Best of the City

Best of the City 2008

Dig into our surefire, gotta-get-cracking, must-do list of the city’s most fabulous people, places, and things.

With Brian Barker May 19, 2009 Published in the August 2008 issue of Portland Monthly

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Farm-fresh vittles, a hoppin’ brewpub, homemade banana ice cream … time to dig in



The dining room is cramped and the menu is completely unpredictable—two factors that happen to make Beast a great place to eat. Let us explain. For $28, chef Naomi Pomeroy (formerly of Clarklewis) and her staff will prepare a unique, four-course, prix fixe meal that might feature French toast with candied bacon and pecans, followed by summer vegetable hash and braised pork cheeks, then maybe a farm-fresh green salad so light and refreshing you’ll still crave the homemade ice cream topped with seasonal fruit for dessert. A mimosa is a smidgen extra, but coffee and juice are included, and sharing a meal with strangers at this tiny gem (there are only two tables, both communal) is like eating with friends. Friends who take the first meal of the day as seriously as the last, that is. So get serious. Wake up. Eat here now.


Hopworks Urban Brewery

Around here, tapping one brewpub as tops is like trying to positively identify your favorite Bob Dylan tune. Can there really be one that’s the best? But we’re throwing caution to the wind and declaring the recently opened Hopworks Urban Brewery as Portland’s ultimate watering hole: From the bike-themed décor to the recycled building materials to the locally sourced food, Hopworks practically screams “sustainable” from the top of its healthy lungs, and that eco-minded approach to drinking is what makes it this year’s winner. And the beer? Besides being all-organic, owner Christian Ettinger’s creations recently took home two World Beer Cup awards. The Hopworks Organic IPA is particularly invigorating, with hints of pine, caramel, and citrus. So have another round. After all, you’re doing the planet a favor.


Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen

At this wildly popular downtown Jewish deli, your garden-fresh meal comes in a bowl twice the size of your face, one that overflows with chopped lettuce, avocado, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, shredded chicken, and creamy blue cheese dressing. If that’s not enough, a generous pile of house-smoked, salty, succulent sliced pastrami stands in for bacon (and no, the kitchen won’t trim the fat off of that lovely meat—it’s the best part). True, Kenny & Zuke’s doesn’t have the South Beach set in mind with its heaping helpings, but it does seem intent on elevating the commonplace salad to the level of sublime. Mission accomplished.


Erica Landon
Sommelier, Ten 01

Erica Landon wants you to fall in love—with wine, that is. And as the sommelier for Pearl District culinary hot spot Ten 01, she has 2,000 chances—or bottles, rather—to get it right. But unlike most sommeliers in town, many of whom fall into the white-gloved, know-it-all variety, Landon is refreshingly approachable. “The most important thing about my job,” she explains, “is not trying to influence people with my opinion all the time, but listening to what they want.” Make no mistake, though: Landon, who at just 31 has already earned a diploma from the International Sommelier Guild and a pin from the Master Court of Sommeliers, knows her stuff. She helped oversee Timberline Lodge’s expansive Northwest wine program in 1999, and then she served as sommelier for Oregon’s first family of wine, the Ponzis, at their Dundee headquarters for four years. And, until being lured away by Ten 01 in 2006, Landon curated the Heathman Restaurant’s legendary wine list. But most important, despite her expertise, Landon won’t take offense if the wine she’s suggested fails to make you swoon. In fact, she’ll encourage you to return it and try another one. No questions asked. No offense taken. Now that’s a relationship worth keeping. 


Veritable Quandary

The science is fuzzy on whether surroundings aid in digestion. But should anyone need to investigate the matter, we’re certain this venerable restaurant and bar, which has been overlooked in favor of more trendy eateries lately, would make a great test case. The VQ’s brick-lined patio strewn with ivy has all the quiet charm of an English garden. Fragrant lilies, ferns, and hollyhocks ward off the noise of the traffic emanating from the nearby Hawthorne Bridge, and they make a breakfast taken here feel more like a picnic in Hoyt Arboretum. The 38-year-old restaurant’s kitchen is none the worse for wear, either. Luscious poached eggs and pork loin with crisp and fluffy potato cakes, as well as a top-notch cocktail menu with offerings like espresso martinis and an eye-opening kir royale, will undoubtedly tempt you to stretch your morning meal into an afternoon of lollygagging.


Mother’s Bistro & Bar

After downing a rich, rib-sticking bowl of chicken and dumplings, you might think it’s asking a lot of a sensible person to suggest they keep climbing Mount Carb. Lighten up. Dessert is about decadence, and the brick-sized loaf of bread pudding at Mother’s Bistro & Bar is worth loosening your belt a notch or three for. Made from scratch, the cubes of fluffy white bread are soaked in milk, pure butter (slow churned, thank you), and vanilla, then piled on top of each other before being baked. The result is a brown, sugary crust on the outside and a series of creamy layers underneath that get softer and moister as your fork plows to the center. Drizzled in a caramely sauce and topped with whipped cream, this is pure food euphoria—and absolutely nothing like your mother used to make.


