North Portland: the seedy part of Portland by reputation. Now I'm not saying that any part of Portland was ever ‘scary' by big city standards... I mean this is the city where even the thugs need coffee before they get about their business. But North Portland was always considered the ‘affordable' area. That ‘cute bungalow... tree lined streets... boarded up storefront' kind of charm. Then came gentrification which was shortly followed by the rather irritatingly trendy name ‘NoPo'.
This is my home. I have never had such a crush on an area. It oozes character and charm and craziness and diversity.
Below are 100 reasons why I love my North Portland (in a sort of quasi alphabetical order).
Adidas World Campus: Reborn from the old Kaiser Hospital facility is the Adidas World Campus. This facility can be credited for bringing in quite a few restaurants to the Overlook neighborhood.
Affordable Housing: This is not for everybody's comfort level. But affordable housing is important in an area where many of the old time residents feel like they're being pushed out due to increased housing costs (see: gentrification). The Housing Authority of Portland has helped out The New Columbia with some green building features and the new Humboldt Gardens.
Auto Mechanics & Repairs: It amazes me that I have found not one, but two great mechanics in the area. GerBrock Automotive on Killingsworth has the most honest folks I've ever encountered at a car specialist and they don't mind if I bring my dogs into the office. Emerald's Automotive has been great to work with and the people are genuinely nice. For lack of a better place to put lawn mower shops, I'm going to put the two I've been to here. Jay's Lawn mower and chainsaw has that gritty down home feel while Gary -n - Johns Lawn Mowers and More is clean as a whistle (likely because they don't do in house repairs).
Churches & Temples: I love church architecture. My dream has always been to live in one. The Red Sea Church is a new church in the hood. It has quickly grown acclaim due to its draw of young folks. The other church that I will note is the Bethel Lutheran Church. I love its old school architecture and it has what appear to be apartments in the back. The one thing I always note when I walk by them is that there is a neon sign with the word ‘Namaste' which is a Hindi greeting which translates something to the effect of ‘I respect you'. How cool is that? The last religious structure I'm adding has been out of commission and vacant since it severely burned in the mid-80's. It is the North Portland Masonic Temple which was recently purchased from Ethos by McMenamins but still sits boarded up. I know it will be reliving its grandeur again one day.
Delta Park - This place sounded like it was much more interesting until it flooded in 1948. Back then, it was Vanport and included housing barracks, an amusement park and plenty of shipyard history. Today it houses a strip mall, a defunct horse race track and the noisy Portland International Speedway
Education: North Portland Library which just completed a $20,000,000 renovation a couple of years back is gorgeous! The library is said to be haunted to boot. Speaking of upgrades and renovations, the Portland Community College Cascade Campus has grown to at least twice the capacity as it was a decade ago and has given a boost to the Piedmont neighborhood. Ethos Music Center is a newer occupant in North Portland but has received several national awards for its efforts to thwart the lack of music in the areas public schools. The University of Portland sits proudly on the Willamette Bluff.
Entertainment: The St. Johns Cinemas is a turn of the century small two story theatre. If you don't like the movie playing at St. Johns, you can walk over to the St. Johns Theater & Pub. Both serve up brew and pizza with your $2-$5 movie. Much to the dismay of the school teachers that work across the street, The Fat Cobra Video & Arcade just moved in a couple of years ago. If you'd rather see live action, you can go to the Dancin' Bare. For healthy entertainment try Yoga Shala North or the Blue Sky Wellness Studio
Environmental: I'm always pleasantly surprised that even with our cities grand emphasis on recycling, the North Portland Recycling Center is always busy. The Rebuilding Center keeps Portland recycling trash and sells it as someone else's treasure. I could peruse the isles of used toilets and hinges for hours. Sadly, I'm not joking. I love this place (which is their motto).
