Oregon Summer Day Trip: Westside by MAX

Our trusty light rail system can whisk you away to Portland’s suburban playgrounds, where an ’80s-themed arcade, a sprawling wildlife preserve, gallons of beer and unique pizza await.

Westside by MAX (Blake Benard)

The MAX likely isn’t the first vehicle to come to mind when vacation planning.

Unlike a car, it’s on a fixed route, so you don’t get to experience the freedom of the open road. Given its transit-to-work vibes, light rail lacks the romanticism of Amtrak’s sleeper and bar cars. And, sure, the MAX will shuttle you to the airport, but it’s bound to be the least interesting leg of your journey.

But maybe it’s time to rethink how we use the metro area’s decades-old public train. Unless you travel to rail-deprived cities, it’s easy to forget how good we have it. Five lines operate on 60 miles of track, connecting Portland’s core to multiple suburbs. It’s cheap to ride: A $5 day pass can go a long way when you take gas prices into account. And the MAX doesn’t get jammed in traffic. In fact, flying past gridlock is one of its pleasures.

When adventure beckons but your budget is limited, pick a line and explore. This guide to navigating the westside by rail—downtown Hillsboro, Tualatin Hills Nature Park, Central and Old Town Beaverton—will get you started. Along the way, you’ll find everything from top-notch baked goods made by a Chopped champion to a state-of-the art performance venue with an art gallery to a glut of beer-focused bars. And the best part about that last one is that you can throw back more than a few and get around safely because MAX is your designated driver.

Westside by MAX (Blake Benard)



to the Hatfield Government Center station, the end of the Blue Line.

Bagels Are Everything

Some Portland celebrity chefs seem to make headlines every time they pick up a kitchen knife. But out in Hillsboro, a cooking show contestant has been building a miniature culinary empire without much fuss being made about her revival of a sleepy downtown corner. Mindy Simmons, a Chopped winner in 2015, launched a one-woman bakery out of her home 13 years ago, selling pastries at farmers markets under the Decadent Creations name before opening a shop in 2017. Since then, she’s founded Collective Kitchen—a commissary cookhouse and studio—as well as a summer food cart event series.

Most recently, Simmons opened Collective Market (173 NE 3rd Ave., 503-433-8046, collectivemarket.net), a combination boutique grocer-cafe. The stark white building with crimson trim, a neon sign and lunch counter-style menus on the wall make it feel as though you’ve stepped into an early 20th century mercantile, though modern pleasures abound, including a dozen beer and cider taps, fancy toasts, and a pop-art mural of the business’s pasta-obsessed T. rex mascot, Alfredo. Take a hint from the sign out front advertising freshly made bagels and order a brunch sandwich anchored by the dense bread. A stack of creamy scrambled eggs, melted cheese and tender slices of avocado is larger than some hamburgers and costs about 10 bucks.

Collective Market Photo by Andi Prewitt.

Get It Macaron

Those who prefer dessert disguised as brunch should head directly next door to Decadent Creations (171 NE 3rd Ave., 503-430-7619, decadentcreations.com). Thanks in part to her windfall from Chopped, Simmons was able to move into Hillsboro’s historic Donelson House. The 1908 bungalow—longtime residence of the town’s undertaker—retains many of its original features, including elegant beveled diamond windows, though the muted pastel walls and chairs appear to be modern updates, which happen to match the rainbow of macarons in the pastry case. Even if you’re stuffed from breakfast, it’s easy to scarf down one or two of these delicate French classics. On my visit, the pink vanilla-rose had the essence of a sugar cookie, while the lemon-lavender offered strong floral notes before fading into the sweet, citrusy flavors of a lemon drop cocktail. Don’t forget to purchase some of Simmons’ Chopped-winning biscuits to go, because who doesn’t want to know what $10,000 bread tastes like?

Do Some Window Shopping

For the fifth-largest city in the state, Hillsboro’s got a surprisingly sleepy downtown on weekends. But if a slower pace is what you’re looking for, then this eight-block area has more than enough to entertain.

Start your neighborhood stroll at the Washington County Courthouse (145 NE 2nd Ave., 503-846-8888, courts.oregon.gov). Anyone who’s ever spent a day there fending off tedium during jury selection knows that the interior is a dump, but the grounds are actually quite lovely. The property is home to some interesting trees with history: a Kwanzan flowering cherry honors the U.S. Constitution’s bicentennial and a there are a handful of stately sequoias planted by a pioneer-turned-nursery owner in 1880 after he returned from a trip to California with some cones. Though not as awe-inspiring as the flora, the courthouse façade boasts some decorative flair in the form of neoclassical fluted columns and hanging bronze lanterns.

Just across the street, the dresses in the window display at Lucia Isabel Collection (109 SE 2nd Ave., 971-331-2688) are blooming in shades of pink, lilac and periwinkle. It’s worth pausing to admire the bead- and lacework someday bound for prom or a quinceañera. Though, really, some of the frocks are fairy tale ball ready.

