Southeast Trip 2016 – Nashville

the Stacy Mitchhart band playing live music at Bourbon Street Blues Bar in Nashville

I was very excited to show my travel squad around Music City, and check out some new places as well.  Let’s get right to it!

Priorities:

  • Hot chicken
  • Live music
  • BBQ
  • New neighborhoods

Day 5 – Wednesday (cont.)

We had worked up quite the appetite on our Fiery Gizzard Trail hike, and I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to do more than get some Nashville hot chicken.  We pulled directly into Hattie B’s at around 4:30pm, delighted to see that we had timed it perfectly and there was actually NOT a line out the door and around the building!

hot chicken at Hattie B's in Nashville
Hot chicken (level “Hot” – wouldn’t dare do “Shut The Cluck Up”), collards, and pimento mac. 🙏🔥

We weren’t the only ones in on this secret quiet time at Hattie B’s – when we sat down we noticed some bodyguard type figures roaming around the restaurant looking shady.  We looked to our left, and at the table across the aisle from us sat Chris Chrisley (I think his name is actually Todd – of Chrisley Knows Best on USA Network).  It pleased us that we had chosen a place where the stars dine…

I had been to Hattie B’s before a couple of times, but this was the first time that I ventured above the medium level of spice.  It was an adventure for sure, but I’d do it again!  The travel crew, however, was shocked at how hot the medium and mild levels were.  Luckily, a kind staff member brought over complimentary banana bread pudding to cool down the taste buds 👍.

After some logistics time (checking into the Airbnb, returning the rental car, shower, blah blah blah), we headed down to Broadway to take in some live music and see the sights.  We took a stroll up and down the main drag, observing the hordes of bachelorette parties and tourists, before popping into Layla’s to catch some bluegrass music.  After  a couple of Dos Perros (my favorite local drinkin’ beer), we decided it was time to head to the Nashville tourist’s Mecca: Tootsie’s.  With three floors of live music, plenty of cheap beers, and swaths of sweaty dancin’ boot-wearin’ toursits, it really is a must-see.  We spent the better part of three hours with the 2nd floor band, which was playing a good mix of stadium country, real country, and 90’s hits.

After Tootsie’s, we stumbled across the street to Paradise Park for some pretty gross but good drunk food before heading back to the Airbnb for the night.

Day 6 – Thursday

Thursday morning started with a late morning run and workout at the apartment complex gym to shake off the prior night’s activities.  By the time everyone was showered and ready to get back at it, lunch time was right around the corner.  So we chose to forego brunch and went straight to the 12 South neighborhood for some solid barbecue at Edley’s, which we confirmed with some locals is definitely among the top three BBQ joints in Nashville.

From there we walked to Frothy Monkey for a coffee, and then across the street to Five Daughters Bakery, where we tried a couple of famed 100-layer donuts.  We definitely did not have room, but we had to try ’em.

two
100-layer donuts from Five Daughters Bakery. This was not breakfast, it was lunch dessert.

After all that eating, we needed to walk around for a bit.  We decided to head over to the up and coming Germantown neighborhood to walk about and explore.  It was an interesting stroll, with some nice little houses interspersed with some run down homes, and some nice looking buildings and businesses mixed in with some rundown old warehouses.  Your classic mid-gentrification scene.  We popped into a few small shops along the way and just enjoyed the weather for a while, before hopping in an Uber back downtown en route to the Pinewood Social.

bowling alley at the Pinewood Social in Nashville
Old school alleys at Pinewood Social.

As I mentioned with regard to the Southside Social in Chattanooga, I love this kind of place.  The Pinewood Social seemed to be on the classier side of socials – with a more refined look, a quieter coffee shop area, a beautiful bar with a refined cocktail menu, some private dining rooms, the alley area, and bocce and a pool – and, of course, an Airstream – outside.  We tried a few of their fantastic cocktails and rolled a couple games of bocce before heading back to the Airbnb to get ready for dinner.

Rachel and I got ready first, and while the others freshened up we headed over to Yazoo Brewing Company for a flight (Dos Perros is still my favorite!).  From there, we were a short walk through the Gulch to our next destination – dinner with my long lost cousins!  We met them and the rest of our crew (plus Alena’s boyfriend, who had recently arrived) at Saint Añejo, a trendy Mexican restaurant.  The food and the margaritas were splendid, as was catching up with family that I hadn’t seen in years!

After dinner was one of the things I had been waiting the entire trip for.  During my previous Nashville trip, myself and a coworker stumbled upon Printers Alley, specifically the Bourbon Street Boogie and Blues Bar.  There, we saw one of the most entertaining live bands I have ever experienced – The Stacey Mitchhart Band.  Bourbon Street is their home venue, so I made sure to check on when they were playing this time around.  Stacey Mitchhart is fuego on the guitar, the rest of the band is filthy good, and they play great music – a good mix of originals and classic blues/rock jams.  The venue itself is very small and intimate, pretty divey, and when the band turns it up, it is bumpin’ in there!!  I was in my element.

travel companions watching a live music show at Bourbon Street Blues Bar in Nashville
Travel squad enjoying the music at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar.

After a few hours (and a few jello shots) there, we had to take Alena’s boyfriend over to Tootsie’s.  Which we did, followed by a stop next door at Legends Corner for another live band, before calling it a night and ordering some late-night pizza back at the Airbnb.

Day 7 – Friday

Friday started with another morning run and workout, before heading to the famed Pancake Pantry for breakfast.  If going here, make sure you block off at least 45-60 minutes of wait time!

Pancake Pantry
Waiting in line for Pancake Pantry on Belcourt Ave in Hillsboro Village.

We waited outside in the chilly morning air as the line slowly inched forward, until we were finally in.  And oh boy, was it worth the wait:

Crepes at Pancake Pantry
Yup.

Next on the agenda was a trip out to the Gaylord Opryland Resort, preceded by a cup of joe at the hip Cafe Coco while we waited for our Uber.  Walking around the resort ended up being a pretty good activity in the crappy rainy weather that we were experiencing.  Not sure I would recommend it if the weather was nice and you were only in Nashville for a few days – it is a bit of a drive outside the city.  But it certainly was impressive.

By the time we got back into the city it was almost time for supper already.  I had intentionally left this night open for improvisation, thinking that we would have spotted or thought of something that we wanted to do or eat.  It turns out we were not inspired to do anything specific, so we just headed back down to the Gulch where we were the night before, and popped into a bunch of the numerous restaurants in the area to check on the wait time.  We ended up landing at Virago, a trendy sushi/Asian fusion place.

After a very tasty dinner and a few drinks, we went to check out the truly impressive beer selection at Flying Saucer, where we met up with an old friend from college who happened to be visiting from Memphis at the time!  We drank the night away, reminiscing and catching up until the place closed down, before we reluctantly went back to the Airbnb, depressed that our trip had come to an end.

