A Weekend in Portland OR 2014: Books, Beer, Doughnuts, Strippers, Vintage Stores, Creepy Clown Rooms, and The Golden Girls.
Ah, Portland. Seattle’s hippie party-girl sister who is always up to something ridiculous. I love Portland. I don’t get down there from Seattle as much as I’d like to, but when I do, it always leaves me wanting more. I still have a long list of things I’d like to see and do in Portland, so stay tuned for more posts on Portlandia.
My good friend Keith from New York was at a business conference in Portland, and decided to stay through the weekend. I took the Bolt Bus down to visit, along with his friend Danielle who flew up from San Diego to visit.
If you’re a single passenger traveling from Seattle, the Bolt Bus is the best way to go. It’s $15-$20 each way (sometimes they have last minute sales for $1.00!) and include wifi, free movies and music, and outlets for charging electronics. The ride is about 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic. It’s cheaper than the train, and drops you off right in downtown Portland. It also has a bathroom, which is very important in my opinion.
On the ride down, the wifi was down on the bus (AT&T dropped their 4G was the report from the bus driver). I get car sick anyway, so it wasn’t an issue for me. My outlet didn’t seem to work at my seat either. I saw others with stuff plugged in though, so it may have just been me. Other than that, the ride was mostly on time, and pretty comfortable. I was seated next to a girl sewing sequins on a burlesque octopus costume for some rave party next weekend, which is about as Portland as it gets.
Keith was staying at the Embassy Suites downtown, easy walking distance from the bus drop off on 5th Ave and SW Salmon St. The hotel was nice, with a king size bed in the bedroom, and a living room with a pull out couch.
We hopped in a taxi and headed to Mississippi Ave in North Portland for some dinner. While walking up Mississippi Ave, we stopped and admired the Sunlan Lightbulb’s current display of a Star Wars lego collection. Last time I was here it was an impressive collection of stuffed toy tigers.
Mississippi Ave appears to be an up and coming neighborhood, with a lot of new apartments and condos coming in, and a young, hip crowd. You’ll see twentysomethings with tattoos tending their backyard gardens and chicken coops in shared rental houses. A lot of restaurants in the area seem to have gone with the southern “Mississippi” theme as we saw quite a few southern restaurants and food carts.
I was interested in the food truck court Mississippi Marketplace. There were some enticing food options, but only half of them were open, which was kind of strange for a Friday night. Maybe some open later for the late night crowd?
I am curious to try a sandwich sometime from Big Ass Sandwiches, but alas, they were closed. Next time.
We decided on dinner at Miss Delta, a southern food restaurant a couple blocks down. I’ve been there before for brunch, which was excellent as well.
Danielle and Keith chose some beers from their plentiful local beer selection, and I went with a Bloody Mary. There was a choice of pepper vodka or regular, I chose pepper. It was delicious.
We started with an order of hush puppies, which came with a chipotle aoili. They were some of the best I’ve ever had. I’m a big fan of hush puppies.
For dinner Keith had the smoked andouille sausage with red beans and rice, Danielle had the Miss Delta Meats sampler that included smoked spare ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. I had the blackened catfish. The entrees came with two sides each, I had collard greens and a cup of the crawfish chowder, and Danielle had the fried okra and mac and cheese.
My catfish was a little salty, but the crawfish chowder needed a bit of salt, so I worked it out by mixing the catfish into the chowder. It was so much food that none of us could finish our plates. I feel terrible wasting food.
**Note: If you come here, come HUNGRY.
On my previous trip to Mississippi Ave, I visited the Amnesia Brewery, which had a huge open outdoor beer garden and old-timey southern blues blaring from the bar stereo, and we really enjoyed it. It has since been replaced by Stormbreaker Brewing, and I have yet to check it out. We walked by though, and the set up with the giant outdoor beer garden is the same. Also up the street next to the Mississippi Marketplace is Prost! German Pub, which also has a great outdoor beer garden.
Down the Avenue is another little gem that you shouldn’t miss: Ruby Scoop. There is always a line on weekend evenings, and the hand-crafted ice cream is some of the best I’ve ever had. Last time I enjoyed a tasty sugar cone with honey lavender.
Too full to think about ice cream or heavy craft beer, we waddled over to The Alibi, a tiki bar a couple blocks away on N. Interstate Ave. When we turned the corner, there was no mistake that we’d found the right place.
There was about every disco hit ever to make it onto any “best of disco” CD ever made playing, and an enthusiastic bartender singing along whenever he had someone’s attention. The cocktails were fruity, and always came with an umbrella.
