Though our standard Top 100 are set in stone, Phoenix editors are opinionated enough to have our own personal picks for the standouts of the city. You're welcome.
Has comfort food ever looked prettier? Photo Courtesy of Figgy's.
Best Guilty Pleasure: Figgy’s Takeout & Catering
There’s a sandwich at Figgy’s that seldom fails to beat down my rational self to make room for more carnal desires. Even if I’m just mildly hungry, I can’t go to Yordprom, the building's attached coffee shop, without imagining its downright deliciousness. Healthy? Hardly. But hey, something’s gotta win guilty pleasure, and this year it goes to this carb-overloaded “dinner in a sandwich”: the Ay Ay Ron. It consists of a thick boneless slab of Southern-style fried chicken nestled between two buttery biscuits and coleslaw. But here’s where it gets weird (and awesome). On top of all that, there’s a generous serving of mashed potatoes and gravy. Hallelujah. The Ay Ay Ron pushes the boundaries of what a sandwich even means, and sentences those who ask to a food-coma post consumption. But it's always 100 percent worth it.
Figgy’s Takeout and Catering | 722B Congress St., Portland | http://figgystakeoutandcatering.com/
Ameera Bread's falafel and vegetables in sammoun bread, which is pretty much the most effective shape for a sandwich. Photo courtesy of Ahmed Abbas.
Best Public Market House Vendor: Ameera Bread
Someone remind me, what’s up with the second floor of the Portland Public Market House? What’s there again? The only hearty option up there is Kamasouptra (and I guess Daily Greens if you load up on protein), but those options are once-a-weekers in my book. If I’m thinking lunch, I’m hardly ever thinking about a smoothie, a salad, or sticky rice with blueberries (sorry other vendors). I’m usually always dead set on going to Ameera Bread. Tucked in the far left corner of the second floor of the Market House is this simply wonderful Middle Eastern sandwich spot. Ameera’s got a bigger main location on outer Forest Avenue, but the kiosk at the Market House is typically manned by a single dude. But boy can he crank out falafel wraps and shwarma sandwiches like nobody’s business (and now serves Mongolian Stir Fry!). Maybe it’s because I’m not typically exposed to halal food often (can we get just one food cart, please?) like people in bigger cities, but I’ve been on a lamb gyro kick lately. Thinly sliced bits of slow-cooked spiced lamb inside naan bread (or sammoun bread) with lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce is addicting. It’s also just fun to eat; I dig the shape of the sammoun bread. Ameera’s definitely the best food vendor to move into the Market House. Try their hummus!
Ameera Bread | 845 Forest Ave., 28 Monument Way, Portland | http://www.ameerabreadllc.com/
Even this small sample size of Rybus' six latest shots illustrate how captivating and stylized her photojournalism can be. Screenshot from https://www.instagram.com/gretarybus/.
Best Instagram Account: Greta Rybus (@gretarybus)
I follow well over 2,000 people on Instagram, but I can pick out the work of Greta Rybus instantly on my feed. I know outstanding photographs when I see them, and each one of her photographs could easily be on the cover of a bestselling book. Rybus, a photojournalist from Idaho now based in Portland, is something of a globetrotter, which make her photos instantly more interesting than other local accounts. She’s shot stunning portraits, landscapes, and slice-of-life shots in Senegal, Norway, Panama, Hawaii, and Washington D.C., to name a few. But it’s really the way she purposefully uses natural light, frames, and edits her photos that make them so memorable and interesting. Her subjects tend to be one of either three things: people, landscapes, and textured, atmospheric scenes. From Norwegian fishermen fighting climate change to women rallying at the Women’s March on Washington, a true story’s hidden in each photo and invites different interpretations on the mood. Some can strike you as melancholic or ominous while others are joyous and breathtaking. The raw aesthetics of each photo reflect this balance; shots typically feature objects in bright or dark colors in crisp focus against a bright white light background. This yin and yang dynamic falls in line with Rybus’s artist statement: I'm interested in documenting the full spectrum of the human experience: the struggle and joy, the light and darkness. Put this women’s thoughtful and eye-pleasing exploration of the beautiful mess that is humanity on your social media feed, pronto.
http://www.gretarybus.com/ | @gretarybus
"Where is my mind," is a question you'll undoubtedly ask yourself in the tank. Photo courtesy of Float Harder.
