St. Johns Neighborhood Guide
St. Johns’ Guide
St. Johns feels very detached from Portland proper and has a distinct small-town feel to it. The post office, coffee shops, breakfast places, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, and several parks, are all within walking distance for residents who live close to the downtown strip.
St. Johns History
St. Johns has a rich and interesting history. An 1843 pioneer settler of Linnton, James John, moved across the river and started St. Johns in about 1865. St. Johns became part of Portland in1915, two years before Linnton joined the growing city. There used to be a lot of streetcars in St Johns and many interesting old houses & buildings still remain.
It’s not possible to discuss St. Johns without singing the praises of the St. Johns bridge. The bridge is stunning and the focal point of many famous photos. It is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge and mistakenly reported as being designed by the same person. The builder of the St Johns bridge was John Steinman who was rumored to be a rival to the builder of the Golden Gate Bridge.Meet the illustrator.
One virtue of the bridge that is often overlooked by much of Portland, is a 12-minute commute to downtown Portland and 15-20 minute commute to Beaverton or Hillsboro. Highway 30, the road connecting the other side of the bridge to downtown Portland suffers very little traffic during the 8-5 or 9-6 commute hours (although, anecdotally, it’s busier during earlier hours 5-7 am and 2:30 – 4:30). Germantown Road to Skyline or Cornelius Pass have light traffic during banker’s hour’s commute.
St. Johns’ Neighborhood Vibe
St. John’s is described by locals as “extremely friendly“, “A town within a city…” “There seems to be quite an underground of artists and fellow travelers in these parts.” Some parts of St Johns feel new and others gritty and perhaps not so safe, especially at night.
St. Johns Real Estate
St. John’s features all styles of Portland architecture, from ranches and cape cods, to the occasional Victorian home. St. Johns is an older Portland community.
Click here to see all current St. Johns homes for sale.
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St Johns’ Community Resources
Zip Code: 97203
St. Johns’ Neighborhood Association page with meeting times, census data, and more.
Stjohnsreview.com – Portland’s oldest community newspaper.St Johns can be proud that Portland’s oldest community newspaper, the St. Johns Review, has had continual publications for more than 100 years, It was founded in 1904 by JC Crome and has been owned by Gayla Patton since 1994. Offices are in the (also) historic Cathedral Park Place building which once housed the Portland Woolen Mills.
St. John’s ParadeSt. Johns’ has had an annual parade for more than 50 years, since 1962, with homemade floats. It is a free family friendly celebration, and a great way to get to know your neighbors and local businesses.
St. Johns Farmers Market
- Saturdays, 9am to 2pm
- May 18th – October 26th
- St. Johns Plaza, N Lombard & N Philadelphia
- St. Johns Farmers market and local business’ website.
St. Johns’ Area Schools:
Elementary school: James John Elementary School
Middle school: George Middle School
High school: Roosevelt High School
St. Johns’ Parks
St. John’s is home to beautiful Cathedral Park. The aptly named park, directly below the bridge is home not only to the “cathedral-like” arches of the bridge piers, but a boat ramp, a dog off-leash area, and a hiking trail. The park itself was created out of what was essentially wasteland under the bridge in the early 70s by St. Johns honorary mayor Howard Galbraith (per Portland Parks and recreation). There is a water pollution control lab that has a charming natural habitat wetland sanctuary where you may spot nutria and red-winged blackbirds. The yearly St Johns blues jazz festival is also held in Cathedral Park.
Forest Park has a trailhead on the west side of the St. Johns Bridge. You can walk across the bridge and be right in the forest. Forest Park is the largest old-growth urban forest in the United States. This trail area of the park features the most wildlife–you may spot some deer and other animals foraging quietly in the forest.
The Smith & Bybee Lakes wildlife sanctuary is tucked away in St. Johns, also. It’s a protected wetland scenic area that is unique and beautiful–and a bird watchers delight! The Portland Parks website indicates that most visitors to the lakes can find beaver, river otter, black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles, and one of the largest remaining populations of Western painted turtles in Oregon. The Columbia Slough has boat ramps where people take canoes and rafts for a relaxing ride. There is public art along the restored trail.
Pier Park is another great park that is like a little forest and sometimes hosts classical music performances.
St. Johns Restaurants & Businesses
Originally settled independently of Portland, St. Johns used to be its own city complete with City Hall. Now that building houses the police station, and the two towns are one. Or are they?
Of course, legally the two cities are one. And then there’s that Kumbaya can’t-we-all-just-get-along way, sure. But walking the streets, it doesn’t take long to get the vibe that, “Toto, we’re not in Portland anymore.”
