Destinations Editor's Column

Editor’s Travels: Weekend in Portland

I spent last weekend in Portland, Oregon, enjoying a beautiful, not-exactly-winter, sort of weekend.  Much different from the weather that Portland is experiencing now as winter has arrived with an abundance of snow.  Portland is the sort of city that you can visit throughout the year and have a great time.  I’m not saying that you can’t visit other cities throughout the year, but there are some destinations that are better in the warmer months, for example.

The weekend went swimmingly and I was able to try a few new places to eat as well. Two things that I really enjoy about Portland is the fact that it is a very walkable city and that Portland’s public transportation is readily available to take you around the city. At Portland International Airport, one is able to walk through the airport and hope on Tri-Met’s MAX train that run approximately every 15 minutes and head to downtown Portland on the Red Line train which takes about 45 minutes. I grabbed a seat on the train and shortly therefore after made my way to downtown to join up with a dear friend of mine who I was staying with over the weekend.

Friday evening we ventured out and landed upon a new place for us both, the Red Star Tavern. We glanced at the menu outside and it looked tempting, so we decided to try it out.  Upon entering the restaurant, you step into the bar area which had a lively crowd and the overall atmosphere seemed pretty cool. The server sat us and presented us with our menus which looked a bit different from what we saw posted outside.  Looking it over, we decided that there was still a few things that we’d be willing to try. Our server arrives and soon announces that about half of the items listed weren’t available because the menu changes monthly and the new menu launched the next day, so they let items run out to save on costs to the restaurant.

Our food arrived and while the presentation was nice, the actual food wasn’t anything special.  I ordered the Pacific Burger which included avocado, bacon, butter lettuce and a miso aioli.  Sounded tasty and ended up tasting like an average burger.  I’ll admit, I was expecting something more than what I received. Second part was that I think the prices were a little higher than they should be for what I received. Long story short, would I go again? No.

Saturday was a day of exploration both on the Eastside and in the Pearl District.  We started the day at the Cadillac Cafe in Northeast Portland. The food and the atmosphere were both great.  This is the place that the locals head for breakfast which was made quite clear by the amount of smiling faces and lengthy conversations between patrons and employees.  You could hear the tales and stories between both sets as they caught each other up with events in their lives.  It was a great way to start the day.  I had a very traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs, home potatoes (which were wonderful), chicken sausage and sourdough toast.  Our server was courteous and the food was served up hot and quick.  Their menu was extensive and they are willing to modify items to your specific liking, which I find quite nice.

On the grounds of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center with a former Union Pacific caboose and other historic rail equipment in the background.
On the grounds of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center with a former Union Pacific caboose and other historic rail equipment in the background.

Our afternoon continued by exploring the new location for the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.  The foundation’s new Rail Heritage Center is home to two extremely popular historic steam locomotives, the former Southern Pacific No. 4449 and the former Seattle, Portland and Spokane No. 700.  Each of these locomotives are easily visible in the new maintenance facility that was built not to long ago. The new center is just south of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and will be right next to a stop on the new light rail line that Portland is building down to Milwaukie.  The Eastside Streetcar also stops near these two locations.

Formerly, the ORHF was located in an more industrial neighborhood in southern Portland and was leasing property from the freight railroad that owned the railyard that their equipment sat in.  While the move was exhausting and challenging to say the least, this move is a great opportunity for the museum.  It is also a great place to take children (both the young and young at heart) who are interesting in railroading.  They have the chance to see these famous locomotives and related equipment up-close and personal.  Additionally, on weekends, you can even take a 45 minute train ride that the Oregon Pacific Railroad offers.  We watched a full train arrive and a full train depart with kids and parents smiling from ear to ear.

Looking towards Southwest Downtown Portland across the Willamette River with some fantastic reflections on the river.
Looking towards Southwest Downtown Portland across the Willamette River with some fantastic reflections on the river.

The later part of the afternoon included wandering around the Pearl District and making a stop at the legendary Powell’s Books. Presently, Powell’s is under construction, so they have a second, smaller story that has opened directly across the street from the main location that houses a handful of sections that have displaced because of the construction.  Powell’s is a book lovers heaven as the store is a square block and is home to thousands of new and used books.  Also, Powell’s has an extensive book buyback program which affords Powell’s the opportunity to have such an array of items available for purchase.

Saturday evening ended with dinner at Deschutes Brewery in the Pearl District. First off, this place is happening.  It was busy from the moment we arrived till the moment that we departed.  Looking for a great happy hour destination, this is the place.  Looking to try a variety of hand crafted brews, this is the place.  Looking for a great date night place, Deschutes is your place.  From the pick your own beer flight to a lively and energetic atmosphere, I was thoroughly impressed.  I started off with the French Onion soup that was made with red and yellow onions and topped with Gruyere cheese. It was fantastic.  For my entree, I ordered the Petite Flat Iron Steak, topped with Rouge River Blue Cheese butter and served with seasonal vegetables. Overall, the food was great, the atmosphere was awesome and the service was top-notch.

From the ease of getting around to the great experience at Deschutes, it was another fantastic weekend in Portland in the books. If you haven’t had the chance to visit Portland, I’d strongly suggest visiting as it truly has something for everyone.

Until next time.

Southeast facing picture
The view from my buddy’s place on the 15th floor looking towards the Southeast.

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