Corbett Fish House

If you haven’t wrapped your lips around a spoonful of Crab Pepper Cheese Soup at Corbett Fish House (and its sister operation, Hawthorne Fish House), you haven’t lived. It’s a rich and creamy knockout, with equal parts blue swimming crab (sustainably harvested in Indonesia) and fiery pepper-jack cheese (and we do mean fiery)—two robust flavors that manage to complement each other without a power struggle. Though the restaurant originally served the soup just once a week, on Saturdays, co-owner Dana Boyce, who helped open the fish house in 2002, explains that demand for the heaven-sent dish has led them to serve it on Tuesdays as well. Many diners avoid withdrawal during the other five days of the week by plunking down $13 for a to-go quart. Despite all the hubbub, you won’t find the dish on the menu. Just consider it their worst-kept (and most delicious) secret.


Thatch Tiki Bar

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Image: Daniel Root

Banished to sorority pool parties (where it’s made with prepared mix from plastic jugs) and the menus of bad Chinese restaurants (where its sugar to alcohol ratio is 50-50), the mai tai has slipped, sociologically speaking, from the cool drink it was in the 1950s to one that’s downright cheesy. But at Thatch, where the tiki factor is high and the lights are dimmed to a subdued, sunset hue, the mai tai stands ready to reclaim its true identity as a stiff, classy drink. Perfectly balanced with fresh lime and pineapple juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat syrup, and spiked with hefty pours of both dark and light rums, this is the kind of drink Burt Lancaster would’ve tossed back to cool down after his From Here to Eternity beach-frolicking. At 9 bucks, it ain’t cheap. But it’s probably as close as you’re going to get to rolling around with a half-naked Deborah Kerr. 



Screen Door

Plenty of people from parts north of the Mason-Dixon line think Southern cooking consists solely of things like fried chicken and gravy. In fact, real Southern cooks know well the importance of fresh ingredients like sun-soaked okra and right-off-the-vine green tomatoes. Thankfully, Screen Door gets both parts of the equation right, combining our city’s local farmers market ethos with the tenets of true comfort cuisine. Full of vinyl booths and glass pickle jars, the dining room looks like a joint you might wander into off a back road in the Texas hill country. Diners feast on English peas sautéed in butter, tarragon, and lemon; plates of pecan-crusted Idaho trout with lemon butter and tender asparagus; or sweet Gulf Coast shrimp and creamy grits. Everything from the fried green tomatoes to the pimento cheese is made with ingredients bought at peak freshness, making the food every bit as authentic as the surroundings.


Cool Moon Ice Cream

Gelato’s fine and all. There’s certainly no shortage of places to find it in this town, but on hot days, we crave simple old-fashioned ice cream, just like when we were kids. So pardon us for getting a little too excited when Cool Moon Ice Cream started churning out creamy homemade goodness across from Jamison Square last year. The selection is far-reaching (there are 27 flavors), and each is expertly refined. The banana tastes like, well, real banana. The coconut is mild and nutty, and the inclusion of coconut shavings gives it body and texture. And don’t pass up the ginger chai, which is spicy-sweet but not overly assertive on the tongue. It’s a flavor we probably would’ve thumbed our noses at as children. But we’re older now. A little more refined. Though we’d still chase down an ice cream truck to get it.


Spella Caffé

Ordering a chai at this little food cart takes time. But according to owner Andrea Spella, there’s no other way. And if you’ve been put off by bad chain-store coffee-shop versions, rest assured—Spella has given new life to this ancient hot (or cold) drink. Here’s how he does it: First, he combines turbinado sugar or honey with three heaping teaspoons of dry, pan-roasted spices like cardamom, cloves, star anise, black pepper, and loose-leaf Assam tea (from local company Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants) in equal parts water and milk. Next, he uses an old piston-style espresso machine to steam the brew. Then it sits—for three whole minutes. Only then will Spella pour the beverage through a sifter and into your lucky cup, using a “pour, swirl, pour, swirl” motion. At which point you’ll knock back this utterly perfect drink in no time flat.


A golf course for everyone, movies by twilight, feats of derring-do … let the good times roll

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Woody Adams
Founder, Underdog Sports Leagues, Portland

It’s easy to be jealous of Woody Adams. As the mastermind behind Portland’s Underdog Sports Leagues, he’s the kingpin of Rose City adult playground chicanery, which means that pretty much all he ever thinks about is fun—and how to have a whole lot more of it. “This is my real job,” he laughs. The self-titled “consultant of leisure” began in 2005 with—what else?—a bowling league, which started small but quickly grew to multiple teams. Then he introduced leagues for kickball, flag football, and dodgeball. Wild successes, all. Now Underdog has reached what Adams calls “critical mass”: 6,000 members playing everything from volleyball to Ultimate Frisbee. In fact, Underdog is so successful that Adams quit his job in TV production last year and made the league his full-time gig. But lest you think that organizing a sports league is stressful—and somewhat like work—think again. “It’s not so much about being competitive,” Adams says. “It’s about playing, drinking some beers, maybe winning a championship or two.” But mainly, he says, the point is just to have fun. You should trust him—after all, he’s a professional.


Dive-In Movies
Various public pools

You’d rather clean out your gutters than take the kiddos to another family-friendly flick, but you don’t want to be a downer, either. What’s a good parent to do? Just add water. While catching a dusk-lit movie outdoors lends extra oomph to animated films like Bee Movie, catching a film while lounging in a pool (yes, not by the pool, but in it) adds real depth to the experience. At city-owned pools around town this month, you can bring your own blow-up air mattress or inner tube (and five bucks) and lounge in the heated waters to help stave off any chill-induced fussiness during the show. Just be sure to keep your hands dry—there’s nothing quite so unsettling as soggy, chlorine-flavored popcorn.