Somewhere between the architecture that’s frozen at different moments in Main Street Americana and the fiercely, did I mention fiercely, proud neighbors and proprietors, is a sense of community that is different, special, even self-reflective. It’s as if the community pastime consists of pinching oneself at the opportunity to live and work in St. Johns.
Of course, some of the St. Johns’ satisfaction has to do with age. No rocket science here. Plain and simple, history equals roots equals pride. And in St. Johns, you can’t throw a rock and not hit something historic. Some of the oldest buildings in all of Portland are in St. Johns, as well as some of the oldest businesses. The bike shop clocks in as the very first, established in 1925 and now in its third generation. The bakery is also in its third generation. The hardware store was the oldest in the land before hard times, but it’s making a comeback. You can chomp on pizza at a gas station that goes back to the‘30s, and the soda fountain was flowing in the ‘50s.
Most of the proprietors live nearby, and their sense of community weighs in far stronger than any feelings of competition. When you talk to shop owners in St. Johns, they can’t wait to recommend several other shops on the block. They’ll tell you who owns them, how long they’ve been around, and the quality work they’re up to.
Taking their lead, here’s what we found.
Big Kahuna’s Barbeque
So this place isn’t the oldest in the’ hood, but Gary Herrera, owner and the Big Kahuna himself, does it the old fashioned way. He smokes and barbeques all his own meat right there on the premises. This guy with the huge, welcoming smile is so serious about barbeque that he holds classes and even barbeque competitions. Most of the time, these competitions coincide with the St. Johns Parade, which is the annual kick-off to the Rose Festival season.
Best of all, you don’t have to come down to Big Kahuna’s to get a taste of the island life. Gary and his crew are more than happy to cater your next event, whether it’s a house party or a fancy soiree. They offer their most popular dishes, and each guest will be more than satisfied with the portions. No one will be left hungry when Big Kahuna’s is in the house.
Recently, Gary’s won the best caterer of the year, and the restaurant is listed as one of Portland’s Top 100. He’s the champion of several competitions across the States. And with dishes like Kalua Pig Plate and Smoked Beef Plate with some Mango Cole Slaw, the Big Kahuna seems to have found the winning recipe for making a place in St. John’s history.
Big Kahunas Barbeque and Catering
8221 N. Lombard Street
When it comes to beverages, Portland offers some of the best coffee and beer in the world. There is a plethora of both coffee houses and craft breweries, meaning that you can wet your whistle at any time of day. For those that prefer drinking in the evening, Lombard House is one of the most intimate places to buy a pint.
We’re not kidding when we say intimate; Lombard House is not just a clever name – it’s an actual house. The seating inside is limited and the tap list is only 10 beers long. However, you’ll enjoy every minute you’re here, particularly if you come with friends (no more than three if you value personal space).
As you can imagine, such a small venue doesn’t have food. Fortunately, there are plenty of carts nearby, each with their own flavor to accommodate your drink. The atmosphere and vibe of Lombard House is both distinctly Portland and uniquely St. John’s. You won’t find another place like it.
7337 N Lombard st
3 Tracks Music
It’s no secret that Portland is home to a vibrant local music scene. For artists looking for a vintage vibe to their equipment, 3 Tracks is the place to shop. The retailer specializes in vintage guitars, amps, and acoustic instruments. The place is relatively small, but it has a lot of personality, all thanks to the owner, Keith Kurczewski.
According to Keith, the name doesn’t refer to tracks like you’d find at a recording studio. Instead, it refers to 3-track railroad signs that litter the landscape in and around St. John’s. Apparently, the name sounded good enough for the business, so it stuck. However, even though everyone gets the origin wrong, Keith is much too nice to get annoyed about it.
Overall, if you want anything to do with guitars, you need to check this place out. They also do consignment and will buy instruments to fix or resell in the shop. Anyone who appreciates classic guitars will want to browse the selection, even if they aren’t interested in buying anything.
3 Tracks Music
7429 N Lombard st
Leisure Public House
St. John’s is one of the better places in Portland to do a pub crawl. Walking down Lombard st, you will come across a wide array of different pubs and bars, each with its own personality and flair. Leisure Public House is one of the more open and friendly places, making it an excellent stop to enjoy with friends. Partake in some ping pong or bocce ball to pass the time as you browse through their rotating tap selection.
When it comes to food, Leisure is mostly known for hot sandwiches. You can get classics like a Pastrami Reuben or Caprese, but they also offer a few unique options, like the Parmesan-Breaded Eggplant. For dessert, you can get either a root beer float or a Guinness float, if you want to keep the party rolling.
