The Gems of Portland

Portland might be small, but it’s still got its fair share of secrets. Luckily our city’s size makes it easy to get around by public transit and experience all the weird wonders it has to offer. Here’s an abbreviated list of some bizarre things you may not have heard of but simply must experience, by neighborhood.

North Portland

When I tell people that I live in the Mississippi area I draw a lot of blank looks. This has always struck me as odd, considering that Mississippi is basically downtown’s hat. Easily accessible via the 4, 44 and MAX Yellow Line, North Mississippi Avenue lives up to its namesake, as it’s brimming with scrumptious Southern fare.

If you’re looking for a sit-down meal then Miss Delta Restaurant might be right up your alley. Miss Delta has all the staples of Southern cooking that you’ve come to expect but can be hard to find in Portland: gumbo, jambalaya, po boy sandwiches, catfish, pulled pork, and mac and cheese. They’ll even mix some of their soups into the mac and cheese. Yes, this is delicious. Yes, this is legal. I have researched these things.

Waffles are a point of contention in Portland. It seems that once you’ve found a place that serves your kind of waffles, the two of you are bonded for life. With that weird foodlationship in mind, I make the bold claim that Miss Kate’s Southern Kitchen, a food cart on Mississippi & Skidmore, has the best traditional waffles in Portland.

Mississippi is an interesting mix of old and new. While it’s true that Mississippi is presently seeing an influx in development, there are also little oddities here and there that give the neighborhood character. Sunlan Lighting, a light bulb and light fixture retailer, is one such example. You’ll know them by their eccentric window displays, which have contained the following: novelty light bulbs with eyes and mouths, Star Wars Legos and scary geese. Maybe head over to Ruby Jewel Ice Cream a couple of blocks away, grab a cone, and stare at the display for a while. They are wholly inanimate light bulbs and will not stare back. I promise.

Northwest Portland

Maybe you’ve been here a term or two and you think you’ve “done Portland.” You’ve eaten your hangover pancake at the 24-hour Hotcake House, you’ve bought the doughnut that looks like a wiener at Voodoo Doughnut, and you’ve posted your obligatory selfie with the Made in Oregon sign. But tell me, dear reader, when was the last time you ate some ice cream bugs? Or posed with an 8-foot-tall yeti? Or rummaged through old projector slides you found in a wicker basket? At the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium, accessible via the Portland Streetcar (free to students), you can accomplish all of these things!

The Peculiarium is actually an offbeat museum. There are some permanent exhibits like an alien autopsy, a fluorescent bathroom and Al Capone’s safe (it’s not actually Al Capone’s safe), but there are temporary exhibits and art work coming in and out of the place all the time. The important thing to remember about The Peculiarium is that it’s not just some room where a hoarder keeps his junk. The exhibits, while weird, are artful and the stories surrounding them are funny and expertly crafted. Admission is free, but if you visit you might consider buying something to support the continuation of such weirdness. It doesn’t have to be ice cream with bugs in it, but if it is they’ll put your picture on the wall.

When bigfooting has left you famished, you might consider stopping by for the criminally cheap happy hour at Brix Tavern that runs from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Food ranges from about $3-8. Select cocktails, which run the gamut from Red Neck Iced Tea to Wild Strawberry Lemon Drop, are just $4. Right now Brix is also offering infused vodka cocktails, like fig vodka in Bailey’s, for $3. If that sounds like it fits nicely into a student’s budget, it’s because it does.

Southeast Portland

Maybe you’re not really looking to spend the day traipsing around Mississippi or striking poses with a Sasquatch. Maybe you just want to sit back, have a drink, and relax. If beer’s your thing, I have good news for you: you’re in the right city. If you’re not down with beer though, Bushwhacker’s Cider, right off the 9 and the 19, might be the perfect alternative for you.

While Bushwhacker is a cider company, it’s not just their product that they’re selling at their Powell location. This bar might have every conceivable cider known to humankind and they’re all ridiculously cheap. They don’t stop at apple, either. Sure, you can get your standard bottled fair like Strongbow or Angry Orchard, but you can also find rarer drinks like the delicious Fox Barrel pear ciders. Imagine it: pear ciders that are actually good!

If you’re feeling hungry you might stop by the Brooklyn House Restaurant, a restaurant that serves European comfort food right across the road. If you call your order in they’ll walk it right over to the bar.

Southwest Portland

Portland is a brunch city, but sometimes I am my own city. This city is called Impatience. Population: I don’t want to wait around until 11 a.m. for you to open your restaurant. Enter breakfast.

Much can be made of a fancy breakfast of poached eggs and delicately prepared sauces atop slow-cooked potatoes, but sometimes I just need a warm tube filled with eggs and bacon. Deli Plaza sells such things, called “burritos,” and they’ll basically put anything you want inside of them fast and on the cheap. Maybe you’re a traditionalist and you just want your eggs, bacon and salsas. That’s cool. Maybe you’re the adventurous type and want to try a burrito stuffed with an entire hash brown. While you’re more than welcome to assemble your own, there are also burritos with predefined ingredients named after regular customers and people who like weird things in theirs.

Did I mention that they’ll put the hash browns inside the burrito?

If early mornings aren’t your thing then take a look at Luc Lac, a Vietnamese restaurant within walking distance from campus but also accessible via the 44, 19 and 9. Luc Lac is unique in that they offer delicious food, a fantastic bar, fast and courteous service and are open until the completely unreasonable hour of 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. I won’t cast any aspersions as to what activities one might be involved in at such an hour, but you might do well to grab some pho, salad rolls or sugar cane shrimp after having committed them and presumably outrunning the authorities.