Historic Places: I'm enamored with The Palmer House , the Victorian House offers a venue for weddings and a spectacular Christmas light display. The McMenamin brothers have purchased several historic buildings and turned them into restaurants, pubs and venues in North Portland. The Chapel Pub is a recently converted funeral home and crematorium (I still can't bring myself to order a pizza there), the White Eagle Saloon which has a cozy atmosphere, live music and a sleeping hostel above the restaurant. The St. Johns Pub and Theatre used to be a world fair pavilion. You must visit the ‘dome room' there which is made of wood. The Kenton Firehouse serves as a meeting hall for Kenton and surrounding neighborhoods. The Interstate Firehouse has been turned into an art gallery and performing arts center . One of Portland's very first ‘Street of Dreams', Gainsborough Subdivision was built in North Portland. These homes are much more modest than those in today's modern houses, but their charm cannot be denied. The Falcon Apartments have been updated and the basement set up with artist studios. And if mid-century kitch is more your style, you best bring your camera to the corner of North Denver and Interstate Avenue to snap a photo of Portland's only Paul Bunyan statue.
Hotels & Motels: Jantzen Beach and Delta Park have run of the mill hotels, but nothing beats the charm of the optional rent-per-hour motels on Interstate Avenue. Before MAX took up two+ lanes of Interstate Avenue, it was a haven for weary truckers and Interstate Avenue was once littered with semi-trucks while their occupants snoozed at places like The Viking and The Monticello Motel. There are also budget hostel-like rooms available at The White Eagle.
Jantzen Beach - This island is most frequented by weary Vancouver commuters who would rather shop than sit in their rush hour traffic. It is home to a small slurry of business offices, condos, upscale houses and houseboats. Still, I think the best part of the island is the historic CW Walker Carousel.
Non-Profits: The Blackrose Collective Bookstore & Freecycle
Parks: I know no other name for it than the unofficial name ‘The Dog Bowl'. With graffiti-ed out ‘No off leash dogs' sign, it is the perfect to take your pooch... off leash. Located under the most beautiful bridge in the world, the St. Johns Bridge is Cathedral Park. In the park you can catch the (now annual) Portland Pirates Festival at the end of summer. And in late August you can participate in the Providence Bridge Pedal that's last leg is over the St. Johns Bridge. Peninsula Park & Rose Garden is nice anytime of the year, but when the roses are in bloom, it is simply spectacular. Toggling between North and Northwest Portland is also Sauvie Island Wildlife Preserve... its like heaven with a pumpkin patch and corn ‘maze'.
Restaurants: Oh my... where to start -
Breakfasts - If you like kitschy breakfasts with random chicken and car art throughout, try Beaterville, fast diner food with a diverse ever-friendly community feel there is the Overlook Restaurant. Looking for something lighter? How about coffee the new Blend? Or Madrona Hill Café. I'm under the impression that the Albina Press is a spot to see and be seen. And what food genius thought up selling waffles out of a cart? You must try Flavour Spot!
Lunch - Mio Sushi is in my humble opinion one of the freshest most affordable sushi places in town, Fire on the Mountain Hippies and hot wings... with something like 50 different sauces, how could you not love this place? DiPrima Dolce bakery has sandwiches great for lunch and boy do the locals know it. Eddies Flat Iron Pizza and absolute favorite!, Eddie's was born out of an old ice cream distribution building that still run the areas ice cream trucks. Missippi Pizza also has some pretty tasty pizza coupled with live music throughout the week. The ever famous Widmer Brewery ... mmmm hefeweizen! . The surprisingly placed hoity toity Mint Restaurant which honestly, I've never been to, but it used to be this great little Ethopian Restaurant that served honey beer. Thai Ginger Previously El Burrito Loco, Boulevard Tacos Por Que No? have $2.50 tacos to die for.
