NoPo Restaurant Series #3: Parkside

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked through Kenton Park, saw Parkside nestled on the corner of Brandon and Willis, and thought, “I should try that place.”  It took me an embarrassing amount of time to actually make my way in the door, but once I did, I only wished that I had stopped in sooner!  Tucked under an apartment complex directly across the street from the park, it’s a quiet neighborhood pub that serves up great food and drinks in a cozy environment.

The first thing you notice even before you walk in the door is how beautiful the surroundings are.  Now, I’m a Kenton resident, so I may be a little biased, but Kenton Park is really pretty to look at.  There’s some huge, old trees, and on a particularly nice day (like today!) you can spend the whole day under the shade of one just people watching.  If you want to watch from a bit of a distance, the Parkside patio is perfect.  You can enjoy the scenery while sipping on a crisp craft beer or one of their signature cocktails.  The Bees Knees is delicious, but very pink!

parkside view

Enjoy the sunshine and views of Kenton Park from the outdoor seating area.

Once you step inside, you’ll find a fully stocked bar dimly lit with Edison bulbs, a warm, inviting atmosphere, and a gorgeous fireplace to cozy up to when it’s a little chillier outside. It is a small space to be sure, but they have made the most of the space they have, so it feels intimate, not crowded.  Once you take a seat, a friendly server will hand you a simple menu and point you in the direction of the beer list: about 6 rotating taps listed on a blackboard hanging on a post in the middle of the room.

parkside bar

Beer, wine, or cocktail…you’ll find your perfect drink!

Parkside doesn’t fuss with a complicated menu. There’s just a few items, but they’re all excellent.  The chicken pot pie has a perfectly light and flaky crust.  It comes with a side salad full of fresh greens and a light drizzle of vinaigrette. The true piece de resistance of the menu though, is the pulled pork mac and cheese.  It is really exceptional.  I can’t recommend it enough!

parkside fireplace

A cozy fireplace for when it’s cold out, and a slide-up garage for warmer weather! They’ve since added a TV on this wall, and it’s a popular spot to catch a game.

One of my favorite things about this local haunt has to be the game selection. There’s a ton to choose from and no matter if there’s 2 or 10 of you, you’re sure to find a game that will be fun for everyone.  Even better than board games? Happy hour is from 4-6 daily, and ALL DAY on Monday! Now, this isn’t a terribly expensive bar in the first place but during happy hour you can enjoy $3.50 draft beers, $5 glasses of wine, and $3 well drinks.  That’s a great deal no matter where you are!

The next time you’re in Kenton, make a point to stop by Parkside.  You’ll be glad you did!

All photos are from the Parkside Yelp page

 

Posted on May 17, 2016 at 7:29 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Dining, Portland | Tagged , , , ,

Spring is Here! Upcoming Activities in Portland and Beyond!

Spring is my absolute favorite season.  Growing up in Southern California I was always a summer lover, but since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have a new appreciation for this transitional season.  Down there, Spring doesn’t really exist.  It never gets cold enough for winter to really take effect, so once March rolls around, it’s just some slightly warmer weather.  When you actually experience winter, though, Spring is what pulls you out of the grey and gives you a new hope.  I love the vibrant colors starting to pop up all over the city and the increase of people being outdoors and chasing the sunshine.

It seems like everyone in Oregon shares these sentiments.  There’s never really a shortage of things to do here year-round, but Spring is the time that things really start to kick up.  We’ll start seeing more events and festivals as we all warm up from the winter chill.  I’ve put together a list of some upcoming events this Spring to get us out and moving!

1. Whale Watching Week–Oregon Coast, March 19-26

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I LOVE Whale Watching Week.  I try to get out to the Coast as much as I can (I AM a beach girl at heart, after all), and this biannual event is the perfect reason to head west.  All up and down the Coast areas are manned with volunteers to help you spot whales as they head north.   There’s nothing quite like it, and the best part is that it’s absolutely free (although in some spots you’ll have to pay the $5 parking fee)!  Make a day of it, and head to one of Oregon’s amazing coastal towns for lunch or dinner.  More than 20,000 whales are expected to pass by our shore, so check out Oregon State Parks’ website for more information and to find which of the 24 designated locations you want to watch from!

