After we spent two days in Seattle, we headed south for Portland. I wanted to take in some scenery on the way rather than just take the short drive on I-5. So we drove down to the Oregon border, and took U.S. Route 30 west to the coast. It was a gorgeous day, and we drove through half a dozen little logging and timber towns along the Columbia River.
At Astoria, which is right at the mouth of the Columbia River at the coast, we stopped for lunch. Once again, I “Yelped” the best place to eat, and it was a boat. Parked right off the main drag. That had been converted to a fish stand. I am not making this up. The Bowpicker is Astoria, Oregon’s top restaurant. Guy Fieri needs to visit.
But ahmahgawd. Now, I know why it’s the top rated place in Astoria. It was amazing. They only serve fried fish and fries. That is it. And it’s cash only. And they’re only open like four hours a day. And there is ALWAYS a line.
I’m pretty sure it was albacore tuna and it was amazing. I love finding these types of little spots to eat that are off-the-beaten path. Astoria is a beautiful town that has lots of historic homes sitting on the hill overlooking the where the Columbia River becomes the Pacific Ocean. After we ate, we weaved our way through the streets of the town and continued south to Cannon Beach. I had heard that it was amazing and worth the little bit out of the way trip from Portland.
Even if you just drive over there to get a few pictures, it is worth it. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. It was surreal. There was a light fog on the water, even though it was afternoon, and it was overcast, which gave the expansive beach an almost dream-like quality. The beach wasn’t crowded, but there were several people out walking their dogs and playing with their kids. It just seemed so peaceful. I could have sat on the beach all afternoon just in awe of the sheer beauty of it.
Haystack Rock is stunning. It was so beautiful it just looks fake, like a painting or something. And it’s so big. I’d seen pictures of it, but I had no idea how large it loomed.
I’d love to go back and spend a long weekend here. The town was really cute, too, with lots of little boutiques, several restaurants, and more than a few wine shops. But the real draw is the beach. It was totally worth the detour on our way to Portland.
But it was inching into mid-afternoon, and we had a limited amount of time to spend in Portland, so we piled back in the car and headed for the city. We hit the city right at rush hour, and luckily the GPS will reroute you based on traffic time. Because the interstate and by-pass was pretty much bumper to bumper, it took us right through a downtown. We went through the very exclusive Kings Heights neighborhood, with huge old homes on the hill overlooking the city, then right through the Pearl District, the main downtown area, before crossing the Williamette River and to our hotel over by the Convention Center. It was a great way to see the heart of the city, and it wasn’t hard to navigate at all. What did we do before GPS?
At any rate, we checked in and went out to get some Portland craft beer. Portland is home to the most total breweries and independent microbreweries of any city. There are almost 60 within the city limits! I had a place picked out for dinner (more on that below) and I found a handful of breweries right around it. The first stop was The Commons Brewery. It had a very unpretentious tasting room, and it was busy when we got there. It seemed to be mostly locals from the community and people just getting off work, mixed in with a few tourists. They offered about 8 different beers, including some seasonals.
The beers were delicious and the crowd was lively and casual. I could have stayed longer, but we had a lot of beer to try.
A few months ago, I read about a beer hall that was opening in Portland in an old unused I.O.O.F. lodge. Imagine–99 taps of local beer all under one roof! The Loyal Legion just opened earlier this summer; lucky timing for us. With a limited amount of time in Portland, I figured this would be a grate way to sample beer from a lot of breweries without traversing all over town. Even better was that they serve sausage from Olympia Provisions–one of the eateries I had hoped to visit, that specializes in salumi. I was killing two birds with one stone.
The beer list was dizzying. It was grouped by style of beer, so you could easily find beers that you liked rather than combing through the list by brewery. We sat at the bar, and the service was impeccable. All of the bartenders who waited on us (and there were a handful–no waiting for beer) were knowledgeable about all the beers. All 99 of them. They could tell you about all the beers, and if you told them what you liked, their recommendations were on point. The And the sausage were amazing. You could get them on a bun or in a bowl with boiled potatoes. One caveat though, Loyal Legion is cash only.
The block that the Loyal Legion is on has a string of funky and fun-looking bars that would have made a great bar crawl. But because we had to walk a few blocks back to the Portland streetcar stop that would take us back to the hotel, we didn’t make it a super late night. It’s a good thing, because we got up early the next morning and headed back downtown to explore on foot. The first stop was Voo Doo Doughnut, and we timed it just right. We got there around 8:30, and the line was only about 15 people deep. We only waited about 20 minutes, but as we were grabbing our food to take out the door, the line had tripled.
The doughnuts were over the top–in name and flavor combination. I got “Dirty Snowballs”, which was a chocolate cake doughnut with marshmallow frosting, coconut flakes and peanut butter. The Hubs got “Old Dirty Bastard”, which was a plain doughnut with chocolate frosting, oreos and peanut butter. We also split a Maple Bacon Doughnut. It’ was tough to decide, though. I mean, seriously!
I’m not a big sweets-for-breakfast kind of person, but these were amazing. And they served them with Stumptown Coffee–a local Portland coffee roaster.
After getting a sugar and caffeine buzz, I wanted to hit up Powell’s City of Books, which was nearby. It’s a famous bookstore that has been part of the Portland community for years. It’s supposedly the largest independent bookstore in the world. And their flagship location was definitely enormous.
You could spend a day, probably more, just wandering through the store. The rooms just branched out like a maze, with different types of books grouped in each room. I had to go visit the rare book room, which was really neat. This whole store is a great way to spend a little (or a lot) of time on a tour through the downtown neighborhoods.
I wanted to grab coffee from Stumptown Coffee before we left Portland, so we found it in the Pearl District. It’s a local coffee roaster that has a number of locations around the city and sells coffee by the cup as well as in bags and implements. There were too many choices. I wanted to try the cold brew, pour over and the espresso, but I knew I would be a jittery mess if I did. So I settled for the espresso. It was classic, from the crema on top being absolutely perfect to the shot of seltzer water they served it with.
I should have tried the pour over, but the variety of coffee drinks you could order got the best of me when I was ordering. The espresso was pretty awesome, though. I was ready to take on the world after having a shot of that!
After spending the morning in Powell’s and strolling around the streets of the Pearl District, we decided to grab lunch at Deschutes Brewery’s Portland location. Deschutes has a pretty wide distribution in the Pacific Northwest. We saw it at a number of places in Seattle, but it was neat to go to the brewery. The main location is in Bend. With about 20 offerings, I had to get a flight.
The Hubs stuck with the “Freshly Squeezed” IPA, which was the first beer he tried on this entire trip in Seattle, but it was really good. We each got a burger to soak up some of that beer. Mine had a think slice of bacon on it and jalepeno mayo, which was awesome, but it was super-greasy.
The good news about Deschutes, is that they plan to hit the East Coast sometime in the near future. The bartender was telling us that the preliminary plan is for a location in Virginia (woo hoo!), but that wasn’t finalized yet. It’s so nice that West Virginia is getting more and more craft and micro brews. I’m hoping Deschutes will find its way into the market here from Virginia. The more the merrier!
After finishing up our lunch, we treked back over to the hotel and collected the car to head on south to the next stop, Medford Oregon. I wish we would have had more time in Portland. You could have easily done a long weekend stay in each of the places we stayed, but I feel like we got a flavor for Portland, especially the beer culture that it’s known for, and I can’t wait to go back someday.