Cyclists cruise up North Williams Avenue, one of the busiest bike corridors in the city. Photo by Elly Blue/Flickr.
Those questioning Portland’s cycling obsession should head to North Williams Avenue, aka the Williams District, where more than 4,000 bikes roll along the street during peak hour, sometimes even surpassing the number of cars on this northbound thoroughfare. But there’s more to the city’s busiest bicycling corridor than the traffic whizzing by — you just need to park the wheels and set out on foot to take it all in.
This rapidly developing stretch along North Williams Avenue, as well as a quieter scene on nearby North Vancouver Avenue, has quickly become Portland’s next up-and-coming neighborhood, with thousands of square feet of new retail space having recently opened and further development coming in the next few years. All of this shiny newness doesn’t mean a lack of character — stroll just a few blocks to see how a crop of restaurants, taprooms, wineries and independent shops are together building the future of this growing community.
Lifestyle boutique Ink & Peat curates a cute selection of vintage and contemporary home goods. Photo by Linnea Paulina.
The pace of change here hasn’t come without pushback from long-time residents, many who see the construction as a sign of further gentrification in a city grappling with an influx of new residents and unprecedented development. But even as Portlanders discuss these issues, it’s encouraging to see that the new retail businesses opening here are not big chain shops but mostly local makers and independent boutiques. This means that shopping along North Williams and North Vancouver avenues offers a glimpse into the city’s crafty, DIY spirit.
New shops seem to open for every visit, but these are a few stalwarts. The independent Queen Bee Creations (3961 N. Williams Ave.) operates a studio that doubles as their flagship store. As you peruse the selection of handmade, faux leather bags, peer into the workspace to see the busy crew sewing and stitching. Letterpress studio Lark Press (3901 N. Williams Ave.) prints their own line of greeting cards as well as other ephemera, such as letterpress poems, notebooks, recipe cards and more. Hands-on toy store SpielWerk Toys (3808 N. Williams Ave.) curates a selection of specialty toys and games, including locally made items, which kids can play with in the shop’s activity area. Next door, Ink & Peat (3808 N. Williams Ave.), which dubs itself a lifestyle boutique, might make you think you’ve wondered into a magazine’s photo shoot; textile-designer Pam Zsori hand-selects a cute variety of vintage and contemporary home goods.
The kitchen crew at Tasty N Sons cooks up quntessential Portland brunch fare. Photo by Jenly/Flickr.
Southeast Division Street often ranks as Portland’s hottest food destination, but the simmering dining scene here on North Williams seems like it’s slowly prepping to take the culinary crown, with marquee restaurants getting press in the New York Times and newcomers attracting local buzz. Critical darlings include Jenn Louis’ Lincoln Restaurant (3808 N. Williams Ave.), John Gorham’s brunch hot spot Tasty N Sons (3808 N. Williams Ave.) and food cart turned pork sandwich shop The People’s Pig (3217 N. Williams Ave.).
The neighborhood also lays claim to a handful of first-rate watering holes. Funky, saloon-inspired bar and music venue The Waypost (3120 N. Williams Ave.) serves cheesy plates of mini-nachos and quesadillas for happy hour. The Portland tasting room for celebrated Roseburg-based winery TeSóAria (4003 N. Williams Ave.) offers flights of wine, growler fills and a tapas pairing menu. Beer lovers sip on samplers at brewpubs Hopworks Urban Brewery’s BikeBar (3947 N. Williams Ave.) and Lompoc Brewing’s Fifth Quadrant (3901 N. Williams Ave.).
Home cooks learn new culinary skills at a Hipcooks class. Photo by Rollence Patugan/Flickr.
Yes, you could easily spend hours sipping and noshing along North Williams, but if you’re looking for a tasty activity that’s a bit more hands-on, why not book a culinary class and pick up a few new skills? Chocoholics can book private group classes at the Chocolate Craft Studio (3936 N. Williams Ave.) and spend a few hours crafting chocolate with individualized instruction. Even if you don’t plan on learning confectionary arts, stop in at the chocolate shop for its selection of artisan chocolates, kitchen supplies and how-to books. For a more savory experience, check out Hipcooks (3808 N. Williams Ave.), where small-group classes cover the basics of healthier, organic cooking and, best of all, end with a dinner party feast.
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