Day 8 – Saturday

Back to reality 😢.  Saturday morning we packed up our things, and had time for one final meal.  We again found ourselves in the the same cluster of restaurants in the Gulch, with another college friend this time at The Whiskey Kitchen.  After one last fried chicken, it was time to head to the airport for our flights back home…

Stay tuned for lessons learned from Southeast Trip 2016!

Highlights:

  • Stacy Mitchhart Band
  • Seeing my cousins!
  • Hattie B’s

Next Time:

People are flocking to Nashville and the city is changing rapidly.  What’s new?  What did I miss?  Add a comment!

Southeast Trip 2016 – Fiery Gizzard Trail Hike

Next up on our Southeast trip was taking on one of the top-20 hikes in America: the Fiery Gizzard Trail!

Day 5 – Wednesday (cont.)

The Fiery Gizzard Trail runs along the Fiery Gizzard Creek for about 13 miles, from Tracy City to Foster Falls in southeastern Tennessee.  We did not have time to do the entire 13 miles, and we determined that the Tracy City end of the trail was the easiest for us to get to in the car, so we started in the Grundy Forest State Park.

Day 5 – Wednesday (cont.)

Driving through Tracy City seemed like an adventure in itself.  It is a sleepy, rundown town of about 1,000 (none of whom we physically saw) that reminded me of a Criminal Minds episode.  Fortunately, we eventually made it to the park without being abducted by a serial killer, and at the trail head there a few families and couples getting ready to hike as well.

Lucky for us, the other groups were only there to explore the Grundy Day Loop, which is a short (maybe a mile or so) loop trail which, well, you can easily do in a day.  About a half mile into the loop, the real fun begins on the Fiery Gizzard trail.  We did an out and back about 4 miles each way, and in just those 4 miles we encountered all kinds of terrain.  Rocky climbs, creeks, woods, fields, falls – a little bit of everything!  The best thing was that we had the trail all to ourselves.  We only encountered one lone hiker for the four or five hours that we were out there.  And he looked legit, so we knew we had made a good trail choice.

The scenery on this hike was so great, I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves!

small waterfall on Fiery Gizzard creek
Creek scenery early in the hike.
reflection of red trees in the creek during our Fiery Gizzard trail hike
Some fall colors starting to show.
a small waterfall and creek on the Fiery Gizzard trail hike
Another small waterfall on the Fiery Gizzard Creek.
woods with trees changing colors for the fall
After a rocky climb up from the creek, the trail turns up a wooded hill where the autumn colors were more prominent.
a sign warning that the falls are dry and the trail is overrun by hornets
Thank you, previous hiker. We chose not to branch off the trail to see Yellow Pine Falls. Successfully avoided “So pain. Much stings.”
Rachel at Werner Point
We turned around at Werner Point, a beautiful viewpoint overlooking a valley of fall colors!
travel friends looking out over the trees at Werner Point
Travel squad taking in the view at Werner Point.

Next time I am in the area, I will be sure to set aside some more time to either go further down the trail, or perhaps try to start from the other end.  This was a fantastic hike, and exactly the kind of nature break we needed before closing the trip out with a few more days of urban exploring!

Stay tuned for the final leg of Southeast Trip 2016: Nashville!

Southeast Trip 2016 – Blue Ridge Parkway and Chattanooga

overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains as we travel down the Blue Ridge Parkway

After our biscuits in Asheville, it was time to take the Jeep down the Blue Ridge Parkway en route to Chattanooga!

Priorities:

  • Moderately challenging hikes with views
  • Taking the long way to Chattanooga on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Day 3 – Monday (cont.)

The goal for the drive from Asheville to Chattanooga was to get some great views on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and pick a good hike on the way.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is regarded as one of the best drives in America.  The winding roads through the mountains are especially picturesque in the fall, and there are plenty of opportunities to pull off to the side of the road and get some good pics.

travel companions overlooking Cherry Cove in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Plenty of scenic overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway

About halfway through the drive, we found the hike that we had selected: Devil’s Courthouse.  There is an easier way to get to the “courthouse,” but we chose a longer hike a little more off the beaten path.  It wasn’t too challenging, and after about an hour we were at our destination with a pretty sweet view.

me looking over Devils Courthouse
Taking in the view
Nate Rachel and Hilary in the woods
Goofin’ around

We arrived in Chattanooga around 5:30 and checked into our Airbnb in the Southside neighborhood.  The neighborhood seems to be undergoing the type of revitalization that seems to be going on in many mid-market cities these days – a previously-industrial warehouse type neighborhood being renovated into apartments, bars, and the like.  In Chattanooga, the Airbnb scene is definitely the way to go; there seemed to be a lot of really nice apartments available in good areas for good prices.

We were all pretty tired, so we decided to just get some dinner and turn in for the night.  We walked over to Terminal Brewhouse, which had quite good food and brews.  We gravitated toward the Southsidenstein Stout – a perfect beer for a #steintinerary.

Day 4 – Tuesday

For Rachel and me, Tuesday started off with a run up Market Street to the Tennessee River and back, in an attempt to do something somewhat healthy for once.  We instantly undid that with a big ol’ brunch at Bluegrass Grill, the top rated brunch place in Chattanooga.  From there, we walked over to Mean Mug for a coffee while we planned our next move.

It was a lovely day, so we determined our next move would be to meander about the Tennessee Riverwalk, and just chill outside for a bit!

view of a bridge from a dock on the Tennesee River in Chattanooga
A gorgeous day on the Tennesee River
view of the Tennesee Aquarium from the river
Looking back at the Tennessee Aquarium from a dock on the river
travel companions walking up a winding path on the Tennessee Riverwalk
The Lombard Street of Tennessee

Next, we wanted some inside time.  We tried to get into the Hunter Museum of American Art, but we thought the price was a little steep.  So instead of that, we walked back over to the Tennessee Aquarium.  It was definitely one of the more upper-echelon aquariums that I have visited, though I admit I haven’t been to many…

After the aquarium, Alena had some work to do for school, so the rest of us dropped her off back at the Airbnb and headed back out to walk around on a quest for snacks.  We stumbled upon the Hot Chocolatier, and got a ridiculous amount of sweets.  It was not your typical small-scale bakery or sweets spot, there was plenty of seating and it seemed like more of a large scale operation.  Quite good, but we ate way too much!