The Place to Shoot

Even the most soft-spoken, earth-loving, peace-rallying Portlander has a little Dirty Harry inside. And the Place to Shoot is just the spot to unleash him. Here’s how it works: For $35, you get your choice of one of eight pistols and any target you please (criminal with gun, criminal with hostage, criminal who looks like Stallone from his Rambo days). If you’re feeling a little trigger-shy, or you’re not sure if your days of winging tin cans with your Red Ryder BB gun count as solid shooting experience, the staff are happy to walk first-timers through the process in their Basic Handgun class. And since earplugs are mandatory, nobody will hear you grunting out tough-guy lines like, “You had me at”—ka-plow!—“hello.”


The Avalon Theatre

From the outside, where the antique marquee glitters above a sign reading “Fantastic Fun Machines,” to the inside, where the pings, jingles, and clanks of a pinball arcade fill the room, the Avalon Theatre is the high holy church of retro entertainment. If you’ve got a pocketful of change, you can choose from over 100 classic games to geek out on—from Star Wars to Big Buck Hunter to a brand-new Indiana Jones pinball machine, all of which run on nickels, shiny or dull. Once your wrist gets sore from the joystick action, you can settle into one of Avalon’s two movie theaters, which feature the type of brainless cinematic eye candy—10,000 B.C., for example—that most of us are willing to watch only if it’s at least half off normal theater prices. (At the Avalon, tickets are only $2.50.) With a low-priced selection of ice cream and popcorn at the concession stand to accompany all this zaniness, it feels like the carnival’s in town every day of the year.

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Image: Daniel Root


The Pub Course at McMenamins Edgefield

You’ve outgrown the spinning windmill on the putt-putt course, but you’re nowhere near ready for Pumpkin Ridge. Sounds like it’s time to unleash your wedge and putter on McMenamins Edgefield’s Pub Course: a 32-hole, par-3, pitch-and-putt wonderland. Located on a 48-acre tract of farmland in Troutdale, with holes ranging in distance from just 40 to 80 yards, the course is a golf hack’s green dream. There are even a few surprises to be found, like a sculpture honoring Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia at the 10th hole. It’s cheap, too. The 12-hole east course is just $12 to play, while the 20-hole west course costs $18. Best of all, they both play through to the Distillery Bar, a potato shed turned horse stable turned watering hole where you can tilt back an Edgefield Wheat beer and bemoan yet another afternoon spent in the rough.


Portland Adult Soapbox Derby
Mount Tabor

Of all the carefree weirdness that goes on in Portland, this slightly deranged version of a NASCAR race that erupts on Mount Tabor each August pretty much takes the crazy cake. Once a year, a small army of wannabe Evel Knievels climbs to the top of the dormant volcano’s curvy blacktop and points a mess of nonmotorized, gravity-powered, metal-and-wood contraptions toward the bottom. They then hurtle down the slope in a mad dash to claim the title of Derby champion. The competition is fierce, but with vehicles sporting names like Landshark or F-Bomb, and designs resembling rolling bathtubs and coffins on wheels, it’s also laugh-out-loud hilarious. As far as the rules, all you really need to know is that the use of pyrotechnics on a car is prohibited. The lobbing of water balloons at other drivers, however, is encouraged.


Hollywood Portland Costumers 

You want to be a pirate for Halloween? No problem. Feel like wearing Wonder Woman’s red, gold, and blue swimsuit? Cool. How about an alien cowboy with a penchant for tiaras, wax lips, and frayed nylons? Well … Hollywood Portland Costumers can probably accommodate that request too. In fact, the sky’s the limit. Not only are there thousands of costumes lining the racks inside (and a warehouse of accessories), but the staff also takes custom orders. So if you want to flaunt your Napoleon complex by dressing up like the tiny Frenchman himself, but you can’t find the right bicorn hat, they’ll fix you up. October is a busy month, so plan ahead. Some costumes can cost a couple hundred bucks to rent, but when you’re determined to dress up as Princess Leia from Return of the Jedi, not just any metal bikini will do.


Rock Band Tuesdays at Ground Kontrol

You’ve always wanted to bask in the glow of an adoring crowd, but thus far the aching power ballads, furious windmilling, and gnarly drumbeats have happened only in your basement, courtesy of video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero. It’s time to take the show on the road, rock star. Thanks to the arcade aficionados at Ground Kontrol, cyber-riffers now have their own tiny stage at the downtown video-game bar. Beneath a spinning, sparkly mirror ball, take your lyrical cues from the giant projection screen, wave to the crowd, and fake-rock-out like you’ve never fake-rocked-out before. Just remember that here, unlike in your basement back home, pants are required.


The Velveteria

Nothing says gaudy like a velvet painting, which, in our books, makes the Velveteria the most fabulously gaudy place in the known universe. Among the hundreds of velveteen masterpieces on the walls, the usual suspects—Jesus, Elvis, buxom seductresses—are in ready supply, but it’s the rarities that lend the gallery the proper pinch of weird: a sad-eyed circus clown smoking a cigar, or Jimi Hendrix igniting his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival. There’s also a work dubbed The Unicorn Comb-Over. It’s exactly as ugly and awesome as it sounds—which is why you should buy the T-shirt bearing its likeness in the gift shop. Bad taste never fit so well.