Tuesdays are particularly fun at Leisure, thanks to its weekly trivia night. Test your knowledge against your fellow bar patrons and see who comes out on top. In case of a tie, winning teams may have to dance to see which one will be crowned champion for the evening. Brush up on your general knowledge skills and see if a pint or two will sharpen your wits.
Leisure Public House
8002 N Lombard st
McMenamin’s St. John’s Theater and Pub
For those who aren’t native to Portland, the McMenamin’s name is as synonymous with the city (and Oregon in general) as roses or the Willamette River. Most of the top neighborhoods in the city have a McMenamin’s to call their own, and St. John’s is no exception. If you’re unfamiliar with how these places operate, each one is distinct – no two are alike. Part of the charm comes from the fact that every McMenamin’s is built into a historic building.
In St. John’s, the building was part of the Lewis and Clark Exposition (a World’s Fair) in 1905. The Theater was the crown jewel of the exhibit, although it was only built to last about six months. The ornate domed structure was quite impressive when it was first built, and much of that historical significance is still present to this day.
The highlight of the theater is cheap second-run movies, but you can also partake in a pint or two while you wait for your showtime. Also, the Theater has a sampling of locally-sourced pub snacks and food in case you want something to eat with your beer or cider.
McMenamin’s St. John’s Theater and Pub
8203 N Ivanhoe st
Pattie’s Home Plate Café
As we’ve mentioned, St. John’s is fiercely proud of its heritage. Because most of the buildings in the area are original, it can sometimes feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There are a few places that capitalize on this nostalgia well, but none are quite as remarkable as Pattie’s Home Plate Cafe. If you want a taste of the 1950s in Portland, here is one of the few places you can do it (in the original building, no less).
The namesake proprietor grew up in St. John’s and used to spend her typical 1950’s Saturday sitting at the fountain here slurping Orange Julius. Two doors down, the owner of the fencing center says he’s seen a photograph of Pattie when she was a kid sitting at the tables and chairs outside – the exact same tables and chairs that are there today.
All grown up, Pattie bought the place with her husband, Gene, and expanded the deli into a café. They serve exactly what you would expect they would in a place that still holds sock hops every first and third Saturday of the month.
Pattie’s Home Plate Cafe
8501 N. Lombard Street
Signal Station Pizza
When most people think of pizza, they don’t usually imagine eating it at a gas station. Fortunately, Signal Station has long abandoned its original purpose as a fueling depot and instead turned itself into one of the premier spots in Portland. At first, the decor and building facade can be a little odd, but once you’re inside, you’ll be delighted by both the food and the service.
The antique gas pumps are still out front. The service bay door into the garage still rolls up. And inside, what else? Pizza! You can enjoy the warmer months inside the “garage” or at tables set up just outside. And word on the street is they’ve got a good rep. Part of that reputation comes from the fact that the owners locally source the ingredients and use all-natural recipes for every one of their pies.
Serving pizza by the slice or whole pie, each one is made with care and delicious foods. Even the names of the pizzas are inherent to the area, with options like The Willamette, Lombard Deluxe, and the No. Portland Special. You can also get personal sizes if you want more than a slice but don’t feel like sharing. In addition to pizza, Signal Station also dishes up calzones and subs for your enjoyment, as well as scoops of Blue Bunny Ice Cream for dessert.
Signal Station Pizza
8302 N. Lombard Street
Blue Moon Camera and Machine
In the market for that latest digital SLR? Or maybe you’re just in the mood to talk megapixels? Not in St. Johns you’re not and certainly not at Blue Moon. Purists down to their last shutter, each and every Blue Moon staff member is a photographer first, clerk second, and they do traditional film the traditional way.
On the equipment sales side of the business, they carry the best vintage: ‘60s, ‘70s, and early‘80s. And processing Blue Moon style means high-quality optical printing that requires hands-on, one negative at a time attention, focusing optical light through each individual frame.
In addition to keeping the tradition, Blue Moon has also made one in these parts. As they see literally every exposure their customers submit, the staff sets aside a few favorites for an annual customer show that has become so popular that this year there’s an encore presentation.
Blue Moon Camera and Machine
8417 N. Lombard Street
The Man’s Shop
“Meet us and be well dressed,” was the slogan started 67 years ago by Ben and Jean Leveton. Their sons, Bob and Jerry, have run the operation for many years now, and The Man’s Shop remains the place for smart attire, as well as casual, in the neighborhood that made them who they are.