Next it was time to start drinking.  We had to do something to make ourselves forget about what we had just done to our pancreases.  Right down the street from our Airbnb was the Chattanooga Brewing Company, where we had a downright delightful experience.  The staff was super-friendly, they had a lovely outdoor patio, and the beers were outstanding.  If you go in the fall, definitely get the Oktoberfest – one of my favorite fall beers ever!

beer flight at Chattanooga Brewing Company
My kind of Tuesday afternoon

After a couple of flights, we made our way next door to the Southside Social.  In my research of the South, I noticed that these “socials” seem to be a thing down there.  Bigger establishments with food, drinks, bowling, large outdoor areas with lawn games, and the like.  A wonderful concept if you ask me (I’m very excited that one of these just opened in Rochester).  Again, this was a Tuesday afternoon, so we pretty much had our run of the place, including the Airstream outside which we posted up in for a drink or two.

drinking beers inside an Airstream in Chattanooga
Enjoying some brews in an Airstream at Southside Social

After the Social, we took an Uber back up to the river to have a delightful meal at Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria, followed by post-dinner drinks at the divey Brewhaus across the river, and the trendy Flying Squirrel, which was probably the highlight of the places we visited in Chattanooga.  The building and space were gorgeous, and they had a great cocktail lineup and a lively crowd, even on a Tuesday.

Day 5 – Wednesday

We were up early on Wednesday morning, packing up for another hike day!  By the time we hit the road, we realized that we had established a tradition: hike day biscuits.

biscuit with fried chicken, cheese and apple butter, with a side of mac and cheese
“The Farmer” has fried chicken, pecan smoked bacon, cheddar, and house-made apple butter

After some hike fuel at Maple Street Biscuit Company we were ready to take on the Fiery Gizzard Trail…more on that coming soon!

Highlights:

  • Blue Ridge Parkway drive
  • Chattanooga Brewing Company
  • The Flying Squirrel

Next Time:

  • More hiking – either on Signal Mountain or Lookout Mountain
  • Paddleboarding or kayaking on the Tennessee River

What are your favorite hikes in the North Carolina mountains?  Hit me in the DMs!

Southeast Trip 2016 – Asheville

Biltmore Estate in Asheville

It was October 2016, and the West Coast Trip crew was back together again!  Being a huge fan of craft beer, I was very excited to visit Asheville, which I’d heard has some of the best breweries in the country!

Flights from Rochester to Asheville were quite expensive.  Since we were going to rent a car anyway to drive to Chattanooga and then to Nashville, we figured we may as well fly into Charlotte, rent a car there and make the 2 hour drive the rest of the way to Asheville.  We had even found flights that arrived from Rochester (for Rachel, Hilary, and me) and from San Diego (for Alena) within 2 minutes of each other!

Not pointing any fingers, but a missed flight in San Diego thwarted our Charlotte rendezvous 🤔.  But it’s all good – everybody made it, eventually…

Priorities:

  • Beer
  • Biscuits
  • BBQ

Day 1 – Saturday

The Rochester crew landed in Charlotte around 9:30am, and drove through the outskirts of an incoming tropical storm to get to Asheville around 11:45am.  Our first order of business was to get some Carolina BBQ for lunch.  We stopped at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Arden, about 15 minutes outside of Asheville.

two plates of barbecue, a beer, and bbq sauces in Asheville, NC
That pulled pork in the background was some of the best I’ve had

Everything was superb, but my favorite was the pulled pork sandwich.  For sides, definitely go with the jalapeno cheese grits and the corn pudding (which was definitely a new concept for me).

Our stomachs now full, we still had an hour or so until we could check into our Country Inn and Suites.  Normally I like to pick an Airbnb, but in Asheville (at least at this particular time) they were much more expensive than the decent hotels in the area, so we went with the chain accommodations.

We drove around the city a bit to kill some time, exploring some neighborhoods in the rental car until it was time to check in.  After check-in, it was time to go to the South Slope area for some brews!

South Slope is a small but very cool neighborhood.  With 10 or so craft breweries in a very concentrated area, there is plenty of beer to be drank within walking distance, even if it’s a little rainy.  We chose Burial Beer Co first, where we quickly noticed that at least 75% of Asheville has an awesome dog, and that same 75% plus probably 15% more is wearing flannel.  This is my kind of place.  Not to mention their Ammunition Horchata Dark Ale is 👌.

From there we walked over to Catawba Brewing, taking note for the next morning that Vortex Doughnuts was right next door.  Another short walk away was Wicked Weed Brewpub, where we had a great supper as we waited for Alena to arrive, before calling it a night…

Day 2 – Sunday

Sunday started off the only way a Sunday should: with donuts.  Or doughnuts.  Vortex Doughnuts, to be exact.

donuts and coffee at Vortex in Asheville
Doesn’t get much better than this on a Sunday morning 🍩

The donuts were crazy good, and the coffee and cappuccinos were great as well.  Just what we needed to fuel up for a day of walking around the Biltmore Estate.  The most well-known attraction in the city, the Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in America, and it is truly stunning.  The mansion itself, as well as the vast gardens and lands surrounding it are breathtaking.

friends taking pictures of the Biltmore Estate
Gotta get those pics!
Rachel and Hilary in front of the Biltmore Estate
Rachel and Hilary at the Biltmore
Rachel and Hilary in the Biltmore gardens with the mansion in the background
Exploring the grounds

At $75, tickets were a bit pricier than what I would usually pay for a tour like this.  It was remarkable, though, and I would especially recommend it if you enjoy visiting historic sites and learning about earlier times.  I would recommend setting aside more time than we did to see more of the grounds and really get your money’s worth, but for those on a tight schedule, we did a complete walk-through of the mansion and the gardens in about 2.5 hours.

It just seemed wrong that it was already 2:30 in Asheville and we hadn’t had a craft beer yet, so our next stop was Wedge Brewing in the up and coming River Arts District.

the outside of Wedge Brewing in Asheville NC
Food trucks, beer, and outdoor seating by the railroad tracks

In terms of atmosphere, this was probably my favorite brewery that we visited.  It was supremely hipster, in a warehouse situated between railroad tracks and the river, next to an art studio, with junkyard art and furniture everywhere and a food truck right outside.  One girl even had her pet parrot with her.  On top of that, the cherry raspberry wheat beer was pretty good too.

Don’t forget now, this was a football Sunday.  The Seahawks were on a bye week, but Hilary and Alena, two Rochester natives, being diehard Buffalo Bills fans as all Bills fans are, wanted to see their terrible team play.  In my research I had come across a local Bills bar about 15 minutes outside Asheville, so we put on our Bills gear and headed to 32 Ice Bar for the game (the Bills actually won!).  The bar was all right; if you’re just visiting Asheville, it can be skipped, unless of course you are a Bills fan and they are playing.

