South Portland Neighborhood
In 2020 Portland decided to add South to the city’s five directions (NW, SW, SE, NE, N) to make a total of six. This new mailing address only applied to one single neighborhood – South Portland! This area due to extensive recent development along the waterfront, was often previously referred to just as the South Waterfront, or sometimes as John’s Landing, but the official name and designation is South Portland Neighborhood (and now unique street address). The South neighborhood always contained much more than just the waterfront and southernmost section of downtown Portland. It has a vibrant residential core, multiple parks, and its own local attractions. Highway 43 runs through it and makes for a quick drive to all sorts of fantastic locations: Sellwood, Lake Oswego downtown, Tryon Creek Park, and downtown itself. South Portland neighborhood is located along the Willamette River and downtown Portland. The South Portland neighborhood is kind of like that last square of new sod. It hasn’t quite yet meshed and become one with the rest of the lawn, but it’s glossy green and dewy, and you can tell it’s going to fill in nicely once it’s properly watered and made a part of things. This neighborhood also borders the Southwest Hills, Homestead, Hillsdale, and South Burlingame neighborhoods.
Features of the Portland South Neighborhood
Green, indeed. Gone is the dilapidated industrial morass of the previous era. The developers of this area planned this revitalization as an oasis of progressive architecture erected with a sustainable, environment-friendly philosophy, built with recycled and non-toxic materials and with a healthy respect for the natural world.
Two features here catch and hold the attention. Elizabeth Caruthers Park is the neighborhood’s playground, a green space with water features, kinetic sculpture, paths to wander, and benches upon which to sit and ponder. Ponder, for instance, the gliding glinting oblong in the sky that can be nothing other than (you’d better hope) the Aerial Tram making its way to and from Marquam Hill as it shuttles visitors and patients and physicians to their work or appointments at OHSU. You don’t need to be a doctor or need one to ride the contraption, though. For the price of a fare, anyone may ride. Seriously, with the futuristic high-rises and the park and the airborne conveyance, you might think you were on the set of Logan’s Run or some-such!
Perhaps in the visual aspect, it has little in common with the warmth and history and lived-in-ness of Old Portland, but in its intent and its heart, this neighborhood is definitely a growing child of the city.
Oregon Health Sciences University – OHSU
For over 100 years, OHSU has stood above the city of Portland, a shining beacon to health and science in the Northwest. The ground was first broken on the campus site in 1917 and has since grown to a sprawling university, which houses a dental school, Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and a biomedical research lab. The site continues to expand to this day.
The original name of OHSU was the University of Oregon Medical School. UOMS was first founded in 1887. The school’s second dean, Kenneth A.J. Mackenzie, M.D. convinced the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company to donate the land on Marquam Hill. The railroad company wanted to build a depot on the spot, but it proved to be too much of a hassle. The school was renamed Oregon Health and Sciences University in 1981.
Portland Aerial Tram
Back in December of 2006, the Portland city skyline was forever changed with the addition of the aerial tramway. The project was a joint venture between the city, OHSU, and South Waterfront developers as a means of ferrying OHSU staff and patients to the campus quickly and efficiently. This tram is one of only two in the nation – the other is the Roosevelt Island Tramway in New York.
Although the tram wound up costing over four times the initial estimate, it’s proven to be a big tourist attraction. Staff members and students get to ride for free, as do most patients, but the tram is open to the public for a nominal fee of $5. When it first opened, it took less than one year to reach one million passengers – in October of 2007. Seven years later, the tram ferried its 10 millionth passenger on January 8th, 2014. The Portland Aerial Tram is still widely used by the public today and certainly serves its purpose.
Tillikum Crossing Bridge
Officially speaking, Portland is known as the Rose City, thanks to a successful PR campaign back in the late 1800s to recover from the unfortunate moniker of “Stumptown.” However, Portland goes by many names, including Rip City (for Blazers fans) and bridge city, thanks to its plethora of bridges crossing the Willamette River.
The Tilikum Crossing Bridge is the latest addition in a long history, but even though this wasn’t the first bridge in Portland, it is historic. This is currently the only major bridge in the country that doesn’t allow private cars or trucks. Instead, Tilikum caters to pedestrians, mass transit, and emergency vehicles only.
Construction began in 2011, and the bridge was finished in 2015. The project was the brainchild of Tri-Met, which wanted the bridge to accommodate the new Orange Max Line. Since then, Tilikum has become a symbol of what life could be like if we reduced our dependency on automobiles. The name Tilikum comes from the local Chinook tribe, which simply means “people.”
