everywhere, there is also a light rail train system that seemed to come quite often to take people to various other areas around Portland.
Portland street art… It must hurt this horse to run on those stumpy legs.
After she arrived, our first stop was Mother’s Bistro and Bar to get brunch and some mimosas. Mother’s is a well known restaurant in Portland. I read about it several times as I was doing research before the trip so I was excited to eat there. It was good (I had the French toast) and probably worth the 45 minute wait to get a table but it wasn’t my favorite brunch place in Portland.
After brunch, we set out to explore the city and walk off our food comas. We didn’t really have a destination in mind but we ended up at Powell’s Bookstore, which touts itself as the world’s largest independently owned bookstore. Let me tell you, it was HUGE! You could get lost in there for days. I love books and it was fun to explore all the different genres and nooks and crannies as we wandered about.
I think the glasses below are a Harry Potter reference? I am not sure but she looks awesome in them, right?
So many books….
More interesting street art.
When I told people I was heading to Portland, inevitably I would hear “you need to try ____ donuts. They’re the best!” One of two places filled in the blank – Blue Star or Voodoo. A block or so from Powell’s was Blue Star so that was our next stop. Blue Star has many donut flavors to choose from but we ended up going with the “popular local favorites” – PB&J and Blueberry Bourbon Basil. Both of them were delicious!
Between the French toast for breakfast and these donuts, I was beginning to get loopy from too much sugar. I am going to use that as the reason for my ridiculous facial expression in the photo below.
After walking about and exploring the city for a few more hours, we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. We decided we wanted Asian for dinner and chose a Chinese place several blocks from our hotel that had good reviews on Yelp. Along the way, we got thirsty so we stopped at a bar for a drink to hold us over for the rest of the walk.
While enjoying our drinks, we started chatting with the bartenders and asked them where we should go for Asian food. Locals usually know best after all. They threw out several suggestions and after discussing it, we decided to change course and set out for a place a few blocks away in a different direction. It was a Chinese place with “ducks in the window” for reference because the bartenders couldn’t remember the name. We set out chatting merrily along while I looked out for happy yellow duck decals in the window of a restaurant. We walked a few blocks and Liz stopped and said “there it is.” I twirled around a couple of times but didn’t see it. “Where?” And then she pointed to the restaurant right in front of me and I realized how far the expectation in my head was from reality. They weren’t happy yellow duck decals in the window….they were ducks with the bills still attached roasting over a flame on the other side of the window. I was mortified by what was in front of me and told her I couldn’t eat there but then I couldn’t help myself from a fit of hysterical laughter as we walked away. Could I have been any more wrong about what “ducks in the window” meant? Even as I type this story three weeks later, I cannot help but laugh at myself and the look that must have been on my face as realization dawned.
As we were walking away from the place with the ducks in the window, we encountered a woman as we were waiting for a stop light and she heard us discussing where to go from there. She recommended a Thai place…so that’s where we ended up going for dinner…and it wasn’t good. So after all of that, we had my least favorite meal of the weekend. On the way back to the hotel, we found a candy store and had to try on all of the ridiculous masks inside. I am not sure why this is mask is “magical” but it did make us laugh.
The next morning, we consulted Yelp again for breakfast ideas and chose a place called Tasty n Alder. The place didn’t open until 9am and the line was around the corner from the entrance when we arrived around 8:45. We considered leaving but decided instead to get some tea and coffee from the coffeehouse across the street and wait it out. I am so glad we did. This place served my favorite meal in Portland. In fact, we liked it so much, we went back on Sunday morning and I would have it again now if I could. Pictured below is their Bim Bop bacon and eggs. It was delicious. It was so flavorful and the rice at the bottom was crispy, giving it a great unexpected crunch. If you go to Portland, you must go here! You will not regret it. I am now on the lookout for good bim bop in Chicago.
Cute name for a coffee shop – Heart. There are so many things I heart about this trip and life in general too.
Hailing a cab? The park on the way back to our hotel had some fun sculptures to take photos with.