PDX: Hipsters, Food Carts & Doughnuts

15 05 2013

It seems crazy that 5 years ago I was taking a train almost every other weekend.  Four hours, heading out Friday night or Saturday morning and coming back on Sunday night.  Toronto to Windsor ON.  During those trips I became an excellent train napper (although really, napping’s never been a problem for me), and saw a lot of different versions of Christmas Tree farms along the way.

Well, now that I’ve found myself on the opposite coast, I have different 4 hour train ride options.  Seattle to Portland on Amtrak for the affordable price of $24?  Sign me up!






The train wound its way along the coast with views of the Puget Sound and rural farmland.  All in all, a pretty relaxing train ride and four hours seemed to fly right along.

And so, I arrived in Portland, suitcase in hand and the map on my phone to point me in the right direction.  The purpose of my trip?  Figure out what Portland, OR is all about.  You have three days to do it….GO!



During my pre-research online, where everything looks bigger on the map and you can read all about the food and the streets and neighbourhoods, but you don’t quite get a sense of it, people say that Portland is a laidback city with a hipster vibe.


It was kind of cold and rainy, so I’m not sure if I got the right vibe, but I will say that everyone seemed to be very friendly.  A lot of Portland natives tend to move to Denver for a short period of time, but ultimately find themselves back in Portland.  And yes, I did find the hipsters.  They were all hanging out in my hotel lobby with cups of coffee and black-rimmed glasses.  I definitely felt the hipster vibe, and so I also found myself standing by the wall in the corner.  I did feel like I fit in a little better when I grabbed a mocha from Stumptown and slapped my glasses on.



So I walked.  And I walked.  And I walked some more.  What seemed like a huge downtown area, was really pretty small, and we even walked across one of the bridges (to find out later from a cab driver that that’s the neighbourhood you should avoid).  And one other unique Portland thing to know – you can’t hail a cab.  That just doesn’t work in Portland.  You have to call a cab to pick you up – anyone you see is probably on their way to some other fare.  The Jupiter Hotel (right next to the Doug Fir Lounge where you can catch some cool music) has its very own special cab button. Good to know.

Obviously food carts are key.  With so much hype, I kind of thought it would be this elaborate food cart set up and they would look like no other food cart you have ever seen, but really…..they pretty much all look like the beat up foot carts with the laminated food photos in every other city.  But the variety – this is where Portland impresses!  Porchetta sandwiches, rice bowls, thai street food, dumplings with every type of filling.  Yum.

And then, because when you’re in Portland it just seems like something you have to do.  I took the obligatory walk down to SW 3rd & SW Ankeny  and followed my nose until I could actually taste the doughnuts.   Yes, it may have been a little too early for doughnuts at 9:30am on a Friday, but that doesn’t mean there still wasn’t a line up at Voodoo Doughnuts.


I did the necessary research ahead of time because there really doesn’t seem to be enough time to look at the varieties while you’re standing in front of the menu board.  And I didn’t want to feel the pressure and make a wrong choice.  And so, because I can’t say that bacon on a maple bar does anything for me despite my love for bacon, I had to go for the infamous Voodoo Man with the pretzel stake to his heart.


So…Portland, the laid back city with the hipster vibe.  The food cart bonanza and home to doughnuts with pretzel stakes.  You’re only four hours and $25 away.  I’ll be back.  You can count on that.





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