On a sunny day, wouldn't you like to sit on a deck overlooking the Willamette River? At your favorite restaurant, shades on, drinking a cold margarita? Well, you can't, because no such place exists. Why does Portland have such a shitty waterfront? —Catherine H.
Portland's waterfront will thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, Catherine. There are three answers to your question.
Answer No. 1: Shut up. There are actually quite a few restaurants that fit your description—I can think of at least five. If only there were some sort of technology where one could enter search terms like "restaurant, Portland, river view, outdoor seating" and be provided with a map of the results. Ah, well; maybe someday.
But it's true that those places are all south of the city's core; maybe you're looking for something more central. But instead, there's just a big, stupid park on the west bank taking up half of the city's prime drinking space.
Answer No. 2: That's not a bug, it's a feature. While you might be perfectly happy to swap Waterfront Park for a couple of casinos and a TGI Fridays, Portland in general is pretty smug about having preserved this prime piece of real estate for wholesome activities like jogging, doing yoga, and taking heroin.
Mind you, we didn't always have the park—we built it on land reclaimed from an expressway called Harbor Drive, which was decommissioned after I-5 rendered it unnecessary. Unfortunately, I-5 did to the east bank exactly what Harbor Drive had done to the west, which brings us to…
Answer No. 3: Oops. In retrospect, running a freeway over what would otherwise be some of the most valuable and picturesque real estate in the city was an obvious blunder, and city planners have been regretting it ever since.
There has long been a vague plan to put the freeway in an underground tunnel—but even if we could find the money, the process would take 30 years. By that time, margaritas will probably be illegal.