good hoods

Portland Hoods You Should Know

It's the best time to buy in years. Where should you be looking to spend your money and why?

By Ben Tepler, Conner Reed, Julia Silverman, Margaret Seiler, and Kyle Sosa April 1, 2020 Published in the April 2020 issue of Portland Monthly


The triangle slung below SE Powell Boulevard is delightfully Division-Street-20-years-ago Old Portland. This is Foster-Powell—defiantly not FoPo—with haunts like the neon-signed George Morlan Plumbing (“The Water Heater King”), Devils Point strip club (home of Stripperaoke on Sundays), Variety Records (looking for five copies of Men in Black on VHS?), and probably the best dive-bar-per-resident ratio in the entire city.

Portland Mercado

Image: Ben Tepler

But New Portland is beginning to creep in. Median home prices vaulted an impressive 41 percent between 2015 and 2019, and with it, a wealth of fresh spots to eat and drink. For five years, Portland Mercado has been a place to find typically suburbs-only imports, excellent chorizo to chile-coated sweets, an always-changing food cart scene, and freshly roasted Sandino coffee. But it’s also a beacon for Latino entrepreneurship and culture, from bumping Día de los Muertos celebrations to an annual Brazilian Festival. Pizza is a thing in Foster-Powell, with no fewer than five newcomers since 2019. The best and only Neapolitan pie can be found at Pizzeria Otto, a second location with a crazy-good $6 margherita deal before 5 p.m. or after 8 p.m.

Not in the mood for a sticky dive? 5 & Dime offers stellar, affordable cocktails, weekend DJ sets, and consistent, high-def Blazers coverage. Should you go a bit overboard, Rose VL, a sister to legendary Vietnamese noodle shop Hà VL, serves up the best brunch hangover bowl in the neighborhood, its turmeric yellow noodles topped with sesame rice crackers.

Another sign of change in the hood: Navid Sam Nayebi and Deedee Clark's Bread & Roses, a sweet little market with organic produce, an affordable, tightly curated selection of local producers, and Friday wine tastings.

Foster-Powell also now has Foster Outdoor, a perfect fusion of funky consignment and new gear from Next Adventure veterans Mike Turner and Sarah Wagener. It’s not a shiny, concrete anchor tenant for some out-of-state condo developer; it’s two locals bringing their yen and some sweet Carhartts to a neighborhood ready for growth. —BT

Rose VL

Image: Karen Brooks

Oregon City

In America’s ongoing roast of the suburbs—endemic to most of our cities and all of our films directed by white men in the ’90s—Oregon City has it especially rough. There’s the fact that some locals call it “the OC” as an irony-drenched nod to sunnier shores down south; there’s the line about how the last interesting thing to come to Oregon City was the Oregon Trail.

Naive Melody

There’s also (it turns out) lots to love. Ingrid’s Scandinavian Food, formerly a cherished food cart on Division, serves up soul-mending lefse and bright, sub-10-dollar Scandi cocktails at its brick-and-mortar. It’s near a formidable row of restaurants, but it’s worth venturingup the hill to Singer Hill Café for well-prepared breakfast sandwiches in an airy setting surrounded by plumes of foliage.

Back near the river are Naive Melody, a new vintage shop that rivals many a storefront on Hawthorne and Alberta, and the Canemah Bluff Nature Park, with an easy mile-ish walking trail, gorgeous views of the Willamette, and a play area for anyone with kids in tow.

For even more views, ride the Oregon City Municipal Elevator, the only city-owned-and-operated outdoor lift in the United States (and one of only a handful in the world), which takes you 130 feet up a basalt cliff to the top of a bluff. The ride takes just 15 seconds, but since it’s free, it doesn’t take long for the ROI to outpace a single trip on the Tower of Terror.

The 2019 median home value for sales in the OC was a healthy $435,000—up 9 percent from the year before and forecasted to climb again in the coming year. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s still significantly lower than other nearby burbs West Linn and Lake Oswego, making Oregon City a lot more than the reward you get for surviving dysentery during a round of Oregon Trail. —CR


This long, rectangular slice of inner Southeast that stretches from the Willamette River all the way to SE 50th Avenue takes in the
quintessential starter Portland neighborhoods. Tourists making their first foray to the city often wash up on lovably scruffy
Hawthorne Boulevard, and the side streets teem with apartments for renters looking for a toehold in the city. Plenty of people love it so much they never leave, so when a house does go up for sale there’s some serious competition: prices in Buckman jumped 15 percent between 2018 and 2019, while Sunnyside showed off 12 percent gains, even while prices in surrounding neighborhoods dipped.

