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Jan 5, 2002 08:03 AM

Portland Airport Restaurants

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I am writing an article about the restaurants in the Portland Airport, which I visited yesterday. I am not from Portland (regretfully, I am an East Coaster). I am looking for opinions from Oregon about your airport restaurants. Specifically: (1) what is the difference between Coffee People and Starbucks and why do you prefer one over the other; (2) Do you have a favorite or memorable eating experience in the airport; (3) Can you recommend a local beer that is sold in the airport and why (Full Sail, Widner, Mirror Pond, etc.); and (4) I will be back in the airport in 2 weeks and can you recommend an eating/drinking experience.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

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  1. Good questions. Starbucks is seen as the corporate David around these parts and up to a year or so ago, Coffee People was a home grown, common-man coffee store. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case as Coffee People was taken over by a conglomerate. Nonetheless, they are still seen as the "smaller" town coffee folks. Frankly, with as many good independent baristas we have, you can do better than either. Try Stumptown Roasters (local roasters)if you get the opportunity or Peet's (from Berkley, but still great).

    As far as brew goes, you'll get as many preferences as
    there are choices. However, beers like Full Sail are probably seen in a better light. Not only is Full Sail local (Hood River) but it is employee owned. They also make one hell of an IPA. I also favor Bridgport, Portland Brewing Company, Hair of the Dog and Rogue (all Oregon locals). Widmer, on the other hand, is another big company (based in WASHINGTON mind you) and as you might have guessed we like our local independents here.

    As for airport restaurants, as a local I don't eat in the airport very often. Instead I usually grab a pastry at Marsee Baking (try the cinnamon rolls).

    Good luck on your research.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Hunter

      How to respned to...("Widmer, on the other hand, is another big company (based in WASHINGTON mind you) and as you might have guessed we like our local independents here").

      The Widmer Brothers are local, let's talk Beavers before Ducks, (and even if they were a Washington company, they'd still be local), Kurt parlayed a layoff and home brew experience, with Brother Rob and their Father, Ray, into the start of the "microbrew" experience that has swept the Nation. The brews you mention are dynamite, but so are selected Widmer's. I can't imagine how they would be dreaded, even with their other national agreements.

      Everything other thing you mention rocks!!,(even if it's hard to tell between Starbucks and Coffee People).


      1. re: Tim Gray

        Not to argue with you, but a Washington based brewery is NOT local to a Portlander. True, they are a Northwestern brewery, but they are also a large brewery. II can't disagree with the brother's ingenuity and I also agree that a certain few Widmer beers are good but by no means do they rank among the top Portland ales.

        Guess it's a matter of taste.

        1. re: Hunter

          In no way am I defending their ales, just the fact that they (in no way) are Washington brewers. The brothers are native Oregonians, Rob being an OSU graduate. My tasted runs in the Tugboat/Hair of the Dog vein. I've recently had some very good barleywines from The New Old Lompoc and Laurelwood brewpubs, both of whom excel with brews the Widmers can't touch. It's also hard to be discerning when you live 185 miles from Portland, AND the nearest brewery is in Washington. I'm sorry to seem argumentative.

          1. re: Tim Gray

            Ahh, sounds like someone went to the Winter Ale Fest. I enjoy the barleywines too and I have a newfound respect for you as I love the Tugboat (especially the Chernobyl Stout, although I'm trying to keep that brewery a secret) and Hair of the Dog (Doggy Claws is a great barley). By no means are you being argumentative, I'm just not the biggest Widmer fan and it's hard to understand why Oregon boys would base their operations in Washington.

            Trust me, you've proven yourself discerning.

    2. I live in Portland, and am a Stumptown Roaster but would do Coffee People before Starbucks. Beerwise, you can't go wrong with any of your local craft beer options...we are the Mecca for it after all! The only thing I eat at the airport is Macheezmo Mouse, not because of their so-called "healthy" food, but because of their unbelievable mole die for.

