Tag Archives: neighborhoods

The Hollywood sign… in Portland?


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Had a chance yesterday to catch the new Affleck joint Argo, which gives new meaning to the word “suspenseful” (emphasis on the “full”) as it follows the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979.  I was completely sucked into this one and I think the back of my neck is still tingling from the adrenaline.  In the film, there’s a constant barrage of period piece paraphernalia that keeps you successfully cemented in ’79 – and a particularly great shot of the dilapidated old Hollywood sign being refurbbed into the sexy, unwavering steel composed brickhouse we see in the Hollywood hills today.

No way to sugar coat it – the sign was straight up falling apart.  Rushing to it’s rescue were donations by the likes of Alice Cooper, Hugh Hefner and others who stepped in to make sure the landmark was successfully and correctly restored, resetting the clock for years to come.

photo by Benjamin Reed

Portland has it’s own iconic Hollywood sign:  the epic marquee of the Hollywood Theater!

Well, as epic as it may appear from a distance, ye olde marquee has seen better days and is badly in need of an update.  The theater publically has it’s doubts about how long the sign will do the job in it’s current state, as it’s leaking. Which is never good when you’re set to endure another long rain soaked Portland winter.  On top of that (literally), it’s getting a visual assault from a multi-story building going up in what had been forever an empty lot next door.  Our poor sign is under siege!

We need the Portland Hugh Hefner to light that cigar, loosen up that velvet robe and fetch that checkbook out of that inside pocket.  Or maybe a little makeup around the eyes Alice Cooper style as you punch in that credit card number?  Hey, you’re in the privacy of your own home…  whatever floats yer boat.  🙂

Ok, so maybe we’re not as eccentric as the doners in LA’s Hollywood, but we’re just as fearless when it comes to helping out.  The Hollywood has done quite a bit of the sign fundraising already and is close to getting this thing done, but just needs a little bump.

And why do they deserve our help?  Let’s ignore the deep rooted history, like that the theater is the source of the Hollywood district’s name for a second, and talk about the present.  “What have you done for me lately?” like JJ once said.  It may not be common knowledge but the Hollywood Theater is a true diamond in the rough and completely non profit!   The solid slate of independent and art house programming helps to fund filmmaker sponsorship and educational programs, among other endeavors.  This elevates them (in my book) from mere “cool theater” status to straight up Portland Institution.  Our Hollywood Theater is the real deal, and I can’t say enough good things about the team they have in place there.

C’mon, everyone has a favorite Hollywood theater memory.  Am I right?

Hecklevision nights are almost too numerous to even mention.  Maybe it’s one of the film fests that roll through year after year?

Rocky & I w/no idea what we’re stepping into @ Zompire!

I can only speak for myself, but I remember in 2008 when my friend & director Rocky Curby had a short accepted into the Zompire Film Festival…   ohhhh we got a lot more than we bargained for that day. What a complete & total riot!  I will absolutely never forget Zombie  Jesus and some of the other films on the docket – I’ll take those to the grave (and beyond).  Many of us frequent the Hollywood each summer, as they typically host the screenings for the 48 hour film festival year after year – yeah, that’s the weekend you see actors being chased by camera crews on every corner as you drive across town.  When it comes to Portland premiere screenings and helping to launch films, the Hollywood is second to none.  They know what it takes to elevate a screening into an event.  The Hollywood really came through for me as I put together last year’s Portland premiere of Revenge of the Electric Car for visiting director Chris Paine, and that screening helped fuel the film’s west coast momentum.  I wonder how many times Gus Van Sant has had films or events at the Hollywood?  Probably countless.  Heck, it’s at the point now where I’m going to screenings hosted by Gus for complete remixes of his films using cutting room floor footage done by other directors!  GVS & the Hollywood go together like PB &J.

The Hollywood Theater rocks.  And with the new seats, sound system and other grand steps forward the past few years, our future memories (and photos!) also deserve a sign worthy of the namesake.

