A short but bustling commercial corridor, North Mississippi Avenue is most commonly known—to outsiders—for the one day a year when it bursts at its seams (seriously, some 30,000 people turn out) with music, merriment and local street vendors during the annual Mississippi Street Fair, held each July. To residents and insiders, the burgeoning business district has sprouted—like weeds once did from the numerous empty lots along the strip—since the turn of the century. As Mississippi Avenue traverses the Boise neighborhood from north to south, gentrification has changed the face of this traditionally minority neighborhood with glossy new high-rise apartments, chic foodie and hipster hangs, live music venues, and a bevy of bars, boutiques and brewpubs. Although the masses may descend on Historic Mississippi Avenue just once each summer, there are plenty of reasons to check it out on the other 364 days each year.

See and Do

  • Cirque du Cycling

    In a city obsessed with bikes, Cirque du Cycling is Mississippi’s summertime offering. Creating a block party-like atmosphere, you’ll see plenty of ambitiously decorated bikes, self-modified trikes, and other pedal-powered modes of transport during the family ride to Peninsula Park. Then, let the races begin! The cargo bike race kicks things off followed by the main attraction, a high-speed race on a two-way course, while the night definitely hits the finish line in the beer garden.

  • Mississippi Ave Street Fair

    The most jam-packed gathering of the Portland summer street fair season, the Mississippi Ave Street Fair is a fun time featuring a bevy of food and craft vendors, bars spilling out into the street, and a quality offering of local bands curated by the indomitable Mississippi Studios. And although the main drag is crowded as all get-out, you can find some respite inside the shops of your favorite Mississippi retailers who, through their business association, make the whole thing possible.

  • 2nd Thursdays

    With First and Last Thursdays already occupied by other artful events in ‘hoods across town, Mississippi Avenue has staked its claim on the second Thursday of each month. Hanging art in galleries, boutiques, waiting rooms and cafes, 2nd Thursdays feature local works of art at various locations along the drag, as well as beverages and hors d'oeuvres, for several evening hours. Find monthly updates about who’s hosting what on Facebook.

Eat and Drink

  • ¿Por Qué No? Mississippi

    3524 N Mississippi Ave.
    Portland OR 97227

    There is no specific region of Mexico that guides the flavors utilized in the dishes at Bryan Steelman's taqueria. "It's totally all over the map," he says. What you will find on his menu are a variety of bean and rice bowls, tamales and tacos, as well as fresh guacamole and housemade salsas, hot sauces, aguas frescas, horchata, and hand-formed tortillas and chips, the latter of which are deep fried not in canola oil but in the far tastier rice bran oil. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays, and there's even a kids menu for the finicky who've yet to embrace their inner spice. Steelman also remains committed to sustainability by locally sourcing all the chickens, cows, shrimp, fish and pork that make up the majority of the dishes you've come to love.

  • Radar Restaurant

    3951 N Mississippi Ave.
    Portland OR 97227

    For years, Lily Tollefson and her husband, Jonathan Berube, have been splitting their time between the nation's coasts. They were most recently in Long Island where they helped run the Lobster Inn, a restaurant owned and operated for 43 years by Tollefson's father, Skip Radar Tollefson, before he sold it and retired in 2011. The couple has since returned to Portland and opened the small plates bar, Radar, as a tribute to Tollefson's dad. (Radar really is his middle name, she says, adding that all of her father’s sisters and brothers have long been named for nautical terms.) The 36-seat space will feature a food menu that rotates every two weeks with an emphasis on seafood, like a bluefish pâte that spotlights bluefish caught by a fisherman in Long Island and shipped overnight to the City of Roses. The bar also features signature cocktails made with imported spirits that British sailors and merchant marines would've quaffed while in port a century ago. And because her family and husband are soccer fans, European and local matches will be constantly screened on the bar's two televisions and, when it's warm outside, projected onto a big screen on the 20-seat back patio. 

  • Ruby Jewel Scoops Nopo

    3713 N Mississippi Avenue
    Portland OR 97227

    If you're a block away from Ruby Jewel on a warm, sunny day and don't feel very hungry, that's because your stomach hasn't caught up with your legs yet. By the time you approach this neighborhood scoop shop and notice the scent of freshly made waffle cones wafting onto the sidewalk, your tummy will have spontaneously caught up. Inside, you can choose from seven standard and a half dozen seasonal ice cream flavors, which you can have scooped into cups, cones, sundaes, or floats buoyed by your choice of a Rogue Ales root beer or Hotlips soda. There are always at least two vegan (eggless and creamless) "cow-free ices" on hand, as well as at least one gluten-free flavor. And, the single-cow dairy base that makes up most flavors is remarkably fresh—in fact, it's often delivered by Lochmead Dairy within hours of that cow's milking. Of course, you can also sink your teeth into the product that started it all: owner Lisa Herlinger's ice cream cookie sandwiches.