Best Way to Escape the World: Float Harder
Do you love Portland so much that sometimes you need some time away from it? There’s literally no better way to escape from the buzzing pulse of humanity and its bullshit than by completely eliminating your sensory input altogether. Are you ready to be alone with your thoughts? If so, the lab at Float Harder can set you up on a date with a sensory deprivation tank. Climb into the capsule filled with body temperature water and epsom salt and float in pitch blackness (or neon blue light). Once inside, time slows and the silence envelopes you (or you can listen to music if you prefer). Where your body ends and the air and water begins becomes a legitimate challenge to discern. Perception, out the window. As long as you’re comfortable with your own stream of consciousness, and slightly forgetting up from down, floating is a wonderful experience. At it’s simplest function it’s meditative, soothing, and slightly psychedelic. At it’s most effective, a float session can ameliorate depression, muscle pain, and addiction issues.
Float Harder Relaxation Center | 500 Washington Ave., Portland | http://www.floatharder.com/
Best Way to Spend Your Quarters: Pinball at Coast City Comics and Arcadia National Bar
The way I see it, quarters in downtown Portland get spent in a number of finite ways: laundry, the parking meter, the tip jar, and getting that one persistent old soul to stop asking you for 11 cents. But what if the depths of pinball machines were a better home for your quarters? Break up your work shift by spending your break playing some games; it’s oddly stress-relieving and nostalgia-summoning. Portland’s got two fun and super casual spots to get this childish in public: Coast City Comics, and Arcadia National Bar. From the Lord of the Rings, and the Simpsons, to Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Medieval Madness, these 15-minute pinball distractions remind you that deep down, you’re still into the same silly shit you enjoyed 10 years ago. Visit these oases of video game and geek culture and use your dirty quarters like tokens to thought-journey back in time.
Neil Sattin's having the conversations we need to hear on his podcast Relationship Alive!, which is a winner in our minds. Photo Courtesy of Neil Sattin.
Best Local Podcast: Relationship Alive!
It's a fine line between a "local" podcast and one that's produced locally. The brilliant Relationship Alive, an honest and vulnerable project by Portland's Neil Sattin, doesn't take much of a local view. But the subjects he speaks with, national experts covering intimacy, trauma, sex, honesty, safety, and overcoming obstacles that hamper partners from necessary growth, produce vital conversations that anyone trying to practice love in this tiny, tense little city would be obliged to hear. A therapist and healing practitioner with a knack for getting people to open up, Sattin brings light to subjects many of us didn't grow up learning here in New England (where we typically keep our feelings close to the vest).
Relationship Alive! | http://www.neilsattin.com/relationshipalive/
Best Bar to Read At: LFK
This comes with a caveat, since it can get noisy and distracting enough in this dark bar that this is a moot point. But the folks at this converted bookstore (remember that?) still honor its literary past, even toying around with the idea of a rumored discount a couple years back for solo patrons with book in hand. But even if you don't score 10 percent off your Hamm's, it's a lovely, semi-social evening to spend an hour or so under the big Longfellow painting reading Rupi Kaur or The New Yorker or the new Elizabeth Strout novel or whatever it is you're into. It's just like reading at home, except with a tacked-on wild card, because you never know what other extroverted introverts you'll run into when you're done.
LFK | 188A State St., Portland | https://www.lfkportland.me/
A map from 1879 of the best place to smoke weed in Portland. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Best Place to Smoke Weed: The Stone Arch Bridge
Since we’ve printed these words, this title may very well be up for grabs again, but I'll take my chances. Do people in Portland ever really care about seeing or smelling someone smoking weed? Even before legalization, I caught wafts of skunkiness downtown almost daily. But it’s still technically illegal to consume on the street, so some of us prefer to remain stealthy. My favorite spot to spark up is not coincidentally the most cliche one: the old stone bridge in Deering Oaks Park. (Fun fact, it was built in 1909! History, cool!) Hear me out; while consuming what’s technically a drug underneath a bridge in the city’s largest parks sounds scummy and unoriginal, it’s actually quite a pleasant experience. There are nice stones to sit on. No one bothers you down there. The park is beautiful. And while you get lit you can observe the surrounding turf war between the ducks, the seagulls, and the geese. But anyway, go green in your own spot and don’t ruin mine.
Deering Oaks Park, Portland | http://www.deeringoaks.org/