South Portland Neighborhood Businesses of Note
Because this neighborhood spans so much territory, there are way too many highlights to condense into a single list. Fortunately, we’ve pored over the data and determined the top spots that you should visit when coming to South Portland. Although much of the area is filled with offices and commercial buildings, there are plenty of places to gather with friends and create some fascinating memories. Let’s see what you can find.
Suki’s Bar and Grill
Dive bars are not exactly rare in Portland, but they can range wildly, from seedy to chic. Suki’s on 4th, being one of the original bars of South Portland, straddles the line perfectly. It’s not so trendy that you’ll pay a fortune on drinks, but it’s also not such a dive that you need to wash your hands between rounds. Over the years, Suki’s has been able to keep up with the New Portland wave, creating a vibrant tap list and menu that will keep you coming back for more.
Another reason to frequent Suki’s is its lively karaoke night. Every Wednesday through Sunday, you can become a world-renowned crooner and impress your friends. Sure, it might take a few beers to work up the courage, but everyone sounds their best when feeling tipsy. The bar also has a banquet space in case you want a little privacy to hide from your adoring fans.
Suki’s Bar – 2401 S 4th Ave.
Lair Hill Bistro
One of the more interesting trends in Portland is how many mom and pop businesses operate out of a refurbished home, rather than a commercial space. By doing this, these businesses create a much more inviting and authentic atmosphere, which is perfect for establishments like restaurants. Lair Hill Bistro is one such location, and it’s been in South Portland for over 15 years.
You can come to Lair Hill any time of day to get a delicious meal. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all uniquely crafted to be as delectable and sustainable as possible. The owners, Cheryl and Richard, are committed to providing high-quality dishes of all types. From fluffy pancakes to sandwiches to classic dinner dishes like meatloaf, everything is a delight. You can also build your own breakfast and lunch, just in case you want more control over what goes into your food. They also have a decent happy hour every day so you can have a pint with your meal.
Lair Hill Bistro – 2823 S 1st Ave.
Now that we’re well into the 2020s, it’s natural to draw comparisons to the Roaring ’20s of the past. Caro Amico is somewhat tied to the Prohibition era, although the restaurant began in the late 1940s. The owners originally wanted their place to be a speakeasy – a house of ill repute, although nothing too sinister would go on behind closed doors. Interestingly, during the development and renovation of the space, newly-elected mayor Dorothy McCollough Lee declared war on the very concept of speakeasies. So, owners Fred and Joe had to pivot to turn their place into a bonafide Italian ristorante.
Since 1949, Caro Amico has remained a traditional pasta joint, where you can find all of the hits like chicken parmigiana and spaghetti and meatballs. Also, there are more authentic dishes like Puttanesca pasta, mushroom ravioli, and manicotti. Pizza is also Caro’s specialty, as it was one of the first restaurants to introduce Portlanders to the concept. Sure, pizza existed in Portland before Caro Amico, but it wasn’t as authentic or delicious. With 70 years under their belt, the future looks bright for this ristorante. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to the speakeasy…we’ll never know.
Caro Amico Italian Cafe – 3606 S Barbur Blvd.
Oregon Ballet Theater
Portland is a city that loves its arts and theater. Venues like the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Portland Center for the Performing Arts are a testament to this dedication to the creative process. For those who appreciate dance and ballet, the Oregon Ballet Theater is the preeminent authority in the Northwest.
Although OBT has only been around since 1989, it quickly became a powerhouse. The Theater was actually a merging of two other local ballet troupes – the Pacific Ballet Theater and Ballet Oregon. Over the years, the ballets that OBT puts on are only becoming more and more exquisite. To help find the best dancers, OBT has its own school, which is conveniently next door. As more and more Portlanders get turned onto the pageantry offered by ballet, the Oregon Ballet Theater will continue to be the gold standard.
Oregon Ballet Theater – 720 S Bancroft St.
River’s Edge Hotel
One of the best things about South Portland is that you are so close to the water. Since the addition of high-rise condos to the area, the neighborhood has become a hotspot for the city’s elite. Fortunately, you don’t have to be rich and famous to get a riverside view – you can just book a room at the River’s Edge Hotel.
This hotel is relatively new and is one of the better venues in Portland. Not only do the rooms have top-notch views, but the hotel knows and understands what makes Portland so special – pets! River’s Edge does allow pets of all shapes and sizes so that visitors don’t have to leave Whiskers or Fido at home. Another Portland-style amenity is the hotel’s bike rental service. Since there is no on-site parking (besides valet), biking is usually the best option. We highly recommend exploring the South Waterfront Greenway or Cottonwood Bay Park, which is right on the water.
River’s Edge Hotel – 455 S Hamilton Ct.