If you like sour beers, you definitely must check out the next place we went: Wicked Weed Funkatorium, back in the South Slope neighborhood.  This is the same Wicked Weed whose brewpub we had visited the night prior.  This location does all sours all the time, and all of them that we tried were sublime.  The Montmaretto, a sour brewed with almonds and cherries, is to this day the most outstanding sour I’ve ever tasted.  They also have a little shop in the back – I got a hat 😎.

barrels of sour beer at Wicked Weed Funkatorium
Sourz for dayz

We were getting pretty hungry, and the next stop on the #steintinerary was some southern comfort food at HomeGrown.  The short drive from downtown was well worth it.  The food was great (fried chicken with cheesy grits and gravy, with some sweet tea), and very reasonably priced.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped at The Hop Ice Cream Cafe for dessert, before turning in to watch the Trump v. Clinton presidential debate.  Oh, how long ago that seems…

Day 3 – Monday

We were up and at ’em early on Monday, with a decent drive and some hiking ahead of us.  But first, there were biscuits to be had.  At Biscuit Head, I had a catfish biscuit with a poached egg and red eye gravy, with a gravy flight on the side – it was fantastic.  If you go, there will likely be a line out the door, but it is absolutely worth the wait.  Possibly the best part was that they also served Genny Cream Ale – Rochester’s finest.  It was indeed a proper send-off to the next leg of the trip.

catfish biscuit with gravy and poached egg at Biscuit Head in Ashevile
Delicious hike fuel

Day 3 to be continued in an upcoming post on the Blue Ridge Parkway drive, hiking, and Chattanooga…

Highlights:

  • Vortex Doughnuts
  • Burial Beer Co
  • The Asheville dress code
  • HomeGrown
  • Biscuit Head
  • The whole thing really – I love Asheville.

Next Time:

What are your favorite spots in Asheville?

Southeast Trip 2016 – Preview

me sitting on a rock on a hiking trail overlooking the treetops in a valley on the Fiery Gizzard Trail

After the smashing success of West Coast Trip 2015, the group of travel companions decided to make a week-long, multi-city trip an annual occurrence!  Over a nice winter supper at one our favorite Italian restaurants, we discussed our ideas for the upcoming year’s trip.  Some options on the table for 2016 were New Orleans/Austin, Phoenix/Albuquerque, Denver/Salt Lake City, and Asheville/Nashville.  After some debate, we settled on the Asheville/Nashville option – Southeast Trip 2016 was born!

Once that decision was made and dates and flights were settled upon, we decided to stick a halfway point stop in there, and thus Chattanooga was added to the itinerary as well.  We were set for early October, flying into Charlotte within minutes of each other (Rachel, Hilary, and I from Rochester and Alena from San Diego), and from there renting a car to drive to Asheville for 2 days, then to Chattanooga for a day, followed by a hike day en route to Nashville for 3 more days.

I’ve never really been a big hiker, so that part of the research process was new for me.  I was surprised at how many hiking trail options there are in what is really not that big an area.  The hikes ended up being a couple of my favorite parts of the trip, and inspired me to check out hikes in my own area (and again, I was surprised at how many options there are).  I love my urban exploring, but working in a nature break or two may very well become a regular thing on #steintineraries!

It was also very interesting to plan for Chattanooga, a city that I knew literally nothing about.  We picked it purely for its location as a halfway point, and I had fun learning about the city’s history and neighborhoods as the baseline for my research.  Not that I thought Chattanooga was a slouch of a city, but just the fact that within a couple of days of research I was excited to explore a city that I previously knew nothing at all about confirmed my belief that every city has a story, and places worth checking out!

Anyway, with the logistics squared away, it was time to get started on the #steintinerary!  The focus for this trip was on Asheville’s craft beer scene, scenic hikes, southern BBQ, biscuits, and Nashville’s hot chicken and live music scene.  I had been to Nashville a few times before so I had a good idea of the spots I wanted to show the rest of the crew, but there’s always more research to be done.  It was also fun looking into Asheville’s breweries, autumn hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and everything else!

Recaps of each leg of the trip coming soon…

NYC Weekend Recap

the Manhattan Bridge from the DUMBO neighborhood in New York City

This trip was planned for a weekend when Rachel was throwing a bridal shower in Hoboken, which I used as an excuse for taking a PTO day and hitching a ride to spend the weekend exploring New York City!  Of course, by “hitching a ride” I mean I ended up driving the whole way, but hey – that means I got to control the tunes.

I recruited a few friends (Jared, Jeremiah, and John) to join as well, and we turned it into a 2nd annual “bro’d trip” (read “road trip” with a b) – last year’s bro’d trip was to Cleveland.  I was especially interested in exploring some neighborhoods that I hadn’t spent much time in.  I had been to New York plenty of times before, but mostly for business trips or very specific events that did not leave a lot of exploring time (recap coming soon of my NYC Marathon viewing experience…).  In all my years of existence I had maybe spent about four cumulative hours in Brooklyn in my life before this trip, and from what I remembered I really liked it, so I focused the trip in Williamsburg.

Another key aspect of planning this trip was the Good Passport cocktail deal.  We did one of these last summer in Rochester, and it was awesome.  They do them more frequently in NYC, and this trip coincided nicely with a passport deal going on from early March through early May.  Basically, you pay an up front fee to get your “passport” (in this case $37), which allows you to get a cocktail at a specified number of bars during a specific time frame (in this case, 25 bars were participating).  Each place will have a different cocktail (or a couple that you can choose from) based on whatever that passport’s theme is.  For this one, the theme was cocktails using spirits produced by women-owned distilleries.

With NYC prices, this thing pays for itself even if you only go to three or four of the bars.

And now, the recap!

Priorities:

  • Good Passport cocktails
  • Watch and/or play ball at legendary basketball courts
  • World Trade Center
  • Death & Company
  • Smorgasburg

Day 1 – Friday

We were up early on Friday and hit the road around 8am.  The plan was to drop the bridal shower participants off in Hoboken, where three bro’d trippers would meet the fourth who was already in the city for work.  From there, we’d drive over to Williamsburg to check into our Airbnb.

The plan was executed perfectly, and by 3pm we were checked in and ready to hit the town.  We had a lot of walkable places that we wanted to start with, but unfortunately the weather was not cooperative.  It was about 40 degrees and pouring rain all of Friday, so Lyft and the subway were the predominant modes of transportation.

First stop was Delaney Barbecue for a late lunch.  But wait!  I forgot a cardinal rule of planning – check the hours of operation!  Delaney doesn’t open until 5pm on Fridays.  Off to a good start…🤦‍♂️

We recovered with a quick Yelp search, which revealed that we were right around the corner from a well-reviewed and quick Turkish spot called Abracadabra.  After fueling up with a tasty Abracadabra burger, we needed to kill about an hour before The Shanty opened, which was where we had to go to pick up our cocktail passport.  We headed over to Lucky Dog (affectionately called “dog bar” by a friend who recommended it) for a beer and to see some pups.  I love places like this – a dive bar with good beer selection, shuffleboard, and a dog-friendly policy.

a dog sitting at the bar watching our shuffleboard game in Brooklyn
This guy was watching our shuffleboard game very intently.

