Alberta Arts District
The Alberta Arts District in Northeast Portland is located along NE Alberta Street. It is actually located in the Vernon, Concordia and King neighborhoods. “Alberta” by name, is not technically recognized as a standalone neighborhood, so check the surrounding neighborhood web pages for additional information. Concordia is bordered by the Alameda, Sabin, King, Vernon, Woodlawn, Sunderland, Cully and Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhoods.
Features of Alberta Street in Portland
Northeast Alberta Street is largely residential until it crosses Northeast 14th Avenue and becomes what is known informally as the Alberta Arts District. Although not considered a neighborhood in its own right, it’s a unique and dynamic area that attracts people from all over the city.
The Alberta Arts District presents itself in earth-tones and motifs quite distinct from other areas and reflects Latino, Asian, and African-American sensibilities. That’s not surprising, given its history as one of the oldest sections of Portland. Nor should it be surprising that the street and surrounding neighborhood has had its share of growing pains. Over the decades, it has morphed from a poor area populated by immigrants and disenfranchised citizens to a thriving and industrious haven for the creative artisans and business owners who work and live there. Although the effects of gentrification are still debated in some quarters, Alberta seems to have become a stable, welcoming environment for most residents and visitors. This is never more apparent than on Last Thursday, a street festival celebrating art, food, and community that takes place on the last Thursday of every month.
Alberta Street, the main drag through the neighborhood, has many newly renovated retail storefronts and restaurant space. These are mixed in with older businesses that have been there forever. The shopping area can now only be considered trendy. There is a strong focus on indie designers, handcrafted items, and boutique shops.
Most of the shops lining Alberta Street highlight handmade local designer clothing, paper mache’ lamps, and imported gifts from afar. Alberta art galleries and shops showcase some fine local work. Smattered throughout are the requisite Portland coffee houses, seemingly one for each counter culture – there are no rules in Portland about having too many coffee shops on one street, and Alberta is no exception. You won’t find a Starbucks on Alberta, though, as it just wouldn’t seem to fit into the quirky individuality of the place.
At first glance, the name “Alberta Arts District” may seem a little overstated when taking into account the number of galleries on the street. But when one discovers that nearly every business – from restaurants and bars to the finest in dress shops, with very little exception – functions as a gallery with a rotating roster of artists represented on their walls, one begins to understand the full nature of this community’s devotion to art. And Last Thursday, as it is simply called, is the designation given to the ever-growing event occurring on the last Thursday of each month when each of these establishments is open late and essentially transformed into the artists’ opening night reception.
Regardless of its moniker, Portland’s Alberta Arts District remains a focal point of high-octane change. It’s morphing at a rate you can almost hear. There yet remain forces that attempt to counter the growth, but one gets the sense that the gang tagging and intermittent vandalism that occurs resembles flailing death throes more than any real threat to the impending gentrification takeover. Many of the area’s proprietors are also its neighbors, and they have a vested interest in making this district work. They are aware of their role as settlers claiming what was once wild country. And they know that success in adventure comes with strength in numbers, so they take care of one another. They are patrons in one another’s establishments. They recommend one another. In Portland’s Alberta neighborhood, businesses clustered together mean the opportunity to thrive, not cut throats.
Alberta Street Tour – Recommended
To explore the Alberta Arts District, it’s best to wear comfortable shoes (or straddle a comfortable bicycle saddle) rather than drive, to appreciate all it has to offer. Start off on an empty stomach, too, because you’ll find plenty of diverse and delicious options along the way to fill it. Tin Shed is a popular eating attraction, a great spot for breakfast or brunch or what have you (but you might want to wait until after you try on some cool duds at Frock across the street, thus to avoid post-prandial bulging). Or there’s Fuel Cafe a couple of strides down the walk, favored by many for the coffee and breakfast nomz.
On the corner at NE 15th is the Alberta Co-Op Grocery where you can buy locally-produced foods and homeopathic items (and beer and wine!) and support the local economy. A bit further you’ll find Helser’s on Alberta, in case your stamina flags and you regret not eating a few blocks back (happens to the best of us).