The Grotto

The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, aka the Grotto, might be the most beautiful (and tranquil) juxtaposition of nature and religion in the country. Its main altar is carved into a 110-foot-high basalt cliff overlooking the grounds, and includes a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Atop the cliff, the glass-and-granite Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel offers jaw-dropping views of the Cascades. The rest of the Grotto’s 62 acres are dotted with various rose gardens and groves of trees, stone chapels, more than 100 works of rare religious art, and several thousand feet of footpaths—one of which re-enacts the 14 Stations of the Cross. Even for the nonbeliever, finding solace in this fir-lined slice of heaven won’t be difficult.


Haute cosmetics, a manly shaving kit, a killer workout … everything you need to look your best



Jodie Steagall
Owner and stylist, 220 Salon

When you earn a living by making people look (and feel) fabulous, stating that you employ a “no frills” approach to hair may sound like an oxymoron. That is, until you realize that stylist Jodie Steagall, owner of 220 Salon, is simply looking out for your best interests. So while you’ll get a perfect hairdo sans the sips of champagne and the shiny new environs of many downtown salons, having a down-to-earth stylist manning the shears is priceless. “I take the responsibility of being a hairdresser very seriously,” says the 36-year-old Steagall. “We don’t charge based on our rent, or just push the latest styles. It’s all about the cut and style that’s right for your hair.” More evidence of her common-sense philosophy: Steagall’s average fee of $55 per cut is based on the time she spends cutting, not on a client’s gender or hair length. The salon’s approach is so well-received, Steagall and the eight other stylists here have relied solely on word of mouth to market their business over the past 10 years. “I love this city,” Steagall says, which explains why she keeps working, as she likes to say, “with my heart in the right place.” And in an industry that’s all about superficial beauty, that’s something worth celebrating.



The name might be uninspired (Product? Really?). But trust us, Product, located in Bridgeport Village, is in fact a highfalutin shop that carries a very inspired lineup of cosmetics. Tinctures and tubes and bottles from Ole Henriksen skin care, Paula Dorf makeup, and Hamadi hair care (just to name a few) practically spill off the dark-wood-and-metal-framed shelves. That’s because, unlike your garden-variety makeup counter, Product stocks full lines of goodies by many, many companies. After all, how can you possibly consider applying Kevyn Aucoin sensual skin enhancer without using his liquid airbrush foundation first? This vanity fair also massages the green conscience: Many lines leave out body-polluting extras like sulfates, preservatives, and parabens, leaving you feeling as good as you look.


La Muse Spa

Most waxing sessions can’t go quickly enough. So it might sound crazy to say a 15-minute appointment with La Muse’s Muriel Stanton will end too soon. It’s true, though. Located in a cheery yellow Victorian in Northeast Portland, the salon boasts a calming Japanese-style garden and a comfy waiting area that makes you feel right at home. And when you meet Stanton, her warm smile immediately says this won’t be a rip-and-run kind of procedure. Instead, she’ll offer a shot of Sauza Gold tequila to get your courage up. But really, you won’t need it, because her steady hands make the waxing (nearly) painless. She’ll even color your brows once they’ve been shaped into an arc that perfectly accentuates your peepers. So when Stanton announced that she’d be moving in July, we were ready to beg her to stay. Luckily, however, there’s no cause for tears: She’s just moved across town to a new salon in Southwest Portland, open this month. 


Portland Cutlery Co

In a store chock-full of swords, buck knives, and even a bayonet or two, it’s not surprising that you’d find a few razors in the mix. What is surprising is that grooming supplies—razors, scissors, tweezers, and other related accessories—account for a quarter of Portland Cutlery’s business. Consider the German-made Merkur double-edged safety razor. Perfectly balanced, it cuts close and leaves skin smooth as an R. Kelly ditty. You can also splash your face with five varieties of Colonel Conk’s glycerin shaving soap (go with the fragrant bay rum) and get lathered up with genuine shaving brushes crafted in the Old World. All these accoutrements will ensure that you’re not just another face in the crowd. 


Recreate Fitness

Toil away in this small Northwest Portland fitness studio for a couple of weeks and you’ll likely feel mighty enough to go toe-to-toe with the American Gladiators. We’re not kidding: Once you’ve spent your afternoons cycling through a barrage of old-school phys ed basics (squats, jumping jacks, pull-ups), executing agility drills like hopscotch-style jumps through a rope ladder, and running laps while tethered to a 20-pound medicine ball, you will become the seriously buff badass you know you really are. No, the Navy Seal-like routine isn’t easy, but husband-and-wife trainers Tina and Nathan Jeffers, who opened Recreate a year ago as an antidote to StairMaster ennui, keep members motivated with their genuine enthusiasm. (“Great job!” “Way to go!” “Push harder!”) Goal setting—and goal reaching—is an integral part of the Recreate regimen. Like being able to perform your first-ever chin-up, a feat that you could post on Recreate’s blog, where members also can track their fitness goals and leave comments like, “I will never go back to my old gym again.”


