Where to Live Now

Neighborhood Guide: Alberta and Killingsworth

Murals for days, treasured Black-owned businesses, and bookworms’ delights

By Margaret Seiler

Green Bean Books on NE Alberta Street

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 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. 

The entrance to Melville Books on NE Alberta

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, 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.”