Once the shuffleboard game was done, it was time to take a Lyft to pick up our passports at The Shanty, which is the bar at the New York Distilling Company.  There, we had a lovely take on an Old Fashioned using their Mr. Katz’s Rock and Rye as the base.

From there, we squeezed in two more passport cocktails in Brooklyn before heading into Manhattan to meet up with the bridal shower team for dinner.  First was Northern Bell, for a bourbon-based John Daly style drink and a tasty spread of deep fried deviled eggs, pickled veggies, and pimento cheese.

IMG_4390
A delicious southern spread at Northern Bell.

From there, we headed into Bushwick to Montana’s Trail House, where the passport cocktail was a Daiquiri made with rum from a local distillery.  This place had a nice cozy atmosphere, and a patio which would have been great if the weather was better.  We saw some good-looking food coming out of the kitchen as well, but didn’t try anything as we were in a hurry to slurp down our drinks and get to our dinner reservation.

daiquiri cocktail and the cocktail passport at Montana's Trail House in Brooklyn
The Daiquiri at Montana’s Trail House.

Next we made the short walk in the rain to the L station at Jefferson St, and took the L to 1st Av in East Village.  We met the Hoboken crew at French-inspired Tree Bistro for our dinner reservation.  Another place with a great outdoor area that would have been awesome if the weather was nice, but we were still able to sit outside under a heated tent.  I was surprised that it was not very busy at all on a Friday night, because the food was very good.  I highly recommend the calamari and the panna cotta.

After supper, I insisted that the group go to Death & Company for a digestif.  As a home bartender disciple of the Death & Co book, this was the stop that I was most excited for.  I was expecting a wait of maybe an hour and a half or so for eight people, so I put my name and number in at the door and we went down the street to Amor y Amargo in the meantime.  Death & Co never called 😔.  Next time, we will go with a smaller group, or perhaps split into groups of two.  Going on a busy Friday night around 10pm was probably not the best strategy for getting in, either.  For these NYC speakeasies, the way to do it is getting there right when they open, or going on a weekday.

Amor y Amargo did not disappoint, though – a very small spot with very good cocktails on tap featuring all kinds of bitters.

a wall full of liquor bottles on shelves behind the bar at Amor y Amargo
Amor y Amargo

From there, we wandered over to Poco for another passport cocktail, before the two groups parted ways and the bro’d trippers took the L back to Williamsburg.  We closed the night with a brew at Radegast, a massive German beer hall, followed by some street meat 🙏.  A solid first day of #steintinerary.

Day 2 – Saturday

The main event in my mind for Saturday was the first Smorgasburg of the year.  I had stumbled upon Smorgasburg accidentally in my research, and it instantly became the focal point around which everything else would be planned.  Anything involving outdoor food – trucks, tents, carts, festivals, whatever – I’m all about it.

Smorgasburg starts at 11am and the plan was to do lunch there, so we chose some morning activities not too far from the location.  After the late night Friday, we definitely needed some coffee to wake the hell up, so we started at The Flat’s BkSpeed, which is a hip coffee shop by day, and appears to be a hip bar and intimate music venue at night.  The banana split latte was marvelous, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Next, we had to go get some Instagram shots.  I had my eye on getting some photos in the DUMBO neighborhood (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), where you can find great views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, with downtown Manhattan in the background.  The iconic shot (at the top of this post) is at the intersection of Water Street and Washington Street.  You feel so small looking up at the Manhattan Bridge, and if you get the right angle (which is right in the middle of the intersection), the gap in the bridge support frames the Empire State Building perfectly.

Here are some other shots from the parks on the East River:

view from under the Brooklyn Bridge, looking toward the Manhattan skyline
Brooklyn Bridge, backed by the Manhattan skyline.
view of the Williamsburg Bridge from the DUMBO neighborhood
Looking the other way, at the Williamsburg Bridge.

After walking around DUMBO and then perusing Bedford Avenue back in Williamsburg, we had worked up enough of an appetite to hit Smorgasburg.  After scouting the premises, I had identified some tents with smaller portions which would allow me to try multiple things.  First up was a little brisket sandwich at the Mighty Quinn’s tent, followed by a lemon garlic chicken jian bing, and finally a banana pudding dessert.  All were very tasty and affordable.  There was also a sizeable crowd for such a crappy day (it was about 45 degrees, very windy and cloudy).

food tents at Smorgasburg, overlooking the Manhattan skyline
Smorgasburg

After Smorgasburg, the plan was to meet up with Jared’s brother in Manhattan and hit a few more of the cocktail passport locations in East Village, West Village, and Chelsea.  We took the L into Manhattan again, this time over to the west side, and went to Sons & Daughters NYC.  Unfortunately, it turns out they do not offer the passport cocktail during brunch hours, so we just got some cheap beers and planned our next move.

The weather was starting to improve, so we thought next we might see if there were any good games going on at The Cage, a renowned basketball court in Greenwich Village, right off the Washington Square subway station.  There were some people playing, but the quality of play left something to be desired.  It was still fun to see, and I can only imagine how exciting it would be to watch great players there.  Even with scrubs on the court, it was a great atmosphere, with tons of people going in and out of the subway station and stopping to watch.

The Cage basketball courts in Manhattan, with a few people playing a game
Ballin’ at The Cage.

From there, we walked over to Barney’s Bone Broth for a little broth snack.  I’ve been on the broth train since Rachel and I recently visited an excellent restaurant near Rochester called FLX Table (best new restaurant in the US!), where we were greeted with a cup of tasty broth.  Barney’s was very good, and I enhanced mine with a soft boiled duck egg.

After Barney’s, it was time for another passport cocktail at Rouge Tomate in Chelsea, where we had a very refreshing citrus gin cocktail.  We were starting to get used to this whole not paying for drinks thing, so we kept it going at Slowly Shirley next, an underground speakeasy with great drinks, a cool atmosphere, and a strong adherence to the speakeasy era, right down to the guy with a mop following closely behind anybody whose feet touched the bare floor to aggressively scrub away their footprints.  Here, I saw a drink on the menu that I just had to try, so I gave away my passport drink in favor of a Summer in Siam, which I think was a fine decision.  Any cocktail with some kick to it tends to catch my eye, and I couldn’t turn down the habenero-infused rum, with tamarind liqueur, pineapple, lime, and Thai basil.  👌

After a quick drink upstairs at The Happiest Hour (which struck me as a great place for singles to mingle), it was time to catch our dinner reservation at Pondicheri, an Indian restaurant that also offered a cocktail as part of the passport deal.  Their drink was a vodka-based salt lassi, which was quite refreshing and went well with the food.  I highly recommend the Seafood Aviyal!