Working Class Acupuncture

For a business offering a 2,500-year-old therapy, this Cully neighborhood clinic embraces a thoroughly modern approach. Open since 2002, Working Class Acupuncture was the first such clinic in the United States to use communal rooms to treat patients. And while it might sound a little strange to lie alongside up to 15 other people while your head resembles a pincushion, plenty do. In fact, the clinic sees around 420 patients a week, and they’ve done their best to make the vibe inside the bright blue barn of a building entirely relaxing. Tall, leafy plants bring the outside in. Overstuffed leather recliners ease sore backs. And occasionally a live harpist—yes, a harpist—soothes frayed nerves. Best of all, by operating in a smaller space and treating patients en masse, the office saves money, which means you do too. The sliding-scale rate of $15 to $35 is plenty doable, even if your private insurance company just laughed you off the phone when you asked if acupuncture was an approved treatment.


A treasure trove of vintage rings, the hippest denim,heels handcrafted in Belgium… where to stock up on style!



The waist-high display cases lining this two-story boutique on bustling NW 23rd Avenue are outfitted with little white notes that read in small black print: “Please do not lean on the glass.” How cruel. It’s not our fault that owner Paula Bixel’s eye-popping assembly of antique diamond rings, sparkling brooches, silver pendants, and ruby-encrusted gold hoop earrings lures us in so close that we’re practically smashing our faces against the glass. Near a display of Georgian- and Victorian-era rings bedecked with golf-ball-size rocks, another note warns that they are “not for everyday wear.” Upstairs, even men get to ogle at macho rings fashioned out of 1920s quarters. Indeed, Gilt brims with possibilities. Just remember, leaning isn’t one of them.


Oregon Mountain Community Inc

Specializing in technical climbing equipment, backcountry skiing gear, and anything else that might come in handy for surviving a forced bivouac on a Cascade peak, this 9,000-square-foot wonderland of Gore-Tex and fleece, known as “OMC,” has been the preferred choice for mountaineering types since 1971. With everything from Black Diamond climbing harnesses to a bomb-proof Nemo Moki four-season tent to a killer sales rack (An Arc’teryx ski jacket for $249? No way!), it’s not hard to see why. Even if you don’t know a piton from a pickax, the clerks here are so full-on amped about backpacking, skiing, and climbing that they’re always willing to take time to engage customers on any topic—like which is the best down sleeping bag on sale, or how to squeeze another season out of your aging telemark boots—all without any I-play-harder-than-you attitude.


Crafty Wonderland
Doug Fir Lounge

Have you ever wondered what to do with those stray letter tiles that somehow got separated from your old Scrabble board? We haven’t, either. And that’s the difference between us and the dozens of artists who gather in the basement concert space of the Doug Fir Lounge one Sunday a month to hawk their DIY wares, like Scrabble tiles repurposed as cuff links. The usual bazaar fare is accounted for—jewelry, greeting cards, candles—but objects here possess that quintessential Portland quirk without devolving into tired, Saturday Market hippie-trinket territory. From baby onesies emblazoned with art-nerd illustrations of robots to clever lampshades made from photo slides, Crafty Wonderland is your grandma’s church fundraiser reimagined by your local hipster sewing circle.


Blake Nieman-Davis
Owner of Blake

If there’s one thing everyone can agree that their closet needs, it’s a good pair of jeans. After all, this wardrobe staple works with everything from suit coats to T-shirts, and the right pair will have you feeling like James Dean. But with so many styles to choose from—so many of which seem impossible to squeeze into or fill out properly—how do you find the right pair? “They say bathing suits are bad,” says Blake Nieman-Davis, owner of the Nob Hill boutique Blake. “But jeans are more of a nightmare for people. There is so much pressure on this one piece of clothing.” He should know. Over the last five years, the store—which stocks some 35 brands of denim, from Ben Sherman to Paige Premium—has transformed the task of buying jeans into a voyage of self-discovery. Nieman-Davis has assured women that having “fat days” is totally normal. He’s counseled men through their I-bike-therefore-my-thighs-are-huge self-consciousness. Indeed, given his passion for his patrons’ britches, it’s no wonder he’s been dubbed the “Denim Doctor.” “It’s very intimate helping someone into the perfect jeans,” Nieman-Davis says of his interactions. “I’m staring at their butts; I’m pulling the waistband.” Ah, just the sort of attention to detail needed to tackle existential puzzlers like: Are skinny jeans really meant for me?


Reading Frenzy

Since it opened in 1994, Reading Frenzy has become the place for anyone looking to find off-the-wall and rare publications. Where else can you pick up first-edition, signed volumes of the literary journal McSweeney’s, or Crap Hound, the store’s own popular clip-art-filled rag? Owner Chloe Eudaly also helped establish the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), a nonprofit located just upstairs from the shop that functions like a Kinko’s for local indie publishers and zinesters hoping to break onto the scene. And at Reading Frenzy, a lot of them have. In fact, many of the publications on the shelves—including zines, graphic novels, political pamphlets, queer literature, and what is quaintly dubbed “quality smut”—were written and produced at the IPRC by local artists and writers.


The Eye Studio

If the eyes are, indeed, windows to the soul, then the glasses you choose to perch upon your nose speak volumes about your personality. Maybe you want to tell the world that you’re a nice Clark Kent kind of a guy by donning a pair of Gold & Wood’s classic square frames, which are handcrafted from sustainably harvested wood and polished buffalo horn. Or perhaps the Eye Studio’s funky minimalist aesthetic will draw you toward a pair of bright-red metal frames from French designer Face à Face. The staff aren’t afraid to be candid, either: If those round eye-cheaters you’re thinking about purchasing are indeed better left to Dieter on Sprockets, they’ll tell it to you straight. Given how many fashion-forward spectacles this shop carries—over 500 styles—finding the perfect pair should just be a matter of focus.


