Keeping it weird in Portland, Oregon

Bikes unfolded and joining the rest of ’em in the well-structured biking lanes, Hawthorne Bridge carried us over the Willamette River into downtown.  Hitting up the Visitor Center in the Pioneer Courthouse Square to grab a free map to scribble our Google map pins onto, the first thought quickly turned to the filling of stomachs.

Portland Boathouse Pier.  Portland, Oregon USA.
Portland Boathouse Pier

What Portland may lack in big city sights it more than makes up for in food carts (around 400 ever evolving carts), craft breweries (Portland currently has the most breweries of any city in the world at 58! More useless Oregon beer facts here) and welcoming, friendly attitude.  Opting to check out the food carts in the Washington and 10th streets blocks it soon become apparent that choosing one was not going to be easy.  Taking the plunge we waded into the madness and came out with Indian fare that was big enough for the two of us for only $6, gladly stuffing ourselves and avoiding the ‘hanger’ pains.

Keep Portland Weird mural
Keep Portland Weird

Soon realizing that this visit was going to evolve into a food and beer ‘appreciation’ tour, next stop was The McMenamins Crystal Hotel.  Whilst McMenamins is one of the larger craft brewers with more than a few brewpubs (65), they have gone to great lengths to stand out amongst the plethora of hop infusing establishments, converting old disused buildings into welcoming spaces of merriment.Take the Kennedy School as an example, an abandoned 1915 elementary school come hotel/restaurant/cinema/brewery/all round adult fun house. Some of the rooms still have the original chalkboards.

McMenamins Crystal Hotel, Portland
McMenamins Crystal Hotel

Located in the adjacent area is the Brewers Block, home to the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery until 1999, but which now houses commercial, retail and residential space.  Bypassing this for now, Powell’s City of Books is a Portland institution and no trip would be complete without stepping inside.  Having one of the largest collections of new and used books in the country (over a million!) it’s a book worms wet dream.

Portland Boathouse Pier.  Portland, Oregon USA.
Taking an afternoon dip off the Portland Boathouse Pier

Having heard from Bjorn about an arcade place near Chinatown, we couldn’t help but be enthused about the prospect of playing some 25 cent old school pinball and arcade games, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Heroes in a half shell!) and Bubble Bobble.  Ground Kontrol on Couch St soon took care of our inner child’s.  Around the corner is the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ Mural (and trust us, they do) in a nondescript parking lot near the Voodoo Doughnut shop.

I challenge you! Ground Kontrol, Portland
Old school arcade fun at Ground Kontrol, Portland

Hunger returning and taking the recommendation of the more than helpful lady in the tourist office, we found ourselves tucking into a delicious bowl of seafood chowder from Dan and Louis Oyster Bar.  Watching the queue for Voodoo Doughnuts grow every larger and the increasing number of tourists posing outside with their distinctive pink boxes, we skipped it (no maple bacon donuts for us) and rode along the river front past the countless amounts of no-hoper-dope-smoker-hippy-feral youngsters. Returning back to Hawthorne Bridge via Mill Ends Park, which happens be the smallest in the world (452 sq inches), we couldn’t resist a quick swim off the small floating jetty with the locals.

Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world
Mill Ends Park, the Guinness Book of Records smallest park in the world

Back in the Hawthorne area the Horse Brass pub was beckoning.  A rough around the edges ‘English Style’ boozer this place has an ever rotating selection of thirst busting beers and serves proper imperial pints.  Trying to behave ourselves we limited this visit to one each and left for, wait for it, more food. Having the Brass Horse recommended by Bjorn we took his advice again and ended up at Pok Pok.  Whatever you do order Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings!   Wash these down with a tasty tamarind drinking vinegar and a beer Laos and you have ended the day perfectly.

With Bjorn and Megan being out for her birthday dinner we retired to bed as we were off to Seattle in the morning. The catching up had to be put on the back burner for our return to Portland with the van.

Pok Pok's famous chicken wings, mmmm
The famous wings at Pok Pok’s


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