After enough foo foo drinks and disco hits to last us a lifetime, we had the bartender call us a cab back downtown. It was time to visit Mary’s, the oldest strip club in Portland.
Now, I’ve never been to a strip club in Seattle. This is because Seattle doesn’t allow alcohol and nudity in the same establishment. So basically, the only people who go to Seattle strip clubs are bachelor parties, and pervy men who just want to see boobies.
While boobies may be the main purpose of a strip club, Portland has many strip clubs that provide great entertainment, full bars, mixed crowd (men and women), and a low sleaze factor. Mary’s is one of the best of those. No lap dances, no “private rooms,” just good old stage entertainment. For me, a night out in Portland isn’t right without capping it off at Mary’s.
The other great thing about Mary’s is that the bar is totally run by women. The only men I ever see are the door bouncers outside collecting your $2.00 entrance fee.
The club was packed, almost equally full of men and women. I saw the girl who I sat next to on the bus who was sewing the sequins on her octopus costume. The drinks are cheap and there is a wholesome mural of people harvesting bananas on the back wall.
There were three strippers taking turns on the stage: A curvy girl in knee-high black leather boot roller skates with Frankenstein-like autopsy scar tattoos, a skinny girl in a string bikini with big hoop earrings and some great pole moves, and Bettie. I’m sure her name wasn’t Bettie, but she was definitely channeling Bettie Page with her 1950’s style high-waist leopard print granny panties and wavy black hair with Bettie bangs. She was mesmerizing. Her entire back was covered in stunning tattoos and she definitely had the sultry “wink and a smile” burlesque face that really makes a good strip tease.
We sat through several rounds of strip teases. An old salty man in a safari hat on the edge of the stage was caught trying to take a cell phone photo of Frankenskates. She took his phone, rubbed it into a couple crevices no one wants one’s phone to be rubbed in, and refused to give it back to him until he forked over a large wad of cash. She did take a photo of her nipple for him though, so he got that.
We capped off the night with a trip to Voodoo Doughnut, another Portland tradition.
The doughnuts are expensive (most are $3.50-$5.00 each) but worth it. My favorites are the ones that involve peanut butter, but the bacon maple bars are a big hit.
Danielle got a Memphis Mafia (banana fritter with peanut butter and chocolate chips), Keith got a Gay Bar (cream filled bar with fruit loops), and I got a Dirty Snowball (self explanatory).
**Note: Voodoo Doughnut is cash only.
Portland has another doughnut shop making headlines for it’s “high-end” organic doughnuts called Blue Star Donuts. They use locally sourced ingredients and a French brioche recipe for the dough. Danielle tried some while in Portland, but I didn’t get to check them out. She said they were good–very light and airy. Next time. They have a location at 3549 SE Hawthorne in the Hawthorne neighborhood.
Breakfast is complimentary at The Embassy Suites, so we went downstairs and took advantage. They have a hot buffet with sausage, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, and scrambled eggs, a made-to-order omelet bar, and all the continental fare you would expect. It was good, even the coffee.
Our first stop of the day was the Portland Saturday Market, which was just a couple blocks from the hotel on the riverfront. There were a lot of artisan craft stalls to see, unique Portland T-shirts and art/photo prints, clothing, and food.
I was in love with this jellyfish coat. If it had been in my size, my bank account may be suffering a bit more than I planned.
After the market, we walked up Burnside to the legendary Powell’s Books. Powell’s isn’t just a book store. It’s a book mecca. New and used books on the shelves, together in harmony. It is so big that you need a map (don’t worry, they hand them out near the cash register area). There are multiple wings that are color coded, and many discount shelves and Portland-themed shelves throughout the store. It’s also a great place to buy a gift for someone. I made myself say no to the unicorn knee socks, but bought Keith a purse that looks like a taco. I think everyone needs one.
We forced ourselves out of Powell’s, and caught the bus over to the Hawthorne neighborhood. Hawthorne is considered a “hipster” neighborhood by many, and if you are into vintage shopping, it’s a great place to go.
We were starving, so we decided on the Bread and Ink Cafe on Hawthorne and 36th. It’s a cute, sizeable place that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was a nice day, so we sat outside by the sidewalk. Keith and Danielle had burgers and fries, and I had the grilled shrimp sandwich with the house salad, which came with chipoltle mayo and mango salsa.
I did notice that the restaurant had a “Waffle Window” next to it, which I don’t think was affiliated. I want to come back for that. Doesn’t every neighborhood need a waffle window?
Moving on, it was time to do some shopping. Red Light Vintage is right next to Bread and Ink, so we checked that out. I’ve been there before, and there are also two locations in Seattle. There’s always different clothes though, so it’s always interesting.