2.  Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival–Woodburn, OR, March 18-May 1

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Nothing says Spring quite like 40 acres of stunning tulips! Each year, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm opens their tulip fields to the public to explore.  It’s an amazing sight to behold, and they change the layout each year, so there’s always something new to see.  It’s great for just taking in the natural beauty of the flowers and the backdrop of Mt. Hood, vineyards, and fresh country air, but there’s plenty more to do while you’re there! You can pack a picnic lunch or dine at the food court on site, buy or pre-order bulbs for your own garden, take a train ride through the fields, and even get some wine tasting done. Admission is $5/person, with a car limit of $20, so grab some friends and make a day of it! Visit their website for more information, and to plan your trip.

3. Annual Spring Beer and Wine Fest–Portland, OR, March 25-26

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Okay, so this one’s inside, but I had to include it because it’s such a quintessential part of ringing in Spring in Portland–this year is it’s 22nd year!  Located at the convention center (so you can enjoy rain or shine!), the festival is open 12-10 PM Friday and Saturday.  You can sample beer, wine, chocolate, and cheese from the region all under one roof! Children are allowed in until 9 PM both days, and kids under 13 get in for free. General admission is $10 for those of us $13+, but there’s all sorts of packages that you can buy which include drink tokens.  The value package is a great deal: $25 for admission, a standard tasting glass, and 10 tasting tokens.  Their site has all the information you need, including vendors and a list of musical acts that will be performing.

4.  Cinco de Maya Fiesta–Portland, OR, May 5-8

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In it’s 32nd year, Portland’s Cinco de Mayo Fiesta is the largest multicultural festival in the state of Oregon.  It is located at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and is packed with food, fun, and cultural entertainment.  You can get your thrills on carnival rides, cheer on luchadors at Lucha Libre Portland, or visit the  12 Artisans traveling all the way from Guadalajara to showcase their artwork at this year’s event. With tons of free things to do, and only $9 for admission, it’s not only a great time, but a wonderful learning experience for kids to learn about a different culture!  For more info, visit their website.

5. Portland Rose Festival–Portland, OR, May 27-June 12

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Getting a little farther ahead, the Rose Festival is how we in Portland usher in summer.  Starting at the end of May, the CityFair opens up at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and begins the many events that take over Portland during the Festival.  Fireworks will kick off the opening on May 27 and there’s tons to do over the following couple of weeks, culminating in the always popular Dragon Boat Races and the Grand Floral Parade June 11, where the newly crowned Rose Festival Queen will join the parade of all-floral floats.  The parade starts at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, crosses the Burnside Bridge, and will end in Downtown Portland.  It’s a beautiful sight, and as we celebrate over 100 years, a true piece of Portland history! Get all the info on the official website.

Bonus: Portland Farmer’s Markets

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Springtime means farmer’s markets! Starting in Mid-March, the markets open and will run through the summer and fall.  The Portland Farmers Market is a non-profit that runs 8 different markets throughout the city, but there are many others that are independently run.  If you want the freshest fruits and veggies, jams, honeys, and plenty of other handcrafted goodies, look no further! The various markets run on different days of the week, so you can always find one on your day off.

I hope that this gives you some motivation to get out and get moving after this exceptionally cold and wet winter! What other springtime activities do you love?  Share them in the comments!

Posted on March 15, 2016 at 8:06 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Portland, Travel | Tagged , , , ,

How to Avoid Holiday Hosting Disasters

Thanksgiving is upon us! If you’ve tackled the turkey at your place before, you know that there’s always SOMETHING that doesn’t go to plan.  If it’s your first time, know that no matter how prepared you think you are, there will be hiccups along the way.  Sometimes, it can feel like the entire holiday rests on your shoulders, so when trouble arises, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

I find that the best thing to remember is that the holidays are about being with the people you love, not the meal or sleeping arrangements (I know, it’s really easy to say that now, remind me of this moment in January).  But it DOES do wonders to your sanity to remember that at the end of the day, no one’s going to disown you because the turkey is overcooked.  Of course, we still want the holiday celebrations to go off without a hitch, and there are a few ways to minimize disaster.  A little prep work (including making sure your heater has a working filter to keep your loved ones toasty warm!) can go a long way.

I found a couple really great articles from Houselogic (a part of the National Association of REALTORS®) that I wanted to share with you.  They’ve got some really great tips that even I hadn’t heard before.  Click the links below, and then come back to share how you prepare for the holiday season in the comments!

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Posted on November 25, 2015 at 10:27 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Holidays, Travel | Tagged , , ,

No Po Restaurant Series #2: Thai Cottage

Here we are to talk again about one of my favorite topics–food!  I hope that some of you got a chance to visit Louie’s after my last post, and had a great experience with it.