Movie Madness

Sunnyside resident Lisa Prince says most Saturday mornings, she and her family make their way to Rocking Frog Café, an unassuming coffeehouse on SE Belmont where six made-to-order doughnuts—flavors include cinnamon, maple and matcha—will set you back $12. (Rocking Frog also has “a proper chai, served in a hippie ceramic mug,” the UK born Prince says.)

After the doughnut run, wander over to the historic Lone Fir Cemetery, the largest patch of greenspace in the two neighborhoods, for some historical reconnaissance. Not only is this the final resting place for many pioneering women’s suffragists and city founders, it’s also home to some of Portland’s grandest trees, without the crowds at the arboretum across town in Washington Park. Keep a sharp eye out for a 100-foot incense cedar, and the cemetery’s namesake Douglas fir. If it’s raining, tour the fun-size Pacific Northwestiana on the nine-hole indoor mini-golf course at the Birdie Time Pub, including a replica of the Fremont Bridge and an intricately carved Sasquatch.


Image: Mike Novak

Just up the road is Movie Madness, a cult video store that was brought under the umbrella of the nonprofit Hollywood Theatre a few years ago with help from a Kickstarter backed by plenty of neighbors. Rent a movie there today, and you’ll often find it’s tagged with the name of a donor. The Hollywood has opened the Movie Madness Miniplex in the back, with a rotating screening-room series that includes cartoons every Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

The neighborhood has more than its share of great little shops—Prince singles out Palace on 22nd and Burnside for being more “cutting edge” than is the norm for Portland—less Pacific Northwest–approved neutral palettes, more pops of color from global sources—and Starflower, on Hawthorne Boulevard, run by a Sunnyside K-8 mom whose flower arrangements approach architectural sculpture standards. Nearby Farmhouse Kitchen, the PDX branch of a hit San Francisco Thai food temple, offers a delightful patio and unfussy platters served family-style.

Farther down toward the northern fringes of Buckman, the neighborhood transforms when the sun goes down into a chiller alternative to the constant street party across the river in Old Town. A string of iconic bars, dives and otherwise, line lower Burnside—try the frothy cocktails at Hey Love, live music at the dimly lit RonToms or get sweaty dancing at the Bossanova Ballroom. —JS


The section of Northeast Portland comprising the King, Vernon, and Sabin neighborhoods has seen a seemingly endless churn of change in recent years, with low-slung corner markets replaced by multistory apartment buildings and housing prices that keep creeping higher (though prices for Vernon’s prewar bungalows cooled a bit this past year). But MLK (the former Union Avenue) is still home to plenty of multidecade Portland businesses, including Geneva’s Sheer Perfection Barber and Beauty Salon, Ethiopian-Somali standby Horn of Africa (which began life in the ’90s as a booth at Saturday Market), and Rhythm Traders, founded by a Lewis & Clark grad who fell in love with Ghanaian drumming traditions.

Rhythm Traders

Even at some of the newer spots, there are nods to the past. There are keys embedded in the bar at Killingsworth’s cozy, fireplace-warmed Keys Lounge, which used to be locksmith shop Walnut Park Lock and Key. The Bantu Island Food Carts sit on the Alberta lot that once held Bantu Towing Co.

There’s plenty of eating and drinking to do, at spots that would appear in a New Portland theme park—Salt & Straw ice cream, Pine State Biscuits, Bunk Sandwiches—as well as more singular experiences, like a ginger hot toddy and a slice at Random Order Pie Bar or the criminally cheap Taco Tuesday pastor special at Pig Patas, stuffed with bright-red marinated pork fresh from a pineapple-topped vertical spit. Alberta is also a stealth reader’s paradise, with the arty Ampersand and Monograph just blocks apart, as well as used nook Melville and kid-focused Green Bean, where an old cigarette machine has been converted into a puppet dispenser and display case for magnets with declarations like “YAY! LIBRARIANS.” —MS

Rose City Park

Let’s start up top: The northern border of this friendly slice of town belongs to NE Fremont, famously stroller-heavy and increasingly hip. (Stop by the plant-filled Cupboard Goods for a sweet selection of ceramics—if you’re lucky, you can snag a spot in one of the calligraphy workshops.) Farther south, Sandy Boulevard slashes diagonally northward, home to local rites-of-passage Ambassador Lounge, Pho An, and Clyde’s Prime Rib (yes, there’s the eponymous prime rib, but the dancing for the over-30 crowd is the real draw), Nearby,
peruse one of Portland's best curated selections of graphic novels at Cosmic Monkey Comics, then hit neighboring Buddha Chocolate for almond butter cups and 70 percent cacao drinking chocolate, a perfect midafternoon pick-me-up.

