outdoor dining: catch it while you can

Meriwether sign

I was meeting a friend for lunch. Our first choice was Tara Thai, where a magnificent heritage tree shades the large deck. As it turned out, they were closed Mondays. No problem…nearby is Meriwether’s, where you can tell from the outside somebody in charge cares about plants.

back gate

sidewalk borders

outdoor urns

tree sheltering deck

While no where near as dramatic as the heritage tree, there is no lack of leafy shelter for the large outdoor dining deck.

front entry

So in we went, asking for an outdoor table.

busy outdoor space

This is a popular fair weather destination, so I was glad we had planned on an early lunch. Best to get reservations if you plan to eat here.

upper level

There are varying levels of exposure to the sun, and the whole space is enclosed and shielded from the street.

inside urn

With plantings all around the perimeter and special touches like a pair of these giant urns flanking the entry and a gurgling fountain centrally located, it feels like a garden party (with a sound level to match, making quiet conversation a challenge). Meriwether’s maintains its own farm, so the salad greens are a wonder of crisp freshness (a little underdressed for my taste). This was a favorite haunt back when it was L’Auberge and then The Woodstove. This latest incarnation is less a culinary experience and more a place to revel in one of Portland’s rare perfect days.

The St Johns McMineman’s dome

Each McMenamins Theater Pub has its own character, while the signature funky/artsy approach is a constant. Their domed building in St Johns was moved here after doing duty at a Worlds’ Fair. The inside of that dome is paneled in wood and is where movies are shown.

unusual oak tree

The grounds are not as meticulously kept as at, say, the Kennedy School property, but this unusual oak lording it over the parking lot lets us know there is a plantsman afoot.



xeric plants

fire pit

The vibe here is casual/friendly. You can see that it makes Richard happy. The pub-grub is unremarkable and the spinach salad was swimming in dressing…best to ask for it on the side (am I hard to please, or what?)

mature specimens

Mature trees and shrubs create a nice sense of enclosure.

lots of texture

A variety of textures keeps it interesting.

unknown specimen

A few outstanding specimens were unknown to me. I loved this one.


I think that is a tamarack tree in the center of the above shot: something we don’t see every day. All of the foliage keeps this space cool and pleasant. No AC in the theater, but by nightfall it was time to take what was left of our beers inside to watch Snow White and the Huntsman (pure escapism).

Portlanders flock to outdoor tables the minute the sun comes out. I don’t really see the attraction of sitting on the sidewalk with cars rushing by. We needn’t settle for that with these two oases (and many others) offering leafy alternatives. Of course, a streetside seat on any corner of 23rd Avenue is prime real estate for people watching.

11 thoughts on “outdoor dining: catch it while you can

  1. What a great place. I like eating al fresco and this looks like such a nice place to be. I can’t tell what many of the plants are, but you are right, lovely colors and textures. Eye candy all over the place!! Sorry the salad was a little overdressed…. 🙁

  2. Bria~I worked out pretty good for a second choice.

    Alison~Portland awaits you.

    Janet~Mystery plants always intrigue me, but sorry for the lack of proper ID’s.

  3. Nice! Yeah, I refuse to eat outside unless it’s sheltered away, with shade. I cannot imagine why people want to eat in the blaring sun in a parking lot…takes all kinds, I guess 🙂

  4. I love seeing the inside of Merriwethers – it’s been intriguing me for years now, but I always imagined it as rather expensive. We are more the McMenamin’s type, and the St Johns Pub is a favorite. It’s the perfect shady place on a hot Portland summer night. I usually feel about how Richard looks after a visit and meal there!

  5. Jane~It IS expensive, and not really good enough to warrant the price, food-wise. Yes, Richard’s face in that shot just about says it all. We should meet there sometime.

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