Cal Skate Skateboards

“We’re still killing it these days,” says Cal Skate’s 36-year-old manager, Paul Fujita (right). Translation: Portland’s still a rocking town for skaters. Opened in 1976, Cal Skate has long been the heart and soul of the city for those die-hards who consider it “Skateboarding, U.S.A.” (What other city is planning 19 skate parks?) While the enormous inventory sets the store apart—it carries 300 different types of boards—Cal Skate also keeps it real by keeping it local (there are plenty of boards designed by Portland-based companies like M&M and Rebel Skates). This support-your-bros, old-school mentality has us predicting that the Lord of P-Town will continue killing it well into the new millennium. 


Lizard Lounge

With a swarm of good-looking men and women mingling about Lizard Lounge’s swank living room furniture, logging onto iMac stations, playing ping-pong, and pondering the portraits on the walls shot by local photographers, it’s easy to confuse this hybrid lounge-boutique with a permanent First Thursday bash. But if you’re on the prowl for cool duds, join the party. Inside you’ll find racks lined with urban streetwear that manages to bridge the tricky gap between apparel that’s appropriate for 9-to-5ers as well as Friday-night revelers. With more than 40 sportswear and accessory brands on-site for both sexes—including the shop’s own Horny Toad Activewear, which recently acquired the struggling Portland-based outerwear company Nau—there’s plenty to choose from. And the knowledgeable (and just-helpful-enough) staff is ready and willing to wax poetic about nearly anything, including the durability of that messenger bag made from recycled truck tarps or whether that polka-dot shift is a little too short for the office.


Trade Up Music

Many music shops are full of pushy staff salivating over commission checks. And even if you’ve explained to them that your guitar-picking prowess goes only as far as a poorly executed version of “Night Moves,” they’ll still strong-arm you into plugging in a $1,499 goldtop Les Paul guitar and an $800 Marshall amp. (“This setup rules. Just ask Jimmy Page!”) The vibe at Trade Up Music is different. Friendly (and intelligent) employees still want to sell you something, of course, but not anything you don’t need. And while used equipment here is typically refurbished with up-to-date components, it still comes with secondhand-size price tags, so you won’t need to take out a bank loan to land a banjo that twangs just right. But if you’ve got to have the most primo gear money can buy, there’s an ever-rotating selection of classic Fender Telecasters and vintage Rickenbackers that, yep, even Jimmy Page would kill for.



How did this out-of-the-way shop manage to make our list two years running? Dedication. Halo owner Nathan Newell personally trots the globe in search of stunning footwear crafted by true artisans. The result is a prized, if modest, collection that we’d be willing to bet is the best in the entire state. (Seriously. A woman in Iceland recently called Halo in search of a pair of Vialis, which Newell had brought in from Spain.) And when you step inside to visit, that whiff of supple imported leather tickles your nostrils and says to your brain: Your quest will be rewarded. It also says, Get out your Gold Card. (Gadzooks, style ain’t cheap!) But even if you’ve stapled your wallet shut, once you slip on a pair of Dries Van Noten’s yellow high-heeled sandals—with their knotted silk detailing and oh-so-cute ankle straps—you’ll rip it open. Devilishly divine and one of a kind, they’re also soooo comfortable. What’s a girl to do but pony up the plastic and then go trotting out the door a friskier, happier woman? 



There’s no apparent rhyme or reason as to why certain merchandise graces the shelves of this quaint-meets-hip curiosity shop—it’s a mélange of old and new, novelties and elementals, utility and whimsy. In one corner there’s a pink, retro refrigerator; in the other, a delicate Japanese tea set painted with bamboo shoots and snowy Mount Fuji. Heavy-duty Smith Corona typewriters sit near elegant necklaces from a local silversmith and three-dimensional paintings by local artist Brenda Rose. Work your way around the eclectic space and you’ll discover handwritten notes from owner Stephanie Sheldon, in which she lovingly explains why she was attracted to a certain something and offers creative suggestions for how you can incorporate it into your own space. (And she’s right, those antique brass perfume dispensers do make great pencil holders!) It’s then you realize that Noun isn’t just a place for things, it’s a source of inspiration.


A room of their own, an indoor playground, a garden of knowledge… growing up the right way

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Andrea Milano
Youth librarian, Hollywood Library

For someone who’s accustomed to using chin-scratching phrases like “dialogic reading,” Multnomah County librarian Andrea Milano certainly has a way with kids. Not that she’d utter such terms to the doting mob of 2-year-olds who—with parents in tow—flock to the Hollywood Library for her weekly Toddler Time reading sessions. “It’s a fine line I walk,” Milano says. “I want to teach kids and parents, but it can’t seem educational.” Evidently she walks it well: This year Milano became Portland’s first public librarian to be given the International Reading Association’s prestigious Celebrate Literacy Award. No doubt her energetic story times (she acts out all the characters and conducts sing-alongs) helped win her an honor traditionally reserved for classroom teachers. And her dedication doesn’t end there: Milano visits students at local schools to discuss the latest children’s books, and organizes open houses to let local reading teachers network. It was a simple phone call, however, that impressed Joyce Iliff, a third-grade teacher at Beverly Cleary-Fernwood Site Elementary, who nominated Milano for the award. “I’ve taught for 26 years,” Iliff says. “Andrea is the only librarian who’s ever called asking about my students’ reading homework. That’s above and beyond.” We’re betting it didn’t hurt that Milano also can belt out “The Hokey Pokey” like nobody’s business.