Another window that dazzles can be found at Hillsboro Hobby Shop (345 E Main St., 503-648-3788, hillsborohobbyshop.com), which has plenty to exhibit: elaborate dollhouses, dozens of miniature cars, and rockets that range in size from “magnum wine bottle” to “small child.” But the scene-stealer is a meticulously detailed model train set that’s approximately 30 feet long, complete with trestles, tunnels and at least two locomotives making laps.

Finally, lovers of modern artifacts should explore Snider’s Hill Theatre Antique Mall (127 NE 3rd Ave., 503-693-1686, hilltheatre.com), where you could spend hours roaming the more than 5,000-square-foot former art deco movie house that’s now filled with items like a football lamp and a Mickey Mouse phone.


Rosé and Buffet

In an earlier era, Skywater Fine Wines (384 E Main St., 971-379-1372, skywaterwines.com) would have been downtown Portland’s premier hang dedicated to its title beverage. There’s an extensive bottle collection, a swanky tasting lounge that’s all moody blues and velvet, but zero pretension. I’m glad Skywater opened when it did (summer 2022) in Hillsboro, not Portland’s city core, where the pandemic or crime could have prompted its closure.

Run solely by Neil Thompson, the bar is the perfect place for an early afternoon indoor picnic. Asking for direction on wine choice never hurts. That’s how I ended up sipping an $11 glass of bone-dry rosé from France. Load up on snacks from Skywater’s pantry and cooler, like a miniature box of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, Beecher’s Flagship white cheddar cheese sticks and Duke’s Mayo packets—because you never know when you might encounter a condiment emergency, and they’re only a quarter each.

Drink in History

Across the street, the dark, windowless entrance of Hillsboro Bar and Grill (359 E Main St., 503-372-9763, hillsborobarandgrill.com) suggests the scene inside will be dominated by dusty domestic beer signs and people camped in front of lottery machines. But through the doors awaits a tavern with old-timey charm: tin-stamped ceiling tiles, bartenders in black vests and bow ties, and a handsome mahogany-hued bar that was handcrafted in England, then shipped around the horn of South America. Should you grow tired of the view of the massive mirrored cabinet, there’s more to admire, including an old milk truck, a spitoon-and-still collection, and 48-ounce tomahawk rib-eyes aging in a see-through cooler that can be ordered for dinner or breakfast.

Earn High Scores and Candy

Most arcades feel somewhat retro thanks to the old-school games interspersed with new machines. Arcade 2084 (248 E Main St., 503-773-9988, arcade2084.com) has not only embraced a full-on 1980s theme; its owners have developed an entire backstory for the joint. While too long and unnecessarily detailed to recount here—suffice it to say the tale centers on time travel—their dedication to re-create an experience authentic to the Golden Age of the Arcade is commendable. The space is dark and carpeted, standup cabinets and tabletops navigated by joystick all hail from the ‘80s as does the soundtrack. And if you get the high score of the day on a game, you’re rewarded with a free fizzy-sour Zots. Just don’t try to order an IPA from the Bar That Time Forgot in the rear. “They didn’t have IPA in 1984,” my bartender told me. But they did have Patrick Swayze’s Red Dawn. Order the cranberry-and-pineapple juice cocktail of the same name. Bonus: Its rim is lined with Pop Rocks.

Arcade 2084 Photo by Andi Prewitt

ALL ABOARD: Head to the Hillsboro Central/Southeast 3rd Transit Center on Southeast Washington Street and take the Blue Line east to the Beaverton Creek stop.

Go on a Suburban Safari

Portlanders seeking sanctuary in nature who don’t want to drive out of town naturally turn to Forest Park. While nowhere near as large, Tualatin Hills Nature Park (15655 SW Millikan Way, 503-645-6433, thprd.org) is the close-in green retreat of choice for westsiders, which is arguably easier to get to since it’s just a short walk from the MAX line. This 222-acre wildlife preserve offers nearly 5 miles of trails, which can be tackled in less than two hours. You could easily cobble together a much shorter route, but exploring the entire northern perimeter, along with a series of four loops on the southside, allows you to take in the diverse terrain, which includes forest, marshes, grassland, two creeks and several ponds. Keep an eye out for squirrels, chipmunks, newts, deer and more, then record your sightings on a whiteboard at the Nature Center.

ALL ABOARD: Back at Beaverton Creek, take the Blue Line two stops east to Beaverton Central.

Gawk at Art and Architecture

Light rail practically deposits you at the doorstep of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts (12625 SW Crescent St., 971-501-7722, thereser.org), a gorgeous performance venue that opened in 2022. And you don’t need a ticket to a show to enjoy the space’s warm wooden wall paneling, a floating staircase and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Beaverton Creek. The structure itself is a masterpiece, not to mention the actual permanent displays: a pendant suspended from the ceiling that looks like a dandelion puff at a disco and an outdoor silver ribbonlike sculpture. There are even more creations in the Reser’s Art Gallery, which is free to browse. During my visit, works included ombré-dyed vellum arranged in the shape of a horseshoe for $22,000 as well as patchwork squares of fabric that looked ready to be sewn into quilts going for $150 apiece.