If you brought some avid young readers along for your urban hike, they’ll love it when you stop in at Green Bean Books for a riffle through new and used children’s books. You’ll love it too when you see what else this great book shop has in store. Books (natch), comix, crafts, storytimes for the tykes, author readings, and even a deck and garden where you may relax while the youngsters explore. It’s not just a kid’s place, it’s a family place.
For the artsy-craftsy set, nothing beats Collage, a shop where you can find everything your sewing, gluing, pasting, painting, etching, scissor-snipping heart could crave. There are even classes and workshops offered, and nationally-known artists are hosted often.
Turn around, and your eyes are instantly drawn to the mural that covers the entire west-facing side of Community Cycling Center, a bicycling mainstay in Portland since 1994. For many Portland cyclists, this is the reason to visit the district. The center stocks great refurbished bikes and frames, and offers repair facilities along with new and used parts and accessories. It’s much more than just a bike shop, though. Community Cycling Center provides programs and outreach for both adults and youth, and advocates for the ever-growing cycling community. The volunteer opportunities for both the seasoned cyclist and the neophyte are second to none. Grab a wrench (well, ask politely for one), help build or fix a bike, delight a kid or grown-up in need.
When you’re done salivating over a refurb’d Bianchi or tuning a wheel, cross the street for (yet one more) coffee at Barista. These folks know coffee. And taxidermy. Odd combination, but you’re in Portland. Or perhaps you’d rather take a few more steps down the walk to Random Order Pie Bar for coffee and sumptuous pie. Who doesn’t like pie? If you like ice cream with your pie, you need to check out the Salt & Straw further down. Or maybe Petite Provence, for banana French toast? The rest of this urban hike is going to be a waddle.
Should you be looking for a string for your ukelele, a stop at Trade Up Music Co. is recommended before making your way down to The Hilt for cocktails and Mediterranean noshes. If you want something light and healthy to overcome your earlier gorging, El Nutri Taco is the best spot for vegetarian and vegan Mexican food.
Townsend’s Tea Company has the cup you crave to help digest all of that food. Sit for awhile there, find your calm center, and then run over to get inked at Freaks and Geeks Tattoo Studio (which is just a tad north up NE 24th Avenue) before you lose your nerve.
If you come to Alberta in the morning, there are two premiere breakfast options: Pine State Biscuits and The Waffle Window. Both spots offer some of the best early-morning food, although you will need to face the crowds to get a seat.
Binks is a real favorite in the neighborhood for people who like good food and just-right cocktails. It’s the hangout of preference for many loyal patrons. The CruzRoom is another hip bar that hosts a variety of events. Best of all, you can partake in some of the best happy hour tacos in the area, both vegan and regular.
Not last and far from least is the Alberta Rose Theatre, a historic movie house built in 1927 and closed in 1978, then renovated and re-opened as a beautiful entertainment venue where patrons may wine and dine and see local and international musicians. Nothing beats an evening of music and comestibles at the Alberta Rose.
Beyond this point lie even more restaurants and art galleries, but you’ve got the idea. It’s a pretty sure bet that as you leave the Alberta Arts District, you’ll already be planning to come back.
Alberta Street Restaurants of Note
“For the body, mind, and spirit.” Offering a holistic approach to keeping your engine running, Fuel fires up dishes with an emphasis on nutrition and no artificial preservatives as well as several vegan-friendly options. Their entire coffee inventory is 100% organic, fair trade, and locally sourced. Fuel’s also got books, chess boards, two computers for public use, and WI-FI for all those other cylinders you might be running on.
Fuel – 1452 NE Alberta
Salt and Straw
If you’re like most people, you love ice cream. While there are plenty of sweet shops around the Portland area, none have made quite as big an impression as Salt & Straw. With a bevy of highly unique flavors like Freckled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread or Tomato and Strawberry Sorbet, this confectionary is a delicious adventure in every cone.
This ice cream shop is well-known for having long lines of people eager to get a taste of the new batches that the owners concoct on a regular basis. Since 2011, Salt & Straw has become one of a growing number of shining tourist attractions that draw visitors in droves. If you can beat the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind frozen treat.
