Written and Photographed by Annie Leister
It was really thanks to AirBnB that I fell in love with Portland, Oregon’s Mississippi Avenue neighborhood. Though I was headed to a summer wedding farther south in Eugene, since I had to fly into Portland, I couldn’t resist a super short stopover.
Knowing nothing about the city, I started scoping out AirBnB options and this neighborhood kept popping up. “Dozens of restaurants within a few blocks,” “Residential yet accessible,” “Great value…” Flooded with reviews like these for Mississippi Avenue rentals, I knew this was the spot.
North Mississippi Avenue is across the Willamette River from the city center, but just a scenic walk or an $8-$10 Uber ride to the heart of downtown. On our 40-minute walk from Mississippi Avenue to the Pearl District, my boyfriend and I crossed the Broadway Bridge, and on our return trip, we traversed the Steel Bridge to see two of Portland’s 12 unique bridges over the Willamette. There are public transportation options to get downtown too, making this area well worth the savings compared to staying in the city center.
This section of North Mississippi runs less than a mile but has dozens of restaurants, bars, and quirky shops with locally made goods and unexpected artwork. We loved Another Read Through, a secondhand bookstore that caught my eye with an outdoor display table of bargain books wrapped in brown paper with only a handwritten quotation or two and a genre for clues.
Go just a block or two to the east or west of Mississippi and you’re in a relaxed, leafy, neighborhood oasis—perfect for a light sleeper like me who still wants to be close to all the action.
¿Por Que No? Taqueria
For our first meal in Portland, AirBnB came through yet again. In reviews of our host’s accommodations, at least a third of the guests mentioned a terrific taco place nearby. And after waking up at 3:00 am East Coast time to take two flights, tacos and west coast beer sounded like just what the travel doctor ordered.
We walked on down to ¿Por Qué No? Taqueria (3524 N. Mississippi Ave.) and found a seat in a semi-enclosed outdoor nook with colorful tables and benches. This made for excellent hipster-watching while sheltered from Portland’s infamous rain.
The specials board had some enticing tamales del día and a summer veggie taco special, as well as spicy serrano and hibiscus margaritas. But we went straight for the ceviche starring wild shrimp, diver scallops, and avocado. As a side, the server let me do half chips (housemade, crunchy, coarse-salt-y chips) and half cucumber wedges sprinkled with chili salt and fresh lime juice.
The fresh seafood and the brightness from red onion, cilantro, and lime were a great counterpoint to our heavier choices for taco fillings (lengua, al pastor, and carne asada; all pasture-raised from Oregon’s own Cascade Farms).
And to go with both—my first Rainier, a Seattle-made lager at just $2.50 a can. Over the next few days we hit quite a few of the craft breweries Portland is famous for, but Rainier was definitely my first love on the West Coast beer lineup.
The Fresh Pot
For an afternoon revival after all those tacos, we had a quick cup of Stumptown coffee at The Fresh Pot (4001 N. Mississippi Ave.), a local coffeehouse with three locations around the city.
I made it to one of the Stumptown stores downtown the next day, but much preferred sitting and sipping at The Fresh Pot with its high ceilings and windows, funky shark-themed art, and plenty of space to spread out. There were tempting snacks available as well, like a marionberry coffeecake (a local blackberry hybrid).
We stayed close to “home” on Mississippi for our last meal in Portland. On our last morning we wanted a proper, hearty breakfast before hitting vineyards on our way down to Eugene. Since it was just three short blocks from our AirBnB, we had walked past frequently enough to know we needed to try Gravy (3957 N. Mississippi Ave.).
Gravy serves breakfast all day until 3:00 pm off a menu of mainly southern comfort favorites with a Pacific Northwest spin, a trend we noticed a lot in Portland. There’s usually a wait here around peak breakfast hours, but we were lucky enough to grab seats at the two-tier bar facing the kitchen.
Our AirBnB host had warned us that these would be massive portions and we still weren’t prepared. At about $13, our scramble plate could have fed four. Out of five options for a scramble or omelet, we chose the Dalise: a sausage-gravy-covered behemoth of ham, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar.
Plus, we gave in to the urge for pancakes and upped our side to a “short stack” of fluffy, eight-inch beauties for $2.50. And all this was topped off with good service and house-blend coffee. My next trip here will involve one of their hash plates (corned beef, roast beef, and smoked salmon versions).
There were so many places on Mississippi Ave. that I hated skipping on our short stay. Just to name a few: a smaller, shorter-line version of Instagram-famous Blue Star Donuts, sustainable seafood at Olympia Oyster Bar, and a tropical-themed vegan place called No Bones Beach Club. After that meat-fest of a write-up about our breakfast at Gravy, you might not have guessed I’d be dying to try a vegan restaurant. But that, folks, is what Portland does to you.