Serita Wesley

Crissle West Doesn’t Hate Portland

A skeptical podcast host visits Portland to see what it has to offer people of color.

5 min read

Serita Wesley

Crissle West is many things, including an internationally recognized podcast host, a comedian and a writer based in Harlem, New York. She also used to be a skeptic about Portland. Until, that is, she came here to step out of her comfort zone and hang out with the ladies of On She Goes.

On a 2018 episode of her critically acclaimed podcast “The Read,” which she co-hosts with comedian Kid Fury, West expressed utter confusion as to why any person of color would call Portland home. Convinced it was wet, cold, boring and not diverse, she was positively uninterested in visiting the Rose City.

Travel Portland and the team at On She Goes, a travel website and podcast for and by women of color, decided to change her mind. They flew West out to Portland for three full days of dining at POC-owned restaurants, inclusive nightlife and outdoor adventure. From soul food to waterfalls to cannabis tours, West got to see some of the funkiest things the city has to offer.

Happily, West’s opinion of Portland had drastically changed by the end of her trip.

Read on for a rundown of Crissle’s three-day itinerary in the Rose City. You can also watch videos of her experiencing the city’s food, nature and nightlife, or listen to her on the On She Goes podcast.

Diverse Dining

Crissle West’s Portland Itinerary

West’s inaugural visit to Portland began in North Portland’s Kenton neighborhood for brunch at Po’Shine Café de la Soul. Over platters of chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, omelets and cups of coffee, the restaurant’s owner, E.D. Modaine, gave the group a rundown of the history of Portland’s African-American community.

After a soulful conversation and deliciously rich meal, Crissle West and the ladies headed over to Jayne Dispensary in North Portland’s Eliot neighborhood. As a big cannabis fan, West was fascinated to learn about Jayne’s full lineup of flower, edibles, cartridges and concentrates.

Crissle and her local hosts share a toast at Jamaica House in North Portland.
Crissle and her local hosts share a toast at Jamaica House in North Portland.

As an extra surprise, a High Five Tour Bus was waiting outside to take the group on a fantastic voyage to the Columbia River Gorge. On the bus, Crissle was riding high with Tiara Darnell, who was named Oregon’s Best Budtender in 2017 by Leafly. While driving through the stunning gorge, Darnell and West talked in-depth about the role of women in color in cannabis culture. After a few selfies at the historic Vista House, they visited Multnomah Falls, where West — exclaiming that she “had never seen a waterfall this big!” before — allowed the waterfall to mist her face while she grinned for a photo.

That evening, West and the On She Goes team were ready for a hearty dinner by the fire at Almafi’s Italian Restaurant on Northeast Fremont Street. The women were greeted by Almafi’s owner, Kiauna Floyd, who recommended that they get loose on the restaurant’s signature sangria and indulge in tender meatballs and cheesy wood-fired pizza.

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After dinner (and three carafes of sangria later), the group was primed for cocktails and dancing at the all-inclusive CAKE PDX party at Killingsworth Dynasty in North Portland. While moving to the dope sounds of DJ Automaton and engaging with other partygoers, Crissle West changed her mind about Portland’s lack of diversity. “There’s not a whole lot of diversity — but there is some, and I see that you just have to find it,” she said.

The next morning, following their night of dancing, the group headed to Deadstock Coffee in Portland’s Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. Owner Ian Williams helped them wake up with carefully curated lattes with topped with sneakerhead art.

woman smiling holding a cup of coffee
Crissle West shimmies after taking a sip of coffee at Deadstock.

With caffeine in their systems, they traveled to beautiful Silver Falls State Park, 55 miles (89 km) south of Portland. Despite it being the furthest thing from her comfort zone, West fully committed to the 3-mile (4.8 km) hike — even getting up close and personal with every beautiful waterfall she encountered.

Later, the group sat down for an authentic Jamaican meal at Jamaica House in North Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood. They devoured oxtails, curry chicken and jerk chicken freshly smoked on the grill by owner Simba Puma. Fully fed and looking to relax, they let their muscles rest in the saltwater soaking pool at the Crystal Hotel. There, they recapped their hiking adventure and restored themselves for the next day’s activities.

After two days of adventure and partying, it was time for Sunday brunch at Abbey Creek Vineyard in North Plains, west of Portland. The dynamic owner and host, Bertony Faustin, treated them to a buffet-style brunch and a tasting of wines, from white to red to rosé. The winery made them feel at home by letting them soak up the summer sun on the back patio with a few extra glasses of chilled rosé.

The last stop of West’s trip through the Rose City took the group to the black-owned and -operated Stoopid Burger in Northeast Portland. After “wining” down, they treated themselves to cheeseburgers piled high, French fries and a delectable peach cobbler.

West’s visit to Portland — although brief — was full and memorable. During the On She Goes podcast (season 2, episode 10), West let the On She Goes team and their audience know she “had a great time. The flight is terrible, but I still feel like I need to come back.”

Nature, Culture & Relaxation