Next, we had to rush to find a sports bar to watch my UNC Tar Heels play against Oregon in the Final Four.  A close walk from Pondicheri was Rogue, with a boisterous crowd and plenty of TVs to catch the game.  UNC eked out a close victory, so the celebration continued at John Doe for another passport drink (a lovely rosebud gin drink), and then at 230 Fifth rooftop bar, looking out at the Empire State Building which was colored Tar Heel blue.  The drinks were about what you’d expect at a club-style bar – sugary and expensive – but I say just get a cheap beer and enjoy that view!

view of the Manhattan skyline and Empire State Building lit up in Tar Heel blue
Go Heels!!

From there, the antics were well underway.  We ended up bouncing around, hitting Live Bait, trying to get into Webster Hall just to see what kind of craziness was ensuing but turning around once we realized it was $35 to get in, having a beer at the Village Pourhouse, and finally getting some street meat and heading back to Brooklyn, unsure about how on Earth we were supposed to wake up in 4 hours to pack up and get to the World Trade Center for our 9am entry time…

Day 3 – Sunday

Somehow, we did it!  After a frantic pack job, we were in a Lyft en route to One World Observatory.  At $34 per ticket, it’s a steep price to pay for a view, which is something that I normally don’t like to do.  But in this case, I think it was worth it.  The view really is unlike any other, and on a Sunday morning the crowd was not too big so we could take in the view at all angles unobstructed.

view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges from the World Trade Center
Overlooking Brooklyn
view of the island of Manhattan from the top of the World Trade Center
Looking north over Manhattan

After about 30 minutes on top of the world, we were in dire need of food and coffee.  We walked around the Financial District and stopped in at Leo’s Bagels, which hit the spot.  At this point we were running low on time (we had a basketball game back in Rochester scheduled for 9pm), but we were oh-so-close to the best bar in the WORLD, so we had to stop in for a drink at The Dead Rabbit, which did not disappoint.  Best bar in the world?  On a Sunday morning it was hard to tell, but the drinks were fantastic.  The jury is still out…

After taking the J train back to Brooklyn and getting our car, it was time for one more stop before we hit the road.  Some would argue that Di Fara in Midwood is the best pizza in the city, so we had to try it.  Expect a wait – ours was an hour or so – but the result is worth it.  Again, jury is out for me on the “best in the city” prize, but I was not disappointed.

written list of the places we traveled to in NYC
The complete Steintinerary

Next Time:

  • Explore more of Brooklyn
  • Explore Harlem
  • More basketball courts – get out to play on one of them
  • Speakeasies: Death & Company, Attaboy, Please Don’t Tell
  • Smorgasburg again – I could eat every meal there
  • Delaney BBQ
  • Shipps Biscuit at Saltie – top 3 breakfast sandwich ever

What would you add to the list?  Add your suggestions to the comments!

West Coast Trip 2015 – San Diego

Photo of the sunset at Ocean Beach in San Diego, California

The first thing I noticed about San Diego as we walked down a little alley to our Airbnb at midnight, was that people have nothing but a screen for a front door.  And they don’t get cold overnight.  They just let the breeze come in.  One of my arguments, having lived in Upstate NY my whole life, has been that if weather could be removed from the long list of things that stress you out, then why not remove it?  San Diego seems to be a place where you could make that happen.

Priorities:

  • Cali Burrito
  • Fish tacos
  • Breweries
  • Beaches

Day 9 – Saturday

Rachel and I did a morning run around North Park to start the day off, in the gorgeous 70 degree sunshine.  North Park borders the northeast corner of Balboa Park, and seems to be the hip part of town.  A lot of craft breweries, cool bars and restaurants, and a younger feel to it.  By the end of the trip, I had determined that North Park is probably the neighborhood that we visited that I could most see myself living in.

After the run, Alena had made us a reservation at The Tractor Room for brunch.  The place was packed.  They offered what you might call “American sized” portions of all the brunch classics, but most of them with some kind of twist.  Add to that a multi-page bloody mary menu, and you can bet that we were off to a good start in SD.  Unfortunately, as of this post it appears that The Tractor Room has shut down 😢.

img_2634
Brunch at the now-defunct Tractor Room in Hillcrest

Next up was the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

It goes without saying that it was the best zoo I’ve ever been to.  Swamped with people, but still very enjoyable, and a must-see for anyone who has not been.

With so much to do and so little time, we selectively chose the exhibits we visited, and got in and out in about 4 hours, which we felt was still worth the $50ish price of admission.  Insider tip: a lot of locals have season-long passes, so if you know somebody in the area it may be worth asking if you can borrow their pass for a day.

By the time we left the zoo, it had been way too long since any of us had a beer.  So we headed back to North Park and hit up Belching Beaver.  San Diego (and the West Coast in general) is known for its IPAs, but I thought that the San Diego breweries we visited in particular had outstanding stouts.  The “Beaver’s Milk” stout was easily one of my top 3 beers of the trip.  The brewery was also very dog-friendly, which is something that I feel the East Coast is way behind the times on.

After a few brews, it was time to find some food.  Burritos and fish tacos were on the must-eat list for SD, and we decided tonight was fish taco night.  Alena recommended an unassuming, very casual spot called Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, which has a few locations around the city.

Oscar’s was fantastic – we went to the one on University Ave, which is one of the main drags north of Balboa Park.  No frills, just really fresh, really good fish tacos.

After Oscar’s we got ready for the rest of the night, and headed out to Starlite to meet up with some of Alena’s grad school friends.  It a bit of a swankier vibe to it, with good food and cocktails.  After hanging there for a bit, we walked down to Bolt Brewery in Little Italy, for a few craft beers and an epic game of Jenga to close out the night.

Day 10 – Sunday

The last day of the trip 😢!  Of course, the group was a little somber this morning as the reality set in that we would have to return to work in less than 48 hours.  Regardless, there were still some things that needed to be done.  Alena had gotten us another sweet brunch reservation, this time at Urban Solace, which features live bluegrass music (“Bluegrass Brunch”) on Sunday mornings to go along with a southern leaning menu.

The rest of the day was dedicated to beachin’.  It was mostly cloudy during the day and the weather was a little cool (70 degrees is cool, I guess 🤔), so the beaches weren’t too crowded, which was nice and relaxing.  We started by driving to La Jolla which was more of a tourist experience, followed by Torrey Pines beach, where we stayed and relaxed for a while.

After the beaches, we regrouped at the Airbnb for a bit before heading back out to Ocean Beach.  We went to the now closed Shades Oceanfront Bistro, which had an unobstructed view directly out to the beach and the gorgeous sunset.  After a drink and snapping a few photos on the beach, it was time to satisfy our final major goal of the trip – finding a California style burrito.

