I’ve long wanted to visit Portland, Oregon (“Portlandia” is my jam and I’ve heard such great things about the city), so when my friends Sierra and Jesse moved to neighboring Vancouver, Washington, I really had an excuse to visit. Read all that went down during this jam-packed weekender in my most recent Travel Log.
DAY ONE: Friday, Aug. 12
When I touched down late that night, I couldn’t wait to plant my feet on that deliciously retro PDX carpet. I immediately caught the gaze of one woman who was staring intently at me like I was a unicorn, so that was real fun. By the way, Portland has all of five Black people total, and I’ll just leave this clip about its unsavory past here. But I digress. My pals Sierra, Yvette and Khalid were waiting for me when I exited the airport. We took a short drive to Sierra’s house in Vancouver, Washington, to drop off our luggage, and then headed to a divey bar that had karaoke. I tried a tasty Ace Pineapple Cider, knowing that I had to take it easy to prepare for the Vancouver Brewfest the following day (more on that later…). A kindly redheaded man asked me to sing “Summer Nights” from “Grease” with him, and I obliged. And Yvette shut the whole place down with a soulful rendition of Journey’s “Separate Ways.” All in all, a nice introduction to Vancouver, which is all about “big trucks, bebes and big attitudes,” according to Jesse.
Read more about my amazing Pacific Northwest weekender after the jump!
DAY TWO: Saturday, Aug. 13
We woke up a little later than we aimed for and left the house at about 9 a.m. to head into Orgegon for the Angel’s Rest hike, which is on the western end of the Columbia River Gorge. According to the trail marker it was 2.3 miles one way, for a grand total of 4.6 miles. And I felt every inch of it in my thighs the rest of the weekend. “Beautiful” doesn’t even begin to express the fullness of what my eyes observed. We were surrounded by trees, and at a certain point we came across a babbling brook and a waterfall in the distance. Portland is clearly a nature-loving town, and hiking is a true family affair. I lost count of how many toddlers and infants in Baby Björns were on the trails with their parents (Jesse wasn’t lying about all the bebes). The hike was two miles uphill, so it was pretty rigorous, but well worth it when we reached the top. The view of the Columbia River was impeccable. There was even a merry chipmunk that decided to grace us with its presence briefly at the peak, and we saw what looked to be people setting up for a marriage proposal and a unique baby blue and black spotted insect (possibly a beetle) gallivanting on some rocks. The downhill portion of the hike was much more pleasant and we got back to the car in no time. I should’ve taken before and after pictures of my hair because the humidity blew my twist-out to double the size. I’m all for more volume, so I didn’t mind at all.
A four-mile hike has a certain way of bringing out the hungry. I had a craving for tacos … Well, anything really. But we went to this delightful Vietnamese restaurant that Sierra and Jesse have grown fond of. It was super authentic and reminded me of this place by Yvette’s apartment in Oakland. I went with the pork and vermicelli noodles dish and a Thai iced tea. Sa-mackin’! We headed back to Sierra’s to shower and relax, then made our way out to the Vancouver Brewfest.
For $30, we got admission to the festival, 10 tokens good for beer tastings and food, and a 4-ounce commemorative glass. I was impressed with the caliber of beers lined up and the level of creativity with the names. I love a good play on words, and there was lots of it that day! One of my favorites was “To Helen Bock.” I started the event tasting some hefeweizens and ended with some delicious ciders. The Vancouver Brewfest had a welcoming small-town feel and good vibes all around. The band played some great throwbacks and there were ample porta-potties to accommodate my child-sized bladder. Since we used all of our tokens on beer, we opted to go to a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat. And that’s where my memory gets a little fuzzy — not gonna lie. Forty ounces of beer is a lot. But, we made it safely home to Sierra’s in an Uber. I was exhausted from the hike and fest, so I decided to hit the hay instead of going back out with the gang for some ice cream.
