Portland, Oregon: myth or reality?

portland oregonJust saying the name Portland, Oregon, brings all sorts of images to mind. Bicycling vegans. Farmer’s markets. Good beer. Hipsters with ironic mustaches (him), oversized glasses (her), and skinny jeans (everyone!). A national media darling for some time, the city and its inhabitants are now being perfectly skewered in the IFC series Portlandia. The story of Portland is being told as a wonderland where people sit around and drink coffee, discussing their latest art projects and the most responsible way to legalize marijuana.

Does this mythic Portland really exist?

In a word, yes; however, there is the seedy underbelly of high unemployment, homelessness, and other unglamorous real-life problems. But for travelers, it can be a bit of a hipster paradise – ignore those pesky issues and immerse yourself in the local culture, in all its left-leaning, locavoracious glory.

For instance: yes, the locavore myth is true – people in Portland care about their food, where it comes from, and tend to seek out the highest quality ingredients. This has led to an abundance of dining options, most serving up excellent meals with less attitude and a smaller price tag than neighboring Seattle or San Francisco. Local favorites include downtown’s hip Clyde Common and North Portland’s Tasty n Sons. If you’d prefer your lunch cost $5 and comes in in a compostable take-out box, just walk a few blocks in any direction to stumble upon one of the city’s 600+ food carts. Choices include tacos, waffles, burgers, noodles, or a snitzelwich, but I’d just follow the traveling Koi Fusion on Twitter to hunt down a Korean-style quesadilla – make sure to ask for kimchi.
Portland and brewing go hand in hand, whether you’re talking beer or coffee. Breweries are plentiful in Portland, and whether you seek out a big shiny brewpub like Deschutes, or just wander into any neighborhood bar, you’ll find a selection of local brews – from hoppy IPA’s to smooth, dark porters.

Good coffee is nearly as prevalent as good beer, but seek out the ubiquitous Stumptown – the king of independent roasters in Portland, with their most accessible location in the Ace Hotel downtown. Order a latte from the tattooed, possibly surly barista behind the counter. Admire the art they made in your foam. And be happy you don’t have to help them rewrite their resume for the eighth time this year.