Theater Executive Director Doug Whyte breaks it down nicely – check the vid over at the Kickstarter page (click this graphic to the left) and let’s do this.  The donations are tax deductible.  In return, you’ll get things like movie tickets + popcorn and your name + message on the new marquee you helped put in place.  Let’s pull together and knock out the next thing on the Hollywood’s fixit list, and restore a true landmark!


Update:  the sign has been fully funded!  Nice move Portland.

Lunchin’ II, electric boogaloo


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Picking up where we left off, the lunch post got some of us talking – let’s cruise around town and see what everyone’s up to.

Helvetia Tavern, if you can find it

SE Division – Bent Image Lab’s neighborhood is jealousy inducing for sure.  The sweet spot on Division & 26th unlocks the Division/Clinton strip and is within striking distance of Hawthorne/Belmont.  The quadruple threat!

I could eat Pok Pok Thai every day and not flinch, it’s the best I’ve had outside of Chiang Mai.  Also a fan of the beer slushie at the Whiskey Soda Lounge across the way – and if there’s a wait at Pok Pok, take full advantage of the Shanghai Chiang Mai tunnel (ha ha) – put your name in @ Pok Pok and they’ll retrieve you from WSL when your table is ready, and consolidate the bill.

But if I had to pick one lunch down Bent’s way, it’s gotta be Dots Cafe; that candlelit black velvet “Vegas” interior and it’s surprisingly healthy food options.  But that’s just me – we all know compers fear the light.  Update:  curse those new owners for opening at 2pm!  Hear that rattling at your door at 1?  That’s me.  Let me in.  I will take your food by force if necessary.

Take it from a bona fide Benter – Jalal Jemison (Head of Compositing) chimes in here and pimps both Sushi Mazi ($$ Amercicana Japan Fusion Fun Food) and the quickie Sushi Ben (more homey, mom & pop).  He also drops mention of Clay’s Smokehouse for it’s solid southern BBQ.  Mmmm…  catfish plate…

Nick Childs wouldn’t let me off the hook if I didn’t drop a truly FAT mention to Fat Kitty’s falafel cart, (btw – I’m mildly surprised the kitty has a website?) and oh will this guy give you much more than the steamy falafel you bargained for!  Fully take in the potentially slowest falafel in town and  remind yourself it’s not a speed contest…  time ceases to exist once the laughs start.  You’ll leave with enough deep belly laughter to last you for days.  Your face will hurt.  He’s both wild AND crazy.  Lube him up with some sports talk and see where it goes.  Tell him it’s your first time and to be gentle on the Siracha.  Just thinking about our guy here makes me laugh out loud.  So awesome, words cannot really do him justice.  No more spoilers;  this is something to experience for yourself.  Off early and looking for a happy hour?  Night Light (they finally bought a sign!).  Another gem:  the swedish meatballs at Broder.  Cart land:  32nd & Division   Coffee:  Little T’s

DUMBO/OMSI/Industrial – Hive-FX is nestled in what I’ve dubbed “down-under-the-morrison-bridge-overpass” kinda by OMSI.  Dangerously close to Bunk Bar and it’s deadly pork sandwich.  Compositor Adam Sager gets around town, and knows the spots down there – he’s quick to point to Le Bistro Montage, Produce Row Cafe, Robo Taco and if you’re in a pinch, there’s the cheap & quick Sparky’s pizza.  Coffee:  Water Ave

Pearl/Downtown – our man in the Pearl is Ryan Shanholtzer – long time Portlander who’s digging his, uh, digs over at Wieden & Kennedy these days.  In rapid fire succession:  The People’s Sandwich of Portland, in a cool location in Old Town.  The aforementioned Bunk Sandwich has the location downtown.  Ryan’s also a cart regular – which could be a post all to itself. “If you want unhealthy but delicious an Argentinean cart opened on I think Washington? In that pod by Alder/Galeria/Jakes.”  Steaks 5th Avenue, the cheesesteak cart (been going 15 years strong!).   I think we all know the carts can be a moving target, and Ryan added, “There was a ramen cart I loved that moved to Alberta and a Pork Sandwich place I loved that also moved. Man, those carts move often.  But I guess it’s in the nature of being a cart… ”