Though the family has always had a St. Johns presence, once upon a time they also owned a second location in Jantzen each. There they won the “Friendliest Store in the Shopping Center” so many years in a row that the trophy was finally retired with their name on it. What bearing does that have on their business today? According to the brothers, they learned what it meant to run a truly friendly shop from St. Johns– and that’s right where they continue to do so.
Suits, shirts, ties, tuxes, and even tee’s and jeans, The Man’s Shop has a tremendous inventory in addition to their share of smiles.
The Man’s Shop
8511 N. Lombard Street
Vinyl Resting Place
Vintage vinyl + historic St. Johns = no brainer. Owners Toby Tobiason and Pat Smith, Vinyl Magnate and Vinyl Design respectively, specialize in jazz, folk, and blues records but also carry much more. Simply stated, they “buy and sell interesting records.”
They like the old sound, and they like the old way. Pat likens their store to any mom ‘n pop shop you’d find in the 50s. And why shouldn’t she? Doing it the vintage way, her commute consists of walking and waving to the neighbors who frequent the shop so often they have their pictures, like family, hung in a collage on the wall.
Vinyl Resting Place
8332 N. Lombard Street
Fencing Center – Salle Trois Armes
A classic sport for a classic neighborhood –it’s a classic fit. Coach Rocky Beach and Maitre d’Armes, Delmar Calvert, who received his first fencing master’s degree while serving in the French Foreign Legion, offer traditional as well as Olympic-style sport fencing training for both genders, all ages.
The story goes that Coach Beach used to live in St. Johns in its earlier heyday and believed it would be the right spot to which to return to establish his beloved fencing center. At that time, however, the area had suffered a few setbacks, and his shop lights were the only ones on the street still bright come nighttime. But Rocky believed if he just kept those bulbs burning, other proprietors would eventually come. Suffice to say that Kevin Costner and a cornfield have nothing on Rocky Beach and Portland’s St.Johns neighborhood.
Fencing Center– Salle Trois Armes
8517 N. Lombard Street
When you think of barbecue, chances are that you imagine hunks of meat roasting on a grill. Beef brisket, pork spareribs, barbecued chicken – these are all staples of the traditional BBQ experience. However, what if you could have the same dishes, only made with meatless substitutes?
It may sound bizarre, but the fact is that Homegrown Smoker has seemingly done the impossible. You can get a wide array of barbecued favorites, only they are all either vegetarian or full vegan (mostly vegan). Instead of regular ribs, fish, and wings, you get soy and tofu substitutes. Another option is seitan (wheat gluten), which replaces beef in many of the dishes.
Every element of Homegrown Smoker is vegan-friendly, with no animal parts or by-products to worry about whatsoever. Meat eaters will also be impressed by the visual and tactile quality of the “meats.” Although you can certainly tell that you’re not eating the real deal, the delicious barbecue sauce can almost make you forget that.
8638 N Lombard st
St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub
Not to be confused with the McMenamin’s Theater and Pub. This awesome old movie house serves pizza and beer, good coffee and general movie snacks all for prices you won’t find in movie theaters. There are theaters up and downstairs but potential patrons should take note that the top theater screen is much smaller and the seating a little awkward. The bottom theater is stunning and every seat is a good seat.
St. Johns Twin Cinema and Pub
8704 N Lombard st
St. John’s: Friends We’ve Lost
(Out of Business or Moved)
In Memory Of:
Greg’s – Local Store
The name doesn’t give away much, but a simple title would have its hands full trying to nail down this store’s contents. Instead of slinging the shopping “E” word – “eclectic” – manager Michael Talley refers to the establishment as an “all-inclusive gift shop.” Cards to fountains, the inventory will soon also boast a nursery with garden supplies and garden art.
Tulip Pastry Shop – Confectionary
Making St. Johns smell good since 1950, Tulip Pastry Shop still bakes every last morsel as they did 57 years ago –from scratch. In the business for so long, Melodie Presler of its third generation can’t smell any of her family’s sweeter concoctions anymore, but it’s worth it for cakes that are legendary, custard – also from scratch – that is a conversation piece, and a Marionberry stuffed cookie that will demand your complete attention.
Weir’s Cyclery – Bicycle Shop
Before biking was Portland chic. Heck, practically before God created the seventh day so that the entire city could go biking – there was Weir’s Cyclery. Saddling bipeds on two wheels since 1925, Weir’s is the oldest in the city. Passed from father to son a couple of times, Weir’s is in its third generation with Steve, who specializes in Specialized and Raleigh, and of course the traditional Red Line for the BMX crowd.