More than 100 years ago, leafy St. Johns existed as a small, quiet town at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. Today, the quaint North Portland neighborhood retains its small-town charm with its many locally owned shops, pubs and cafés. Pack a picnic blanket for an afternoon in Cathedral Park, cross the picturesque St. Johns Bridge and get ready to explore a lovely, lesser-known side of Portland.
Tucked away in the back of a Mexican grocery story and bakery, unassuming Taqueria Santa Cruz garners rave reviews from the city’s top foodies for its enormous, budget-friendly tacos and burritos, packed with authentic Mexican flavors.
Sunny Girasole takes wood-fired eats to sizzling heights by baking its pretzels, nachos, lasagna, cinnamon rolls and (of course) pizza in a 600-degree wood-fired oven. Another perennial pizza favorite, the Signal Station serves hand-slung pies inside a repurposed vintage gasoline station complete with a spacious patio.
Kruger’s Marketplace and Food Pod houses a handful of food carts proffering savory pies, clam chowder, beef brisket and eggy sandwiches — all of which pair perfectly with a drink at the St. Johns Beer Porch, a cozy, welcoming beer garden featuring live music and a dozen local brews. Stroll through the adjoining Kruger’s farm stand for just-picked produce grown 7 short miles (11.3 km) away on Sauvie Island.
The menu at Brass Tacks Sandwiches showcases memorable meaty subs with clever names — think Turkey it to the Limit and Salami to Introduce Myself — and hefty vegan heroes made with smoked seitan “ham” and white bean “meatballs.” Meat-free options also abound at Proper Eats, a plant-based café and market stocked with organic, vegan offerings.
Wake up at St. Johns Coffee Roasters, a cheery café brightened by colorful chalkboards and fragrant bouquets of fresh flowers. Peek through a window to see organic, fair trade beans being roasted on site in a sleek, blue, small-batch roaster.
One of the city’s most cherished green spaces, Cathedral Park attracts dog walkers, picnic goers, boaters and wedding parties. Mark your summer calendar for can’t-miss annual events like the free Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. Within an easy walk of the park, visitors can sample artisanal sweets from the Moonstruck Chocolate factory, and beat the heat with a summery kolsch in the airy tasting room of the Euro-inspired Occidental Brewing.
Find Frito pies, rockin’ bands and bourbon-spiked sweet tea at Southern-inspired bar and music venue The Fixin’ To. The patio of Leisure Public House, another favorite watering hole, hosts bocce ball and ping-pong matches late into the night. For a different kind of local brew, visit SOMA, a self-serve “kombucha speakeasy” featuring exotic rotating flavors.
St. Johns’ two top movie theaters were both built more than a century ago, but that doesn’t stop them from showing first-run films with classic style and cutting-edge cinematic technology Better yet, St. Johns Twin Cinema and McMenamins St. John Theater & Pub both serve local beer and buttery popcorn, along with hearty fare like pizza, tater tots and burgers.
Photographers from around the globe make pilgrimages to Blue Moon Camera and Machine to peruse a veritable museum of vintage film cameras and one of the world’s last remaining optical printing labs.
Score threads for the whole family along St. Johns’ lively Lombard Street: Women browse brand-name and designer pieces at Consign Couture; tykes score new toys and locally made tops at Coffee Kids; and gentlemen try on tailored jackets and lumberjack-grade plaid shirts at The Man’s Shop, a historic gem open since 1940.
Gorgeous window displays tempt shoppers at Etcetera, a woman-owned shop sporting well-curated gifts and home goods. Another go-to spot for browsing, Salty Teacup brims with whimsical jewelry, soap, housewares and art, all handmade by Portlanders.