Tom Burney, pimpin' the Huggie Bites

Speaking of carts, my view of Mac ‘n’ Cheese is forever skewed by Compositor Tom Burney and his award winning recipe that was the basis of Starchy and Husk – not afraid to say that it was (formerly) best Mac n’ cheese in the city;  a bold statement indeed.  Speaking of course of the gourmet Gran Torino and it’s butternut squash w/japanese bread crumb perfection…  complete with a side of Huggie Bites (gluten free sweet potato “hushpuppies”).  Unfortunately for us all, Tom shuttered his cart after his new location didn’t work out.  Fortunately for us all, however, he’s sitting right next to me and pushing sweet pixels again.  Maybe if I do some roto for him he’ll whip me up some huggie bites for old time’s sake…  eh, Tom?


I'll take a Gran Torino to go

On the flipside of the Pearl, Co O’Neil (Dean of Education @ the Art Institute) hooks us up:  “At the high end, I like Irving Street Kitchen. Mid-range would be Lovejoy Bakery. Low brow would be Cha Cha Cha and Fuller’s.  Ooo! I also like Peem Kaew on the park blocks – Thai.”

Recent grad and Compositor Karch Coon (who we’ve loaned out to NYC temporarily) also had some good Pearl tips:  the basement burgers at Life of Reilly (ask for Dave), Little Big Burger (get 2! and don’t skip the fries), and a nod to the conveyor belt goodness that is Sushiland – tip: freshness is a factor, and the earlier in the day the better.  Cart land:  several   Coffee: Barista

Hillsboro – sure it’s out of town a ways and sometimes leads me to believe that it’s the edge of civilization as we know it, but let’s round things out with a whirlwind tour of the “renowned” Hillsboro cuisine.  An oasis or 2 in the desert out there near Laika Entertainment, for sure.

A smile @ Sweet Lemon (photo: Kent Estep)

The diamond in the rough in all my days out there turned out to be a little Thai Vegan Bistro 2 exits down Hwy 26 (Bethany) named Sweet Lemon.  Let’s talk muse power – because, no joke – songs have been written about this place.  Sing it with me…  “Sweet sweet lemon, she’s oh so fine…”    ha ha, the pop genius of Aidan Fraser right there.  Walk in and ask for the Alfie special, you won’t be sorry.

Roundabout that way is also the Fresh Thyme Soup Co, which does a brisk biz and never disappoints.  If you’re going to be out in the middle of nowhere anyway, you might as well go all the way:  a burger with a side of trucker hats at Helvetia Tavern ranks as one of the top burgers in the metro area (although I’m partial to Portland’s Violetta and the 10 hour tomatoes m’self).

Follow the tumbleweed across West Union and you’ll eventually come to Allan’s.  That’s pronounced “A-yans” for those in the know.  Jalepeno margaritas make the rest of your day interesting, and honestly darn near hallucinagenic.  It’s ok…  we are artists after all.  Aren’t we?

Also qualifying in the “where the hell are we?” category is the Rock Creek Tavern, a part of the McMenamins mafia and the only McMens venue making our little post here.   Do not go there if you are in a hurry.  No one cares if you have the menu memorized and can order immediately, especially not the wait staff.  Out past the airport – ViVi’s does a killer noodle bowl.  I’ll drop props to Longbottoms for the Salmon BBQ plate Wed-Fri, because last time I was in there they gave me a Bronto sized plank of Salmon.  Other than that, the sandwiches are usually good and if you can talk them into it, “Dave’s” bagel from the breakfast menu and it’s avacado+tomato goodness is a killer combo.  10% discount for Laikans don’t ya know, just flash your badge (why don’t more places do that?).  Speaking of salmon, the salmon fish & chips at Baker’s in Hillsboro proper is worth the trip.  In a hurry?  A bowl of Pho at Pho Tango gets you in ‘n’ out quick, unless of course you decide to order the Pho Challenge – oh yes, this is apparently the Vietnamese equivalent of the old 96’er steak from The Great Outdoors.  If you can finish off that marathon and evade death by Pho, pause for your photo because you’ll be a Pho King Star! (yes, yes I did)  cart land:  yeah right.  Coffee: Longbottoms.

