Portland v. Seattle
I’ve decided to leave Denver. In choosing where to move to next, Portland and Seattle were top contenders (see JacobScore®), so I just returned from spending several days in each. They are more different than I expected.
Portland is laidback and lush with greenery. The transit system punches above its weight. Streetcars get stuck in traffic, and the MAX Red Line to the airport is being reconstructed. Visitors can use touchless payments like Apple Pay without additional apps. Biking isn’t as common as I expected, assuming because of theft, since I saw no virtually no unattended bikes while walking around, and the bike-share bikes were in rough shape.
On the flip side, the city suffers from an epidemic of homelessness and substance abuse—people sprawled on sidewalks in fits of distress—on a scale I’d never seen living in New York City or anywhere else. Almost every neighborhood surrounding downtown is affected.
Seattle is techie and fast-paced. People are always on their phones and will walk within an inch of you. Its neighborhoods are distinct: West Seattle for retirees and families, Capital Hill for the gays, Madrona for the wealthy. The transit system seems adequate on paper but is poor in practice; buses inexplicably never show up and the ones that do are late. There’s very little green space. With the possible exception of Volunteer Park, the other parks I visited—Boren, Washington, Frink—are nestled among the Tesla-driving set.
Strangely, despite its smaller population and weaker cachet, Portland had better food and beer. And while Seattle features cooler temperatures, the relative lack of shade in most neighborhoods meant it felt the opposite.
So Portland wins in a head-to-head matchup—cheaper, tastier, easier. The city has even more potential too if they could resolve the social issues. But I’ve decided to keep looking.
- Bentley’s Bagels: small, tough-crust bagel—not my favorite—but great coffee ★
- Breakside Brewery: didn’t meet my west coast IPA expectations
- Cuon: massive banh mi sandwiches made spicy ★
- Escape from New York Pizza: satisfactory, but not as good as good New York City pizza
- Henry Higgins: best bagel in Portland with plenty of diner-style seating ★
- Japanese Botanic Garden: small and pricy but nice enough for an hour
- Bowery Bagels: ordinary bagels served slowly
- Fried Egg I’m In Love: solid egg sandwiches on perfectly-toasted bread ★
- Luclac: wild interior but vermicelli protein served cold
- Rollin’ Fresh: made-for-you sushi burritos ★
- Powell’s: epic bookstore worth the hype ★
- Baerlic Brewing: incredible variety and exceptional beer ★
- Bernstein’s Bagels: bagel sandwiches made with homemade cream cheeses ★
- Living Häus: amazing lagers (and pizza) in a warehouse-type space ★
- Nong’s Kaho Man Gai: ordinary ingredients without seasoning
- Prost: self-important German beer garden that prefers regulars over you
- XinhXinh: very savory “tofu pork” vermicelli ★
- Holy Mountain: thoughtful beers in a Japanese-industrial setting ★
- Cloudburst Brewing: every beer I tried was a hit, friendly ★
- Good Society Brewing: so-so brews in a family-type setting
- Outer Planet: enjoyed what I tasted but wasn’t wowed
- Yalla: tasty Middle Eastern to go ★
- HoneyHole: fake chicken was chewy, coleslaw was ordinary, not worth the hype
- Victrola Coffee Roasters: very good coffee that’s cheap for Seattle ★
- Overcast Coffee: nice people but plain coffee
- Dino’s Tomato Pie: corn pizza is amazing, plus Holy Mountain on draft ★
- Frankie & Jo’s: vegan ice cream that’s legitimately good plus small scoops available ★
- Meet the Moon: ordinary if healthy egg scramble but cute space