Dog lovers from around the city travel for the fully fenced areas at Normandale Park, an under-the-radar greenspace that thoughtfully offers separate areas for big and little dogs to roam.

Nearby, Rose City Futsal is where you take your inner child (or your real kids, depending on your life stage) for indoor soccer.

Don’t sleep on the Barley Pod, NE Halsey’s largely unsung food cart pod whose lineup ranks among the city’s best: it’s home to the second location of beloved SE brewery Baerlic, ramen outpost Hapa PDX, and Venezuelan cart La Arepa, among other standouts. —MP

Pearl District

The Pearl is Portland’s resident glamazon, primped and coiffed to match its well-heeled residents. After flying high for years, the area has been hurt by the downturn in the high-end condo market; prices there were down 10 percent in 2019 compared to the year before, and chain stores hold down much of the real estate on the district’s western fringes.

Still, there are plenty of gems to be found, fueled by morning coffee and the killer breakfast menu at Sisters Coffee Company or Moroccan mint tea and scones made fresh daily at Ovation Coffee & Tea by the family matriarch, known to regulars as “Momma Dee.” The shop is at the base of The Fields Park, one of the city’s nicest open greenspaces that begs for flying a kite on a windy day and boasts views of the Fremont Bridge.

Pink Rabbit

Image: Mike Novak

If a cozy nook and page-turning read is more your jam, hop a streetcar to Powell’s City of Books, a book lover’s mecca that spans more than 68,000 square feet. A few blocks up Burnside, Everyday Music is a vinyl and CD haven, where artsy Gen Z’ers can experience the magic of crackling Zeppelin records and anyone can try to sell their currently-gathering-dust-in-the-basement collections. There are endless opportunities to overdraw your back account: try House of Lolo for women's clothing in buttery silk fabrics, MadeHere PDX for local artisan and designer pieces, or Cult for novelty items from Japanese vinyl to art books to Clockwork Orange figurines.

When the lights go down, find yourself at Botanist’s underground bar for an evening of signature cocktails and soothing plant décor, or party at Pink Rabbit, where the drinks are inspired by ’90s rockers—order the kimchi fried rice to soak up the potables.

If you’re hunting for a more upscale dinner option, try the cozy, candlelit Arden Wine Bar & Kitchen. A stool at the bar lands a front-row view of the open kitchen, where the chefs crank out handmade pastas. —KS


This quiet corner of Southwest Portland doesn’t give up its secrets easily. Sidewalks are few and far between, and its edges bleed into suburban jungle via Beaverton and Tigard. There are fewer foursquares and Tudors out this way, too. Many of the homes are suburban ranch style, with prices in the $400K and $500K range, on par with citywide averages.

But if you know where to look, some of the city’s nicest green spaces await, along with peaceful cafés and a straight-outta-Copenhagen temple to all things Scandi.

Locals start their days at Maplewood Coffee & Tea, which offers savory porridge and avo toast—watch for its occasional five-course, globally inspired dinner pop-ups—or at Driftwood Coffee, with a sweet play corner for smaller customers.

In-the-know neighbors skip circling for parking at Tryon Creek and instead walk their dogs at never-too-busy Woods Memrial
Natural Area
, bisected by a peaceful creek and with more than a mile's worth of hiking trails on
offer. Nearby, find the Oregon Fencing Alliance, training ground for Oregon Olympian Mariel Zagunis, the first American to ever win gold in modern fencing.

Nordia House

Ingvill Montgomery, the designer behind Hovden Formal Farm Wear who lives in the area with her family, recommends the Barbur Boulevard branch of World Foods for interesting, Euro-sourced foodie finds and Nordia House, the serene gallery/event space that now hosts a branch of Astoria’s Finn Ware, for all your Marimekko and Moomin needs. (Pro tip: In-house café Broder Söder is the only outpost of the Broder empire with a section of the menu dedicated to the foods of Iceland—kartöflusalat, anyone? That’s curried potato salad with dill skyr dressing for the uninitiated.)

Over on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, The Lodge at Cascade Brewing is the renamed home base for the sour beer pioneer that draws crowds on a Friday night for elevated pub fare. —JS

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