Dinner - Sal's Italian Kitchen serves the best East Coast style pizza in town according to our finicky pizza eating NJ friends. Encantu has actual New Mexican cuisine (although with a grandmother residing in NM, I can tell you it tastes nothing like Furr's Cafeteria! Whew!), Equinox ... I would have never believed that tacos with mashed potatoes are so delicious! I was skeptical when the opulent Roux went in down the street. I thought our quaint neighborhood was not ready for the price tag, but the food more than makes up for it and it's a pleasure to have them around. The Lovely Hula Hands falls under the same ‘opulent' category. It has once again proven me wrong. Portlanders love their fine foods!
Desserts: Pix Patisserie is a dessert specialty shop with scrumptious beer floats!
Drinks - Alibi; one of the last honest tiki bars around and what goes with tiki? Karaoke of course! On weekends, Sagittarius serves up a mid-morning ‘hangover helper' drink and all breakfast dishes are served with tator tots! Similar to Sagittarius vibe (but with more Bloody Marys and less tots) is The Florida Room. If you're missing the massive grease and PBR, you can jump over to Yorgo's Bar & Grill . I believe there are three liquor stores in NoPo. Although I do like the cleanliness and suggestions I have gotten from the Kenton Liquor Store, my favorite will always be the Interstate Liquor Store with thanks to the lovely folks that work there.
Shopping: North Portland Tool Library. Oh my gosh, how cool is this? If you are a NoPo resident, you can go check out a tool... for free! Absolutely brilliant. New Seasons , You can pick up the most obscure movies at Videorama (and be sure to go to the Flavour Spot cart in the parking lot while your there... see above under restaurants). Neil Kelly . The Mississippi district has a frenzy of new shops going in. One of my new favorites is Salty's Dog & Cat Shop. Not only is the name enticing, but it's like walking into someone's living room when you visit The Naked Sheep Knit Shop. A recent addition to NoPo's shopping scene is Blue Moon Camera & Machine which specializes in archaic photo supplies (ie: film only) and paper developing. Regardless of their Luddite attitudes towards the digital age, this store is busy.
Swan Island - It's the industrial area of Portland controlled by The Port of Portland. Where the trains and ships pass and the semi-trucks come and go. On a still night, the not so distant sounds of train and ship whistles are strangely lulling.
Sauvie Island & Linnton- Now the locals will say that these two areas are not part of North Portland or not (they might even call them North of Portland, but they are both still in the designated city limits). Linnton is officially on the west side of the Willamette River and Sauvie Island is straddled by the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, but both have a sort of North Portland feel. My final argument is that the St. Johns Sentinel Newspaper (the official St Johns Portland newspaper) delivers to and reports about these areas, therefore they must be part of NoPo.
Newspapers: (not in alphabetical order, but continued thought from above) In fact, North Portland boasts two newspapers and now a magazine. The fore-mentioned St Johns Sentinel in addition to the Skanner and Just Out. There are also several neighborhood papers that are delivered by volunteers to local residence.
Transportation: There is some sort of public consensus in Portland, that when MAX train reaches your area, the neighborhood is automatically deemed safer than it was before. With MAX about ten blocks from my house, but two Tri-Met routes within a block either direction, I still prefer the bus. In addition, Interstate 5 divided North Portland in 1917. Although it separates the neighborhood and destroyed a good number of houses, it does make this area easy access to just about anywhere in the metropolitan area... including Vancouver, Washington. The North Portland Bike Works (which could go under non-profit) is a great place for people to learn how to fix bikes or volunteer in exchange for one of their own. If you'd like to take the simple route of cash = goods, Weirs Bicycle Shop is an age old landmark.
Venues: Mississippi Studios has some of the best local and national artist come through its doors. It also has an incredible recording studio upstairs. The North Star Ballroom is owned by the daughter of Neil Kelly.
Veterinarians: This area seems to have more vets than you can throw a cat at and although all but one has been highly recommended to me, still my four legged family are true patrons of Companion Pet Clinic in St. Johns.
Well, believe it or not, I have surpassed 100 and that's after editing out some places. So if you haven't given North Portland a look lately, here are more than enough reasons why you should.