NOVEMBER 7: SUNNY
NOVEMBER 8: RAIN
I visited Portland, OR after Seattle. Portland was only 3.5 hours away by either bus or train.
I had visited Portland twice before. The first time was for changing airplanes when I moved to the U.S. from Japan 25 years ago. I got sick in the airplane to Portland, and I was forced to stay there for one night. Delta Air Lines was so kind to take care of me in Portland. I will never forget.
The second time was about 20 years ago. I was traveling from Los Angeles by Amtrak, and I stayed at a cheap hotel in Chinatown. I remember there was nothing to see and do at that time. I was going to Seattle on next day, but as mentioned in the prologue of Seattle chapters, I had to go back to New York.
The major reason of visiting Portland again was food. I saw many TV programs and articles about food carts and local foods in Portland. There are many food vendors and some food carts in New York City, but it seemed like Portland would have more variety. I definitely wanted to experience.
Also, I wanted to see how the city was changed in 20 years. I heard that Portland was a progressive city like Seattle. I decided to spend 2 nights exploring Portland better than before.
I took Bolt Bus from Seattle. Everything was very smooth, and the driver, named Robbie, was hilarious with safe driving. A good driver with courteous service.
Soon after crossing Columbia River and entering into Portland and State or Oregon, most passengers, including me, felt something was interesting on Interstate 5. Even at 1:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon, opposite direction was so much traffic jam. But we didn’t see any accident before. On the other hand, our direction was very smooth. Then driver Robbie made an announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen. As you can see, Portland is such a very progressive city. They start evening commute even before 2 o’clock on Friday!” We all busted out laughing. That what we were feeling…they should have at least 2 more hours to work!
I was also surprised there were only 3 lanes per side on the highway even in downtown. Seattle had 6 lanes. I thought maybe road situation wasn’t good in Portland.
When I got off the bus, I quickly found a significant difference with Seattle. Portland was definitely older than Seattle with many older and shorter buildings. Seattle also had old buildings, but Portland was much older and had more old buildings. The atmosphere was also older. I recalled the exhibitions at MOHAI last day. That was the time I saw Portland had a longer history with Oregon Trail with my eyes.
FOOD CARTS / TRUCKS
Fortunately, our bus passed through a large parking place that had many food carts just before arriving. I searched and found out that parking place on SW Alder Street between 9th and 10th Avenues was one of the largest food carts area. So I went back to there after checking in at Econo Lodge Convention Center.
All four sides of the parking place were completely occupied with food carts. But there weren’t much variety as expected. The majority are Mexican, Arabian (Kabab), Korean, and Thai. Almost all stores were opened even after 3:00 p.m., while many were closed at 2:00 p.m. in other cities. I used the universal method to find a good place, that was crowded place would usually be a good place. Then I hit “Altengartz”, German sausage food cart. There was no other German food cart in the parking place, plus that was crowded. I ate two big hot dogs with its original sausage, plus bean soup. I was right. The sausage was juicy and delicious with moderate spices. Plus, only “Altengartz” had a small seating area. It was so Portland to enjoy outdoor food with looking people and street cars flow. My food cart fantasy was fulfilled.
Basically, there were food carts where people gathered in the downtown area. On the weekend night, there were food carts around bars and clubs, especially in Chinatown area, the biggest entertainment district of the city. If there was a weekend market, there would be food carts, too. One big con of food trucks is, however, weather. Because they basically don’t have a seating area, you will have to eat at parks or while walking. If the weather is raining, you and your food will get wet. Portland doesn’t have much good weather. When I visited, 2 days out of 3 were raining. I could enjoy food carts on only the first day.
Also, not all places accept credit card. Make sure to have enough cash.
For more information about food carts in Portland, check this website. http://www.foodcartsportland.com/
NEW SEASONS MARKET
Another place I wanted to go in Portland was a grocery store called “New Seasons Market”. One of my clients told me about that store as a new style gourmet store before. Not only handling fresh and healthy local products, store displays and experiences were unique, and better version of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. So I went to one of the stores on NW Raleigh Street. According to store website, it was “Slabtown” location. There were several locations in Portland. The reason I chose “Slabtown” location was one of the closest from downtown, plus easy access by street car.
Yes, “New Seasons Market” was amazing! Not only clean, beautiful, fresh, well organized, and superior customer service, but also of the followings.
1. Sommelier…at a grocery store?: The grocery store didn’t call as a sommelier, but there was a “wine expert” at a small bar counter in their wine section, and gave customers paring suggestions. I had never seen a wine expert at a grocery store before! A wine expert gave suggestions to a couple when I visited there, and they looked like having a quality moment.
The store had a wide range of wines. Both Oregon and Washington produces wines.
2. Deli: Deli is what almost all grocery stores have. The menu, taste, and style are what others don’t have much. At “New Seasons Market”, you can customize from a variety of Asian menu, as well as sandwich menu and buffet menu. The Asian menu included Ramen, Wok, Chef’s Favorite Bowls…I never thought I would see Ramen menu at a grocery store…
Because I wanted to experience their own taste, I picked up from hot buffet selection. I chose Chicken Piccata, Mac & Cheese, Potatoes, and I forgot another…lol. I think it was the turkey. They all had good taste. The price wasn’t bad, either. The price depended on weight, and I paid only about $10 even with a lot of volumes.
3. A variety of “Bulk” selections: From pasta, beans to flour and grains, the store had a wide variety. Plus you can pack them by yourself as much as you need straight from containers. Some grocery stores do this style, but definitely, New Seasons Market excels others on the variety of kinds.
4. Fun and suggestive: When I went there, the store had several their own original dessert sample stations. I ate two samples with good sweetness. The staffs can give you recipes if you want.
5. Good price: Surprisingly, the prices were not bad. Also, one of the best things in Oregon was, there was no sales tax.
Of course, if you expect fine local grown or organic products, there are plenty in the market. I think Pacific Northwest is rich with good nutritious foods.
I want “New Seasons Market” in New York City so much! Definitely better than high-end grocery stores in New York City. Check out their website and find out their interesting events.
DIRECTION FROM DOWNTOWN: Take Portland Streetcar NS Line and get off at NW 21st Street and Northrup stop. The store is located 4 blocks north.
OTHER RESTAURANTS/CAFE I VISITED
1. CASE STUDY COFFEE ROASTERS: http://casestudycoffee.com/
ADDRESS (DOWNTOWN): 802 SW 10th Avenue, Portland, OR 97205
Portland was also a coffee town. I stopped over this coffee shop after shopping at nearby Target. Inside of store was elegant and relaxing. Cons: they close early at 6:00 p.m.
Delicious burger at Theo’s
It was a good burger joint in Chinatown area, where had a lot of clubs/bars.
Mexican breakfast at Mayas Taqueria. It was good.
A Mexican restaurant in downtown, just across the big parking place with full of food carts. I felt tired on the second day and started the day on the late afternoon. There was no place serve breakfast or brunch except this around that time. Also, it wasn’t a good day for food carts because of raining.
No matter what time, I have a strange favor I need to start my first meal with egg. Because this store serves breakfast all day, it fulfilled my needs and satisfaction. It was my first time to eat Mexican style breakfast and I liked it. They kindly brewed fresh coffee for me.