Exploring Portland’s NW 21st and 23rd Avenues
Friday 13 May 2016 — Category: Outings
After 22 photographic walking tours of Portland in 2015, there were still many sections of the city I had not explored. One of them was the Northwest District. This area of the city center is bounded by Burnside Street on the south, Nicolai Street on the north, I-405 and the Willamette River on the east, and the West Hills on the west.
The principle north-south street through the Northwest District is NW 23rd Avenue, followed by NW 21st Avenue. For my final Portland outing of 2015, I decided to explore, on foot, these two roads. Along the way I stopped at a handful of restaurants and pubs for delicious food and drink. I will be sharing those epicurean experiences in my next article. In addition, I bought a number of gourmet groceries during this outing, which I cover in more detail in Gourmet Groceries From Portland’s NW 21st Avenue.
Following my general routine, I left home in Albany at 6:00 AM, parked at the Sunset Transit Center around 7:30, caught a MAX Red Line train to the city center at 7:45, and arrived at the Providence Park MAX Station at 7:56.
From there it was a short 0.4-mile, nine-minute walk to my first stop of the morning: breakfast at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, at 338 NW 21st Avenue. After months of trying to follow the bread recipes of master baker Ken Forkish in his cookbook Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza, I was looking forward to finally visiting his famous bakery. Because it is also a café, I had a scrumptious breakfast there, and also bought some expertly-crafted bread later in the day.
This part of Portland is an interesting mélange of historic buildings, new construction, and middle-aged structures. The early-morning, late-November slanting sunlight created interesting shadows, and gave everything a golden-yellow glow. Because the lengths of NW 21st and 23rd Avenues are both less than one mile, it didn’t take me too long to cover that distance.
Around mid-morning I stopped by the City Market NW at 735 NW 21st Avenue. Inside are five separate businesses sharing one large space and a common cashier, without any walls in between. I bought some meat and cheese at two of the vendors, but I for sure did not want to carry around perishable food for the rest of the day. Because I had already purchased an all-day pass, I took public transportation back to my truck to place the food in an ice chest I had brought along for that purpose.
By the time I made it back to NW 23rd Avenue, I was definitely ready for some lunch. I had a killer meal at McMenamins Rams Head, which occupies the ground floor on the corner of Hoyt Street in the historic (built 1912) Campbell Hotel building.
After that delightful repast I wandered around the area some more, eventually stopping for a beer at the Lompoc Tavern. As I made my way back south towards the city center, I passed by many of the more than 20 structures on 9 city blocks occupied by the Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center campus, which dominates this corner of Portland.
Before bidding the Northwest District adieu, I had a final beer at Kells Brew Pub at 210 NW 21st Avenue. From there I headed down SW Morrison Street, and a while later arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square to see the newly-lit 75-foot Christmas tree. Both Morrison Street and the Christmas tree are covered further in A Slice of Portland’s SW Morrison Street.
Although the tree was worth seeing, it was probably more interesting to watch the live stream of the lighting ceremony the evening before, which featured The von Trapp Children and others. After making my way back to my truck on a MAX train, I drove the 75 miles to Albany in the growing dusk. I had left when it was dark, and arrived back home in the dark. All in all it was a great twelve-hour outing to a part of Portland I had never experienced before.
I took 132 pictures that day; the best 43 have been gathered into the new Portland NW 21st & 23rd Ave 2015 album. Grocery, Morrison Street and Christmas tree photos are on display in the Gourmet Chef Wannabe 2015 and Portland Miscellaneous 2015 albums. For more details about my experiences during this outing, see my follow-up article: Portland NW 21st and 23rd Avenues Pub Crawl.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel — soon I will be completely finished with pictures from, and articles about, 2015. Hurray!
UPDATE: For more adventure in this area of Portland, see my later articles from another outing I made there: A Pictorial ABC of Portland’s NW Alphabet District and McMenamins Portland Alphabet District Pub Crawl.