We also couldn’t resist the Classic Collection hat store, which has every type of hat you can think of. The hats are expensive, but quality. If you fancy yourself a cowboy or going to a royal event in London, this is the place to go.
I split up from Danielle and Keith for a few minutes to check out Savvy Plus, a consignment clothing store for women sizes 12 and up. Being plus size, finding cute clothing (especially in vintage stores) can be hard. Their selection wasn’t huge, and I didn’t find anything I liked. It is a consignment store, however, so new stuff is always coming in. If you are a lady of the curvier persuasion, this place is worth a stop.
Our last stop on Hawthorne was the House of Vintage. This place is huge, and the layout is all nooks-and-crannies, full of randomness. Don’t come here unless you have some time to spend. There is so much to see and it was a little overwhelming. A great place to look for treasures, however. I’d like to go back when I have more time to kill.
One of the last times I was in Hawthorne I was visiting some friends who lived in the neighborhood and we went to see Twilight at the Bagdad Theater, which is an old theater that serves beer and is 21+ after 8:00 PM. It was pretty fun to see a tween movie in a theater full of adults drinking beer (it was also only $3.00, but I think shows are usually $8.50). If you have an evening to kill in the area and a good movie is playing, The Bagdad is a real gem–especially for childfree folks.
Significantly overstimulated by the House of Vintage, we called a taxi over to the Buckman neighborhood to Cascade Brewing Barrel House, which specializes in sour beers. Danielle’s priority on this trip was beer tasting Portland‘s craft brews.
The sour beers are mixed with fruits and other flavors and then aged in barrels to create a tart, sour beer. We tried a lot of the $2.00 tasters: Champagne Mango, Honey Ginger Lime, Strawberry, Blueberry, The Vine, Apricot, and some of the non sours. They were interesting, quite a puckering assault on your taste buds. I don’t think I could drink a full glass of one though. It was very unique, and if you’re a beer enthusiast, you should check this place out. Food is also served.
Moving on, we hit Danielle’s next priority brewery, The Hair of the Dog.
Hair of the Dog was a little more up my alley. The beers had quite a varied flavor range. Be warned–many of them are really strong–like 10%-11%. I enjoyed the Fred and the Adam best. The description of Adam was spot on: “chocolate, leather, and smoke.”
We got a bit hungry so I ordered the pickle sampler, which included house-made pickled beets, okra, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. It was very good. I also ordered the Chuck Norris duck wings, which said they had a “solid punch and a nice kick.” I didn’t gather from that description that they would melt my face off, which is what they did. I ordered some bread and butter to attempt to put out the fire. I consider myself to have a moderately high spice tolerance, so be warned.
Prior to coming to Portland, I had been googling weird bars in Portland, and came across The Funhouse Lounge. Also in the Buckman/Southeast Portland neighborhood, The Funhouse is a carnival themed bar with a “clown room” and comedy shows. Upon visiting their website, I saw that during the month of June they were running a live action production of two episodes of The Golden Girls, done by men in drag.
Now, Keith being a huge Golden Girls fan, and this being the most amazing thing we’d ever heard of, we had our night set.
They had two shows, one at 7:00 (which we missed) and one at 9:30, that was a “late night” version. We went to the 9:30 show, in which they went off script and said a few things you can’t say on TV.
When we got to the Funhouse, the early show was still wrapping up, but we were welcome to sit in the Clown Room with drinks and wait.
This is the Clown Room:
Yeah. And an empty clown room….even creepier.
The collection of clown paintings was pretty impressive. Down the hall, past the flickering blue and purple light, was another smaller room with a red light and a velvet Elvis painting that was even creepier.
Naturally, we busied ourselves by doing a photo shoot.
Finally, we were let into the main bar to get our seats for the show.
Keith “auditioned” with two women to sing the Golden Girls theme song, but lost out to a woman who auditioned by singing the Canadian National Anthem in a really low husky voice. Oh well.
The first episode was hilarious, and during set changes they showed retro 80’s commercials on the TVs by the bar. After the intermission, the actors announced that they had decided to do the second episode “Tennessee Williams” style (very dramatic and very Southern). It was even better.
There were posters advertising next month’s show–a live action production of American Psycho. I can only imagine what that would entail.
We said goodbye to The Funhouse and called it a night, stopping for some late night tacos at a taco truck on 3rd and Oak near the hotel.
There are so many things to see and do in Portland, I still have a two page list of things for the next trip. Paddy and I are hoping to go to Portland again later this year or next, so stay tuned and hit us up for ideas if you’re planning on going.