DAY THREE: Sunday, Aug. 14
Sundays call for brunch, so that’s exactly what we did. We drove out to Portland proper and headed straight for Tasty n Sons, known for its hearty boards and shareables. Of course there was a wait, so we moseyed two stores down on the same street to buy some time at Eat: An Oyster Bar. We were lured in by the enchanting sounds of a five-piece jazz band (Reggie Houston and The Box of Chocolates, which is a pretty great band name) and decided to stay a while. The New Orleans-inspired restaurant is super-cute and transported me to Bourbon Street. Service was kinda slow, but when we did find a seat on the patio, we ordered Hurricanes and fries to share. Sierra, Yvette and Khalid each did oyster shooters, but I sat that one out, being that I’m allergic. The drinks were strong but refreshing and the fries extra crisp with salt and pepper. About an hour later, our table was ready at Tasty n Sons, so we skeddaddled.
There were so many options at Tasty n Sons that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Since we weren’t going to be able to make it to Pine State Biscuits, I went with the comparable Fried Egg and Cheddar Biscuit with Fried Chicken, and The Continental (includes aquavit, pear brandy, lemon, orange flower water and Peychaud’s bitters) to wash it down. I was not disappointed. The fried chicken was the star of the dish. I almost wish I ordered an extra breast to feast on later in the day. The bird was seasoned to perfection and the juicy meat was a nice contrast to the crunchy exterior. The bevy was decent. It had a marked licorice-esque flavor that I wasn’t expecting. We also ordered some Fried Green Tomatoes to share. The remoulade paired nicely with the tanginess of the tomato. Stuffed, we then set off for downtown Portland.
We hit up Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade, which had some vintage favorites like NBA 2000, Paper Boy, Dance Dance Revolution and Pac Man. And then made our way to The Red Light Clothing Exchange, which was like a way-cooler Buffalo Exchange. There were tons of great pieces and it was organized, so I could find my XS and smalls with ease. Stay tuned for the unveiling of what I made off with in next week’s Thrifted Thursday! We also stopped at the Goodwill across the street, but found nothing unique enough to shell out dough on. These shops were located in a prime location, on Hawthorne Boulevard, and there were some other stores that time didn’t permit me to visit. Next time!
For dinner, we decided to live on the edge and try Kachka, a Russian restaurant with super authentic cuisine. We tried the Ruskie Zakuski Experience, wherein we received several courses of traditional dishes, from pickled fruits and veggies, to cured meats and fresh breads, to various fishes and caviar. All these dishes were served cold, and we ordered a side of warm beef, pork and veal dumplings, which were tasty. I tried just about everything, and while I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone, I’ve decided that Russian food might not be for me. However, we made a late-night stop at the famous Voo Doo Doughnuts to sweeten things up. It was after 11 p.m. and there was a line! I know they had to have some awesome donuts by this fact alone. The line moved quickly, and I ordered a mix of five to share with my coworkers back in California. Fantastic flavors, by the way. The Old Dirty Bastard is a must, as it is covered with chocolate frosting, crumbled Oreo cookies and a drizzle of peanut butter. Sounds like a weird combo, but it is everything and more! Afterward, we headed back to Sierra’s to pack for our early morning flights home and called it a night.
I’m so glad I finally visited Sierra and Jesse’s new digs. Portland and Vancouver is such a happening area. Bonus points because there were so many darling Craftsman-style homes, and I could see myself living in each and every one of them. While driving on the highways and observing all the trees, that awful yet infectious “Portlandia” R&B staple and vibey uptempo theme song were playing on a loop in my head. Admittedly, I didn’t see as many hipsters on unicycles or stilts as I would have liked. And no encounters with any of the Portland Trailblazers. However, I had an excellent time. Next time, I have to go to Powell’s Books, the farmers market and Pine State Biscuits, among the myriad other suggestions I received.
A huge thank you to Sierra and Jesse for welcoming us into their lovely home and being our Vancouver/Portalnd tour guides!
Some photos courtesy of Yvette.
To see previous places I’ve jetted off to via my Travel Log, click here.