The answer to your question is, “no.” You will not be far removed from the activity of Portland’s downtown and robust neighborhoods if you decide to locate in North Portland. With the MAX trains running throughout and various bike paths for your cardio-convenience, North Portland is always just a brisk ride from the action, while confidently possessed of its own charm and distinctive amenities.
Another corridor on the rise, North Williams is a frequent destination for foodies on the fly. Here resides Tasty N Sons, a frequently busy bistro with one of the most dedicated breakfast followings in the entire city. Diners don’t mind the wait in order to dig into steak and eggs with a cornmeal pancake or an English breakfast with baked beans over eggs that has local Anglophiles singing its praises. Situated in the same restored warehouse building, known as “the Hub,” is Lincoln, another acclaimed restaurant where Jenn Louis, Food & Wine’s Best New Chef of 2012 is working the burners, turning out in-demand specialties like sturgeon with prosciutto and chickpeas and ribeye steak with braised leeks.
Portland is not exactly a hotbed of Jewish delicatessens, but East Coast visitors have added their seal of approval to Kenny & Zuke’s Deli Bar, where you can snag some killer pastrami—and enjoy a well-stirred martini.
Coffee connoisseurs swear by the beans at Ristretto Roasters (also located in the Hub) to get them through another day, and serious ale aficionados can take their pick between Hopworks Urban Brewery’s “bike bar” with its cool outdoor beer garden, and longtime resident Lompoc Brewing’s Fifth Quadrant, a name that refers to North Portland’s unfounded reputation as a hastily added fifth to the city’s four primary destinations.
If beer isn’t your bag, you might try the Box Social, a quaint neighborhood bar that bills itself as a “drinking parlour” with a long list of artisan cocktails for the adventurous imbiber.
Between meals, residents get their downward dog on at Yoga Shala, to ensure that mind and body are as healthy as their appetites. And guess what? It’s in the Hub! Now that’s what we call convenient.
For the cherry on the sundae, there will soon be a New Seasons opening at the corner of Fremont and N Williams. What else could you need?
Lincoln, 3808 N Williams, 3808 N Williams, 503-288-6200, lincolnpdx.com
Kenny & Zuke’s Deli Bar, 3901 N Williams, 503-287-0782, kennyandzukes.com
Ristretto Roasters, 3808 N Williams, 503-288-8667, ristrettoroasters.com
Hopworks Bike Bar, 3947 N Williams, 503-287-MALT, hopworksbeer.com
Yoga Shala, 3808 N Williams, 503-963-9642, yogashalapdx.com
The fast-evolving North Mississippi neighborhood intersects with North Williams, so chances are, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in one, you can surely find it in the other. The two areas are easy to navigate and make for a nice leisurely ramble with an infinity of shop-browse opportunities
One of the best music venues in town is Mississippi Studios, an intimate theater space with superb sound and acoustics ideally suited to both singer-songwriters and DJ dance nights. If you’re a fan who actually wants to hear the music, this place will be on your regular itinerary.
Indeed, the nightlife on North Mississippi is especially vibrant and its substantial number of bars and restaurants make it a sought-after destination. Por Que No? taqueria is a constant hive of activity, the perfect spot to bring a bunch of friends for their amazing chorizo tacos, a tasty margarita, and just one more round of chips and salsa. Miss Delta is an elegant eatery specializing in Southern comfort food and brazen cocktails, the latter of which often come served in a Mason jar. If it’s an order of gooey mac & cheese you crave, this is the place.
The Mississippi Pizza Pub and its adjacent Atlantis Lounge, proffers both impressive pizza (including a yummy gluten-free variety) for the whole family as well as a snug nautical-themed bar with civilized live music for the restless wanderer. If you’re in the mood for a little Old World sophistication, look no further than Prost, a German tavern and restaurant so welcoming that you might find yourself toasting with a whole new group of friends by evening’s end.
The shopping here is a veritable wonderland. Furniture, fish tanks, comic books, and vinyl records can easily be found among the nooks and crannies, and for the style conscious, Chapter Four, Backtalk, Jet Clothing and Gypsy Chic are but four of the clothing stores creating fashionable buzz in this part of town. Even amidst the conspicuous consumption, perhaps no other local business encompasses Portland’s sensibly sustainable state of mind like the ReBuilding Center. It’s a huge sprawl of wood, furniture, appliances, plumbing equipment, and basically anything you will ever need to efficiently refurbish your hacienda, including classes and workshops that will demonstrate how you hold a hammer.
