Trader Joe's exterior

The first Trader Joe’s opened in Pasadena, California, in 1967, and Oregonians have been in on the action since our first TJ’s landed in Beaverton Town Square in 1995. As its locations have multiplied, locals have come to count on a certain sameness: that familiar font, those tiki-themed staff shirts, the superior peanut butter cups,  the slightly disturbing “international” house brands (which are at least less problematic than those old Newman’s Own labels showing Paul in a sombrero or carrying ninja swords), that funny trick of making junk food seem healthy, and a shopper’s tendency to leave with much more than they came in for but still having to go to another grocery to check off everything on their list. Oh, and what may be the most infuriating parking lots.  

But they’re not all the same, really. We checked out all the Trader Joe’s in and around Portland, and then ranked them on factors like size, the vibe of other customers, proximity to transit, and how much the parking lot makes you want to murder someone. 

1. Hillsboro: 2285 NW 185th Ave 

A plush-toy monkey in blue colonial garb and rainbow face mark on a grocery shelf

Moto the monkey at the Hillsboro Trader Joe’s

Rating 9/10 Just south of US 26 on 185th Avenue, the Hillsboro Trader Joe’s shares a parking lot with a children’s music school, a pho place, fro-yo and ice cream establishments, a boba tea shop, Five Guys, a Korean barbecue spot, the thrillingly named Nothing Bundt Cakes, and Amazing Japan Household, Snack, Bento & Gift. A full life can be lived without even venturing back onto 185th (which is served by TriMet 52, though crossing this major thoroughfare is no fun). If you do need more, this TJ’s is within a mile of a Safeway, a Target, a Whole Foods, and a Grocery Outlet. But you probably won’t need to hit a “regular” grocery afterward, because the shelves stay well-stocked here. Wide aisles with pass-throughs and end caps in the middle make shoppers feel less trapped than at some locations. Keep an eye out for Moto the Monkey, recently spotted in full colonial garb for the run-up to Thanksgiving. —MS 

2. Beaverton: 11753 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy

Rating: 8.5/10 Oregon’s very first TJ’s, the Beaverton store is above average in size but has an only average parking lot that doesn’t incite much violence. People might not always get out of your way when you’re trying to reach the cheese section, but the staff is super kind. In Beaverton Town Square (and home to store mascot Chip the Beaver), the store is so large and well stocked you shouldn’t need to go to another grocery, but it is right next to Fred Meyer and just down the road from Uwajimaya. It’s also just a short walk from the Red and Blue Line MAX stop, with has easy access to multiple bus routes. (It shares a parking lot with a Nothing Bundt Cakes, too! Bundt franchisees seem to gravitate to TJ's locations.) Overall, this location didn’t raise my blood pressure like other stores did, thanks to its chill vibe, convenient location, and blessedly average parking lot. —CH 

3. Southwest: 7215 SW Garden Home Rd  

Rating: 8/10 Opened right before Halloween, Portland’s newest Trader Joe’s is neatly organized with a great plant selection and super-helpful employees. Even as she shared the bad news about supply-chain issues affecting TJ’s dark-chocolate-covered caramels, an employee was kind enough to mourn their unavailability with me and point me in the direction of a sea salt–caramel–dark chocolate alternative. The substitute didn’t quite measure up but still helped to ease my pain. The newness of the store gives it an edge of excitement—it will be a while before jaded youngsters feel like they know all the usual hiding spots for store mascot Gigi the Gnome. There aren't a lot of bus routes here, but the parking lot isn’t frustrating. This location had the best plant selection of all the TJ’s I visited, and I ended up leaving with a brand-new ficus, a bundle of eucalyptus, and the sea salt caramels for under $20. —CH  

4. Southeast: 4715 SE César E. Chávez Blvd 

Rating: 8/10 Opened in the initial wave of Oregon Trader Joe’s in 1995, this spot is much larger than most other in-town ones. Mascot Powell the Owl shares its name with a nearby street, which adds a little sense of place. The parking lot isn’t a mess, aside from the occasional clueless drivers who park in the fire lane. We’ve seen the staffers here go above and beyond: when a customer was wandering around with her arms overfilled, a worker quickly brought a cart to her, unasked. The only downside to this location: a comparatively limited plant selection. —CH 

5. Vancouver: 305 SE Chkalov Dr 

A chalkboard with a gird of drawings of a sock monkey wearing face masks the wrong way and the words "How not to wear a mask, with Sox the monkey"

Rating 7.5/10 Seconds off I-205 at the Mill Plain exit and sandwiched between a Dollar Tree and a Party City, the lone Vancouver TJ’s is compact and efficient. The refrigerator cases start just steps from the entry, and there’s not much room to get distracted by impulse buys. In the tight footprint, shoppers—a mix of ages and punk-rock hair dye colors—aren’t all business, taking an extra minute to stock up on one thing you can't buy in Oregon grocery store: LIQUOR. (The vodka is smooth enough to drink but also cheap enough to pump up your pasta sauce.) The impressive wall art celebrates the Interstate and Burlington Northern Bridges, Fort Vancouver, and the downtown library, while (disappointingly generic but still cute) mascot Sox the Monkey demonstrates the right and wrong ways to wear a mask. Did the store not have everything you needed? There’s a Fred Meyer right across the street. —MS 