Thai food seems to be almost a dime a dozen in Portland.  I’ve seen countless take out places, food carts, and sit down restaurants.  Now, I haven’t nearly tried them all, but I have gone to quite a few, and none have been as good as Thai Cottage.  When we first moved to Portland, we moved right into the heart of St. John’s, making this gem just a short walk from the house.  I was immediately drawn to the friendly yellow exterior, and the hopes that there would be some great Thai food inside (I’m a pad thai fiend!).  We made plans to try it out, as my boyfriend had never had Thai food before.  I warned him that when done wrong, it’s REALLY wrong, but I had a good feeling.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (since I’m writing this now) our first experience at Thai Cottage was fantastic!  We sat outside on their front patio and watched the bustle of downtown St. John’s as we waited for our food.  Inside is warm and friendly, with great art on the walls and a variety of booths and tables to choose from.   I can’t remember exactly what we ordered that first time, but I do know that we got the Crab Pad Thai because it’s so good I don’t think I’ve gone back without getting it.  Their menu boasts a ton of different curries, and I haven’t had a bad one yet (my favorite is the avocado green curry, my boyfriend likes the mango red).  The menu doesn’t stop there, though.  There are a bunch of appetizers to try out: from spring rolls, to chicken satay, to cheesy crab wontons (my personal favorite) there’s something for everyone.  Entrees aren’t limited to curries and noodle dishes, though.  The menu is extensive, and since they will bring out a tray of hot chili sauces upon request, spiciness levels are decided by you.  Most dishes are not terribly spicy on their own, but if you’re worried, you can always ask for it mild and the cooks are very accommodating.

They’ve got a pretty decent selection of beer and wine, including Singha and Chang, two popular Thai brews.  If you’re wanting to bring in your own wine, they only charge a $10 corking fee.  I’ve seen restaurants at similar price points charge up to $25, so it’s really a steal.  You can also get a mean Thai iced tea with milk, if you’re looking for something non-alcoholic.  I’m always too full for dessert, but this sweet treat is a perfect finish to a great meal.

Portions are enormous.  I’ve always been a fan of getting two meals out of one and Thai Cottage is great for that.  They make sharing plates really easy.  Entrees generally range from about $12-$18/plate depending on the dish and the meat you ordered with it.  While it may seem like a bit of stretch on the wallet, the fact that you get so much food makes it more than worth the cost.

One of my favorite things about Thai Cottage is that they deliver!  Even since we’ve moved farther away (Google tells me we’re now 3.4 miles away), we still get our order within an hour, usually well under.

So, if you haven’t yet, give Thai Cottage a try! You’ll be glad you did!

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 8:52 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Dining, Portland | Tagged , , ,

No Po Restaurant Series: Louie's Pizza and Catering

I love living in North Portland–more importantly I love EATING in North Portland.  I want to start sharing some of my favorite places to grab a bite in the hopes that you wonderful people will give them a try and love them too!  None of the places I’ll be talking about are compensating me in any way.  All of these restaurants are just ones I think everyone should be giving a try!

First up on my list is Louie’s Pizza and Catering.  There is something to be said about a great, no frills slice of pizza.  I lived just a few blocks from Louie’s for about a year before I went in for the first time, and boy, was it worth the wait!  We walked in and were immediately hit with the unmistakable scent of pizza in the oven.  The man behind the counter was incredibly friendly and gave us a run down of what’s good and popular–making sure to let us know that the Italian sausage is what they’re known for.  After looking at the menu for a while, I settled on a mini pizza (only $4+ .50/topping after the first!) with sun-dried tomatoes and the recommended Italian sausage.  I even decided to go nuts and try his Alfredo sauce.

Pricing at Louie’s is really reasonable.  It’s comparable to any pizza place in the area–a large pizza starts at $15.  Sure, you could go up the street to Domino’s or Pizza Hut to save some cash, but there’s more than a noticeable drop off in quality.  A “personal” calzone is probably the best bang for your buck in my experience.  It’s at least 2 meals for me every time I get one!

While we waited for our food, we talked to the man working behind the counter, who just so happened to be Louie himself.  We learned that he is originally from New York, in fact from a town not far from where we went to college, and he and his family settled out here in Portland many years ago.  We chatted about New York, moving to Portland, and Italian families until our food was ready.  Louie is a wonderful person and you can tell he really loves what he does.  The only down side to Louie’s is that there isn’t really a place to sit and eat.  There are a couple tables inside, so you could stay if you really wanted to, but it’s definitely more of a carry-out joint.  We took our food, which smelled incredible, and said our goodbyes to Louie, already knowing we would be back to see him soon.

