By Mark Petruska
Think of Portland, and what images pop into your head? Skyscrapers, bridges, and bacon-covered doughnuts, almost certainly. While the “heart” of the city may lie in its downtown core, crossing the Willamette and exploring the east side of town will yield its own treasure trove of rewards.
The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, named after our colorful former mayor, is a 1.5-mile pedestrian and bicycle path that runs from the Steel Bridge to the Hawthorne Bridge on the east shore of the Willamette River. Its most unique feature is a floating walkway that allows you an up close and personal look at the river – you can literally feel it beneath your feet as the platform sways gently in the wake of passing boats. You can walk from Tom McCall Waterfront Park across the Steel Bridge to hook up with the esplanade (a great excursion if you’re looking to walk off that elephant ear you just ate at the Saturday Market), or find it from a number of spots on the east side of the river.
If you think OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is for kids only, guess again. There are enough enthralling exhibits to keep adults interested, too – and an IMAX theater for in-your-face movies. After hours, check out a laser light show in the Planetarium. Pink Floyd is synonymous with lasers and is always playing, but a rotating list of shows – including Led Zeppelin and Nirvana (highly recommended!) – fills out the calendar. Even if OMSI is closed, it’s worth a trip there after dark for the best view of the Portland skyline in town. Adjacent to the parking lot and overlooking the river, you’ll find the lights of the city sparkling on the Willamette – vibrant shades of gold, green and red are a stunning sight and a great photo opportunity.
The best restaurants are typically holes in the wall that you wouldn’t normally give a second glance, and the east side has plenty of these unassuming spots that provide a great meal on the cheap. One of my favorites is no longer a secret thanks to national exposure on shows like The Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” but don’t let the hype scare you away from a great meal. Bunk Sandwiches on SE Morrison offers up heaping sandwich happenings that will have your taste buds screaming “more!” Especially tasty are their pig-centric offerings: both the Pork Belly Cubano and the Pulled Pork with apple slaw are mouth-wateringly delicious.
A short distance away is the vibrantly hip Hawthorne District. Located on SE Hawthorne Blvd. between 17th and 43rd Avenues, the Hawthorne District is a funky and eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Familiar faces like Powell’s Books and Ben & Jerry’s coexist beside pipe shops, tattoo parlors, and vintage stores. Though far from downtown, Hawthorne is quintessentially Portland; you’ll find a veritable rainbow cornucopia of Generation-X types roaming the ‘hood, including hipsters, hippies, bicycle messengers, environmental activists, and gays. The Bagdad Theater & Pub, an historic movie palace owned by the McMenamin brothers and part of their impressive chain, is a great place to kick back for a cocktail and people-watch, or check out a movie or concert.
Finally, don’t miss Mount Tabor, a volcanic cinder cone that towers over southeast Portland and offers a great view of downtown from a distance. The perfect spot to catch a sunset, Mount Tabor’s got walking trails, benches, and a playground for your inner child.
Mark Petruska is in love and wants the world to know it. The object of his affection? The Pacific Northwest, where he has lived since 1994. Born in Hawaii, his father was in the Air Force, and the family moved often. Over the years, Mark has called many places home – Dayton, Ohio; Rapid City, South Dakota; San Jose, California – but his heart belongs to Portland.
Mark is also passionate about writing, and has cranked out a number of novels and short stories over the years. His dream is to become a published author.
“I’d love to walk into Powell’s Books someday, and pull a novel with my name on it from the shelf,” he says. “It will happen…mark my words!”
A recent corporate layoff prompted Mark to pursue his passion and begin a freelance writing career. With a steady and growing client base, he hopes to make a living solely through his writing. Hobbies include cooking, blogging, photography, hiking, and “mind-numbing reality television.”
Excellent article! You’ve really captured the heart and soul of our unique city! Thanks for writing!!
I love reading Mark’s writing… he’s got a charm and style of writing that keeps your attention. Once again, he has worked his magic! Keep up the great work!
San Antonio, Texas
That’s it. I’m coming to Portland!!