Portland’s patios

Since there are only a few good months to eat outside in Portland, it wouldn’t be good to waste time trying to find out which restaurants have affordable yet comfortable outdoor digs.

Since there are only a few good months to eat outside in Portland, it wouldn’t be good to waste time trying to find out which restaurants have affordable yet comfortable outdoor digs.

Any restaurant can toss a few tables and chairs outside, and many do. But finding an open-air table that is away from pedestrians, the city noise and the odors of traffic can be a challenge. A vinyl tent, propped up for the short-but-sweet season, just doesn’t fulfill a need for a pleasant dining atmosphere. A few Portland restaurants and brewpubs have managed to get the equation just right: enough room to seat plenty of large parties that are isolated enough from the city streets to have their own vibe, and an enjoyable atmosphere made individual by that establishment’s particular features, whatever the atmosphere may be.

These places are popular this time of year, so if you can, go early or go during the week. Prime time isn’t the end of the world–but the atmosphere will be energetic, crowded and noisy. Just bring the right attitude, and you will be in good shape. None of these destinations are particularly expensive and some are downright cheap. Most customers come to visit with friends and neighbors, and eating definitely takes second place to drinking. Food is reliable and usually quite good. Watch for happy hour specials where some serious bargains are to be had. In the spirit of easygoing warm weather transportation, these spots are close in and within walking or biking distance from campus.

Produce Row204 S.E. Oak St.503-232-8355Affectionately called “Pro Row” by its regular customers, this freestanding, adobe-colored tavern occupies a low-profile corner in close-in industrial Southeast Portland. Just a few blocks from the Willamette river between the Morrison and Burnside bridges, Produce Row’s ample deck is completely enclosed by a tall, planked wooden fence. The menu is basic pub grub built around giant, sturdy sandwiches and an extensive selection of microbrews on tap. Live music, often jazz jam sessions, happens on weekends.

New Old Lompoc1616 N.W. 23rd Ave.503-225-1855This vine-entangled patio is hidden behind Old Lompoc’s pub, away from the noise and bustle of 23rd Avenue. An extensive casual menu features salads, sandwiches and burgers, as well as Old Lompoc’s own beer. Large wooden picnic tables are arranged on top of a raised deck, the perfect place to enjoy happy hour prices for beer and food.

Veritable Quandary1220 S.W. 1st Ave.503-227-7342In the heart of the business district, this bar overflows at happy hour with tie-clad professionals ending the workday in style. VQ’s patio is expansive, running the depth of the restaurant, right at the start of the Hawthorne Bridge. Stone tables set next to blooming greenery are perfect for large parties, and it pays to come early to snag one. Check out the late night menu for deals on upscale food. Service can be distant and at times simply overwhelmed–not the place to go when you’re in a hurry. Veritable Quandary is a great setting for weekend brunch.

Lucky Labrador Brewpub915 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.503-236-3555Everyone knows about this old standard, the Lucky Lab, but a reminder can’t hurt. The cavernous inside pub offers some of the city’s best brews, and the covered patio is a great place to stop when you need a break. Reliable food and a super casual atmosphere can be expected at the sturdy picnic tables out back. Dogs are welcome on the patio.

McMenamin’s Market Street Pub1526 S.W. 10th Ave.503-497-0160And then of course, there’s always Market Street. As the closest pleasant patio to campus, head here when you need a quick respite. Shaded with bamboo and bathed in the sounds of a bubbling fountain, this cobbled patio is a quick, reliable escape. The afternoon happy hour specials (4-6 p.m.) are worthwhile if you are willing to risk inconsistent service.