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:

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…

Koesmanto Bong

Is there any local friendly pick up soccer and volleyball games in Portland?

For volleyball, the schedules and availability of courts change a lot depending on time of year, so check out: http://volyplyr.brinkster.net/pv.asp and http://www.portlandvolleyball.org/

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.

Joel Curran

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.

Oh, and the jazz/blues scene is strong—Jimmy Mak’s in the Pearl District is a great place to see jazz/blues players. Curtis Salgado is sort of the king of that scene, as is Mel Brown.

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.

Jason Grlicky

Where is the best local place to get music gear?

Portland Music Co. is the most well-known (several stores around town).

What are your favorite venues?

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.

Live music?

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.

Benjamin Stover

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.

More questions?

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.

Have fun!

Amy Winkelman

  1. For a gym Vidoopers may also be interested in West Side Athletic, inside the US Bancorp tower just across Burnside. That’s where a few of us at eROI go to get buff. It’s pretty small but has everything you’d need (except a pool). It’s never really that busy even during lunch and after work (not sure about the mornings though) and everyone there is really friendly. It isn’t open late and not open at all on Sundays, but you can upgrade your membership to also be able to use the two East Side Athletic locations (bigger, swimming pools). But if you usually head to the gym around work hours, you really couldn’t ask for a gym to be any closer… less than two blocks from the office!


  2. There are LOTS of great outdoor soccer leagues, but we also have great indoor facilities and it seems like the coed teams are always short of females. If you need a team, look on http://www.soccermatchmaker.com or call Soccerplex (www.soccerplex.com – another ‘burb’ destination).

    Also, I was out and about yesterday and saw a MMA gym, but I can’t remember where exactly, but it was somewhere close in.

    Amy, I can’t believe you left Hakatamon off of the sushi list! Come on!

    Re: hiking….drop into Powell’s and peruse one of the many Portland hiking guides…there are so many great hikes in the gorge, especially if you are a waterfall fan. Check out Angel’s Rest, Horsetail Falls, Punch Bowl, etc.

  3. Hey everybody, I woke up in Hong Kong this morning to find the “letter” to Vidoop I sent to Rick posted on Silicon Florist, which was a tad unexpected so… apologies for not including the ‘burbs or doing any thorough research. I truly just wrote this on a long bus ride in China, did a tiny edit and added a few links then sent it off to Rick to forward to the Vidoop team.

    ANYWAY, I’m grateful to see others chime in with their personal recommendations, and Todd Minz – dude, I know there are some great spots outside of Portland city proper, so I agree with Rick that you should write a guest post about them. 🙂

  4. Beyond the Pearl, out US 30, is wonderful Forest Park, 6+ square miles of natural beauty.

    And then further out is Linnton – shop the Feed & Seed right in “downtown”.

    Then head out a few more miles to Sauvie Island. Farms and natural areas, great biking and birding, good u-picks and large farm stores. Continue up Reeder Road to public beaches, including one of the area’s 2 nudie beaches. Park at the end of the road and walk along beach and through woods to the lighthouse by Warrior Rock. Then walk a little further and you’re just across the water from downtown St Helens (the town, not the mountain).

    You can also motor or bike up Germantown Rd or Cornelius Pass Rd and find yourself in rolling farmland, a quick and complete change from city life.

    Enjoy this beautiful and diverse metro!

  5. Rick, we should think and refer to ourselves as Portland (the Metropolitan Area) and not Portland (the City) for any number of reasons. We should all stand together against inferior places like Seattle and San Francisco that compete against us for the right to welcome companies like Vidoop.

  6. MMA for Robert:

    Portland has a gem of a martial arts school in the Hollywood neighborhood (NE). It is called ‘Portland Small Circle Jujitsu (http://www.portlandjujitsu.com/), and is headed up by Stan Miller (an original student of Dr Wally Jay, founder of small circle).

    Stan also mixes a healthy dose of Wing Chun for blocking, entering and more.

    Most folks don’t realizes this, but Portland is lucky to have Stan, who is in the direct lineage to Wally Jay, himself a contemporary of Bruce Lee.

  7. I’ve heard Drift Creek has good fly fishing but I haven’t been yet. Looks like it’s about 2 hours from Portland. We are a one (long) days drive from Bozeman, MT—fly fishing Mecca. “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother.”

    On gyms I second the Crossfit recommendation. (what could be better than Open Source, social-mediafied fitness) There are at least three Crossfit gyms in Portland—each with its own personality. I’ll bet you can find one that fits yours.

    For a cheap and good diner try Skyline Restaurant. Great shake. Good food. Much naugahyde. While in the neighborhood, take a hike in Forest Park (mentioned by @amywinkelman above).

    On the “where to go” I recommend Multnomah Falls if you have a car, motorcycle or good bike. It’s a 40 minute car ride. See the main falls and also the surrounding smaller ones. Slake thirst on the way at McMenamins Edgefield.

  8. This is a great general touristy post. Lots & lots more beyond the classic stops though. (psst: I am writing this part in a whisper voice so as not to alert to my friends that I do love now living in the burbs more than my 20 years in SE, but to ditto Todd & Rhiannon, there are a lot of great secrets the burbs hold…many that those of us who moved out here sometimes do NOT care to share with our close-in PDX pals…you just might move out here too! Sshh…)

  9. The suburbs have TONS to offer – and I’m in charge of promoting our hidden gems in Beaverton, Hillsboro, and the other communities in Washington County. We have 18 wineries, and excellent food out here!


  10. @Todd Mintz: Do I hear a vote for starting the “Why Beaverton?” or “Why Hillsboro?” series? And I know there are some “Why Corvallis?”, “Why Eugene?”, “Why Bend?”, and “Why Vancouver?” types out there, as well.

    The Silicon Forest is a diverse region. I’d agree that it would be great to hear from some of these other locales.

  11. FYI, Portland has many wonderful suburbs and many people such as myself prefer to live in them for many reasons. Beaverton for example. You might have heard of it…a company called Nike is headquartered there. Hillsboro too…a company called Intel has a pretty big presence there. Also, there is plenty of good Mexican food in Washington County…almost too many places by my estimation.

    A little balance please :.)

  12. Best burrito in town: Honkin Huge Burrito cart in pioneer courthouse square – select banana sauce and hot chili paste.

    Bicycles: Check out the used bike selection at the City Bikes worker-owned Coop before going to the all-new stores.

    Must-Go trip: Rent a sea kayak from portlandrivercompany.com, walk the kayak 1000ft to the pier, get in, paddle down to OMSI and back (2 hour trip).

  13. For geeky niches, one place to look is Dorkbot.

  14. I’m sure your “…notable neighborhoods” list doesn’t have North Portland links because you didn’t have time to find links, right? RIGHT? Let me help you out…

    North Portland – St. Johns, Kenton, Cathedral Park, Overlook

  15. Awesome post. I only have to suggestions to the above list:

    Good gym, check out CrossFit (http://www.crossfithel.com). It’s an awesome, community focused gym that busts your balls and makes you say thank you. Like no other, and as far from a “Big Box” gym as can be imagined.

    For Mexican food, you HAVE to go to La Bonita (28th and Alberta). Amazing pastor tacos, chillaquiles, and quesadillas. Of if you’re looking for somewhere a bit nicer, and more Southern Mexico, try Autentica (http://www.autenticaportland.com/). Portland Monthly just raves about their $3 taco. Great personality and Sunday brunch.

    Other than that, I agree with Amy. Go Portland!

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