Salt and Straw – 2035 NE Alberta St
El Nutri Taco
When most people think of Mexican food, they imagine greasy items full of meat, cheese, and salsa. While there’s nothing wrong with that per se, Portland is home to a growing number of vegetarians and vegans. Fortunately, they don’t have to miss out on their Mexi-fix, all thanks to El Nutri Taco.
There are two locations in the greater Portland area, but the Alberta spot is much more accommodating with open-air seating and plenty of room to enjoy your healthy eats. Although the primary draw for this place is the vegetarian and vegan food, those who prefer their burritos and tacos a little more bloody can add meat as well. Don’t worry, you don’t have to skip your diet to enjoy these exquisite dishes.
El Nutri Taco – 2124 NE Alberta St
Pine State Biscuits
Alberta is home to not one, but two local attractions that draw crowds on a daily basis. While the Salt & Straw is perfect for indulging your sweet tooth, Pine State Biscuits is a breakfast lover’s dream. Technically speaking, biscuits are more of a Southern tradition, but once you try one of their signature sandwiches, you’ll be hooked. Some of the menu favorites include The Reggie (with fried chicken and bacon), The Club (fried chicken or brisket), and the BBQ Biscuit, which comes with Carolina-style pulled pork.
Pine State Biscuits isn’t only famous for its sandwiches, though. Here you can find a chicken pot pie, blueberry pancakes, hash, and shrimp-n-grits. They also make a mean pie (just don’t tell Random Order we said that). Be sure to come early, as they open at 7 am and close at three. Lines start forming as soon as the doors open, so plan accordingly.
Pine State Biscuits – 2204 NE Alberta St
Just because El Nutri Taco is highly regarded for healthy Mexican options doesn’t mean that it’s the only option on Alberta St. If you prefer to experience live bands, local art, and some craft beer to go with your tacos, CruzRoom has you covered. Best of all, you don’t even have to sacrifice your vegan sensibilities, as this bar offers both standard and vegan tacos during happy hour.
The bar has indoor and outdoor seating – you can spot the place from afar, thanks to its wicked mural on the patio. For the more industrious bar patrons, CruzRoom infuses its own spirits, including options like mango habanero bourbon, strawberry vodka, and double-infused fig scotch. The happy hour isn’t the only reason to come on down.
CruzRoom – 2338 NE Alberta St
When visitors plan on coming down to the Arts District, they should either come in the morning for breakfast or late at night for the active bar scene. Pine State Biscuits has some of the best all-around breakfast items, but when it comes to waffles, the Waffle Window takes them to the next level. If you’re a waffle aficionado, you need to make the pilgrimage to this spot.
At the Waffle Window, breakfast isn’t a meal – it’s a work of art. Each plate is both delicious and decorative, and some of the ingredients will have your mouth watering before you even see the menu. This spot offers seasonal dishes based on local fruits and veggies (such as Hood River strawberries). You can also find standard favorites like the Key Lime Pie Waffle or the Fried Chicken and Waffle plate. The Waffle Window offers both sweet and savory blends, so whatever your flavor, you’re sure to find it here.
The Waffle Window – 2624 NE Alberta St
Alberta Street Businesses of Note
Alberta Cooperative Grocery
Clearing shelves of big brands and paving the way for a well-nourished neighborhood, Alberta Co-op Grocery is meticulous about their inventory. If a smaller brand is bought out by its larger competitor, it’s outta there. If a soda contains high-fructose syrup, it’s not allowed to darken the doorway. Stocking “high quality, affordable, and responsibly-produced food,” Alberta Co-op cares about what they sell because they are, “owned by our neighbors,” and are, “serving our neighbors.”
Alberta Cooperative Grocery – 1500 NE Alberta St
The Alberta Petite Hotel
Boutique hotels are becoming much more popular these days, and they don’t get any more boutique than this. The Alberta Petite Hotel lives up to its name with only three rooms, each one sharing accommodations. It’s a bed and breakfast with a distinctly Portland atmosphere. You feel like you’re staying with friends, only they are technically strangers (at first, that is).
Although there are larger hotels nearby, the Petite Hotel allows visitors to get the full Alberta Arts District experience, since you’re right on the main drag. If you’re planning a multi-night stay, you can partake in most of the excellent places we’ve discussed so far. In fact, you may not even have to leave the neighborhood until you head back home.
