Portland Gets Even Weirder in the Alberta Arts District

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Portland Gets Even Weirder in the Alberta Arts District

Portland is weird, that’s for sure. But if the average level of quirk this city creates isn’t enough for you, the Alberta Arts District should do the trick. Located in the northeast part of town, Alberta Arts is lined with restaurants, bars, boutique shops, street art and nary a big box store. In the summer, the neighborhood is a top spot for street fairs and festivals for the whole family. No matter what time of year, whether the sun shines until 10 p.m. or passes the horizon at 4:30 p.m., you can always post up alongside locals at hip hangouts and musty dives along NE Alberta Street. The main drag, between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and NE 33rd Avenue, is a mile and a half long and perfect for exploring on your feet or two wheels.

The Bye and Bye

Photo by Kelly Knickerbocker

The Bye and Bye is a cozy bar with no frills, stiff drinks and generous portions of tasty vegan eats. A painting of Evel Knievel in full regalia hangs on a wall opposite the bar—his downtrodden expression likely a result of watching patrons order the bar’s signature drink without being able to order one himself. The drink, also called The Bye and Bye, is 16 ounces of delight; peach vodka, peach bourbon, lemon, cranberry juice and soda, served up in an oversized mason jar with a straw. It’s great for a warm day on The Bye and Bye’s back patio or, you know, whenever.

Frock Boutique

Photo by Kelly Knickerbocker

This woman-owned small business has been keeping PDX’s ladies on trend since 2003. The shop’s teal awning and matching vintage lawn chairs out front catch the attention of passersby, but it’s their front window displays—jam-packed with colorful merch—that reel ‘em in. Frock is known for carrying a wide range of vintage-inspired pieces, local wares, several hard-to-find European labels and tchotchkes galore—from patches and pins to funky jewelry and candles. Prices run the gamut and racks are stuffed with goodies, so give yourself some time to parse through everything they’ve got.

Random Order Pie Bar

There’s more than one destination to satisfy your sweet tooth in Alberta Arts, including Cupcake Jones, Salt & Straw and Tonalli’s Donuts & Cream. But when you’re in the mood for pie, there’s just one joint to hit up: Random Order Pie Bar. A slice of coconut cream pie with a sweet and spicy chai? Yes, please. How about a piece of Tahitian Vanilla-Sugar Salted Caramel Apple pie, á la mode, with an Oregon cherry old-fashioned? Sign us up. Random Order’s ostrich theme lives up to its name, but this low-key stop along NE Alberta Street is great for a quick refuel morning, noon or (late) night.

Community Cycling Center

Photo by Kelly Knickerbocker

The Community Cycling Center is a nonprofit that maintains every Portlander, regardless of income or background, should have access to a bike to explore their neighborhood, have fun and enjoy the health benefits that come with active transportation. Their full-service bike shop on NE Alberta Street is covered on one side with an immense, colorful cycling-themed mural and rows of bikes line the sidewalks. Grab a new or used crankset, set of pedals or tires and know that your patronage helps this 23-year-old organization provide summer bike camps for children, an after-school Bike Club program, bike maintenance classes and projects with partner organizations across town.

Great Notion Brewing

Great Notion Brewing, located next to Pine State Biscuits, had us at Blueberry Muffin Sour. It’s seriously delicious. At the 2017 RateBeer Best Beer Festival, brew fiend and Paste contributor Jason Stein called Great Notions’ Blueberry Pancakes, a combination of their Blueberry Muffin and their Double Stack Imperial Stout, a real standout. A comparative newbie to the neighborhood, Great Notions’ Alberta Arts taproom opened its doors on New Year’s Day 2016. Known for their innovative sours, stouts and IPAs, they’ve expediently staked their claim in Portland’s robust craft beer scene. In addition to their own beers and a handful of guest taps, Great Notion offers a full menu of quality pub grub. More recently, Great Notion announced that it plans to open a massive second location in Northwest Portland by the end of 2017.


Photo by Kelly Knickerbocker

Good, strong coffee is synonymous with the Pacific Northwest. We need that jolt of espresso to get us through the sometimes long, usually dark days. So, it’s fitting that there’s no shortage of local coffee shops and independent chains in Portland. In the Alberta Arts District, there’s Case Study Coffee Roasters and Oregon’s only Caffe Vita (a Seattle-based roaster with a few cafes outside of Washington state). But Barista is our cup of tea—and by tea, we mean joe. They’ve got a rotating board of roasts available that day. Barista’s baristas use those beans to create some of the city’s finest espresso drinks, always with care.

Bollywood Theater

The trendy Bollywood Theater on NE Alberta Street dishes up some of Portland’s very best Indian street food and sharable plates. Their fare, including vada pav, kati rolls, samosas, as well as curries and thali platters, get high marks from foodies across town. Patrons don’t just enjoy the tastes of Mumbai and India at Bollywood Theater; they experience it too. The food is served on steel plates, an overhead movie screen plays Bollywood films on loop and numerous details reinforce its authentic vibe. The restaurant’s owner, Troy MacLarty, says he wants people to walk in the door and feel like Bollywood Theater saved them the cost of a plane ticket.

Kelly Knickerbocker is a Seattle-based writer with Texas roots. Find her on Instagram or Twitter at @kellyknick13 .

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