Portland’s real estate market has been going nuts for a while now but there are still pockets around town that remain affordable places to buy. See: St. Johns. Located in North Portland on the peninsula jutting into the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, St. Johns has a small-town feel while being just minutes from the Portland bustle. It’s a gateway to Forest Park (one of the country’s largest urban parks) and it’s also a convenient location for those commuting to Vancouver, WA.
Portland is a city of families, cyclists and outdoorsy types who value walkability and St. Johns has just about everything a family needs within a tiny radius. Let’s start with a personal favorite:
Lombard Street is the heart of St. Johns and it’s flanked with great spots to eat. There’s wood-fired pizza at Girasole, Brass Tacks sandwiches (for those who like meat OR fake meat), the John Street Cafe (breakfast and lunch) and the James John Cafe (brunch, dinner and a shooting locale for early episodes of “Portlandia”!)
Signal Station Pizza is a hit for kids’ birthday parties. The Tienda Santa Cruz is a tasty taco spot. And The Baowry offers a variety of Asian fusion. Anna Bannanas, a fun spot to bring the kids and have breakfast and coffee, just celebrated its 10-year anniversary in St. Johns.
St. Johns kinda feels like the town in “Back to the Future” and I especially feel this when I’m in Pattie’s Home Plate Cafe listening to the oldies jukebox or in the Tulip Pastry Shop tasting a donut from a 70-year old recipe!
A recent, welcomed addition to the coffee scene is St. Johns Coffee Roasters’ brick and mortar on Leavitt. I used to go to the farmer’s market solely for this coffee but now I don’t have to wait for summer weekends. And if you like your coffee with a side of gelato, Affogato on Lombard has you covered.
One of my favorite things about Portland are the old, preserved movie theaters like the Bagdad on Hawthorne and the Laurelhurst on Burnside. And St. Johns has a gem of its own showing first-run films at St. Johns Twin Cinemas. Admission is $8 ($6 matinee) and they have beer and pizza. Why doesn’t every movie theater have beer and pizza? WHY?
Kruger’s Produce is a must-stop on Lombard for fresh veggies and a food cart pod. Lombard also has a Fred Meyer and is soon to have a fancy New Seasons which will be huge for the neighborhood, not to mention the real estate market.
One of the perks of being on the periphery of Portland is all of the green space. Kelley Point Park is a great bike destination to see where the Columbia and Willamette rivers meet. Cathedral Park is the pristine, Instagram-ready spot located under the massive St. Johns Bridge. Columbia Park has a community center complete with a pool for summertime scorchers. And if you’re into disc golf, Pier Park has one the most fun and gorgeous courses in the country situated amidst old growth Douglas Fir trees. It’s great for beginners (as its openness makes it hard to lose a disc) and pros alike (options for very long holes.)
Another huge benefit of St. Johns is its proximity to the lush Sauvie Island. A short drive over the St. Johns Bridge puts you on one of the largest river islands in the United States. Enjoy its beaches in summer or its cycling roads year-round. Plus a bounty of fresh produce grown a few miles from your St. John’s home.
July marks the 36th Annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, which is the longest-running free jazz festival west of the Mississippi. There’s also a Portland Pirate Festival under the St. Johns Bridge.
Any Portlander who hasn’t patronized the Multnomah County Library System doesn’t know what they’re missing. Sometimes people in the age of Netflix-and-chill forget that our public libraries have just about everything on Netflix and then some, like all of the HBO shows on DVD. And St. Johns has one MultCoLib’s most majestic settings in a historic building, right in middle of town, dating back to 1903!
St. Johns has a lovely community center in the heart of town which features a gym, has daycare and preschool options, and even has church on the weekends. And St. Johns’ Portland eccentricities don’t end with the Pirate Festival. There’s a fencing center on Lombard which isn’t far from the Tre Bone pet store to maintain your animal’s health-nut diet.
MOVE TO ST. JOHNS!
I have a special affinity for St. Johns since I lived there with my wife and children for several years. I know the area well and if you love it as much as me I’d be happy to help you move there.