The Alberta Petite Hotel – 2426 NE Alberta St
Alberta District Parks
There are several local parks nearby. The sixteen-acre Alberta Park features a basketball court, an off-leash dog area, paths, picnic tables, a playground, as well as a softball field, tennis court, and water feature.
More Alberta Area Parks:
Alberta Street Art Galleries
Antler and Talon Galleries
Technically speaking, these art galleries are separate, but considering that they were founded by the same couple – Susannah and Neil, we are putting them together here. As you can imagine, the Alberta Arts District lives up to its name by showcasing local artists. Although Last Thursday is certainly when most of the showings happen, you can come by during the rest of the month to see what kind of art is lining the walls.
The Talon Gallery is a bit darker than Antler, so if your stylistic choices are more Edgar Allen Poe than Andy Warhol, Talon is probably going to be your first stop. Both galleries offer an intimate setting, and many of the pieces are both mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. Be sure to check their schedules online so that you can plan accordingly.
Antler Gallery – 2728 NE Alberta St
Talon Gallery – 2724 NE Alberta St
Six Days Art Gallery Co-op is a member-driven art consortium made up of local artists who have brought their colorful and unique work under one roof. They even have a beehive in the front window! On purpose! Near the end of the district, you can check out the Antler and Talon Galleries, which showcase local artists, focusing on paintings and other traditional mediums.
You just can’t miss Alberta’s “Last Thursday”, which seems a combination art gallery “hop” and neighborhood street fair all rolled into one. It is every last Thursday of the month during the summer. If nothing else, enjoy the swarming crowds, and have fun people watching. You’ll also have the opportunity to pick up some local arts (and crafts) work at great prices. Support your neighborhood arts! Don’t forget to check our Portland Arts page for the latest event, exhibits, and more information.
Alberta Community Resources
Join the Alberta Community – Meet your Alberta area neighbors, add local events to the calendar, share photos, and more.
Alberta Arts Neighborhood Vibe
Artsy, fun, funky, quirky. The multi-cultural diversity creates an interesting mix. A great older Portland community: gentrification is always controversial, and you’ll catch some of the good and bad undertones, as in any neighborhood going through a drastic change. This area has a strong community feel, and the local business owners along the street respect and look out for each other.
Alberta Arts District Stats
Alberta Area Zip Code: 97211
Alberta Real Estate
In Alberta, you will typically find modest homes with older East Portland architectural styles such as Craftsman-style bungalow, cottages, Old Portland foursquare style, and other mid-sized, one and two-story homes. The neighborhood has a lot of personality and unique charm. If you are interested in buying or selling a home in Portland’s Alberta Arts District, visit our Portland Real Estate Page for more information, or visit our Portland Real Estate Map to search the RMLS for Alberta Arts homes for sale.
NE Alberta Street Listings
Northeast Alberta Street — http://albertamainst.org/
Last Thursday — http://www.lastthursdayonalberta.com/
Tin Shed — http://tinshedgardencafe.com/
Frock — http://www.frockboutique.com/
Fuel Cafe — http://www.fuelpdx.com/
Alberta Co-op Grocery — http://www.albertagrocery.coop/
Helser’s — http://helsersonalberta.com/
Green Bean Books — http://www.greenbeanbookspdx.com/index.html
Community Cycling Center — http://www.communitycyclingcenter.org/
Barista – http://www.baristapdx.com/
Random Order Pie Bar – http://www.randomordercoffee.com/
Petite Provence– http://www.provencepdx.com/
Trade Up Music Co. – http://tradeupmusic.com/
The Hilt – http://www.thehiltbar.com/
Salt & Straw – http://saltandstraw.com/
El Nutri Taco – http://elnutritacopdx.com/
Pine State Biscuits – http://pinestatebiscuits.com/
Townsend’s Tea Company- http://www.townshendstea.com/
CruzRoom – Cruzroom.com
Freaks and Geeks Tattoo Studio – Freaksandgeekstattoo.com
Waffle Window – Wafflewindow.com
Binks – http://binksbar.com/
Antler Gallery – Antlerpdx.com
Talon Gallery – Talongallery.com
Alberta Rose Theatre – http://albertarosetheatre.com/
Alberta Arts: Friends We’ve Lost
(Out of Business or Moved)
In memory of:
The Know – Local Live Music Bar
To be in The Know means to hang out in a space where live music, beer, and wine are on tap seven days a week. The music venue portion of the bill appears to be the star though the barstools are filled all afternoon long before the musicians show up. Owned and operated for the last two and a half years by Ryan, Sarah, and Sandwich, The Know does not offer food, but, once again, Vepadoe’s Deli around the corner comes to the rescue. Honoring yet another symbiotic relationship on Alberta, Vepadoe’s will serve you that tasty sandwich or snack plate to go with your beer at The Know. No problem.
