Uncovering Portland's Gems Is Best Done on Foot
"We have so many options here, I think you can pick any ethnic food and go find it."
Lucky for Ronda Chapman-Duer, the two things she likes best go well together, especially in Portland: walking and food.
"I love places where you can walk easily and not be bored by your walk," she says. So when she moved to Portland on a whim in 2001, after years of living in mountainous Salt Lake City, "I was really drawn to the fact that, especially in the downtown area where I spent most of my time, you can just walk all kinds of places. And being so close to the Willamette River, which is the bloodline of the city, is just so attractive."
Portland, with its clean sidewalks and numerous off-road trails, is a haven for cyclists and walkers alike. Walk into the city from the floating Eastbank Esplanade, or take the scenic route through downtown on Portland's South Park Blocks.
Recommended for the visitor, says Chapman-Duer: Set down the guidebooks, put on your walking shoes and explore. The juicy bits, she says, are easy to miss, with the city's best food simmering in tiny restaurants, or dished from unassuming food carts.
An Ethiopian favorite is Bete-Lukas at 50th Avenue and Southeast Division Street, a family place with a cozy atmosphere and stunning flavors. Also, delicious Thai is never far, nor is a good pizza, says Chapman-Duer. For fish and chips, a popular destination is Halibut's on hip Northeast Alberta Street, both for fantastic food and a dark ambience that pairs good food with live blues. A Korean favorite is Toji Korean Grill House on artsy Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard.
"We have so many options here, I think you can pick any ethnic food and go find it," Chapman-Duer says.
While for her best the treats are those still undiscovered, her favorite place to hit the carts is on Fourth Avenue near Portland State University, for everything from Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches to cuisine from New Taste of India. At the corner of North Freemont Street and North Vancouver Avenue, "There's a place there [Mum's Kitchen] that does this fusion of South African and East Indian food. It's SO good," says Chapman-Duer.
On a Saturday, an outing for Chapman-Duer might involve a hike up Mt. Tabor, snowboarding at Mt. Hood or watching her two Newfoundland dogs play chase at Sacajawea Park's off-leash area in the down-to-earth Cully neighborhood. And she loves a good bike ride any time of year, as the area's numerous bike boulevards and trails make it easy. By nightfall, she's likely to be strolling with her husband and friends, often in Portland's Pearl District, where old industrial buildings house lofts, galleries and restaurants for exploring.
The fact that she works for the regional government Metro helping to address climate adaptation might top the reasons she's happiest to travel on foot. But Chapman-Duer says the sights keep her satisfied, and that Portland's clean bridges recall fond memories of Washington, D.C., which has, like Portland, often been identified as a city influenced by European architecture, if not ethos as well.
Check out Ronda's Portland.