What gets you going?  Drop a note in the comments and let’s do lunch.  🙂

It’s Lunch time in Portland


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Hear the whistle blow?  It’s Christmas lunch time in Hollis, Queens Portland, ya’ll.  I can feel it – this could be a whopper (no pun intended) of a post.

Let’s take a second to appreciate not the usual world class video & film projects, but instead let’s talk about something equally as important.  World class lunch.  Woo ha!

Something I remember vividly about the first time I ever visited Portland (circa 2006) was how incredibly good the food was.  And how accessible.  And how cheap.  Lunchtime in Portland is pretty rad, you have to admit.  We’ve got it good.

Rarely does the combination exist where most any craving can be (more or less) satisfied within walking distance, but my recent job switch has me working down in NW Portland again, and I’m constantly impressed with how rightly Portland does up lunch.  With gusto!

I think it’s something you appreciate more with some perspective.  I can only speak for myself here, but I completely took a good lunch for granted during my NYC days.  C’mon – in that town, anything and everything you could ever want is just a few steps out your door.  Simple economics – endless amounts of busy, hungry people requiring food of all sorts brings the most amazing concentration of restaurants ever assembled, with the high volume comes low prices as they compete for our lunch dolla$.  When genuinely incredible food only sets you back $5 or $10, it makes it reeeaaal easy to head out daily.  Which for some of us represents one of the keys to sanity (can I trademark that?).  Step out, get some fresh air, stretch those legs.  Catch up with coworkers.  Try something different, keep things interesting.  Unplug from the grind for half a sec.  A shred of normalcy in this crazy biz we’re in.  Play a little credit card roulette and then deduct the whole thing and write it off as “networking.”

It’s not all puppy dogs and ice cream out there.  The flip side of the coin hit me when I moved to New Zealand, and the film studio was – as many film studios are – out in the middle of nowhere.  “The wop wops” as the kiwi’s called it.  Where real estate isn’t prime city prices – you know the drill, usually out by an airport (what’s up with airports and cheap real estate, anyway?).  Now, I’m talking earrrrllly Weta days here.  Before the Park Road Post Cafe was installed on-campus.  Before Lucas decided he wanted to be livin’ La Boca Loca.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had my share of Elements Cafe, Maranui Surf Club, Sinbad Kebabs, Chocolate Fish this and Aranya Thai that, and boy just the mention of those spots brings a rush of memories.  But it was a far cry from the lunch situation in NYC.  Ok, ya know, I’m probably being too harsh.  Full disclosure – on the subject of food, Wellington can hang with anywhere I’ve been for the most part (fact – the most cafes and restaurants per capita in the world) but it was the whole have-to-hop-in-a-car thing that was the real buzz kill out there.  This is not a problem here in P-Town.  Worst case, you have to hop on your beater bike that you keep at the office.

Now, you want to talk “lunch challenged,” imagine yourself magically whisked away to…  mystical Albuquerque, NM.  Why did the tribal music and the naked indian from Wayne’s World come rushing to your head?  How, uh, cheeky!

I briefly “did some time” in the ABQ at the Sony office downtown when it existed, back on Alice in Wonderland, so it’s still relatively fresh in my head.  Actually, let’s not even go there.  Ya know, mom taught me – if you don’t have anything nice to say about a lunch scene, don’t say anything at all.  I don’t know, they had good pie!  When your tongue wasn’t scorched from red & green chiles (christmas!) or pickled from the Wine Margaritas.  My point is – I’ve seen it all, and since being removed from NYC, there was a gaping hole in my soul when lunch rolled around.  A little emptiness, a careless whimper, sometimes a growl.  I’m talking stomach gurgles here…    yanked outta the city that never sleeps – and never has a bad lunch – part of me wanted to just work through my lunch hour…   even to –  gasp (!) – bring my lunch from home.