Seams to Fit

Sure, financial advisors routinely hawk college-savings plans to parents, but they ought to consider tossing in a plan for daughters’ proms, too. Given the cost of professional hair and makeup, not to mention teeth whitening (and can’t they get a mani-pedi too?), your daughter’s dreamy prom—which today requires mind-boggling amounts of cash—also comes with sticker shock. At least a trip to Seams to Fit lets you buckle down in the dress department. The ultra-hip consignment shop traffics in a slew of like-new designer dresses and accessories, by the likes of Prada and Chanel, that are still plenty fabulous—every item is less than two years old—and that can be had on the cheap. A shimmering BCBG dress and goddesslike gold Coach sandals for $150? Now that’s a prom night for you to remember.


Goodnight Room

Goodnight Room’s goal is to be there for you as your child grows—from swaddling age on up to those fleeting preteen years. OK, the store’s mission oozes more sap than a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. But Goodnight Room lives up to every last word of it—at least when it comes to outfitting a Portland tot’s personal abode. Maybe Jimmy finally got his own room and he needs a bigger bed; or the twins need to share one space, which means you need bunks; or your 9-year-old wants a “grown-up” desk for his iMac. Goodnight Room stocks wares from 10 different furniture makers, including four-in-one cribs from Bonavita (a Consumer Digest best buy), which convert from a crib to a toddler bed to a daybed or twin bed. Sleek, modern desks and bed frames from AP Industries will appeal to older children. And if you’re having trouble figuring out whether all this stuff will actually fit in your child’s room? Plop yourself down at the nifty in-house computerized design center and dream away. Even better, have your son or daughter do the designing themselves. 


Portland Rock Gym

There’s really no better spot for your little ones to, quite literally, harness their penchant for climbing, given Portland Rock Gym’s safe and supportive environment—cushy mats, plenty of protective gear, and expert instructors will ease parental worries. Yes, rock climbing demands some physical bravado, but masterminding how best to slither over a hanging wall of rock while dangling from a rope 40 feet in the air teaches kids to problem-solve and develops their self-confidence. Plus, it’s a blast! So while your child is having the time of her life at the gym’s four-day summer camp, or at its after-school program (which runs once or twice a week), you get to sit back and enjoy the fact that she’s amassing a crucial set of social skills. Or you could just be happy that your 10-year-olds will be worn out when they get home, and your only job will be to tuck them into bed.


Sauvie Island Center

This program offered to Portland elementary schools introduces topics like the importance of local farming and healthy ecosystems—not with snoozy lectures, but by getting the kids out of the classroom and onto Sauvie Island. They’ll tour Sauvie Island Organics to learn about the differences between fruits and vegetables while tasting carrots plucked straight from the ground. They’ll plant cucumbers in soil that came from a compost pile teeming with earthworms. And as they explore nearby 120-acre Howell Territorial Park, they’ll even study food chains, avian predators, and the like by examining owl pellets and discussing what the bird ate for lunch. “Kids aren’t grossed out by this stuff,” notes Jill Kuehler, the center’s director. “They’re fascinated by it.” Kuehler has a point: Regional elementary schools like James John, Aster, and Sitton have requested to attend tours for three years running, and the center has hosted more than 500 kids this year alone.


Haggis McBaggis

If the down-home brick storefront—complete with quirky purple-and-yellow awning—doesn’t put a smile on your face while you search for your child’s next pair of puddle-jumping, tree-climbing, run-everywhere kicks, then the dedicated staff inside Haggis McBaggis will. Whether through some kind of Jedi mind trick, or the simple fact that they’ve been selling footwear exclusively to kids for eight years, the folks here can fool any tyke into having fun while trying on shoes. The selection helps, too. The store stocks more than 20 brands, including popular European labels like Naturino and Primigi, as well eco-friendly sneakers from Simple. Meaning they’ve surely got something your 7-year-old can’t wait to run around in. And should the apple of your eye have wide feet or narrow arches? No problem. Haggis McBaggis also has shoes for hard-to-fit feet, and the knowledgeable staff can find the Keens that won’t squeeze toes—or the ones that’ll still fit six months from now.


An ace mechanic, a master tailor, an on-call dog washer… who to buzz to get things done.



Brett Flemming
Service manager, Bike Gallery

To figure out when to call Brett Flemming, you must employ the Rule of Threes. As in, three different repair shops rejected your bike because it’s busted beyond repair. “That’s my favorite thing to hear,” says Flemming, who manages the Bike Gallery’s service program out of the local chain’s original Hollywood location and who also takes on its most challenging jobs. To hang on to his title as Portland’s Mr. Goodwrench of cycling, however, Flemming has to rely upon some substantial muscle. His three-ton, 1960s-era “Mighty” Holbrook lathe is a good start. It’s just one of three massive lathes Flemming uses in his personal machine shop at home, where he performs delicate procedures like rethreading fork tubes and, most impressively, hand-building his own bike-repair tools. (In fact, his toolmaking skills are so impressive that companies like Rocky Mountain and Mavic buy his gizmos.) So if you’re beset with grief because the front derailleur on your 1977 Peugeot PX-1—which has nothing but odd-sized or obsolete parts—just broke, dry your eyes. Flemming’s got you covered. Also at the ready is his prized $700 self-lubricating steel-and-aluminum bike pump with a shock-resistant glycerin-filled gauge. Translation: Fixing that flat shouldn’t be a problem, either.