  • Uchu Sushi & Fried Chicken

    3940 N Mississippi Avenue
    Portland OR 97227

    Tom Nguyen's Uchu serves hot small plates (dumplings, egg rolls), cold small plates (poke salad, monkey brains—that's avocado-wrapped salmon, tuna, crab or shrimp), beer, wine, liquor and, of course, sake. But, Nguyen's bread and butter lies in his fried chicken and sushi. His 55-seat lunch and dinner spot serves nine sashimi plates, 20 nigiri plates, 13 vegetarian and vegan rolls, 19 familiar classics (like rainbow, spider and California rolls), and 11 housemade specialty rolls, like the red dragon (shrimp tempura, crab salad and avocado topped with three varieties of roe). Happy hour runs daily, and it's happy hour all day Monday through Wednesday.

Shop

  • Black Wagon

    3964 N Mississippi Avenue
    Portland OR 97227

    Sarah Shaoul's children's boutique specializes in selling items she and her staff consider both "timeless and classic." In other words, Black Wagon sells the kind of books, clothes and kid-friendly furniture that you'll want to pass on to your grandchildren. But the shop's magic ingredient, Shaoul says, is its customer service. Not only will she and her staff help you find the perfect gifts and educational toys for the kids in your life, chances are they'll remember your name, your child's name, and what you purchased your last time in, whether you live around the block or visit Black Wagon but once a year. 

  • Emerald Petals

    3948 N Mississippi Ave.
    Portland OR 97227

    When you say something with flowers, it just sounds better. But when you choose an eco-florist to help you say it, it feels better too. So what does an eco-florist look like? She looks a lot like Hilary Holmes, owner of Emerald Petals, who's been arranging flowers since the late-1990s. Her goal, she says, is to not just provide flowers for all occasions, but to make sure those flowers are grown close to Portland's city limits. That's why she never orders in bulk, which eliminates the need to chemically keep flowers alive. Instead, she visits the growers themselves and chooses locally grown varieties by hand. Even the vases in which her bouquets come are repurposed or manufactured in the U.S. and they're never imported. So whether you need flowers for your wedding or you just need to say, "I love you," call on Holmes and she'll help you say it right. 

  • Mr. Green Beans

    3932 N Mississippi Ave.
    Portland OR 97227

    There's no better place to get a good cup of coffee than in the Pacific Northwest, and few cities take as much pride in a good cup as Portlanders do. But these days, you don't always have to swing by your favorite cafe because Trevin and Ginny Miller will supply you with all the goods—and expertise—you need to make your own cups right in your kitchen. In addition to carrying more than 42 varieties of raw coffee from all over the world, the Millers will outfit you with roasters, brewing devices, coffee delivery systems (French presses, pour overs), and the training classes necessary to give your own special coffee blends the characteristics that best suit you.

  • ReBuilding Center

    3625 N Mississippi Avenue
    Portland OR 97227

    Find just about any item—from doors and windows to appliances to toilets, sinks and tubs to roofing and siding—you need to complete your home improvement projects at this community nonprofit. And don’t fret about the cost: Prices are kept low because the salvaged and reclaimed materials are donated to promote affordability and sustainability.

  • Salty's Dog & Cat Shop

    4039 N Mississippi Ave.
    #104
    Portland OR 97227

    Five days after tying the knot, Nancy and Matt Fedelem adopted Monk, an 18-month-old Rottweiler-Lab mix. He was the first dog either newlywed had ever cared for, and he was also, and continues to be, the couple's teacher when it comes to animal care. He was the impetus behind their purchase of Salty's, which they took over from a friend in 2005 just six months after moving to Portland. Whatever you need for your dog, cat or even bunny rabbit—whether it’s kibbles, litters, chew toys, leashes, collars, rainproof coats, or vitamin supplements—you'll find it here. And of course, as long as they're well behaved, your dogs, cats and bunnies can shop alongside you.

  • Sunlan Lighting

    3901 N Mississippi Ave.
    Portland OR 97227

    In 1989, Kay Newell, aka “The Light Bulb Lady," opened Sunlan Lighting, making it the oldest single owner-owned businesses on what's now become a bustling commercial strip. What's inside is a collection of light bulbs for every occasion, including lone decorative bulbs and strings of holiday, party and patio bulbs, as well as therapeutic light bulbs powerful enough to mimic natural sunlight, which is something Portland doesn't get much of, Newell jokes. But, it's what you see from the outside that brings potential customers inside: Newell's known for her elaborate and illuminating window displays that, for years, have provided a compelling subject for anyone with a camera.

