A Weekend of Wine & Weirdness in Portland

Last weekend I visited an old childhood friend in Portland, Oregon.  It was my first time in the city, inspired by my friend’s recent move and my usual desire to see the opera somewhere new.  Portland is easily overshadowed by bigger Northwestern cities like Seattle and Vancouver, but while it shares their overcast weather and laid-back vibe, it definitely stands out with its own unique culture.

First Presbyterian Church, Portland Oregon
It’s not always cloudy in Portland! A view of The First Presbyterian Church.
Portland Library
Everything is a shade of green in Portland.

Portland is known for its greenery, thanks to the infinite number of trees and the splash of moss that blankets just about everything; its beer, having more than 70 breweries in the city; its music scene; its food, from fabulous food trucks to incredibly delicious restaurants; and its weirdness.  Lucky for me, none of those designations disappointed last weekend.

One of the many blocks of food carts in Portland.
One of the many blocks of food carts in Portland.

Food Scene :: PDX, as Portland is often called, is a food and alcohol mecca.  For a city on the smaller side, its often mentioned alongside heavy-hitting food cities like San Francisco and Chicago in food magazines.  Not only does it have a ton of great restaurants, there are hundreds of food carts spread throughout the city offering every kind of ethnic food or fusion combination imaginable.  Many carts congregate together in block-wide areas creating an outdoor version of a food court with much better tasting grub.  It’s a fun way to try several different kinds of food at once or taste those you may not have ever heard of (like the waffle topped with bacon-and caramel waffle that I had).

Enso Winery, Urban Winery
Wine flights and charcuterie at the Enso urban winery.

In addition to the many breweries that call Portland home, many wineries are also located there.  Instead of visiting a vineyard during the winter, I opted for a wine tasting at an urban winery right downtown, Enso Winery.  And don’t forget Portland’s obsession with coffee.  Several coffee roasters are based in the Oregon city with coffee shops on the corner of just about every block.  My favorite brew of the weekend was Stumptown Coffee.

Portland Opera's Production of Tosca
Portland Opera’s Production of Tosca

Portland Opera :: One of the main focuses for my trip was Portland Opera’s performance of Tosca.  For a city full of hippie, rough-around-the-edge types like Portland, where everyone sports a lumberjack beard and/or a head full of dreadlocks, I was surprised at how wonderful the opera was.  The music was beautiful and the production was perfect.

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

Keep it Weird :: One of Portland’s famous slogans is “Keep Portland Weird.”  I never understood the phrase until my visit.  The City of Roses definitely puts its own twist on things, often taking something boring (like doughnuts) and adding a dash of personality to do it (like Voodoo Doughnuts’ maple bacon doughnut).  Right when I thought I’d found some normalcy, a guy wearing a monkey mask jumped out of a van and started dancing alone on the street, keeping with the city’s slogan.  

Famous chicken wings at Pok Pok and the coffee & buttered rum cocktail at Woodsman Tavern, two favorite restaurants of my weekend.
Famous chicken wings at Pok Pok and the coffee & buttered rum cocktail at Woodsman Tavern, two favorite restaurants of my weekend.

Portland is a great city with plenty of entertainment (even if just the people watching).  It has amazing restaurants (Gruner, Pok Pok, Woodsman Tavern and Le Pigeon were favorites), beauty scenery (like the Portland Japanese Garden) and a wonderful opera.  All the best attributes a city can have.  Stay tuned for more details of my trip!

Go to Portland for :: the food, the outdoor activities and the scenery.

Don’t Miss :: Powell’s Bookstore, one of the famous gardens (Rose Garden, Japanese Garden or Chinese Garden), Voodoo Doughnuts for x-rated treats, the food carts and the beer/wine/coffee.

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