'Portlandia': A Tour of Portland, Oregon that Knows Where its Chicken Comes From
Be your best vintage self
The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland, but so are the 1890s, 1950s and pretty much period you want to embody -- especially if you anchor the look with skinny jeans and a smile that says you own it (even if you found your outfit in a box on the sidewalk marked "free to a good home").
Start with the 1890s by getting your 'stache waxed, mutton chops trimmed or a straight-edge shave at Modern Man Barber Shop, where the aftershaves are all custom-made. Eat turn-of-the-century lumberjack food (thick-cut bacon, grits and fried chicken with gravy) at Pine State Biscuits. Or watch butchers chop up your lunch from an exhibition butchery at Olympic Provisions, where part of Portlandia's self-deprecating "Dream of the 1890s" was shot.
Where to hang your hat
The Ace Hotel doesn't offer manual typewriters or a bike valet, but you can buy custom bow ties, request a rubber ducky or order Stumptown-coffee room service. And like Portlandia's "Deuce Hotel" skit, some rooms come with turntables. Because, driving cars is so yesterday (especially one reeking of petroleum), you can borrow a bike from the hotel or rent a handmade Hufnagal bike. The hotel's continental breakfast features local fruit grown with pesticide-free love along with farmstead cheeses.
Your ride matters
You can't be a true Portland resident unless you go by bike, as does Armisen's bike messenger -- one such skit was shot outside the iconic, block-wide Powell's Books. (At Powell's you also can pay homage to Portlandia's "Feminist Bookstore" sketches while browsing the store's extensive feminist section.)
When you finish, if you're in the mood for a beer, pick up Hop in the Saddle, which outlines routes to bike to the 52 breweries in PDX. There's even gluten-free Harvester Brewing. Or you can bike near the deliriously fragrant Rose Gardens or from food cart to food cart with Pedal Bike Tours and holler like Armisen's character, "I don't have a driver's license; I don't need it!"
Welcome to Doggie Central
This is Portland, where dogs manage businesses, run for office or work as Snuggle Express office therapists. So yes, bring your dog, but treat him or her like the real person he or she is. Buy a collar at Hip Hound or throw a birthday bash with his best-groomed doggie pals (where they can bob for apples and break a piñata too) at Lexi Dog Boutique and Social Club. Please, whatever you do, do not tie your dog to a pole, like the poor pooch in the "Who's Dog is This?" skit
Coffee is Portland's middle name; Real is its first
In Portland, find delicious, perky and, of course, highly certified coffees: fair-trade, shade-grown, lemur- and woodcreeper-friendly as well as the lesser known, my-kids-played-on-the-beach-instead-of-illegally-slaving-away-on-a-coffee-plantation certification.
It seems so wrong to dip a donut in sacred Stumptown Coffee, but if you must, make it a Miami Vice Berry from Voodoo Doughnut. Stop in at Public Domain Coffee, where the baristas help decide how to roast the beans. And remember: baristas in Portland are artists and highly qualified (some with doctorate degrees in subjects like rainforest ethno botany). So, don't act frivolous when ordering. And maybe become familiar with Portlandia's "Coffee Shop Manifesto."
Put a bird...in your stomach
Yes, the following restaurants should know where your chicken comes from, because they're named after birds: Le Pigeon and its younger sister Little Bird. The chef at the former and also co-owner of the latter is 2013 James Beard award-winner, Gabriel Zucker. Does the chef rebrand celery? You'll have to go to find out.
Portland has too many foodie hot spots to name. It has cold spots too, for that matter, like ice cream joint, Salt and Straw. There's The Meadow for salt, chocolate and pepper; and Ava Genes, for salads, snappy appetizers and Neverland lighting -- oh and cool bathroom fixtures that make you wish to use the loo twice. For a quintessential PDX night out, visit flamboyant Le Bistro Montage for Cajun gumbo around a communal table that's below a life-sized Last Supper painting. Your leftovers are wrapped by tinfoil artists possibly trained by masters in Florence (either that or by aliens).
Be free or stay home
If you can't go freestyle canoeing, dress in 1970s polyester and roller skate at the old-fashioned Oaks Park rink in Sellwood, or go to the weekly 1980s night at the Crystal Ballroom. Or try blues dancing at Lenora's Room where you can dance with a hipster, a polyamorous flapper, an Abraham Lincoln look-alike, a vegan software developer (who steps on you while testing his Google Glasses) or some dude with a Jerry Garcia beard who lives in his car.
Buy or DIY: or buy from DIYers
Be socially responsible when you shop (and bring your own bag) because if you're not, the EcoTaliban may come after you. Buy from local designers in the DIY scene at Radish Underground or support two or three businesses in one at places like Tender Loving Empire (music, handmade gifts, record label headquarters, screen printing studio, art gallery.)
Yes, movie food is that good
In Portlandia's "Artisan Movie Food" sketch, two clerks with ridiculous afros foist food on an innocent soda-pop seeker. But there is a real theater that's gone gourmet: Living Room Theaters in downtown. The menu: Hoison steak flank skewers and ham and cheese with béchamel sauce. Oh and a cheese board. Eat in the dark, but be careful with the cheese knife and skewer please.
Poetry in a glass
Imbibe at spots where Portlandia characters fall for a mixologist at Fifth Quadrant or Mint 820, where you can order a Dragon Milk. Unfortunately it isn't sourced from Medieval dragons flown in for the annual Renaissance Fair, but rather it's made from Momokawa pearl sake, vodka, coconut syrup and cream.
Wear queenly hats, in a gender-neutral way
You may not find artisan light bulbs downtown, but you'll find fussed-over artisan hats at Pinkham Millinery made by internationally-known couture hat maker, Dayna Pinkham. You can even humble brag because Pinkham makes hats for the Royal Family. Or head to Yo Vintage!, then go to Ruby Jewel Scoop Shop, which serves small-batch ice-cream. Sit by an old soda fountain and watch clerks making candy -- because you never know when candy-making skills might help you survive Portland's apocalyptic agave syrup-shortage.
Live music, as opposed to dead
Instead of listening to the Battle of the Gentle Bands, or parent band, Defiance of Anthropomorphic Sea Mammals, go to popular venues Doug Fir Lounge or Mississippi Studios. Or check out Lovecraft Bar's "goth, post-punk, horror" dance scene where you can watch local circuit-benders plugging cables into electronic machines they crafted from circuitry from abandoned talking toys and defunct kitchen appliances.
See artifacts, which is a two-fer: art and facts
At the Oregon History Museum in downtown Portland, use your "imagination brains" (as an Armisen character says) to taste what rabbit stew might have been like for Lewis and Clark. Or practice saying "Sacagawea" while you check out the 85,000 artifacts -- even some 1890- lumberjack-cool ones -- from the Pacific Northwest.