6. Clackamas: 9385 SE 82nd Ave 

A sign asking "Hey kids! Have you found our mascot Raja?" with a drawing of a cute kitten face; a stuffed-toy kitten on a grocery shelf with a Trader Joe's employee name tag that says Raja

Rating: 7/10 Guarded over by Raja the Kitten (the store’s plush-toy mascot, and not a real feline—don’t worry, allergy sufferers), the SE 82nd Avenue Trader Joe’s shares a parking lot with a Pizza Schmizza, which might be handy on the off-chance the store is out of frozen pizzas. (There’s also a Fred Meyer just to the north, and a Sportsman’s Warehouse a block south if you need some beef jerky.) Shoppers here seem to hustle in and out pretty quickly, so the store doesn’t feel crowded even though it’s on the smaller side. The store art is pretty generic aside from some nods to the Columbia River Gorge, but Raja is cute enough to make up for that. —MS 

7. Hollywood: 4121 NE Halsey St 

Rating: 6.5/10 Right by the Hollywood Transit Center, this midsize Trader Joe’s sees a lot of people coming straight from work, with a get-to-business attitude and ready to grab groceries and get home—they don’t even take the time to spot store mascot Holly the Hedgehog. (Holly replaced Sassy the Sasquatch, who returned to the forest to be among her own kind, we guess, if the end of Harry and the Hendersons is anything to go on.) The TJ’s-only parking lot is small and requires some tight turns, and can get really busy during peak hours. When it’s full (as it often is) there aren’t many parking spots available in the surrounding neighborhood, and circling the block is a nightmare with a lot of oddball intersections. Serving both Hollywood apartment dwellers and Laurelhurst manse owners, this shop has a larger-than-usual selection of houseplants, and the plants themselves are bigger and happier-looking than the ones I’ve seen at other TJ’s, especially the ficuses. I have a monstera from there that cost $6 and is thriving and getting huge, which makes me glad I didn’t buy a $40 one from the nursery. —KCH 

8. Northwest: 2122 NW Glisan St  

Rating: 6.5/10 This teeny TJ’s location checks all the boxes for the stereotypical store set-up: small with a high chance you’ll need to head to another store afterwards, filled with very kind and helpful employees, and attached to an infuriating parking lot. Still, despite being only as big as two convenience stores spliced together (so it's not too hard to find Norm the Gnome), it has a great plant selection, and I left with basil and rosemary plants I didn’t need but definitely wanted. What it lacks in space it makes up for in vibes, with nice employees and customers who let you pet their dogs. Drivers should aim for off times if they want to snag a parking spot, but the urban density is a huge plus for those on foot and transit, with NW 21st and 23rd Avenues just steps away, and a large Fred Meyer within walking distance. —CH 

9. Lake Oswego: 15391 SW Bangy Rd 

Rating: 6/10 It's not a shock that this location in one of the state's ritziest burgs boasts a larger wine selection than most and was filled with shoppers at 11 a.m. on a Thursday. The parking lot is packed but manageable. The store itself is in an odd location, sharing the lot with a BASCO Appliances store and Parklane Mattresses (it was a furniture store itself, before it opened as Oregon’s second Trader Joe’s in 1995), with an even odder entrance located on the back of the building. It’s a bit of a drive to another grocery store if you need one (bus access is not great), but this decent-size store is usually well stocked enough that you won’t need another stop, and is repped by a regionally appropriate mascot, Waffles the Sasquatch—CH 

10. Natural Grocers: 5055 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd 

Rating 3/10 For starters, this isn’t even a Trader Joe’s. When the California company was eyeing this parcel in connection with a city effort to add more retail to the MLK corridor, the brand became a stand-in for gentrification in what had once been the heart of Portland’s Black community After Trader Joe’s pulled out due to the controversy, a grocery chain with less name recognition ended up in the space, though passers-by (or anyone coming on the 6 or 72 TriMet lines) might not even know it’s there, with blank brick walls, a neighborhood mural, and an unrelated butcher shop being all that face the street. Once you find the door, get ready for a tight but varied produce section, a probiotic-packed dairy case, and a frozen selection similar to Trader Joe’s but with more brands. Are $20 wool socks, a weird wine aisle, books that question the usefulness of the polio vaccine, sustainable makeup, incense, psyllium husks, and colon cleanses serving the neighborhood better than a Trader Joe’s would have? Based on the paucity of customers observed over multiple visits, we rather think not. But, hey, great mushroom and kefir selection. —MS 

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