Insider's Tips

  • Brunch at Radar

    Jonathan Berube and Lily Tollefsen's restaurant is essentially an open love letter to Tollefsen's father, Skip Radar Tollefsen. His middle name dubs the space, his artwork graces the wall, and even the bluefish, which they use for their inspired brunch pâté, is his: It’s sourced—and overnighted—from the same Long Island fishermen who supplied Skip with the fish he served at his East Coast seafood spot. About that brunch pâté: It’s smoky, salty (but not too salty), and so silky smooth that it's almost more mousse than pâté. Order some—it comes with a hard-boiled egg and palate-cleansing pickled vegetables—and spread it on a Pearl Bakery demi-baguette. The plate looks small, but it easily fills you up without stuffing you. And while you can order a cup of Ristretto Roasters drip, you really should try Radar's Voddie Mary—a singular, unrivaled, rather addictive morning bracer made with Karlsson's Swedish potato vodka, tomatoes, Tapatio, black pepper, and roasted garlic. If you're looking for a friendly, quiet, easy-on-the belly brunch in a cozy, naturally well-lit space, this is the place for you. Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Happy Hour at Interurban

    Interurban’s happy hour menu has a diverse bench that runs deep. Your only task whilst sipping on a draft beer or a glass of the slyly named Sword Fight (a Kentucky Mule made with Fighting Cock bourbon and Cock’n  Bull ginger beer) is to figure out what exactly to order. Do you try the bone marrow (with grilled bread, salsa verde and Maldon sea salt), the rather addicting polenta croquettes (also with salsa verde, shaved Manchego and a tart, bitey Calabrian chili coulis), or the weekly “fresh baked”—an expertly executed sandwich made with a baked-to-order roll that seems like it will never keep the whole thing together but somehow, miraculously, does. They’re all worth sampling, but then again, so are the crunchy, spicy, sweet and meaty hot wings (rolled in honey, ginger, soy and slivered garlic) and the Stouffer’s-sized personal pot pie (pork loin, carrots, celery, onions and cannelloni beans), which you can upgrade, rather affordably, to include an imperial pint of rotating cask beer. Your best bet? Bring a couple of friends, start with what we’ve listed here, then explore your way through the rest of the menu. Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 10 p.m. till the doors are locked on Sunday nights.

  • Happy Hour at Sidecar 11

    Squeezing into Sidecar 11 is kind of like stepping into a speakeasy—the room is long, the candles lit, the space tight. That's exactly what owner John Cooper was going for and his initial pre-Prohibition cocktail list supported this effort. But over time, Cooper says, those cocktails began to lose their appeal. When they did, he abandoned that list and came up with another one that features original and twisty takes on the classics: The 20 Fountains is made like an Old Fashioned but served up, like a Manhattan, and the Bohemian Suckerpunch is a cleverly concocted flip that effectively employs ingredients bartenders often skip over (Becherovka and Strega), resulting in something sun-colored, foamy and refreshing. When the booze begins winning the battle with your belly, order something quick and easy like Anaheim peppers stuffed with capicola, caramelized onions and a trio of cheeses, or the pepperoni flatbread—like a pizza but on flatbread, so it's chewy, not crispy—which is liberally crowned with a dressed salad. And, like any good speakeasy should, Sidecar 11 keeps three of the best secrets in town. On Wednesdays, every bottle of wine is half off. On Thursdays, every whisky pour is 20 percent off. And if Cooper and his staff ever come across a rare bottle of wine, they'll open it and pour you a taste. More accurately, Cooper's guessing that while you may not be willing to spring $300 for that 60-year-old French red, you're probably glad to pay $15 for a generous taste. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m., and again from 9 p.m. to close (food only), Tuesday through Saturday, and all day on Sunday. The bar is dark on Monday.

  • Happy Hour at Uchu Sushi

    The happy hour at Tom Nguyen's Uchu may possibly be this city's most generous. Most days have two happy hours and deals run all day Monday through Wednesday. You don't even have to dine in: There's a 50-cent per item carry-out surcharge for everything on the menu, save the booze. The menu boasts 14 starters (like crispy calamari and egg rolls) as well as another 14 roll options, including the rather brilliantly named Iggy Popper (jalapeños, avocado and cream cheese topped with a small dollop of Sriracha). A well-curated list of Japanese and regional craft beers are discounted to $3, but you should ask for one of Nguyen's specialty cocktails, like the Pink Moon, a plum wine and vodka sipper that's oddly, equally tart, dry and sweet. Happy hour runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to close, Thursday through Saturday, 2 to 6 p.m. on Sundays, and all day every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. And if you're taking in a weekend show, you can do yourself (and your belly) a favor by skipping those post-concert burgers and pizzas and drop by Uchu instead, because, yes, those Friday and Saturday night happy hours last until 2:30 a.m.

Important Links

Historic Mississippi Business Association