Portland, Day 2: Mother’s, the Pearl District, & food pods

I had some high hopes for our first full day in Portland: breakfast at the farmers’ market, a daytime bar crawl during the statewide craft beer fest, and a night spent snuggled in the seat of a movie brewpub. Well, my friends, none of these things happened. Pine State Biscuits‘ booth was taking a breather during their off-season, Zwickelmania was way too manic to navigate, and Laurelhurst Theatre sold out the showing we’d wanted to catch. That isn’t to say, however, that we didn’t enjoy our day.

Whereas San Francisco is wide awake in the morning, Portland is still wiping the sleep out of its eyes at 10 am. On a solo run, I passed by the winter farmers’ market at Shemanski Park. There were a dozen producers and vendors setting up — nothing that a San Franciscan would be awed by. I only wish we’d come at a time when the markets are in full swing (including the famous craft-centric Portland Saturday Market).

A few sprints carried me through the Portland State University campus — gorgeous and very New England-feeling. There was still evidence of the previous week’s unusual snowfall lying around. I was dealing with some moderate drizzle myself, and returned to the apartment wet as a dog.

Having worked up an appetite, Jay and I set off in pursuit of Portland’s infamous food carts for some street food. To our utter horror, however, we discovered that many of the trailers close during the weekends. We resigned ourselves to eating at a classic brunch institution instead: Mother’s Bistro. Clearly this place is a first choice for many, as the line outside resembled a mob. The hostess quoted us an hour wait, but we smartly snagged a first-come-first-serve counter seat within fifteen minutes. (Does it mean I’m a true city mouse if I’m super proud of beating a brunch queue?)

I’m a French toast fiend, so I went for Mothers’ cornflake-crusted version: decent, a touch dry, but generally uninspired. I suppose San Francisco’s brunch institutions have set the bar pretty high. Jay, however, was ready to propose to his two-egg order with sausage, potatoes, toast and cuppa Stumptown. As an aside, Jay is usually a much tougher critic than I am, but he’s a total sucker for breakfast, this one very much included.

Well fortified, we decided to do a bit of shopping around the artsy Pearl District. We visited Oblation Papers, which was stationary heaven. There was even a letterpress in the back of the building.

I also spent some time in Cargo Imports, which is packed to the gills with exotic wares for the home. Wayne Thiebaud puzzles, vintage Japanese silk thread and kimonos, African stone sinks, Buddha statues, lacquered Chinese end tables, housemade rubber stamps, artisanal soaps, niche-interest books, mixed-metal jewelry, Asian card games — it was such an intriguing mix of eclectic goods. Jay grabbed a beer at nearby Rogue Ales Public House while I did some exploring.

Other shops we popped through included:

  • Frances May: curated and cute, but quite pricey (along with the likes of Parallel, across the street).
  • Canoe: part museum, part shop, all really fun.
  • Flora: a sweet gift shop filled with housemade aromatherapy products.

Well into the afternoon, we stopped by a major food cart cluster (or “pod,” as they call it) on 9th and Alder and were happy to see some food options open. I got chicken paprikash from EuroDish, while Jay opted for chicken and rice from Aybla Grill. Both were solidly satisfying, though nothing spectacular. Jay was especially disappointed that they didn’t serve any special Halal Guys-style sauces with his dish — but the cart a few feet away did. The tragedy!

We made one last pit stop at the famed Pearl Bakery, which recently topped a list of the 50 top bakeries in America. Sadly, however, they had completely sold out of their pastries case — apparently a very rare occurrence. I consoled myself with a soy hot chocolate, though that wouldn’t brace me for what came next.

It had been wet and gloomy all day, but the minute we left the cafe, Mother Nature threw a total temper tantrum. We got absolutely drenched — hosed, even — by a punishing torrential downpour. We had to take shelter behind a wall, I was so scared of moving. Two minutes later, though, the water and wind let off abruptly. The clouds parted. A rainbow spread across the sky. The sun emerged, casting a golden light over our soaked and shaking bodies. Absolutely unreal.

Portland Winter Farmers’ Market
January 4th – February 22nd
Saturdays 10am – 2pm
1037 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97205

Mother’s Bistro
212 SW Stark St
Portland, OR 97204

Oblation Papers and Press
516 NW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

Cargo Imports
380 NW 13th
Portland, OR 97205

Rogue Ales Public House
1339 NW Flanders St
Portland, OR 97209

SW Alder between 9th and 10th
Portland, OR 97205
Yelp reviews

Aybla Grill
SW Alder between 9th and 10th
Portland, OR 97205

Pearl Bakery
102 NW 9th Ave, Portland, OR 97209


One thought on “Portland, Day 2: Mother’s, the Pearl District, & food pods

  1. Pingback: best bites of 2014 | yours, julie

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