Portland restored balance to my foodie universe.  I’m a big fan.  And it deserves a shout.  Game on.

This could turn into a series of posts, but let’s start off first and foremost with NW – since I have such a soft spot for NW Portland.  And by NW I mean “Nob Hill,” “The Alphabet District,” “Slabtown,” “the hood with all the street names from the Simpsons…”  whatever.  I lived, worked & breathed NW for my first 3 years here.  At one point, when Laika’s LJC building was in full swing and I lived on Everett, I was able to condense my life into about a 10 block radius from Couch down to Raleigh.  Let’s just say I got to know NW really well.  Trust me, best to divide this one up.  And conquer.

Lower NW – This is the south section and first part of the alphabet – Burnside through Kearney, roundabout 21st & 23rd and home to Hinge Digital.  The highlight reel would most definitely include:  (deep breath)  the fish tacos (and about everything else you could ever want) at Elephants, the patio and under $10 lunch menu @ Cha – go for the Gomez!  That would be the Gomez burrito, named affectionately after the unimitable Ramiro Gomez at Hinge Digital.  Down the street, the daily plate at Cafe Nell, the sushi rolls at SanSai (solid, but still out the door for $7 or so), the dive bar burgers at the Matador (the original Matador not the other one), mole at MuuMuu’s, and the gluten free turkey sandwich + hazelnut smoothie from Cafe Rio are all strong choices.  If it’s after 4pm, the burger and back patio at North45 are hard to beat.  Need a boost?  Coffeehouse NW.  Breakfast on the way into work?  Ken’s Bakery.  Bonus points:  word on the street is that Koi Fusion is opening a permanent location across from the Timber’s stadium where the flower shop was.  Score! (or maybe “Goal” is more appropriate?)


Koi Fusion’s korean taco bliss


Upper NW – Moving North, Lovejoy down to Thurman & Vaughn way – home to Kamp Grizzly, Sonic Media, Laika/House, Limbo Films (who for some reason I always want to confuse with Lyon Films out in SW) and others.  The Thurman strip is the goldmine here.  St Honore and it’s tasty french patries are great on an overcast day – and we get our fair share of those, don’t we?  Besaw‘s brings it down home – I get the breakfast burritos and then don’t eat the rest of the day.  Nic Marrison was a big Besaw’s guy, and also used to swear by the greasy spoon Joe’s Celler, which also quietly has some of the best Karoake in town (Thurs & Sun) and is heavily attended by both Benters and Laikans alike – although I’m not sure they know each other?  One of these days I’ll shove you all together like 7th grade boys and girls at a sock hop.  The “bento guy” with the little alcove cart down on Quimby b/w 22nd and 23rd is one of the best $5 lunches around.  Laughing Planet deserves to be in the rotation, as does the fabulous  New Old Lompoc, which will soon become the New New Old Lompoc as it’s reconstructed…  I’ll miss your “new old” back patio (but we await your triumphant return).  In the meantime we’ll have to get by with Lucky Lab I guess.  Laurelwood is missed in this regard also – that little house is where it all began for me.  Stepping Stone Cafe tucked down on quimby & 24th is underrated, as is the BBQ at Slabtown (what, you wanted dive bar pinball?  go to the other one).  The el cheapo @ Pepino‘s does the job. The Ratatouille Sandwich at Kenny & Zuke’s is great with a ginger beer, but get the whole not the half.  Cart land:  18th & Quimby – go for the Bi Bim Bop at the Korean BBQ Box!  Do not be afraid!   Coffee:  Vivace.  Breakfast on the way in?  St Honore except on days the Dragonfly has waffles.


Kenny and Zuke’s: serious sandwiches in a town that takes sandwiches seriously


Wow, a mouthful.  Literally.  Enough typing for this one, but there’s a lot more to say in the vein of lunch and I promise to lob more salivations in a future post.

Left out your spot?  Drop a note in the comments and give props where props are due!