IMG_2661
The sun sets on West Coast Trip 2015.

My research had indicated that Nico’s was consistently in the top 3 for Cali burritos, and it happened to be located in OB, so it seemed like a match made in heaven.  And oh boy, it was.  Having not ever even heard of a Cali style burrito until I started researching for this trip, I am still very confused that these are not a bigger thing on the East Coast.  Crispy fries in a burrito instead of rice = 👌.

Alena still had one more place that we absolutely had to visit, and that was Modern Times for their renowned stouts.  But before that she and Hilary wanted to change, so Rachel and I made a pit stop at Tiger!Tiger! brewery back in North Park in the meantime.  Perhaps my favorite beer of the whole trip was their Golden Milk Stout – if it is on the menu, definitely give it a try.

Modern Times afterward did not disappoint either.  We had the place to ourselves on a Sunday night, and we were given many samples before we determined that their Nitro Milk Stout was bomb.  A satisfying final beverage of West Coast Trip 2015.

Highlights:

  • Nico’s – Cali Burrito > Mission Burrito
  • Tiger!Tiger!
  • Brunches
  • San Diego Zoo

Next Time:

What’s new in SD since I went in 2015?  Post your favorite SD locale in the comments!

West Coast Trip 2015 – Pacific Coast Highway

the winding road as we travel down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego

We were sad to leave SF, but pumped to hit the road and drive the coast down to SoCal!

Priorities:

  • Views
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Get to San Diego without falling into the Pacific

Day 8 – Friday

Leaving the SF bros in SF, and with Alena flying back to SD to work, only three of us remained to make The Drive.  We hit the road at around 10am, picked up a Volvo rental car and headed south.  It was a foggy, somewhat dreary day around SF, but the scenery was still stunning.

view of the ocean south of Half Moon Bay
One of the state beaches just south of Half Moon Bay

About 2 hours south of Half Moon Bay was perhaps my favorite part of the drive, as we pulled off the highway to drive through some of the streets in Carmel-by-the-Sea.  The homes were all looked like they were picked up in Europe a few hundred years ago, and dropped into this picturesque town on the Pacific, right on the water.

view of the ocean and beach from Carmel by the Sea
View from a Carmel resident’s front yard

Soon after Carmel, we hit Big Sur, which was equally stunning.  Around this area is when the iconic windy roads and steep cliffs and bluffs start to make an appearance.  Some of the turns are truly insane, with no guard rails between you and hundreds of feet down to the ocean.  An exhilarating drive for sure!

the winding road and cliffs on the Pacific Coast Highway
Careful on those turns!

By the time we got to the seal beach near Morro Bay, we were starting to get hangry.

seals on a beach on the Pacific Coast Highway
The seals were very entertaining to watch – a good break from driving.

We decided to stop in San Luis Obispo, at the High St Market and Deli.  It was very apparent that we had at some point officially entered SoCal.  Surfer bros, wind-blown hair, and the smell of an ocean breeze all around.  After a boss sandwich, we were back on the road to San Diego.  The rest of the drive was not as impressive as the first 6 hours or so, but it was still quite scenic, with the sun setting over the Pacific.

the sun setting over the Pacific ocean
Somewhere between SLO and LA

By the time we hit LA, it was dark and there was surprisingly not much traffic.  We stopped at an In-N-Out Burger for a quick dinner, to see what the fuss is all about.  To be honest, it was quite good, but being an East Coaster with a Five Guys bias, I didn’t find it THAT special…I suppose I will be shunned in certain circles for that comment, but somebody had to say it.

The burger fueled me just enough to get to San Diego with my eyes still open – we rolled into the airport to return the rental around 11pm, making the total trek roughly 13 hours.  From there, Alena was kind enough to pick us up and drop us off at our Airbnb in the North Park neighborhood, where we would rest up for the last leg of the trip!

Highlights:

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Big Sur
  • In-N-Out

Next Time:

  • Head north along the coast from SF
  • Stop at some wineries along the way

What is your favorite spot to marvel at the scenery along Route 1?  Comment away!

West Coast Trip 2015 – San Francisco

Rachel overlooking the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge from Telegraph Hill

Early Wednesday morning, the four of us found ourselves on a Virgin flight to San Francisco, headed to meet back up with the two SF bros.  Once we were on the ground, we took an Uber to our Airbnb in Hayes Valley, a couple of blocks from Alamo Square Park.  After a quick nap, we were ready to get back at it.

Priorities:

  • Neighborhood exploring
  • Views
  • Mission Burrito
  • Cool bars

Day 6 – Wednesday

After a quick nap, Rachel and I set out for a short run, to Alamo Square, around the Panhandle and back while our two travel companions took a longer nap.  The weather was gorgeous, we got some pics of the Painted Ladies, and got a lot of hill work in.

After waking everyone up, we took a walk over to DragonEats for a super tasty (and super cheap) banh mi, before embarking on a quest for some Instagram shots.  We started with an Uber to Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill, and from there we walked over to the famous stretch of Lombard Street, marveling at the beautiful views along the way.

travel companions walking down Lombard Street in San Francisco, California
Roamin’ the streets of SF

All that walking around and climbing hills had us hankering for a snack.  We stopped at Smitten Ice Cream on the way back to the Airbnb, before getting ready for the rest of the night.  For dinner, we met up with our SF bros at Magnolia in Dogpatch for some beers and BBQ.  And then for a nightcap (or two or three), we closed out the evening at Toronado, a well known dive bar with an outstanding selection of craft beers.

Day 7 – Thursday

Day 2 in SF started with a longer run this time for Rach and I – about 6 miles from the Airbnb, through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach.  The two sleepers met us at Lands End for a short hike and some more views.

view of the Golden Gate Bridge during a travel hike at Lands End
The bridge from Lands End

After freshening up a bit, we started on a quest for a Mission burrito.  We took an Uber to Dolores Park, turned down somebody offering us “fresh edibles,” and from there walked into the Mission to Taqueria Cancun.  It did not disappoint.

With our stomachs full, next up was one of the recommendations from our friend in Portland at 10 Barrel Brewing – cocktails at Trick Dog.  Recently named one of the 50 best bars in the world, Trick Dog is a dog-friendly (of course), hip space serving up really tasty and inventive cocktails from a calendar menu with photos of the bartenders and friends’ puppies.

a cocktail and a drink menu at Trick Dog

We (or I) was actually lucky enough to have timed this trip such that my Seattle Seahawks were in San Francisco for a Thursday night game against the 49ers.  And, I was also lucky enough to find that the local Seahawks bar was a mere 10 minute walk from the Airbnb!  I was only verbally abused four or five times on the walk to Danny Coyle’s for wearing my Earl Thomas jersey.  My personal favorite was the UPS driver who pulled over to the side of the road to lean out of his truck and warn: “You better take that shit OFF!”