Step Up to the Food Circus

Back outside, follow the scent of fried and smoked delights to BGs Food Cartel (4250 SW Rose Biggi Ave., 503-605-9163, bgfoodcartel.com), which sits on the other side of the MAX station behind City Hall. The collection of trucks is like a culinary carnival: Squealing children are let loose in the turf-covered parklets, and the array of cuisine wouldn’t be out of place at a fair. Now, there are even games thanks to the addition of ax-throwing lanes inside the Speakeasy Bar. If you’re ready to eat again, take your pick of the approximately 30 vendors. Standouts include Wolf’s Head Smokehouse, which serves brisket in a sandwich and a mac-and-cheese-stuffed burrito, and the revived Le Bistro Montage Ala Cart, complete with its hearty helpings of Spold accompanied by a foil rose. Or you can always grab another beer and watch the parade of food pass by.

BG Food Cartel (Mick Hangland-Skill)


Formerly parched downtown Beaverton has been swimming in beer for the past few years. The area has outlets for two breweries as well as a handful of beer bars—from Loyal Legion to Raindrop to Central Station. Joining the perennial beerfest is John’s Marketplace (3700 SW Hall Blvd., 503-747-2793, johnsmarketplace.com). The longtime brand’s third location opened on the edge of Old Town in April. Most everyone is here for a pint paired with the well-charred, quarter-pound smash burgers, including beer nerds sporting Crux hats and Terminal Gravity hoodies and moms clad in Lululemon with children in tow. Join them under the beer banners in the taproom or peruse the bottle shop for something special to take home.

Taste a Slice of Beaverton

Before departing the westside, treat yourself to some pizza that cannot be found in Portland proper. This past spring, Ex Novo Brewing announced it had switched off the ovens at the original North Flint Street pub, coming on the heels of news that the owner was looking to sell. That makes the Beaverton outpost (4505 SW Watson Ave., 971-249-3737, exnovobrew.com) the only place in Oregon where you can get its hefty squares of warm brick cheese.

Ex Novo Beaverton Photo by Andi Prewitt

Should Ex Novo’s remaining local kitchen go dark, a solid backup plan sits across Southwest Farmington Road. Hapa Pizza (12755 SW Broadway, 503-919-7558, hapapizza.com), a Beaverton Farmers Market breakout star, opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in March. The business adopted the Hawaiian term used to describe anyone of mixed ethnicity for its name, because the pies are exactly that: a mashup of Italian and Asian flavors. My bánh mi pizza emerged from the gleaming, white-tile Marra Forni oven with a puffy rim and speckles of char encircling a frenzy of colors, textures and flavors—sweet chunks of lemongrass-grilled pork, pickled veg, a refreshing cucumber sauce and fiery squiggles of Sriracha aioli.

In a perfect world, Hapa and Ex Novo would forever exist as neighbors. If that remains the case, order a pizza from each and enjoy both with a friend in nearby 1st Street Commons.

Hapa Pizza Photo by Andi Prewitt

TRAIN LEAVING THE STATION: Return to Beaverton Central and take the Blue Line back to Portland.


Ome Calli Frozen Treats

12795 SW Canyon Road, Beaverton, 971-246-0278, omecallifrozentreats.com. Noon-8 pm daily.

Surrounded by car dealerships, a pawn shop and a Batteries Plus store, Ome Calli stands out like a brightly colored beach umbrella on this bleak stretch of Southwest Canyon Road. Relief from the heat can be found in its 28 flavors of helado, which include traditional options, but most scoops here are not something from the Dairy Queen roster. Vibrantly hued tubs of ice cream—like hot pink cotton candy, electric lime-green pistachio, and merigold mamey fruit—make Ome Calli’s freezer case look like a kaleidoscope. But the sweets don’t end there. You can find paletas, cream-based gelatinas and chocolate-covered bananas—desserts that were developed in Mexico City, where the family-run business began some 30 years ago. The recipes all made the trip north to what is now their “ome calli,” which means “second home” in Nahuatl—the common language of the Aztecs that is still spoken by some. Pick any freezer and whatever chilled snack emerges is bound to make you happy. But during the next 100-degree heat wave, order a chamoyada if you want to feel like you’ve crawled into an ice machine. The popular Mexican condiment chamoy gives these bloody mary-red slushies their wild ride of flavors: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Served with a paleta plopped into the drink, you’ll wish you could use that popsicle as a floating lounge in the world’s largest chamoyada pool.

Ome Calli Frozen Treats (Courtesy Ome Calli)
Ome Calli Frozen Treats (Courtesy Ome Calli)
Ome Calli Frozen Treats (Courtesy Ome Calli)


Collective Market - Bagel sandos starting at $7.75

Decadent Creations - Macarons $2 each

Arcade 2084 - Red Dawn cocktail $12.50

This story appeared as part of Oregon Summer, our annual free magazine out now all over Portland. See where to pick one up here.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.