Its my favorite time of the sports year, March Madness, and luckily enough, we get to host some first and second round games this year. While those of you who might be Husky or Zags fans are more likely to have visited our fair city, I think you may get something out of this in addition to all of the Hilltoppers, Boilermakers, Panthers and Fighting Illini. Before we go too far though, a few things you should know and be prepared for during your visit to Portland.
- It rains here. A lot. Be prepared for wet weather. A medium weight jacket and a baseball cap should be just fine.
- We have no sales tax. Forget your camera at home? Buy a replacement while you are here. You can save some decent money on large purchases while you are here.
- We may have the finest public transportation system in the country. If not the country, we have easily the best system west of the Mississippi River. The easiest way to get to the Rose Quarter for the games will be via bus lines or the Max. Check Trimet for trip planning info.
- If you are a member of an alumni or booster group, the Oregon Convention Center is across the street from the Rose Garden. Its easily the best choice for banquets, VIP rooms and anything else you might need for your fans and alumni during the event.
- Its illegal to pump your own gas here. Really.
- Don't miss Powell’s City of Books. You haven't visited Portland unless you've been to Powells.
- While a number of you will be travelling with your schools, should you wish to make your own reservations, let me suggest any of the hotels downtown. The hotels that advertise themselves as being close to the convention center will be within walking distance to the arena, but downtown hotels are a short bus or max ride away to the arena and have far better dining and entertainment options available. If you stay by the convention center, you'll be close to the games but with limited dining options (Red Robin, Burgerville, etc).
- Hotels located in Jantzen Beach or by the airport may look cheaper on paper, but you will more than likely need a rental car during your stay here. Hotels both downtown and by the convention center can be reached from the airport using the max line.
Portland is a great place to eat. Unfortunately, the Rose Quarter is a bit of a culinary wasteland. The food at the arena is just that, arena food. Don't expect more than greasy nachos and hot dogs during the games. However, on Thursday, between sessions, you have a few options. Friday you'll have the city to yourself, and Saturday you'll need a good brunch before the games.
- Bunk Sandwiches is just a short bus trip away from the arena, and well worth it. Tommy Habetz is one of the most talented chefs in Portland, and the food at Bunk Sandwiches is perfect for a long day of watching NCAA basketball. My personal choice might be the meatball hero, but you really can't go wrong with anything on their menu.
- Burgerville is within easy walking distance of the arena. Personally, I don't really understand the appeal of Burgerville, but its better than BK or McDs. I will say its a better burger than you'll get at the arena.
- Downtown. First, our food carts are amazing. There are a good number of them in front of the US Bank Building (the big pink one) with options ranging from BBQ to Czech to Mexican. Cheap, quick and delicious. Food Dude runs the only foodie website in Portland thats worth a damn. His recommendations are spot on.
- The place I bartend, while in the Pearl, is a great lunch or dinner option. 50 Plates is probably really appealling for you Hilltoppers fans, since our bar's main focus is on good bourbon. Come drink the only proper Mint Julep in the Pacific Northwest.
- Ten01 and Andina are both great options for Friday night. Both are wonderful restaurants and have great cocktails to help you celebrate (or dull the pain). You'll need reservations.
- For some less expensive options, 50 Plates in the Pearl, Podnah’s pit bbq, and any of our numerous Thai restaurants are good choices.
- Need a good sports bar to watch the other games on Friday? While The Agency is the newest and hottest sports bar in the city, my preference is the Life of Riley, a cool spot in the Pearl with a nice selection of beers on tap. I'm also rather fond of the Marathon on West Burnside. This is a dive, but the feta burger rocks and they'll have all the games on. Plus, its one of the few bars in town where you could order a beer and a shot at 9am and you'd just be fitting in with the rest of the crowd.
- Brunch. I'm probably going to regret this, but my favorite place for brunch in Portland on a Saturday (and where I plan on being before the games) is Simpatica Dining Hall. The "Logger", a chicken fried bison steak with eggs and potatoes is my favorite breakfast in town. Other good options are the Bijou Cafe (downtown), Screen Door (East Burnside), and the Tin Shed (Alberta).
While this list is terribly incomplete, I hope it gives you some options while you are visiting Portland. Feel free to email directly with any questions or recommendations that you might need. I've got a good friend flying in for the games, so I'll probably run into a number of you at the games and around town this week. I hope you enjoy visiting Portland as much as we are going to enjoy hosting all of you. One last thing, should you need anything at all, directions, recommendations, etc. Enjoy the games!