June 13th, 2008
Why Portland? Amy Winkelman says “Hi Vidoop, welcome to Portland!”
[Editor: This is Portland. And this is why I love Portland. New Vidoop transplants ask a few questions, and Portland responds. And, as I read through this response, it struck me as a perfect "Why Portland?" entry. So, Portvangelist Amy Winkelman, take it away.]
I’m a friend of Rick Turoczy’s who pointed me to his Silicon Florist post about you all moving to Portland. Since I’m currently on a client work project in China, I’ll miss meeting you at Beer and Blog. However, I’m currently riding in a bus for the next three hours from Huizhou to Hong Kong and it’s a perfect opportunity to try and answer the questions you posed.
Like Rick, I’m thrilled to have another way-cool tech company come to Portland and as a native Oregonian and fanatic Portlander, I love recommending things to new folks visiting the city.
So, here goes…
Portland geographic primer
Oh, just one thing first – a quick guide to directions in town. The city is basically divided up into four quadrants (NE, SE, NW, SW) + North Portland which is sometimes referred to as NoPo. The Willamette (oh yeah, it’s pronounced “Wil-lam-it”) river is the divider between East and West, and Burnside Street is the divider between North and South. A couple of notable neighborhoods fall into the following sections:
- NW Portland – Old Town/Chinatown, Pearl District, Northwest
- SW Portland – Downtown, Goose Hollow, Multnomah Village, Silicon Florist Worldwide Headquarters
- SE Portland – Hawthorne, Division, Clinton, Mt. Tabor, Eastmoreland, Sellwood
- NE Portland – Alberta, Broadway/Irvington, Hollywood, Freemont, Beaumont, Alameda, Laurelhurst
Oh yeah, and in NW Portland the streets are alphabetical in one direction (Burnside, Couch, Davis, Everett, etc.) and numbered in the other direction so it’s super easy to get around. Since Portland is home to a couple of mapping start-ups, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. :)
Now, to get to the questions…
Is there any local friendly pick up soccer and volleyball games in Portland?
I’m not a soccer player, so I don’t know about that, sorry!
Where can I find authentic Chinese food in Portland?
In the city, you can try Fong Chong in Chinatown/Old Town. [Editor: And within walking distance of the Vidoop office, to boot!] The area is a little dicey at night, so I’d recommend going in the day. But really, most of the Chinese immigrants and families have moved out to SE 82nd (around Division St.) where it’s less expensive, so the most authentic places are up there. The biggest place and possibly the most authentic for dim sum is called Legin. It’s huge and popular (big wedding banquet spot and really busy on Sundays).
My favorite Chinese restaurant isn’t necessarily authentic, but it’s very tasty (kind of expensive though)—it’s called Sungari Pearl on NW 11th & Lovejoy in the Pearl District. [Editor: A little bit of a hike from the Vidoop offices, or a streetcar ride away.]
Is bacon the official choice of food of the city?
It is according to @verso, but I would honestly say anything that is locally farm grown, organic and/or “artisan” is generally pretty popular. Portland is also known for coffee, microbrew, and micro-distillers, wine, berries, hazelnuts and anything you can find at the farmer’s market. Oh, and you’ll see many McMenamins restaurants of different types around town, all owned by a pair of hippie brothers who renovate old spaces and put in restaurants, theaters, etc. each with its own sort of theme. They hire local artists to decorate them, McMenamins microbrew on tap and decent pub food, and the atmosphere is very Portland.
Where can I find some info on some sports leagues?
Online is the best way to go here. There are tons of leagues, and most should have Web-based info, registration, etc. available. There seems to be a league or group of people who get together to play just about every sport there is (I even see croquet players and bocci ball players in my neighborhood).
Who are some of the top local bands?
[Editor: Look out. You've struck a chord here. Oh my. Bad pun.] Indie-rock is the most popular kind of music here. The Shins, Modest Mouse, Spoon, The Decemberists, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Quasi, The Gossip, The Dandy Warhols, Helio Sequence, Stars of Track and Field, Menomena, The Thermals and many more call Portland home. It’s a great music town.
Pink Martini is also hugely popular, but they are a totally different kind of thing… just check them out. They’re fun. Floater is also a long-time favorite local band of many.
