Monday, February 13, 2012

18 Hours in Downtown Portland

Yea, it was a pretty quick trip.  But my overnight to Portland last weekend was still as fun as usual. What's not to love about this friendly, walkable, charming, and uniquely hip Northwestern city parodied as Portlandia?

It's raining lightly when I pull into downtown a little after 6 p.m. on Friday. That's why we have raincoats, right?

I'm staying tonight at the Hotel Monaco, just a couple blocks from the Willamette River  and a block from Pioneer Square in the heart of downtown. Great location. I manage to find a meter spot on the street a couple blocks away,  where I can park until 8 a.m. tomorrow morning and avoid expensive overnight parking garage fees.

As I walk into the vibrantly colored hotel lobby, someone is playing the baby grand piano with a fast-paced flourish. A group is clustered in big chairs by the fireplace with a couple dogs in tow. I feel like I've just walked into someone's stylish, spacious, comfy home.

Hotel Monaco's inviting lobby
Stepping into one of Portland's excellent and trendy restaurants at 7:30 on a Friday night without a reservation is dicey. Instead we head to Jake's Grill several blocks uptown, which has been serving steaks, seafood, and more since 1992. There's a reason they've managed to stay in biz amidst Portland's competitive dining scene: the food is consistently high quality and well prepared.

My wild prawns are huge, sweet, and succulent, and the side of broccoli is steamed to perfection. My sister's Kobe beef potstickers and blackened steelhead salad are equally divine.  While I'm full, she indulges in a lovely berry cobbler a la mode baked in its own little cup. It disappears quickly.

After a nice dinner, I leave my dining companions to go meet a friend for a movie at the Living Room Theaters just a couple blocks away. Think modern, sophisticated, small-scale multiplex with state-of-the art equipment. Want a glass of wine or Scotch with the movie along with your freshly popped and exquisitely spiced popcorn?  A sleek bar/lounge fronts the theaters, where you can go for a drink even if you don't catch a film there.

Later as we're walking back to the hotel to relax and talk, I have to stop and take a sip of pure, sweet Bull Run water at one of downtown Portland's vintage drinking fountains. I loved these when I was a kid, too, when the thought of buying bottled water seemed silly and bizarre.

Downtown Portland's historic "Benson's bubblers" drinking fountains

For breakfast we wander a couple blocks over to Mother's and beat the Saturday morning crowds by getting there around 8:30.  Bill Clinton smiles at us from a framed photograph at the front counter, arms around whom I assume is Mother's chef or owner.  Mother's feels like Grandma's sorta fancy parlor. With my restricted diet right now, the personable waiter accomodates my special order without a blink (two eggs scrambled in olive oil with spinach and mushrooms, very tasty) .  This is Portland(ia) after all.

Dine under the chandeliers at Mother's Bistro and Bar

Walking back to the hotel, we pass some of Portland's historic old buildings, like the Bishop House across the street from Mother's and the Dekum. 

"Hey, I remember that building," says my sister as we stop to take a picture.  "I used to pick up antiwar leaflets in an office there to distribute when I was in high school."

The Dekum

The Bishop's House

Since my time is running out, I scoot uptown to spend an hour browsing at Powell's Books on the edge of the Pearl.  Today I walk out with just two new books, which isn't bad for me. At noon it's time to depart. Just a quick dip into all the exploring, shopping, dining, browsing to be done here in perfectly progressive Portland.

What are you favorite things to do in downtown Portland? 


Anonymous said...

We love the Portland Monaco. Happy hour free drinks in the lobby. We were in NW downtown Portland (west of 205) recently and ate at a great cheap Mexican place, better than Taco del Mar. I'll try to remember the name.


MM said...

Thanks for the Portlandia blog Jill.

Happy Valentine's Day Sweetie!

Seanna said...

Molly and I are planning a weekend in Portland. Thanks for you timely tips. I have confidence in a native daughter! --SB

Anonymous said...

The Farmer's Market on Saturday is just wonderful. Lots of interesting food and some tasty cookies. I also like the market under the Burnside bridge. And, a late lunch at the brew pub in the Pearl District.


jill said...

Hey Seanna, have a wonderful time! AND if you make reservations, try one of Portland's wonderful restaurants like Wildwood. Jakes is good but I picked it for my highly carnivorous brother-in-law's taste.

Betty, thanks for the comment/tips! Always fun to explore the Pearl.