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Skip the Lines — In Portland, Go to Interurban for Brunch

Skip the Lines — In Portland, Go to Interurban for Brunch


This under-the-radar restaurant’s menu is being expanded

Boudin blanc is a standout of the new brunch menu.

Portland: The City That Brunches. Portland is famous for its numerous brunch spots, but most of them have an hour-long line on weekends. Luckily there are a number of excellent restaurants with lesser-known brunch menus; Interurban is one, and the menu is being expanded.

The new menu, built by chef John Henry, is full of affordable sweet and savory dishes, including “Grandpa’s Fried Chicken”—smoke-fried half game hen & house made biscuit with jalapeño butter and bourbon coffee brown-sugar syrup ($11); “Boudin Blanc” (pictured) —pork & chicken sausage, poached egg, fried-grits cake, creamed kale, leeks ($12); and “Buttermilk Poppy-Seed Pancakes” with lemon curd and powered sugar ($6) among many others.

The food is designed to pair with bar manager Jeffrey Seymour’s brunch cocktails. Eleven cocktails grace the menu, including morning classics such as the Corpse Reviver #2, a tantalizing mix of gin, lemon, Cocchi Americano, and Combier orange, with a touch of absinthe.

Brunch at Interurban is offered Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM – 2:30 PM. Dinner service begins at 3 PM and goes until 2 AM daily.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.


Four Square Blocks: Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — North Mississippi Avenue in Portland delivers a hipster experience as reliably as the rain. The street’s commercial district, which runs five blocks from North Fremont Street up to North Skidmore Street, has coffee-roasting equipment, saltwater aquariums, chandeliers made with recycled wine bottles, jewelry cast from animal sex organs and possibly the best corned beef hash ever fried.

My trek covered a bit more than half of that stretch, from North Failing Street to the far side of Skidmore. This allowed me to visit the landmarked John Palmer House, a wondrous Victorian heap-slash-events space, but barred me from entering the Meadow, a shop largely devoted to salt.

North Mississippi Avenue is so pure a distillation of Portland that it has become tourist bait so photogenic that it supplied locations for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild” and so close to parody that Paxton Gate, a natural-history-museumlike emporium selling all creatures stuffed and mounted, has appeared in not one but two seasons of “Portlandia.” (The shop also made a cameo in last week’s episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Jerry Seinfeld tells Fred Armisen, “I want to go to the heartbeat of Portland: the source, the core, the epicenter.” Then they pull up to Paxton Gate, where he buys a butterfly specimen.)

But while signposts identify the stretch as “Historic Mississippi,” you will have to scratch to find that history.

Settled mostly by Scandinavians and Germans in the late 1800s, the district — and the Boise-Eliot neighborhood to which it belongs — became heavily African-American by World War II. In 1919, the Portland Realty Board forbade its members to sell property to blacks and Asians, except in a few places. And though that policy was formally rescinded in 1952, banks continued to redline those areas, hampering development and depriving property owners of loans for improvement. In the 1950s through the ’70s, highway construction and urban renewal displaced many residents of northeast Portland, reconfiguring its neighborhoods and contributing to their decline.

Kay L. Newell, who moved her light bulb store, Sunlan Lighting, to the corner of Failing and Mississippi in 1991, recalled that 43 businesses, including a metal shop and a headstone carver, operated on Mississippi at the time. But they did it behind barred doors and shuttered windows, she said, as a protection against theft and gang violence. Today, Ms. Newell, who wore a black beret over long graying braids, works behind big plate-glass windows filled with vintage bulbs and geegaws. She dates the beginning of the turnaround to 1995, when the city of Portland began a program for improvement with input from the community.

“We’ve gone from the worst neighborhood in the city to one of the hottest and coolest,” she said.

Not everyone agrees. Angel Barrera, who has lived in the area for 30 years, interrupted a walk with his dog to complain about density. We were standing near a pair of small houses between North Shaver Street and North Mason Street that he said would soon be demolished to make way for new apartments. As in many revitalized neighborhoods, this one is being planted with expensive condos and rental buildings.

The displacement of longtime residents is a concern, and so is parking. Mr. Barrera, who sported a tattoo on the side of his neck that read “Trust No Man” in Chinese, said he has to drive blocks to find a space. He also fretted about rising property taxes.

Memories of neighborhood blight may be fresh enough to soften anti-gentrification feelings. At the same time, those memories are becoming remote enough to contribute to local mythology.

“Every building claims it was a brothel,” said Dan Hart, who owns two bars on the street, Prost! (1894 at one time a drugstore) and Interurban (1927 for many years a florist). Asked about an incident last month in which obscenity-laced fliers were distributed to more than a dozen businesses in a transitional neighborhood to the east, he said it was “rather bizarre and not taken overly seriously.” (The fliers, which demanded that the recipients vacate, were signed by Juggalos, or fans of the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse. The Juggalos denied having anything to do with them.)

And all along Mississippi, people behind counters decorated with knotholes or succulents championed the concentration of their eccentric independent businesses. You may still fear for your life here, but only if you’re Starbucks.

“We’re Portland quirky, Portland weird,” said Ms. Newell, as she sold red and green compact fluorescent light bulbs to a man who owned a nearby print shop. She was talking about her inventory, but her arm stretched downstream.