I watched a hipster girl walking down Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard recently. She was with her boyfriend (also a hipster), and it looked like they were trying to find somewhere to eat. The boyfriend pointed at Nick's Famous Coney Island as they were passing by. She stopped, looked in the window, and turned up her nose—literally, turned her nose skyward at it.
Now, you might be saying, "Who cares? It's just a hot dog."
Well, sure, I understand that, and I don't expect much in the way of decorum from hipster transplants. But when it comes to blatant snobbery, this pretty much takes the cake, and illustrates a point about how much our city has changed in the past two decades.
All of Hawthorne—from the river to Mount Tabor—used to be the Hot Dog District. Back then, there were more places to buy a hot dog on Hawthorne than there are to park a bicycle now. New Portlanders probably don't realize it, but that's where the name Hawthorne actually comes from. It was originally called Blankenship Street, but the bend in the street where a bunch of great hot-dog joints that are now closed was nicknamed "Hawt (Dog) Horn(e)." Sure, we still have Nick's Famous and Zach's Shack, but gone forever are Don's Dogs, Houdini's Hots ("you'll make 'em disappear!") and Great Dane's Meat Depot. It really is a shame.
Portland used to be such a great hot-dog city, and hot dogs are such a blue-collar food of the people: cheap, filling, portable. The decimation of our city's hot-dog restaurants just goes to show how Hawthorne has gone from being a street for everybody to a tourist nightmare.
Dr. Mitchell Millar is president of the Olde Portland Preservation Society, which this weekend will hold its traditional Elk Roast on the banks of the Tualatin River. The roast is a potluck dinner open to native Portlanders, who are asked to bring a dish from James Beard's long out-of-print Trail to Oregon Recipebook.