The Original Halibuts – Seafood Eatery (Now at 625 NE Killingsworth st.)
Like they need the press, right? But there’s a reason. If you like fish and chips – nay, if you don’t like fish and chips – you’ll love Halibuts. They just do it right. Anita in the kitchen will make sure the breading is crispy, and the fish is succulent. Don’t know how, but the important thing is Anita does, and she’ll do it with a side of smiles – a shortage of which you absolutely will not find at Halibuts.
Uber-friendly and unbelievably approachable owner David Mackay runs his ship with a laidback – and grateful – manner that is palpable. And within the few years, he’s been open for biz, he’s seen his operation go from a small fish/chips and chowder restaurant to an Alberta institution. It’s so popular and has won so many awards and accolades in its short tenure that David added Halibut’s II next door with a full bar and live music six nights a week. Why? Like their menu says, “Just for the halibut.”
Screaming Sky Gallery – Boutique Art Gallery
Halo Thai – Local Thai Restaurant
Taqueria Don Pancho – Mexican Restaurant
You walk in, and your mouth starts to water. This place screams authentic. So, if you’re looking for the corporate-Mexican-by-numbers, balloon-guy-for-the-kids, scream-over-the-mariachis, pass-the-ranch-dressing kinda “taste of Mexico ” – walk on by rapidamente. But if you’re looking for a menu so authentic it has to be written in pictures ‘cause not everyone there is speaking the same language, try Taqueria Don Poncho. Sharing the building with its sister carniceria/grocery store, Don Poncho serves such traditional fare as Mojarra and Sopes as well as gringo hits like fajitas and nachos that are available for dine-in or take out.
Every Day Wine – Wine Bar
What a great neighborhood wine bar! Come in and say “hi” to proprietor Beth Boston. Of course, you must also greet Porter the shop dog, who sort of rules the place. This is a casual “come as you are” wine bar with a nice comfortable, down-to-earth atmosphere. Kick back with the locals and relax while sampling any one of 400 or so bottles of wine. There’s no formal wine list or menu, just browse and pick a bottle from the varied selection lining the shelves, arranged in order by region. Of course, you don’t have to be a wine expert to find a nice bottle–Beth is happy to supply you with more information or assistance in making your selection. Most bottles are priced in a very reasonable ‘everyday wine’ price range of say $9-15.
Insider’s Tip – the shop doesn’t sell any food….in order to keep her shop dog-friendly, there is no kitchen. But not to worry–bring your own yummies from any one of the amazing restaurants lining Alberta St., or better yet, do what I did. Right around the corner from Every Day Wine, just a couple doors down is the Vepadoe’s Deli and Catering shop. Vepadoe’s and Every Day have sort of a symbiotic business relationship–Vepadoe’s will make you up a nice deli sandwich or a fine snack plate (bread, cheese, meats, and olives) and deliver it right to the wine shop for you!
Friendly people, great service, tasty food, fine wine–and all right here in one of my favorite Portland neighborhoods. What more could I ask for at the end of a long day at work? I’ll be back for more! Be sure to sample some new wines at Beth’s “Friday Night Flights”, usually every Friday night from 5-9pm. Or, plan your next party at Every Day Wine. They hold up to 50 people, just call ahead to plan and schedule your next event.
Check out more Portland Neighborhoods
Go back to the full list of neighborhoods in our Portland Neighborhood Guide.