We sat down with Portland native and beverage writer extraordinaire, Alexander Frane, to get his take on all the essential information home-seekers need about Portland libations.
1. In your time covering local restaurants have you seen any places that have had a big enough impact to change the dynamic of a neighborhood?
When I think about that, what I really think about most is Mississippi. That change was around ten years ago. Restaurants and bars opening in that area happened along with a major shift of the demographics of homeowners in the neighborhood. It has been a big topic of conversation in Portland; I don’t want to comment too much on that shift other than to say that it occurred in tandem with these new food and beverage businesses taking up residence. I love that neighborhood and I love those bars and restaurants – I think they are amazing – but it is indicative of how the city has changed.
Woodstock seems to be going through some of those changes Mississippi went through with a new Double Mountain Brewery and other attractive businesses moving in. I wonder if it is kind of a chicken and the egg thing. I’m curious whether these new restaurants change the neighborhood or if the neighborhood starts changing and new restaurants come in as a result. Woodstock still has many long-term residents but I also feel like it is attracting new people and the street itself is starting to look different.
I think Pok Pok on Division was successful and lead to that area being more developed as other restaurants followed suit. I imagine that had an impact on the housing and rental market in the area.
Also, Coquine. It’s such a nice area but there is less directly around it so it might be bringing people into that area that haven’t been there before.
2. On the other side of things, any restaurants you are familiar with that have struggled because the neighborhood wasn’t a good fit?
There are some restaurants in town that are great, but in areas that have continued to feel quiet and residential. The main street of restaurants in Beaumont continues to have steady but a quieter turn out which is unfortunate since some highly-underrated restaurants can be found there. Like Bang Bang, which has a great, creative menu but doesn’t seem to get lines out the door like some very comparable restaurants in other neighborhoods. Smallwares was well liked and had an amazing reputation but closed after inconsistent levels of business. There is a complex relationship between food and beverage venues and the neighborhoods they live in and influence.
3. When people are looking for a home, they might find there are certain local amenities they can’t live without. When it comes to having a neighborhood bar, what requirements should a prospective neighborhood fulfill?
I think you should have one of every variety of bar: a dive bar, a neighborhood bar, and a cocktail bar. Some people group neighborhood bars and dive bars together but I think there is a distinction there. If you have one of each of those within walking distance of your new home, you will be all set.
4. One of my favorite things you have shared are the best places for dog owners to drink in Portland with their four-legged companion in tow. Since you have perspective on this topic, which neighborhood in Portland do you think is best for drinking with dogs?
That would be Mississippi. Everyone loves dogs on Mississippi and there are a lot of dog-friendly places. Prost, Interurban, and Bar Bar are all dog-friendly. Further up when Mississippi St. turns into Albina there is Victoria which is one of the best dog-friendly bars in the city. The owner loves dogs and the patio is set up well to host them. Alberta is good too for dogs, but really Mississippi hands down though, it’s not even a question, if you want to take your dog out drinking with you.
5. If you were to buy a home based on its proximity to your favorite bars in the city what neighborhood would you choose?
Buckman. It has the highest concentration of the best bars at every level. It is the best eating and drinking spot in town. With all the stuff on Sandy and Burnside and all the stuff in lower Buckman into the lower industrial area. Even if you are just in the inner-industrial area just by the Morrison bridge you could probably go to a different wonderful place each night. It may be difficult to find a home right there since it is less residential, but if you head east a few blocks there are more homes. My dream house would be off Stark anywhere between 15th and 20th right over near Buckman grade school, where I went. That is my favorite part of town. You can walk anywhere from there to all the best bars and half the best restaurants and it’s beautiful. I think the Division/Clinton neighborhood would be my second choice.