      1. Why would anyone eat at the airport? Why would anyone write about eating at the airport? Food mysteries, indeed. Portland, I believe, has more breweries than any other city and Anhauser Busch (owns part of Widmer) and the big boys have taken note. Regarding coffee, in New York recently I overheard a woman in a Starbucks say, "I was in Seattle, and they even have Starbucks out there!" For dining at the airport: I stop at the New Seasons market on Killingsworth near the airport, and have them make a sandwich for the plane ride -- which I did on a trip last week to Texas (ugh, why don't you write about the godawful El Paso airport and the hot water they call coffee). Or there is a great German bakery and decent German deli on Sandy at 105th, just a stone's throw away. By the way, what is your working title: Where To Find Food When The Hospital Cafeteria Is Closed, or perhaps Lunch Redefined: When The Only Thing Good Is The Beer, or maybe Indigestion At Any Altitude?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Algaia

          Well, there are over 13 million passengers that use PDX each year, and they have a fairly limited amount of time to experience the airport, and many of them want assistance discerning the good, the bad, and the average. My audience is the visiting travelers who want to ascertain the best first and last impression of Portland as represented in the airport. For example, it may be, as you imply, that Widner is less representative of a purely regional craft beer than, say, Full Sail. It may also be that Coffee People, as now owned by a large California entity, is less representative of Portland taste in coffee than Starbucks, even though the latter is also an interloper. I am trying to get a sense of what Oregonians see as good and representative of their tastes. My readers want to experience Oregon in PDX.

          1. re: Algaia

            Algaia - no need to get so judgmental - after all for the many many times we are all stuck in airports - we just want to make the experience a little more pleasant - Allan is just trying to facillitate that. You sound a bit nasty and there is no need for that - I think we all know how dreadful airport food is - but sometimes there is a gem in there (Macheesmo isn't bad for airport food) and we all could use a good discussion on the various beers offered at PDX. As per the beer discussion - I have never quite forgiven Rob for discontinuing their Weizen (very different from Hefe) but I do enjoy a couple of their seasonals - and I do like pretty much any of the Full Sail beers. It's too bad non-flyers can't go down the new C concourse - it's supposed to be pretty nice. Good luck Allan.

            1. re: Algaia

              To Algaia's query about why anyone would eat at an airport: What do you suggest one do during a layover in a strange city where there's no chance to leave the airport and you're famished? If one travels even a little, eating at airports is unavoidable. I find the airport thread incredibly useful. Please add more posts, and more that deal with food rather than focusing on just beer and coffee.

              1. re: Holca

                Agreed. Weather permitting, I shall be traveling through the Seattle airport tomorrow and the Portland airport on Saturday. (Silly me thinking it was a good idea to save money with a non-direct flight.) I will likely want a refreshment, and if the weather delays me, I may require a meal or two. (I know the experience of being stranded overnight in an airport.) I won't have a car, so I won't be traveling outside these airports. It would be nice to know suggestions of where to get more than just a package of trail mix and a cup of coffee.

                1. re: weem

                  well if you must eat at PDX, as expensive as it is for what it is, the sushi at Rose city cafe is solid "utility sushi". thats my best recommendation for the airport. everything else is starvation-worthy.

            2. Allan,

              The other posters seem to have answered most of your questions. A couple of minor items...

              The dark sauce at Macheesmo isn't mole, but a sweet, barbecue-y flavored stuff they call Boss Sauce...I like it, too. Macheesmo started about 20 years ago selling grilled half-chickens with beans and rice for a couple of bucks in a tiny storefront off Powell. Expanded over the years, got a little too corporate and was cutting back, then founder Tiger Warren died in a small plane crash last year (in 2000, I think). The flagship downtown store just reopened last summer, and in many ways the food is typically Portland in that it's reasonably healthful, inexpensive, and allows diners to pile on the extras (salsas, chiles, etc) for free...we are notoriously cheap here. I prefer the veggie taco salad.

              I'm guessing Coffee People got the nod when PDX first installed more upscale food and drink because it was local back then...CP's Motor Moka, the world's first drive-through espresso bar, was also just a few blocks from the Port of Portland offices. Both places over-roast, and I like Torrefazione Italia better.

              I don't spend enough time drinking beer at the airport to know exactly what's being served, but Bridgeport's award-winning IPA is great in the summer...switch to Deschutes Black Butte Porter when it's raining. If you could drink Hair of the Dog out there, a lot more people would be missing flights.



              1. Starbucks bought Coffee People a while ago, but the CP at the airport is one of the few that didn't get bought.

                Also, make sure you check out the local outposts, such as Good Dog/Bad Dog, Gustav's, Rogue Ales, Pizzicato, and Laurelwood.

                Pizza Schmizza and Beaverton Bakery are also local, but not as good as the others IMHO.