Upon entering Danny Coyle’s, I also noticed that during college basketball season it is a UNC Tar Heels bar too!  I was in heaven.  On top of THAT, probably the best deal we encountered on the trip was $15 for a bucket of 5 Tecate beers during the game.  After watching the Hawks redeem themselves after their collapse on Sunday, we had reservations with the whole crew at Nopa, with great food and some bottles of fine red wine.  Be sure to book at least a couple months in advance if you want a table there at a reasonable hour.

With another long day ahead of us, we had time for one more stop before calling it a night.  We went to a local favorite of our SF contingent, Club Waziema, an Ethiopian bar and restaurant with a pool table in the back.  Apparently some legitimate big-time musicians used to play shows there – it seemed like a bar with a lot of history in the area.

After Waziema, we bid a sad adieu to Dan and Eric, as the rest of the trip would be only the core four.  Actually the next day we would be down one more, as Alena had to fly down to San Diego to work the next day while Rachel, Hilary and I drove the coast.

Highlights:

  • Danny Coyle’s
  • Trick Dog
  • Nopa

Next Time:

  • Too much stuff to list!  There is so much to do in SF…what are some spots that I should check out next time?  Let me know in the comments!

West Coast Trip 2015 – Portland

Portland skyline and Willamette River

Next stop on #WCT2015 was Portland, Oregon.  After an early morning Einstein bagel (chocolate chip with plain shmear, not toasted, duh), the four of us who remained headed over to the Amtrak station in the International District of Seattle, and hopped on a train headed south.

Priorities:

  • Breweries
  • Food trucks
  • Strip club – Portland is apparently the strip club capital of America, gotta do it…
  • Weirdness

DAY 4 – Monday

The train from Seattle to Portland took about 4 hours, and it was a picturesque ride.  The weather was gray and dreary, but I imagine the scenery would be quite beautiful under the right circumstances.  At only $35 a ticket, I highly recommend the train for anyone going from Seattle to Portland.

We arrived around 1:30pm, and we knew that we had to get right down to business, since we really only had a day and a half to get weird in Portland.  We called an Uber, and headed to our Airbnb in Ladd’s Addition neighborhood in SE Portland.  The Airbnb was quite nice – a little carriage house to ourselves in somebody’s backyard.  And bikes available to borrow, as you’d expect in Portland.

After a brief rest, we headed out to some breweries!  First up was Cascade Brewing Barrel House, known for their sours – a great spot for an adventurous beer drinker.  It was walk-able from the Airbnb, so we decided to walk it out to take in some sights and sounds.  The stereotypes that I had heard about Portland seemed to be true so far: some weirdness, lots of breweries, tons of bikes, some hippies, some homeless, and signs of gentrification.

After Cascade, the original plan was to head to Rogue, which sells brews back in Rochester, to check out their brewery.  We took an Uber to NW Portland, but when we got to Rogue the Uber driver recommended that we get some food at another brewery right across the street.  We were getting pretty hungry at this point, so we headed into 10 Barrel Brewing.  We filled up on fantastic pizzas, and also got some tips from our waiter, who incidentally had recently moved from San Francisco.  He gave us some great recommendations for the next leg of our trip – by now I’ve forgotten the name, but thanks waiter guy!

Next, we stumbled across the street to Rogue, which actually has a couple of locations in Portland.  This one was a dark, kind of divey bar with board games and a wide selection of their brews.  I got one of my probably top 10-20 beers of all time, the Hazelnut Brown Nectar.  The ladies got flights, and we played some games to close out the night.

DAY 5 – Tuesday

Rachel and I woke up early for a run around town, down SE Hawthorne to the Eastbank Esplanade.

a food truck pod in Portland
Pod spotted on the morning run got me real excited for our upcoming food truck dinner…

About 4 miles and a few photos later, we were back at the ranch and rounding up the rest of the troops for breakfast.  We chose Pine State Biscuits, and we were not disappointed.  All reports said that we would encounter a line, but we were luckily able to walk right in!  If you’re looking to avoid the wait, I guess Tuesday morning is a good time to go.

After breakfast, it was time for…breakfast dessert?  The tourist in all of us came out a little bit, and our next stop was Voodoo Doughnuts.  We weren’t able to finish the whole box, but there were plenty of homeless folks outside who were happy to take the extras.

a box of Voodoo Doughnuts
Voodoo Doughnuts – with some sexual innuendo names that I don’t remember…

After Voodoo, we took an Uber to Powell’s City of Books in the Pearl District, the iconic bookstore with the claim to fame of being the largest independent bookstore in the world.  I don’t have hard data to back that up, but I can say that it is pretty damn large.  Floors on floors on floors of books, new and used, to get lost in for hours.  We did spend a good hour and a half there, and did not come close to checking out the whole store.  If visiting Portland on a rainy day, Powell’s should definitely be on the to-do list.

Next up were a couple more touristy activities: the International Rose Test Garden, and Pittock Mansion.

view of the Portland skyline from Pittock Mansion
Portland from Pittock Mansion – a little too cloudy to see Mt. Hood 😕

The two are located very close to each other, a short ride outside of downtown to the west.  Both are great for photo ops.  Typically the Pittock Mansion type of activity is not for me, but I did enjoy this one.  The view of Portland and Mt. Hood from the backyard alone was worth the price of admission (which was only $10).

After the mansion and a quick trip back to home base to change, we headed back out for an early food truck supper.  We headed to the NE quadrant for to Guero PDX at Pod 28, which was a quaint little pod with about 5 or 6 food trucks, and a bar truck.

I’m a sucker for good street food, and this was fantastic.  I wanted a 2nd, but the ladies correctly pointed out that there was more work to be done!  Namely, a flight at Migration Brewing, a couple beers and some appetizers at Burnside Brewing (“Sweet Heat” is a must!), and second supper (sushi) at Mirakutei.

Finally, we were feeling good and liquored up enough to hit the strip club.  The experience of strolling into an empty strip club in what felt like a fairly residential area, at 11pm on a Tuesday night, with three girls in my crew was something I will never forget.  All I will say is fun times were had, and we had a hard time pulling Hilary away from the ATM…

And that was it for the Portland leg of the trip.  It’s a shame that we had such a short amount of time there, and I would definitely like to go back soon to explore further.  My main takeaway from Portland was that it felt like perhaps the most livable city that we visited on this trip.  We were sad to leave the next morning, but pumped for San Francisco!

Highlights:

  • Food trucks
  • Burnside Brewing
  • Overall vibe of the city

Next Time:

What is your favorite place to get weird in Portland?  Hit me up in the comments!