Real Estate Market Brought Us Great Food

The New York Times discusses Portland’s food scene. Some of our local top chefs were interviewed and an underlying theme of the story is that real estate prices helped bring top talent to Portland.

Portland also has what anybody in the restaurant business will tell you is most important of all: affordable real estate. Just as young, passionate chefs flocked to the East Village and Brooklyn in the 1990s, chefs have gravitated to Portland because it lets them have a vision and take risks without lining up corporate backers and lawyers.

“This is one of the very few places on the West Coast that has been an affordable place to live,” said Andy Ricker, who in 2005 opened Pok Pok, which started under his obsessive eye as a ramshackle Thai takeout shack and now has a hip little dining room as well. “There are a ton of people here who are going at it in sort of an indie rock way, mostly because they can.”


10 Comments on “Real Estate Market Brought Us Great Food

  1. It’s a nice piece on Portland’s dining scene.

    However, there are plenty of places on earth with cheap real estate that don’t have good restaurants. The causal link is tenous at best.

    My personal opinion is that the restaurant scene in Portland is good because people here appreciate good food. Many of my favorite restaurants in Portland would fail in other cities because people would complain about how the servings weren’t big enough and the waiters were too slow.

    Portland is one of the few cities in the US where people will leave work early just because it’s a nice day and they want to share a meal with some friends. This focus on quality of life is virtually absent in mainstream American culture these days, and it’s one of the things that make Portland restaurants work.

  2. However, there are plenty of places on earth with cheap real estate that don’t have good restaurants. The causal link is tenous at best.


    And I would argue that the affordability isn’t here anymore. Yes, affordability in the past brought all sorts of creative types (chefs included) to Portland because it allowed them to focus on their craft, not the money. Now many of those creatives are finding that they must focus a lot more on money if they have any hope of being able to buy here. The median $330K house can’t be bought by someone with a $30K income now that the looney loans are gone.

    But it’s not clear that focusing on the money is good for the creative side of things… I was talking to a young creative the other day (a photographer/graphic design guy) who had a nice corporate gig for a few years that paid pretty well. He quit a few months back. Said he just couldn’t do the corporate cubical thing anymore. Now he’s just doing gigs here and there when he needs a bit of money and travelling some. Lives in a house with a lot of other people so the rent is cheap. From my experience with these folks they desire freedom over being tied to a house anyway. They’d rather not make the exchange that would require them to tie themselves to the cube job so that they can make the monthly payments on the house. Can’t say as I blame’em really.

  3. I think Naysayer needs to create the IHatePortlandBlog and move on. I deleted the comment that was posted here. Hopefully he’ll move on to greener pastures.

  4. Touchy, touchy.

    You shouldn’t run a blog if all you want is happy talk about the inflated real estate market in Portland. Blogs are for the open exchange of ideas.

    Go ahead. Block me. It’s your ball.

  5. “There are a ton of people here who are going at it in sort of an indie rock way, mostly because they can.”

    Honestly, I worry about young creative types — artists, musicians, and the like. Dedication to one’s art is not enough — you must have talent to succeed and what separates the talented from the untalented is often the metaphorical equivalent of the “tenth of a second” separating a sports champion from the average player.

    So what is the practical upshot of this? Not everybody gets to be a Miranda July or a Sleater-Kinney. Most creative types reach the age of 35 or so and have to hang it up because they can’t make the cut. Then they’re just some unskilled nobody looking for a low-wage job or some other grim meat-hook reality.

    That was actually part of the mission of Church of Girl was to give some advantage to young female musicians in realizing their dreams because they need all the help they can get.

    Sorry for the off-topic; I did intend to make this real-estate oriented, but it came out this way.

  6. PDX_Renter: I understand what you’re saying. However, I think part of what’s driving the young creatives is that there just isn’t much else out there to do with your life that seems meaningful at this point: They look at us 30, 40 & 50 somethings stuck in the cubicle working to better the corporation and they figure if that’s all there is then they’ll do something else. Again, can’t say as I blame’em. The idea that a corporation will be loyal to their employees died about 20 years ago and they know this as well: Employees are expendable. If the creatives can live frugally, stay out of debt and stay light on their feet they just might get by with plying their craft even if they’re not a superstar at it. Yeah, they probably won’t get rich, but they’ll probably be happier than they would have been as cube dwellers.

    Bringing this back to real estate: I lived in the Bay Area 20 years ago. I saw what high real estate prices do to the culture of a place: it helps make a place money-obsessed because one needs lots of money just to buy a humble abode. After moving here from there years ago I really noticed the difference in the air: People here weren’t anywhere near as money-obsessed as people in the Bay area were. They left the office at 5PM (unheard of in the Bay area – you have to show the boss that you’re worthy of a raise so you work till 7 or 8). They had a life outside of work.

    Now, however, I’m afraid that Portland isn’t all that different from the Bay Area and I attribute a lot of this to the huge runup in home prices over the last few years. Portland now seems to be as money-obsessed as the Bay Area. And the sad thing is that people need to be money-obsessed if they ever think they’ll want to buy a house here because it takes a lot more of their income now to do so.

  7. Funny, when I express such sentiments they call me an a**hole.

    That is the crux of my bitterness and angst. The greed, the money-grubbing I have seen take over this city, even amongst the “enlightened liberals” is appalling. Though much blame can be laid at the feet of the housing industry, to be fair, the greed-culture is nationwide and has totally infected our culture.

    And no, I’m not a loser trapped in his mother’s basement. I just remember a time when seemingly everyone wasn’t so shallow, pretentious and ostentatious.

    What you saw in the Bay Area is the defining character of this sick and twisted country.

    Be aware that there are tons of people who feel as I do. The politician or political party to capitalize on these feelings will be very successful. But so far no one of either party (for sure not the republicans- a greed based culture was their goal) has the balls to talk about it.

  8. I’m sure the lower income families priced out of the local market are terrifically thankful that Andy made a killing flipping houses. The delish charcol-grilled “game hen” is just a plus.

    I noticed that the Starbucks down the street was vandalized again. I personally hope they hit Andy’s shack next.

  9. McDonalds on Walker and 153rd in Beaverton was vandalized too (at least, their fountain). I wonder whether it means anything or not…

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