Nov 2, 2023 - Culture

Unstumped: Portland's "cultural" neighborhoods

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Where are Portland neighborhoods where people share "cultural foods and activities" — such as historic Chinatown in NW? A reader wanted to know.

Context: Carl Abbot, one of Portland's longtime urban historians, answered a closely related question in Portland Monthly a few years ago — where were immigrant neighborhoods that have "vanished"?

Details: Powerful economic interests killed many.

  • Jewish and Italian neighborhoods were destroyed by 1970s urban renewal south of downtown.
  • Scandinavian, Irish, and Croatian areas in NW Portland were eaten away by warehouses and railroad tracks.
  • Interstate I-5 ripped through the heart of Black communities in N and NE Portland.

You can dig deeper in this Oregon Historical Society rundown.

What's happening: More recently, Portland's communities of color, including immigrant populations, have grown, Ethan Sharygin, head of Portland State University's Population Research Center, tells Axios.

Yes but: New immigrants have largely settled on Portland's edges where housing is more affordable, while many people in Portland's historic communities of color have moved away from the city center.

  • "That can be told as a story of gentrification, or as a story of post-redlining upward mobility," Sharygin says.

The big picture: Foodwise, this history has an effect, Eater Portland editor Brooke Jackson-Glidden tells Axios.

  • "Because of the demographic breakdown of Portland ... we don't have the same sorts of specific food neighborhoods as you'd see in other cities."
  • "However, we do actually have a really diverse culinary scene."

Zoom in: But a handful of Portland neighborhoods do offer high concentrations of cuisines of specific cultures.

  • The Jade District and SE 82nd Ave boast a wide array of Vietnamese and Chinese food spots — the area's annual food event wraps up this weekend — along with a handful of Russian and Ukrainian markets.
  • Suburbs southwest of Portland have a significant Asian population and a plethora of Asian restaurants as well, with plenty of Indian offerings in Hillsboro and Korean eateries around Beaverton.
  • Portland Mercado at SE 72nd and Powell is a deliberately built hub for Latino culture, including restaurants and groceries.

Of note: You're just as likely to find great eats from all cultures scattered about town, Jackson-Glidden says.


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