Last week, I went out to dinner with some friends who were in town from the Twin Cities. We tried a place near my house called Por Que No. It was amazing. I loved the food—I've been scheming about ways to get back there to eat again ever since. I also loved the atmosphere. The place is small, casual, hot, and crowded. Folk art covers the walls. You order at the counter and then wait for your food to be brought to you. Margaritas come in pint glasses. Water, salsa, and silverware are self-service. It's casual and comfortable and homey. It's totally Portland.
I love to eat and I love all kinds of dining from the most casual to the most formal. John and I did a lot of upscale dining when we were together; eating out was far and away our biggest entertainment budget item. I appreciate white-glove service and fancy food. But the truth is that I grew up in this town where even fine dining has a casual tinge and where the juxtaposition of amazing food in a low-key setting is keenly appreciated. Ultimately, that's the vibe that feels most comfortable to me. Sitting at Por Que No, eating tacos, reminsicing with good friends . . . somehow the ambience of that event was a distilltion of why Portland is home to me. It was a snapshot of what makes Portland Portland, why I wanted to come home.