What is the one place you would say is a “must-go” for my trip to Portland this weekend?
That’s a really hard question since I don’t know what you’re into. Best thing to do is to pick up a Willamette Week (best alternative paper in Portland) and check out what’s going on this weekend. Here are some other ideas:
- If you like books (no, if you enjoy life!), you must go to Powell’s. Best bookstore on the planet. NW 10th & Burnside.
- Saturday morning, check out the Saturday Portland Farmers’ Market in the South Park blocks (downtown by Portland State University) as that’s a good slice of Portland life, and has great food.
- Go down to the Willamette River waterfront (Tom McCall waterfront park) and walk along the promenade.
- Take a ride on the Portland Streetcar to the South Waterfront area and take the Portland Aerial Tram up to OHSU (hospital at the top of the hill) for a great view of the city.
- Check out who’s playing at the Crystal Ballroom, the Doug Fir Lounge, Roseland, Wonder Ballroom, Berbati’s Pan or Jimmy Mak’s and go there for some live music and a drink. [Editor: More of Amy's insights on venues below.]
- Try Stumptown Coffee (various spots around the city) for amazing coffee and hipster viewing.
- If you like to hike or just want a walk in the woods, go to Forest Park—the largest city park in the US. It’s not really a park, but a forest that has amazing trails for short, long or really long hikes. You will totally forget you’re still in the city. A good way to access it is from Washington Park and the Hoyt Arboretum which is also by the Oregon Zoo (accessible by MAX light rail).
- If you’re a movie buff, there are tons of great theaters, from high-end fancy to down-to-earth funky. I like the pub theaters where you can order food and a beer while watching a second-run flick for only a couple of bucks—try the Mission (in NW), Laurelhurst Theater (NE) or the Bagdad (SE) [Editor: Home of Ignite Portland 3]. On the nicer side, try Fox Tower theaters (downtown) or for strictly independent or foreign flicks, check out the Living Room Theaters (downtown/NW) and Cinema 21 (NW).
- I’d also recommend checking out Jackpot Records (downtown & SE) and Music Millennium (NE), two of the best independent music stores.
- For art galleries, restaurants and window shopping, go to the Pearl District (if the weather is good, Jamison Square on NW 10th/11th & Johnson is filled with kids and families playing in the fountain which is fun to watch). I love walking around Northwest Portland along NW 21st & NW 23rd which has some great stores, restaurants and people watching opportunities—both neighborhoods are accessible using the Streetcar.
- Oh, and it’s definitely a good idea to grab a donut at Voodoo Doughnut at some point—a true Portland experience (downtown, just off Burnside on SW 3rd).
And most importantly, what is the best place for some Mexican food?
Portland is not really known for its Mexican food (sad, but true), but I really really like Nuestra Cocina (SE Division St). Also try Por Que No (NoPo on Mississippi), Cha Cha Cha (NE), or for funky Tex-Mex you can go to Esparza’s just off E Burnside and 28th.
Where is the best local place to get music gear?
Portland Music Co. is the most well-known (several stores around town).
My favorite is a little (smoke-free) spot called the Doug Fir Lounge that mostly features indie-rock bands (it’s on East Burnside, just over the Burnside bridge from downtown). It has a great bar and restaurant with a cool design, and is located in an up-and-coming area of town with some hip restaurants and shops.
I also really like the Crystal Ballroom, also on Burnside, but in NW/downtown Portland. It’s a lot bigger, brings in all sorts of musical acts and since it’s a McMenamins, the art/design is very Portland. It also has this awesome old-time dancefloor with springs underneath it so you bounce when you dance or pogo or sway, whatever you do. The Wonder Ballroom is another good spot for music (in North/NE).
Who wants to get together and play some board games?
I’ve seen people get together the Lucky Lab pub in SE Portland (on Hawthorne just over the Hawthorne Bridge) for board games. I’m not positive about which night—like Wednesdays maybe?—so check online. It’s a great pub, and I’ve seen all kinds of board games set up that I think you can just join in and play if there’s a seat open.
Robert Nelson aka Rob
Where should I live?
