The Brooklyn Neighborhood

Welcome to the THIRD edition of A Walk On the Weird Side – An Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Fabric of Portland. – By Anna Alexander

I live in a commuter neighborhood. We know the people who live next to us and the weirdo guy who is ALWAYS tinkering in his garage near our mailbox, but that’s about it. It’s not that we’re not friendly, because, we are, but everyone pretty much keeps to themselves except for the occasional nod or smile at the mailbox. The only good thing about our neighborhood is the SE Asian market and the amazing Thai restaurant.

I bring this up because one of the things I love most about exploring and writing about Portland neighborhoods is seeing and feeing the pride people have. It’s heartwarming and gives me hope as gentrification continues its creep across Portland. The Brooklyn Neighborhood is one of those welcoming neighborhoods that holds on to its pride and should be a regular stop during your Portland travels.

Located east of the Willamette River, the Brooklyn Neighborhood snuggles up against Reed College and is home to popular attractions such as Edelweiss, Pok Pok Wings, Original Hotcake House and everyone’s favorite superfund site, Ross Island. Since most people know about those destinations, I’m not going spend any time on them, and instead feature some of the more interesting places worth a visit.

We’ll start our adventure at Know Thy Food. I met a friend here last year for coffee and an afternoon of world problem solving and fell for this cozy little cafe, coffee shop and food co-op. It offers tasty food and strong coffee and the grocery items are perfect for when you need a few things for your pantry or want to stock up on produce. Know Thy Food hosts weekly musical events for kids and parents and has plenty of progressive reading materials. It’s unpretentious and one of those places I would spend too much money at each morning buying coffee and bagels on my way to work.

The Brooklyn Park Pub is another business where I could easily spend the car payment. This unassuming-looking pub is whiskey-lover’s dream with over 140 styles of whiskeys and bourbons and Groundhog’s Day playing on a loop on one of the many TVs. If you drink enough whiskey, rye or scotch you can join the Whiskey Club and get t-shirt and discounts at the pub. It’s a goal. The greasy sandwiches and burgers are the ideal pairings for the booze and small, but well-rounded tap list. The large outside patio is the perfect place to relax with friends or sit and watch the world as you contemplate the Japanese or Canadian Bourbon for your next drink. You can always order food to go and take it across the street to the Brooklyn City Park for a picnic.

The next stop on tour, The Brooklyn Mall, is a few steps across the street from the Brooklyn Park Pub. This antique store has beautiful, reasonably-priced furniture, antiques and more. My husband pointed out that the skylights in the building gave the store a more open  and inviting feeling most antique stores don’t have. The aisle of organized individual tools was my favorite part of the store, because sometimes you need a gently used torque wrench, hammer or screwdriver. I left the store with a beautiful jewelry box that was 70% off (ON SALE, Mom!) and weighed more than a small dog.

There are plenty of places in the Brooklyn Neighborhood for a libation – no matter your poison – so I’m lumping the next two spots into one stop. Rose City Coffee is perfect spot for the emo-coffee lover. It has a cave-like atmosphere and an alternative and punk soundtrack to match. We came in here on a hot day and it was cool inside with plenty of people furiously typing away on their next book of prose or negotiating a nuclear arms contract. You can buy coffee here by the cup or take home a couple of pounds of bulk coffee.

If coffee isn’t your thing, head to the The Place – Cider Bar and Bottle Shop.  This is another cave-like environment where you can enjoy a wide variety of ciders by the bottle or the pint. The owner was chatty and knowledgeable and had a one of my favorite, hard-to-find ciders on draft. The store also had bags of cider with taps for your next hiking, backpacking or camping trip.

If you would rather do some good for the world and not destroy your liver, check out The Pongo Fund.  This no-frills warehouse is home to Oregon’s only full-time charity focused on animal hunger. In addition to providing emergency animal food, they also offer vital veterinary care and spay and neuter services.

Before we leave the neighborhood, please bring out your meditation cushions and lumbar support and take a few, cleansing breaths as we quietly enter the Portland Buddhist Priory. This Soto Zen temple was established in 1987 and is dedicated to making the living practice of this tradition. Those looking to practice or learn more are welcome to join the meditation instructions on the third Saturday of each month. There are also weekly events and instruction, a very interesting and relevant blog, and much more.

Brooklyn Neighborhood is a wonderful place to walk, bike or run. It has a cozy feel with welcoming parks and plenty of places to stop for a libation, bite to eat, navel gazing and more!

Please join me next month as I head to the Piedmont Neighborhood – a request from a friend who just bought a house there. Please also note – I pitched some businesses last month that I thought were part of Brooklyn, but are part of a HUGE neighborhood I’m going to have to break into chunks, so stay tuned!

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