Usually, when you go out to eat, you pay attention to both the food and the atmosphere. If you want a truly unique dining experience, might we suggest eating at the Jolly Roger? This pirate-themed restaurant is almost one-of-a-kind (there is another in SE Portland), but it’s unlike most other spots in the city, particularly compared to the trendier eateries.
At first, you might assume that because the decor and theme are so over-the-top that the food can’t compare. Fortunately, the chefs at the Jolly Roger can make some excellent dishes. Also, to accommodate Portlanders, the place serves Keto-friendly, vegan, and gluten-free options. This place is also a hotbed of sports, turning into a madhouse on game days. They also host midnight movies on Sundays and trivia night on Wednesdays. There’s always something going on at the Jolly Roger.
Jolly Roger at John’s Landing – 5627 S Kelly Ave.
Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille
Of all the types of cuisine you can find in Portland, Hawaiian barbecue is conspicuously absent. Yes, there are spots to get Kalua pork and Spam musubi, but they are few and far between. Fortunately, South Portland residents don’t have to travel far. Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille is the real deal, with authentic island dishes that will take you to paradise. Also, the decor certainly adds to the mystique, creating a vibrant and memorable experience every time you visit.
Highlights from the menu include poke bowls, barbecue rib sampler platter, mahi-mahi sandwich, Kalua pig sandwich, and Auntie’s Shoyu chicken. Everything here is grilled to perfection, and you won’t be disappointed by a single item. The cooks take great pride in serving luau-style Kalua pork every day, so if you’re craving succulent and juicy meat, you’ve come to the right place. Bamboo Grille is also perfect for parties, thanks to its banquet space and tiki lounge. If you’re ever in Southeast Portland, you can still get the Hawaiian experience, as the restaurant has a food cart in the parking lot of the Green Oasis Cannabis Dispensary on SE Tacoma st.
Bamboo Grove Hawaiian Grille – 515 S Carolina St. #3633
Cafe Du Berry
These days, brunch has become one of the most popular meals of the day. When else can you get together with the squad, drink mimosas, and enjoy wonderful food? While there are more and more brunch spots coming into Portland, Cafe Du Berry is one of the original. Founded in 1984, the cafe has evolved with the rest of Portland to become a local landmark.
The cuisine here is French-inspired, so expect to see a lot of butter and seasoning in each dish. Because the food is so decadent, you’ll have to pace yourself and not go overboard. If you’re here for brunch, we highly recommend the French waffle, pepper steak and eggs, or the French toast. Lunch diners should partake in a plate of grilled salmon or linguini alfredo. The more adventurous types might want to try the escargot, which isn’t as chewy as you might think. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with a rack of lamb or pan-fried scallops. The chef here is ce Magnifique!
Cafe Du Berry – 6439 S Macadam Ave.
Fulton Pub and Brewery
While Caro Amico tried to become a speakeasy, Fulton Pub actually accomplished the feat, and during the height of Prohibition, no less. The original bar was founded in 1926, and it was called Reisch’s Place, named after its founder Jake Reisch. At the time, the area was much more industrial, with the shipyard and lumber yards just a quick walk away. As you can imagine the dock and lumber workers loved strolling down to Reisch’s Place for a pint after a long, hard day of honest work. Of course, officially speaking, alcohol wasn’t on the menu. If you wanted a pint, it would be of freshly mixed iced cream (wink, wink). Perhaps some rum raisin for the gentleman?
Jake ran the place until 1940, when the 71-year-old saloon tycoon decided to hang up his apron. The new owners called the bar The Home Tavern, which was more than just a clever name. The owners built a small apartment in the back of the building, which now serves as a microbrewery. By the early 80s, the pub was on the verge of collapse, until McMenamin’s came in and saved it in 1988. Since then, the bar formerly known as Reisch’s Place became the Fulton Pub and Brewery, and it’s been a raucous party ever since.
McMenamin’s Fulton Pub and Brewery – 618 S Nebraska St.
South Portland Parks
Min Zidell Healing Garden
South Portland Community Resources
South Portland Schools
Zip Code 97239
South Portland Neighborhood Vibe
Corporate, busy, high tech, fast-paced, young professionals racing from Starbucks to the office and from the office to an upscale dining spot somewhere in downtown. Dog walking, stroller pushing, esplanade runners.
South Portland Real Estate
In the immediate area, make your selection of high rise condos and apartments. Some folks even live on houseboats having purchased their own mooring spot.
To learn about the Portland real estate market, we recommend this local Portland-based, top 100 real estate blog in the world. If you are interested in buying a home in Portland, we recommend meeting up with these top 1% Portland buyer’s agents, or if you are considering selling a home we recommend these top 1% Portland seller’s agents. Visit our Portland Real Estate Page for more information.
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