Well, are you single? Have kids? Want to buy a house or rent an apartment? Do you want to bike/walk to work? Want to spend a lot of money on rent/mortgage or only a little? All those things are pretty key (you know that, duh), but let me know what you’re looking for and I can recommend some neighborhoods for you to check out.
I’ve lived in several different kinds of places in NE, SE and NW Portland and each area has its own distinct neighborhoods with their own individual personality. I don’t know where Vidoop’s offices are going to be, but that’s definitely something to consider as well since Portland has excellent public transportation and bike routes so you may want to factor that into where you decide to live.
Where are some great places close to down/mid town to hike?
Forest Park! You will grow to love and adore it—it’s right in town, huge, gorgeous and has great, well-maintained trails. And of course right outside of the city, there are many amazing hiking, mountain biking and walking trails through forests, up/down mountains, along rivers, etc.
Oh, are you going to love Portland! My favorite (traditional) sushi place is in the Pearl District and called Hiroshi (after the chef). It’s a little expensive, but has the best quality fish I think. Other hot spots are Saburos (in SE/Sellwood – go early, it’s crowded), Yakuza (NE), and Masu (downtown & SE). For cheaper but still decent sushi, there are many Mio Sushi’s around town also.
Depends on what kind of music you like, but check out who’s playing at the Crystal Ballroom, the Doug Fir Lounge, Roseland, Wonder Ballroom, Berbati’s Pan or Jimmy Mak’s which are the places I’ve gone to most often.
Places to train MMA (jiu jitsu and kickboxing)?
Sorry, no idea… [Editor: I'm hoping that Jake Kuramoto will jump in here. He may even offer to beat you up!]
Joel D. Siedenburg
Looking for a good gym…?
24 Hour Fitness is in just about every neighborhood (downtown, Pearl District, NE, etc.) which is where I go (well, sometimes…). I have some friends who really like the YMCA downtown by Portland State University. There is a Nautilus gym downtown, and some boutique gyms in NW Portland. Oh, and there are tons of yoga and Pilates studios if you’re into that sort of thing (located all over the city).
Where are some close fly-fishing spots?
Not sure, sorry about that. I know people who head down to the McKenzie River near Eugene (about 2 hours away) and I know there is awesome fly fishing on the Rogue River in southern Oregon (about 5 hours away), but I’m sure there are places closer by. A friend of mine is a fly-fishing fanatic (and local software engineering guy) so I’d be happy to do an email invitation for you and he could fill you in.
And definitely need to start looking more into housing… recommendations?
I don’t know what price range you’re looking for, but Portland’s housing prices may be a bit high in comparison to what you’re used to. Every neighborhood in Portland has its own personality and price range, and the closer-in you go toward downtown, the more expensive it is generally. Let me know what you’re looking for and I can do my best to recommend some cool neighborhoods. I also have a really good realtor I’ve used a couple of times if you need that.
What kind of bike should I buy? A hybrid? Where’s the best place to buy one?
Since I bike around on an old busted up mountain bike on the occasions when I do bike, I’m the worst person to ask. But, there are amazing bike resources in town, including some excellent bike shops (Bike Gallery, River City Bicycles, even REI) that have super nice people who can help you. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance is a non-profit to check out—they should be a good jumping off point for bike-related questions. They’re actually a really strong force in the city to promote better bike lanes, bike safety and to make Portland even more bike-friendly.
Is there a good capoeira group in Portland? Muay thai?
I so had to look up capoeira on wikipedia. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t practitioners in Portland… [Editor: Again, recommending Jake Kuramoto---who should be at Beer and Blog---to help in this regard.]
What are the geeky niches in Portland? e.g., retro video game hobbyists? Chiptunes scene?
Portland has lots of geeky subcultures, including retro video game hobbyists (check out Ground Kontrol in Old Town [Editor: Conveniently located just below the current Vidoop office])… The city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird” so I guarantee you that you’ll find “your people” whoever they may be.
Again, the Web is your best friend when it comes to finding them.
I hope this helps, that you have great weather during your stay and that you enjoy Portland as much as we do. :)
Please feel free to drop me a note over email amywinkelman at gmail dot com or Twitter if you have any questions.