Back in 2014, the Matador, a much-loved 40-year-old West Burnside dive bar, closed amid a landlord dispute that has left the building empty to this day. The packed crowd that came to mourn it cleaned the place out of liquor—even the weird stuff—while bartenders and regulars left with mementos.
But, in Portland, the things people love never really die.
And so one of the bar's most dedicated customers took a 3-foot chunk of the bar top and rebuilt a replica of the Matador in his studio apartment.
There's something about this anecdote that feels fitting as a prelude to this year's Best of Portland issue, our annual celebration of the charming and often unheralded people, places and things that make this city so great, whether a foster mom who went far and above the call of duty, or a stripper who does comedy in the raw.
Portlanders seem particularly worried this year that the city is losing what makes it special. But perhaps that's why so many seem dedicated to preserving it—like the maker of a well marking the site of a now-buried stream, the former employees of a closed restaurant keeping its undead spirit alive three blocks away, or Portland's most prolific web historian-chiropractor, who has detailed the city's storied past across 50 different blogs.
But Portland is also becoming a more exciting place to live. There's a nonprofit trying to turn the entire Willamette River into a music venue, families who came together to provide houses for Portland's new baseball team, and a dude who built a crazy-ass 8-foot Tesla coil blasting out Taylor Swift at 90 decibels.
And just to remind you this isn't the only time all year we've been nice to anybody, we list the many, many things we've declared "the best" in our pages over the past year. And in a new tradition begun last year, we asked you to pick your own favorite things in town—and, boy, did you ever respond. More than 27,000 of you voted in 218 categories of Portland things you really like.
Take a moment to sit back, sip on a cool and refreshing LeBronald Palmer, and enjoy what's good about being alive in Portland.