The Most Portland You Can Fit in a Day: A Guide to Mississippi Avenue
BY JEN STEVENSON // PHOTOS BY ELIJAH HOFFMAN
Life is just gravy with inventive breakfast bites and savory toppings at Gravy.
First, a word of advice: You’re unlikely to stumble upon Mississippi Avenue by accident. Located beyond an unsightly tangle of freeway ramps east of the Willamette, the neighborhood’s clandestine location means you’ll want to bring your best mapping app along for the ride.
But residents—and other in-the-know locals—will tell you that it’s worth it. Over the past decade or so, this humble and historic North Portland enclave has blossomed into one of Stumptown’s most thrilling districts. Rife with culture, green space, galleries, and all the hallmarks of a happening hood (quirky shops, food carts, craft breweries) tucked into its six-block commercial core, Mississippi Avenue has a serious concentration of West Coast cool.
One of the city’s most beloved breakfast joints, no-nonsense Gravy never wants for morning meal enthusiasts. Expect a bit of a wait, then, for the banana- and pecan- topped oatmeal brûlée, gargantuan omelets, and namesake plate of homemade biscuits drenched in country-style sausage gravy. (Bacon-studded Bloody Mary optional.) Now that’s the way to start your day.
Think outside the box and inside the frame at local artist favorite Land Gallery.
Take it from us: Art is an excellent digestif. Burn a few of those breakfast calories walking down the block to Land. The tiny, carefully curated shop features an inventory of work from over 100 local and national indie artists. Before you leave, be sure to climb the back stairs to the bright and airy hidden gallery, which holds regularly rotating art shows and pop-up exhibitions.
Then, for eccentricity at its finest, pop into “The Light Bulb Lady” Kay Newell’s endearingly cramped and cluttered Sunlan Lighting shop. The local landmark is as well known for its seemingly bottomless stockpile of bulbs as it is for the delightfully kitschy displays in its front windows.
While new-ish to the neighborhood, Reading Frenzy feels right at home with a local spread of small press books and zines.
Small press is a big deal in Portland. For a taste of the local scene, head down to Reading Frenzy, a spunky, sunlit bastion of independent press and alternative media. The shop’s a relative newcomer, having relocated from its longtime downtown digs in 2013, but owner and literary advocate Chloe Eudaly’s diverse inventory fits the neighborhood perfectly. Browse the racks of books and zines covering everything from urban homesteaders to Star Trek aliens, and check the calendar for upcoming art shows, author appearances, and book release parties.
All those beautiful bookshelves inspiring a revamp of your home library? Cross the street to The ReBuilding Center, a labyrinthine warehouse that draws flocks of DIYers after upcycled finds and eco-friendly building materials. Need a bubblegum pink bathtub? You’ll have your choice of three. Retro chandeliers? You betcha.The non-profit relies heavily on volunteers, so sign up to help sort hardware, unload donation carts, and staff local home and garden shows.
From vegan BBQ to steamy espresso drinks, Mississippi Marketplace has a food truck for every appetite.
CIRCLE THE FOOD WAGONS
If flipping through food zines has you thinking deep thoughts about lunch, hike up to Mississippi Marketplace, a cheerful collection of carts perched at the crest of Mississippi Avenue. The Marketplace is one of Portland’s original food cart pods, and per their gentleman’s agreement with neighboring Prost, you can sit on the pub’s back patio and pair KOi Fusion’s kimchi and short rib quesadilla or Native Bowl’s BBQ soy curls bowl with a cold German bier. Quenching (as long as you’re not beyond the wheel).
Here comes the sun (or a Portland-esque raincloud) for a short walk to Overlook Park.
FRESH AIR, FRESH HOPS
Assuming the (infamously fickle) weather’s cooperating and you’re in the mood for a post-lunch stroll, set your GPS for Overlook Park, just off busy Interstate Avenue. A tree-lined jogging path winds through the 11-acre field, and views of downtown and Forest Park render it an excellent vantage point for both summer firework shows and epic autumn sunsets. (For the best views, trek up to the tiny bluff in the northwest corner.)
Ecliptic Brewing: run by a veteran and loved by connoisseurs of the Oregon craft beer scene.
Food trucks, nature, lit mags: if there’s anything else that Portland’s famous for, it’s craft beer. Do you need any other excuses to sample? (Sorry, drivers—you get dibs on the next outing.) After three decades at McMenamins, Deschutes, and Full Sail, Oregon craft brewing legend John Harris embarked on his own (not so) little venture. Namely, Ecliptic Brewing, a 14,000-square-foot beer behemoth with around 10 beers on tap and an ambitious lunch and dinner menu. The roomy patio is dog-friendly, so if you bring along your best furry friends, they’ll even provide them with a bowl of refreshing, 0% ABV tap water.
Mississippi Studios was built and run by musicians, guaranteeing an authentic performance for concert-goers.
DINNER AND A SHOW
As the lights get low and the shops shut their doors, duck into Mississippi Studios, a musician-owned and operated former Baptist church-turned-music hall that specializes in intimate shows by the likes of The Thermals and Rhett Miller. And a pro-tip for the peckish: Should all that rocking stimulate your appetite, adjoining Bar Bar burger lounge slings Angry Rhino BBQ burgers and BTK (bacon, tomato and kale) sandwiches until 2 am, 365 nights a year.