Sunday, July 23, 2017 marked our one year anniversary of moving to Portland. We spent the day taking it easy and not doing much at all—completely the opposite of the year before. July 23, 2016 was a crazy day, with a pre-dawn start in NYC, schlepping heavy luggage to JFK (one bag incurred a weight overage fee), including two cats in carriers, and finally sitting the 6+ hours on the plane. It was a grueling and tiring process, but we made it.
As is often the case when I move to a new place, my first meal is pizza—this time it was at Atomic Pizza (4144 NE Sandy Blvd); I wish I could say that we searched out something more elaborate, but we were beat and a slice really hit the spot. We’ve been back a number of times—the pizza is tasty (though I think it’s often better next door at the Hollywood Theatre’s Pie Hole, go figure), the staff is friendly, and I get a sort of 80s vibe there. It reminds me a bit of the pizza parlors I used to eat at when I was a teenager.
I’m also happy that they sell Ruby Jewel ice cream, something I’ve come to treasure as a local. And they hang local art! My recent favorite show was the series of drawings by 10-year old Hobbs Waters.
The other memorable detail of that weekend was that we watched “Escape From New York” at the Hollywood Theatre that Sunday night, so fitting for us then. I remember feeling exhausted—and I probably dozed off momentarily at times—but I’m glad I saw it then and there.
❝I wish I could say that we searched out something more elaborate, but we were beat and a slice really hit the spot.❞
Over the year we’ve come to understand that the Hollywood District isn’t exactly the hippest of places in Portland, and that suits me just fine. There are some excellent places to eat in the neighborhood that serve consistently good food—standouts include Vivienne Kitchen & Pantry (4128 NE Sandy Blvd), Laughing Planet (1914 NE 42nd Avenue), Fleur de Lis (3930 NE Hancock Street), Killer Burger (4644 NE Sandy Blvd), The Magnolia (4075 NE Sandy Blvd), Rust Coffee Lounge (2035 NE 41st Avenue) and the vendors at the Hollywood Farmers Market (4420 NE Hancock Street). RIP Pono Soul Farm Kitchen, which was also a favorite.
Probably the biggest surprise for me has been the quality of the specials at Sam’s Billiards (1845 NE 41st Avenue). I’ve had some truly excellent non-fussy food there—the stews in particular catch my eye (the red pozole comes to mind), and their breakfast scrambles are simple, good, and filling (I’m fond of the vegetarian El Tiburon). I also must admit I often crave the pulled pork sliders on their happy hour menu; they are satisfying little things, topped with creamy slaw and at times an almost frico-ized bit of cheese. I love the space—unpretentious and friendly, plus all those pool tables; players take this place seriously (and next time you’re in, take a gander at the staircase’s railing). I’m also glad that Hollywood has a nice mix of old Portland and new.
Particular dishes I’ve grown to love at a few other places in the neighborhood are the Bun with beef at My Canh (1801 NE 39th Avenue); sausage rolls at Moon & Sixpence (2014 NE 42nd Avenue); pork potstickers at Shandong (3724 NE Broadway); beef bibimbap at The Bulgogi (4232 NE Sandy Blvd); and the grilled king salmon at Chameleon (2000 NE 40th Avenue). The beer brewed at Columbia River Brewing Company is also quite good. And did you know you can get swing-top bottles of Virgil’s root beer at the Orchard Supply Hardware next to the MAX station?
One thing we had to get used to here was the lack of the NYC staple, the bodega (variants: corner store or corner deli). Ours was a corner deli run by Greeks that made wonderful iced lattes, frappés, and freddos in the summer. Soon after we arrived in town, we happily found our way to the iced lattes at Fleur de Lis and Rust.
There’s a lot to love here in the Hollywood District, and I’m really glad this is where we landed in Portland. I look forward to another year of good food in the neighborhood!