On a sunny weekday we headed to the historic Sellwood neighborhood of Portland. Sellwood is one of those quaint Portland neighborhoods that has been re-discovered. While the homes are of another era, people tend to them like the treasures they are. There is a uniquely hip (but not over-the-top hip) vibe to be felt as you stroll the tree-shaded streets and parks.
The Sellwood neighborhood feels very self-sustaining. New Seasons grocery store is a local chain with a neighborly feel, but large enough to provide for the surrounding households. You’ll encounter local restaurants and coffee shops. And, as I recently heard, an excellent food cart pod.
On Tacoma Street and the surrounding small business district you’ll find chic boutiques, farm-fresh food and fun antiquing.
A Little Sellwood Neighborhood History
Like many Portland neighborhoods, Sellwood began as a real estate development in a separately established town. In 1882 a real estate developer bought 321 acres of land on the east bank of the Willamette River from Rev. John Sellwood, a pioneer Episcopal minister. This newly developed town of Sellwood, located five miles south of Portland, was incorporated in 1883.
So how could the town be connected with downtown Portland’s thriving business district? In order to ensure the success of the Sellwood real estate venture, the real estate company provided a free passenger ferry from downtown Portland to Umatilla Street in Sellwood. The little town was incorporated by Portland in 1893 and benefited from having streetcar access to downtown Portland.
Park your car on a side street and stroll the neighborhood. You’ll find a small white church, the Oaks Pioneer Church, on one corner. The little church was moved from its original location in Milwaukie Oregon in 1961. The church was shipped by barge to the ferry slip where it was moved to the corner of Southeast Grand Avenue and Spokane and placed on a low brick foundation.
The history-loving Sellwood residents adopted the church and transformed it back to its original appearance. It is an endearing little church, with creaking wood floors and pews where 300 couples a year say “I do.”
Shopping and Antiquing in the Sellwood Neighborhood
When you wander SE 13th and venture down some side streets to check out the small shops, you’ll encounter some classic antique shops with embroidered linens, ornate furniture and vintage cookware.
I especially enjoyed the Rusted Rooster on SE 13th. The roses were in full bloom as we walked down the street.
One shop attracted shoppers with an irresistible outdoor vintage book table.
Another featured glassware, china and beautiful crystal lighting fixtures… all glimmering in the sunshine streaming through the windows. There are stand alone shops and antique malls and you have to check out each and every one.
At the end of our walk down SE 13th we stopped in to a decidedly non-vintage store… the Columbia Sportswear Outlet at the corner of SE 13th and Tacoma. The two-story store is known for unbelievable bargains in outdoor clothing for men, women and children and, if you want to look like a local, pick up a Columbia Sportswear jacket! Even many Portland newscasters wear them. The logo is unmistakably a Pacific Northwest thing.
Fresh and Creative Dining in the Sellwood Neighborhood
Recently a foodie friend raved on and on about the Piknik Park Food Carts & Beer Garden at 1122 SE Tacoma. They had stopped in for lunch and raved about the salad bowl with chicken from Polli-Tico (Peruvian Street Food) and the excellent rockfish fish and chips from Papa Lee’s Kitchen.
My friend raved on, “This guy knows about FLAVOR! In addition to a fine tartar, he provided a garlic aioli, and gave me some salsa roja for my fries that was amazing. Oh, and he adds Parmesan shavings to the fries (which, by the way, are crispy!). I’m a fan! This version of fish and chips is definitely in the Top 5 of what Portland offers (and perhaps even the West Coast!).”
But that recommendation came after we chose our dining venue… Jade Bistro & Patisserie, also highly recommended. Jade has a lovely outdoor patio, downstairs seating (where you order) and a lofty light upstairs suitable for groups. If you dine at Jade, try to go before or after the lunch hour. It can get rather crowded with a line out the door at noon!
Jade is a family run business. The family ran the popular Portland eatery, Beau Thai. In the Jade kitchen and bakery, you’ll find the matriarch, Lucy. Jade’s food traces Lucy’s roots of growing up Vietnamese in both Laos and French Colonial Vietnam. She runs Jade with her daughter, April.
I especially appreciated Jade’s fresh, colorful fare. I was taken with their fresh salad rolls… Chicken and shrimp or lemongrass tofu, with peanut dipping sauce. I opted for the shrimp. Jade is one place a vegetarian, vegan or gluten free diner will feel very at home.
Exploring More Sellwood Neighborhood Finds
The Sellwood neighborhood is located on a bluff overlooking the Oak Bottoms area. On the banks of the Willamette River, families enjoy the Oaks Amusement Park. It’s an old fashioned place with small carnival rides. They have been there since 1905. You’ll find tree shaded picnic areas, rides including classics like bumper cars and a roller coaster, games, miniature golf, go-carts, roller-skating rink and a mini-train tour. The feel of the park goes right along with the vintage-loving Sellwood.
Also located in that area, and connected to the upper Sellwood business district by a hiking and biking trail is the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The area is a floodplain wetland and attracts birds like the Great Blue Heron.
When You Go to Portland’s Sellwood Neighborhood
You may see the neighborhood listed as Sellwood-Moreland. Moreland is adjacent. The Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood is located in Southeast Portland. It is bordered by the Willamette River, Brooklyn, and Eastmoreland neighborhoods.
It is easily accessible from the west side of the Willamette River and downtown Portland via the newly upgraded Sellwood Bridge connecting onto Tacoma Street.