Back at Christmas, Francine’s husband Thom had a marvelously devilish idea–a fiftieth birthday bash for her, seven weeks early and in another state. Yes, it was that wacky and weird. It was a fabulous almost-birthday, as we called it. Mr. Pre-planner had checklists and things written on clipboards, and yes, I was enlisted to draw a chicken at some point.
I can’t go to Portland just for a weekend! Let’s make it a long weekend. In on Friday, out on Monday. How much can I possibly cram into that short amount of time? I think I broke an all-time record. An extra stop on the way in Salt Lake City courtesy of a Sky Miles award ticket was made all the ‘mo betta by free upgrades to Economy Comfort. It’s amazing how a bulkhead seat for the entire round-trip can make that angry, pissy, kill-everyone frequent flyer turn into a nice Southern gentlemen. Thank you, Delta Air Lines. You saved the entire trip.
Let’s call this list a Places To Go If Ever in Portland, OR:
Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House – a great pub, a great place to have a drink and take a load off. Try throwing coins into the spittoon above the bar – the boys don’t mind if you hit them in the head with the coins, either.
Mother’s Bistro – Dinner! Chef Lisa Schroeder wanted to pay homage to the food made by your mother, and this place was born. She wanted to make this place her focus so much that she sold another iconic Portland restaurant, Mamma Mia Trattoria, to make sure she had enough time. I had Carlton Farms Pulled Pork and gravy over smashed potatoes. The biscuits were fall-apart good.
Pine State Biscuits – People outside of the south know how to make chicken biscuit sandwiches? Hell yes! A giant yellow biscuit (cornmeal?) with a giant hunk of fried chicken breast inside, topped with an egg, bacon, cheese, and floating in a bit of sausage gravy. And there were sides, but who had any room? This place was so good, Francine’s entire crew headed there for breakfast the next morning. The Alberta location is in a neat little neighborhood.
Portland Art Museum – They had a visiting exhibit of Monet, and there were Rothkos and lots of Asian art. I would go back. An interesting exhibit was Mike Kelley’s interpretation of Kandor, the city from Superman. It’s called City 0000 and is made from under-lit glass bottles.
Mad Greek Deli – I’m usually “meh!” on Greek food, it doesn’t do a lot for me, but this place has a reputation as being the best Greek food in PDX, and it was awesome. The hummus was great, the Baklava looked good, and the gyro was enormous.
McMenamin’s Kennedy School – a classroom in this school-turned-hotel was the venue for the surprise almost-birthday. Amazing place, really. A bar named “Detention” where you can smoke cigars? Seriously. The surprise was almost ruined by a giant sign at the front desk saying “Francine’s Surprise Party” and giving the location. Kudos to Mel, the bestie, for redirecting. “Let’s shower, and then we’ll go crash it.” And crash it they did. There were tears, jumping up and down, and general screaming. Then dinner, and cake. Oh, and flaming drinks and lots of very good McMenamin’s Ruby Ale, which you can’t get shipped outside of Oregon…damn!
Mother’s Bistro – I had to go back for breakfast. Pork Apple Sausage and Cheddar Scramble. The folks were so nice and recognized me instantly again.
International Rose Test Garden – At the top of the hill overlooking the city. Great views, acres upon acres of roses and rhododendrons.
Powell’s City of Books – You’ve heard all about it. I bought too many books, including Lisa Schroeder’s collection of recipes from Mother’s Bistro.
Violetta – Best burger in Portland. I’m a burger snob. It was great. So was the local cream soda.
Voodoo Donuts – Overblown? Overrated? You tell me. I schlepped a dozen donuts in a bright pink box 2,395 miles across the country. And no, I didn’t get a maple bacon donut. That just sounds awful.
Chiang Mai – Best Thai food I’ve had yet, hands down. And that beats places in LA and Seattle. Tiny hole in the wall place in an obscure Portland neighborhood, but there was a line, and the service was slow, but it was okay – only two people run the restaurant and one cooks! Pad See Ew with Chinese Broccoli (it’s always regular here) and Pot Stickers.
Cadillac Cafe – I can’t go back to Mother’s again, they’ll think I’m psycho. I get a hankering for fiesta ware plates occasionally and the review said…your food comes on a fiesta ware plate, so I figured it was good food. It was. There’s a giant 57 Chevy entombed in a glass room inside the restaurant, which is strange. And it felt like I was in a hotel lobby. But, the food was great. Hazelnut and Custard French Toast!
The Varsity (Atlanta) – There’s one in the new F terminal…excuse me…the Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. International Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport now. What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have? Two chili dogs and an orange frosty, of course.
I ate so much food, I struggled to button my pants for the next week’s business trip to Detroit. That’s a good thing. And a very bad thing.