When we got home, I could barely wait to dig in.  I had been smelling this pizza the whole car ride home and I was ready!  I took out my pizza, and was surprised to find that the sausage was not crumbly like most pizzas or even thick, round slices.  The sausage had been so thinly sliced, it almost looked like deli meat.  And it was so flavorful.  My pizza was amazing and the garlic cheese bread we got to go along with it was just as good.  The order came with two super thick slices of bread spread with house-made garlic butter and then covered with a generous portion of pizza cheese.  I also HAD to try the cannoli, which Louie makes himself.  It was as good as any Italian bakery I’ve been to.

Sure enough, I took a friend of mine who was craving pizza there later in the week, and he loved it just as much as I did the first time.  So much so that on his last night in Portland (he had spent 2 months here on an internship) he specifically asked for Louie’s as his last meal in town.

If you’re looking for a great pizza, look no further.  I haven’t even made past pizza and calzones yet, but their pastas and sandwiches look just as great.  Check them out at their website and place an order the next time you’re craving pizza.  You won’t be disappointed!

Posted on September 29, 2015 at 8:43 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Dining, Portland | Tagged , , ,

No Po Restaurant Series: Louie’s Pizza and Catering

I love living in North Portland–more importantly I love EATING in North Portland.  I want to start sharing some of my favorite places to grab a bite in the hopes that you wonderful people will give them a try and love them too!  None of the places I’ll be talking about are compensating me in any way.  All of these restaurants are just ones I think everyone should be giving a try!

First up on my list is Louie’s Pizza and Catering.  There is something to be said about a great, no frills slice of pizza.  I lived just a few blocks from Louie’s for about a year before I went in for the first time, and boy, was it worth the wait!  We walked in and were immediately hit with the unmistakable scent of pizza in the oven.  The man behind the counter was incredibly friendly and gave us a run down of what’s good and popular–making sure to let us know that the Italian sausage is what they’re known for.  After looking at the menu for a while, I settled on a mini pizza (only $4+ .50/topping after the first!) with sun-dried tomatoes and the recommended Italian sausage.  I even decided to go nuts and try his Alfredo sauce.

Pricing at Louie’s is really reasonable.  It’s comparable to any pizza place in the area–a large pizza starts at $15.  Sure, you could go up the street to Domino’s or Pizza Hut to save some cash, but there’s more than a noticeable drop off in quality.  A “personal” calzone is probably the best bang for your buck in my experience.  It’s at least 2 meals for me every time I get one!

While we waited for our food, we talked to the man working behind the counter, who just so happened to be Louie himself.  We learned that he is originally from New York, in fact from a town not far from where we went to college, and he and his family settled out here in Portland many years ago.  We chatted about New York, moving to Portland, and Italian families until our food was ready.  Louie is a wonderful person and you can tell he really loves what he does.  The only down side to Louie’s is that there isn’t really a place to sit and eat.  There are a couple tables inside, so you could stay if you really wanted to, but it’s definitely more of a carry-out joint.  We took our food, which smelled incredible, and said our goodbyes to Louie, already knowing we would be back to see him soon.

When we got home, I could barely wait to dig in.  I had been smelling this pizza the whole car ride home and I was ready!  I took out my pizza, and was surprised to find that the sausage was not crumbly like most pizzas or even thick, round slices.  The sausage had been so thinly sliced, it almost looked like deli meat.  And it was so flavorful.  My pizza was amazing and the garlic cheese bread we got to go along with it was just as good.  The order came with two super thick slices of bread spread with house-made garlic butter and then covered with a generous portion of pizza cheese.  I also HAD to try the cannoli, which Louie makes himself.  It was as good as any Italian bakery I’ve been to.

Sure enough, I took a friend of mine who was craving pizza there later in the week, and he loved it just as much as I did the first time.  So much so that on his last night in Portland (he had spent 2 months here on an internship) he specifically asked for Louie’s as his last meal in town.

If you’re looking for a great pizza, look no further.  I haven’t even made past pizza and calzones yet, but their pastas and sandwiches look just as great.  Check them out at their website and place an order the next time you’re craving pizza.  You won’t be disappointed!

Posted on September 29, 2015 at 8:43 PM
Sianna Johnson | Category: Dining, Portland | Tagged , , ,