Por Que No, 3524 N Mississippi, 503-467-4149, porquenotacos.com
Miss Delta, 3950 N Mississippi, 503-287-7629, missdeltapdx.net
Mississippi Pizza Pub & Atlantis Lounge, 3552 N Mississippi, 503-288-3231, mississippipizza.com
Prost, 4237 N Mississippi, 503-954-2674, prostportland.com
ReBuilding Center, 3625 N Mississippi, 503-331-1877, rebuildingcenter.org
Wheeling down North Interstate Avenue, one can’t help but notice remnants of a Portland that used to be. A New Seasons store stands alongside midcentury motels and bustling old-timey bars with flashing neon that light up the night, none with a bigger glow than the Alibi, Portland’s most venerated tiki bar. You can eyeball an ocean of Polynesian knickknacks and order a round of Mai Tai’s while waiting your turn to take the mike at one of the most colorful (and competitive) karaoke scenes (seven nights a week) in the city. Or you can stake out a dark corner and whisper sweet nothings to your beloved.
Since tiki bars aren’t known for their cuisine, the hungry reveler is advised to check out the sauce at Fire on the Mountain, a barbecue pit with fiery wings, tangy ribs, and tasty house-brewed beer. For a more international flavor, see what’s on special at Miho Izakaya, a congenial Japanese pub with an inexpensive rotating menu—and it’s all good—of noodle dishes, soups, salads, seafood, and more. Also on hand is Pause, a comfy bar for the young and restless that boasts bodacious burgers (including a terrific veggie variety) and stiff drinks. For coffee and something sweet, nearby North Albina is home to Sweedeedee, a cafe and coffee shop where the smell of baking bread has been known to cause passing pedestrians to miss urgent appointments so that they may linger for a while.
The Alibi, 4024 N Interstate, 503-287-5335, alibiportland.com
Fire on the Mountain, 4225 N Interstate, 503-280-9464, portlandwings.com
Miho Izakaya, 4057 N Interstate, 503-719-6152, mihopdx.com
Pause, 5101 N Interstate, 971-230-0705
Sweedeedee, 5202 N Albina, 503-946-8087, sweedeedeepdx.tumblr.com
There’s nothing wrong with living on the outskirts of town as long as we’re talking about St Johns, another bastion of blue-collar pride in North Portland. Here, houses dare to be affordable and once a year all the citizens gather for the St Johns’ NoFest, a music and arts fair of legendary proportions. St Johns is home to the Fixin’ To, a Southern-fried bar with potent drinks, Frito pie, and a spaciously trailer park-style patio. Be sure and order plenty of Ro-Tel, a down-home favorite delicacy of diced green chilies, tomatoes and cheese thoughtfully blended together in an ordinary microwave over. For that authentic down-home feel, wash it down with a sweet tea.
Occidental Brewing, one of Portland’s most under-the-radar breweries, is located in St Johns, and it’s very much worth your while to investigate, especially if you’re a fan of Euro-style beers such as koslch, hefeweizen and alt. Ask any brew believer about Occidental and you’ll get an unqualified thumbs up. In the mood for a movie to go with your beer? Truck over to St Johns Pub and Theater, the handsome and historically significant domed building that contains the neighborhood McMenamins outpost, where burgers, pizza, beer and second-run movies are the order of the day.
Occidental Brewing, 6635 N Baltimore Ave, 503-719-7102, occidentalbrewing.com
St Johns Pub and Theater, 8203 N Ivanhoe St, 503-283-8520, mcmenamins.com
Don’t overlook the Overlook neighborhood, if you’re curious about “Old Portland.” A casual cruise down North Interstate reveals the flickering of neon at once-glamorous motor inns like The Palms and The Westerner. Projecting the same faded elegance as the Fremont Street area of Las Vegas, the Overlook is still hopping on a Friday night as MAX train riders disembark at the North Interstate transit stop to try their luck at the Alibi Tiki Lounge, Portland’s most venerable tropical watering hole. Waves of Mai tais, Zombies, and Singapore Slings issue from the busy bar but the main attraction is a very competitive karaoke scene kicking off every night at eight. Rank amateurs are encourage to seek fame elsewhere; the Alibi is for more polished acts.
Famished visitors can tame their hunger at nearby Miho Izakaya, a friendly and welcoming Japanese pub with plenty of room and a chalkboard full of intriguing specials. Too exotic? Overlook is also home to Fire on the Mountain, where you can tear into some of the hottest wings in town. Pause Kitchen and Bar is a hip, happening spot for twentysomethings in need of a big juicy burger. And you can get your healthy groceries at the local New Seasons.
Miho Izakaya, 4057 N Interstate Ave, 503-719-6152, mihopdx.com
Pause Kitchen and Bar, 5101 N Interstate Ave, 971-230-0705, facebook.com/pages/Pause
Fire on the Mountain, 4225 N Interstate Ave, 503-280-9464, portlandwings.com