Downtown Portland

Downtown Portland. As of late, land of eternal construction, where the often-narrow one-way streets are even more confusing for newcomers to navigate.

Downtown Portland. As of late, land of eternal construction, where the often-narrow one-way streets are even more confusing for newcomers to navigate.

Behind the orange road cones and whitewashed barricaded avenues, however, you’ll find one of the most laid-back city centers in the nation. People here amble through their business day. They stroll through their afternoons. In fact, it’s safe to say that the fastest things moving about the heart of this city are usually the bike messengers.

The riverside Portland of old was a little more lively. With one bar for every 40 residents in its debaucherous heyday at the dawn of the 20th century, rampant incidents of shanghai activity, crooked cops and prostitutes galore, the Rose City was quite the little punk rock girl in her youth.

Downtown Portland has mellowed in her middle age. She switched out most of the bars with coffee shops, and when she does go out for the night, she’s trying hard to quit smoking (the smoking ban goes in to effect January 2009 statewide).

She pushes the idea of public transportation fanatically to all her friends. She doesn’t like to stay out too late on weekdays. She sometimes dabbles with the idea of being vegan. In short, she’s become that safe, boring friend who’s always doing “OK.”

Which is just fine, for most. In spite of the coffee we mainline into our bloodstreams, many residents like the pace the way it is. This could be why it is so easy to out-walk the ambling streetcar as it travels from the Portland State campus to the Central Library.

So welcome to the central city neighborhoods! We’ve only got one 24-hour diner (not open on Mondays), most non-bar hangouts shut down at 9 p.m., and a lot of our street corners smell like pee (or sometimes worse), but we have a lot of places to jog and some pretty killer happy hours.

Top 10 places:

Baan-Thai1924 SW. Broadway503-224-8424Baan-Thai dishes up authentic, interesting Thai food at a decent price. “Medium spicy” here means nigh-inedible heat. And it’s close to PSU, too.

Bike Central220 S.W. First Ave.503-227-4439The knowledgeable, competent staff here treats customers’ bikes as if they were their own, and are speedy with their repairs.

Jackpot Records203 S.W. Ninth Ave.503-222-0990?This tiny, shiny shop is packed with quality finds both on CD and vinyl. It’s official; Jackpot is downtown Portland’s best hotspot for used records.

Mother’s Bistro and Bar212 S.W. Stark St.503-464-1122Huge yet cozy at the same time, with a great brunch menu that gives diners plenty of comfort-food options.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden127 N.W. Third Ave. 503-228-8131A great spot in the city to take in some peace and greenery, and get a taste of culture to boot. Come here for the ponds and pavilions, or for the occasional live music or arts event.

Regal Cinemas Fox Tower 10846 S.W. Park Ave.503-221-3280The majority of your choices for movie-watching downtown are going to be owned by Regal. The Fox Tower location offers a great selection of first-run indie films and a student discount.

Someday Lounge125 N.W. Fifth Ave.503-248-1030Fantastic sound, sexy interior and small armies of interesting musical acts come through this place weekly, making it the finest establishment for live music in the area.

Stumptown at the Ace Hotel1022 S.W. Stark St.503-224-9060Portland’s most ubiquitous local roast, housed next to a historic hotel lobby, complete with enormous couches and a sweet photobooth. Without a doubt, the best spot for a cup of Joe in downtown.

Tom McCall Waterfront Park1020 S.W. Naito PkwyCar-free, great views and lots of other joggers to nod to makes this the No.1 spot for a jog in downtown Portland. This certainly beats running laps around the Stott open field.

Voleur111 S.W. Ash St.503-227-3764Great happy hour specials, house-infused liquors such as cinnamon-ginger vodka and blackberry rum, and Portland’s best fries in an old building with great ambiance. Taking all that into account, Voleur is downtown Portland’s best bar.

The essentials:

Foodstuffs: Safeway1030 S.W. Jefferson St.This is pretty much your sole option for grocery shopping downtown. Their selection is surprisingly limited, and unlike many Safeways that run 24/7, this one closes at 1 a.m.

Post office: University Station Post Office1505 S.W. Sixth Ave.This is the place for passport services, stamps and picking up care packages from mom.

Bus lines to PSU:

Fareless Square: 1, 8, 9, 12, 19, 44, 68, 94

Goose Hollow/Nob Hill: 15, 43, 68

Pearl/Northwest 23rd: 17, 77Also, take the streetcar

John’s Landing/Lair Hill: 35, 43