Dry Cleaning Station
Multiple Locations

In the quest for clean duds, there’s no need to contaminate yourself or the environment—or to empty your wallet, for that matter. This eco-friendly local dry-cleaning chain ditched toxic PERC (a chemical that’s still used by most cleaners today; it’s been linked to nervous system, kidney, and liver problems) in favor of GreenEarth, a safer cleaning formula made from liquid silicone that doesn’t take a toll on human health. And what’s the price for such peace of mind? Not much, it turns out. Blouses are just $6.95 to clean, and you can even rack up discounts by getting your friends on the shop’s bandwagon. Pickup and delivery? They’re free. The business also backs up its do-goodery with some tidy credentials: It’s Portland’s only dry cleaner to have won the award of excellence from the Fabricare Institute (a respected garment-care trade association) for its high standards of cleaning, environmental stewardship, and customer service.



Like a pack of culinary ninjas, Benjamin Dyer, Jason Owens, and David Kreifals—the foodie brain-trust behind this 15-person operation—have taken a solemn vow never to use wimpy Sterno flames and silver warming pans, nor to ever serve the rubber-chicken dinners that often characterize meals cooked for hordes of people. Instead, the Simpatica boys show up to your event with an arsenal of convection ovens, griddles, and grills, and then proceed to whip up one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten, no matter the size of the party. Having studied under some of the best chefs in town, including Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place and Paul Decarli of Tuscany Grill, Dyer, Owens, and Kreifals plumb their collective culinary knowledge and dish up everything from cedar-plank salmon to a whole pig, roasted until it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. And with a supply of freshly butchered meats from their sister operation, Viande Meats & Sausage, at their disposal, they can create a menu that’s limited only by your imagination.


Abraham Lee Fine Custom Tailor

How good is tailor Abraham Lee? In Beverly Hills during the early 1980s, discriminating Hollywood types like Johnny Carson favored Lee’s handiwork above all others (Lee even cut the cloth for the captain’s uniform worn by Gavin MacLeod in the classic television series The Love Boat). After relocating to Portland in 1985, Lee promptly became a favorite of bigwigs like former Senator Mark Hatfield, but lucky for us, Lee gives the A-list treatment to everyone. Each customer is granted an unlimited number of fittings to ensure his suit is a true knockout. Hand-stitched with silk thread and made from wool supplied by renowned mills such as Italy’s Ermenegildo Zegna and Britain’s Dormeuil, Lee’s suits wear like a second skin. Patience and a good chunk of change are required, however. Each one takes eight weeks to create, and can cost from $1,000 to $4,000. It might sound exorbitant, but considering Lee’s suits are meant to last a lifetime, it’s a small price to pay to spend the rest of your days looking like a million bucks.


Viande Meats & Sausage

Yes, all of its meats are hormone-free and free-range—but what makes Viande truly special is the craftsmanship that goes into each housemade sausage, salami, bresaola, and guanciale. Take the prosciutto, for instance, which is covered in salt for a month, then refrigerated for a week, and then hung on a rack to air-dry for another nine months, getting sweeter every day. And if you’re looking for salt-cured pork livers, chances are good that the folks behind the counter will actually know what you’re talking about (unlike most shops in town). In fact, if you can’t find the cut or kind of meat you want, just give Viande’s meat-meisters 24 hours—they can wrangle anything from alligator to wild boar from their network of local ranchers. But perhaps the most appealing part of Viande’s operation is that, like classic butchers of yore, they serve up a meatball sub better than any we’ve had. Word to the wise, though: This masterpiece—stuffed with beef, pork, veal, and sautéed bacon­—is offered only on Mondays.


Wash ’n’ Roll Mobile Pet Grooming

After nearly seven years of experience in the dog-bathing biz, Wash ’n’ Roll Mobile Pet Grooming has its operation dialed in. With some 1,600 regular clients, the team of 12 groomers makes about 25 house calls a day in three fully stocked mobile homes. After rolling up to your house, two amiable employees will wash, dry, and clip your pet (including their troublesome nails!) in under an hour, and thanks to each vehicle’s 100-gallon water tank, not even a drop of H2O will be siphoned from your tap. A typical cleaning runs around $75 (which includes a $25 fuel surcharge), but for anyone who’s ever had to wrestle a soggy Saint Bernard into the back of a Volvo after a trip to the dog wash, it’s worth every penny. And should your hound emerge from the woods smelling like he rolled around on a dead squirrel, or a skunk decides to spray your curious tabby, no problem: Wash ’n’ Roll teams are on call seven days a week, and they’re accustomed to dealing with such olfactory emergencies.

Correction appended: In our Best of the City 2008 cover story in August, we misidentified the bridge nearest to Veritable Quandary. It is the Hawthorne Bridge. We regret the error.