By Ted Perkins
Photos by Jane Perkins
When Swift Meat Packing acquired the Union Meat company in 1907, Kenton was born as a company town and soon became the meat-packing hub of the west coast. Today, nestled in the shadow of a 31-foot Paul Bunyan statue built to celebrate Oregon’s centennial in 1959, the North Portland neighborhood continues to grow and evolve, offering an eclectic mix of old and new businesses with plenty of charm.
Kenton retains a small town vibe, with modest bungalows, cottages, Craftsmans and a sprinkling of grander Old Portland and Victorian mansions. In 2015, homes in Kenton sold faster – 15 days on average – than all but two of Portland’s 95 other neighborhoods. Bordered by the Columbia River to the north and Lombard Boulevard to the south, the northern outskirts of the neighborhood between Chautauqua Boulevard and Interstate Avenue include the Heron Lakes Golf Course, Portland International Raceway and the Vanport Wetlands.
Kenton’s quaint downtown core runs along Denver Avenue, with plenty of parking nearby and the Kenton MAX station just up the street. Pockets of retail can also be explored along Lombard Boulevard and Kilpatrick Street. June 7 through September 27, the Kenton Farmers Market is held every Wednesday evening from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the intersection of North McClellan and Denver, offering live music and fresh local produce from nearly 20 vendors. The Kenton district also boasts its own branch of the Multnomah County Library at 8226 N. Denver Ave.
There’s a lot to love in Kenton. Here are a few favorites:
Eat + Drink
Linda Zumoff’s neighborhood bistro, bar and pizzeria has two distinct personalities: a take-out counter up front with slices and pies to go, and an elegant dining room down the hall (follow the glowing tomato lights) offering a broader-based, Mediterranean cuisine with comfort food, ranging from Spain to Asian fusion and all points in between.
Address: 8225 N. Denver Ave. Phone: 503-286-2100. Web: www.finopdx.com. Don’t miss: Vegan pizza, made with creamy roasted pepper base and topped with house marinated tempeh and vegetables.
Po’ Shines Cafe de la Soul
A perennial favorite on best-barbecue lists, Pastor Elbert D. Mondaine’s church-operated, nonprofit Cajun cafe dishes up some of the best down-to-earth soul food in town, including southern classics like cornmeal waffles topped with fried chicken, fried catfish with a side of grits, or a heaping plate of brisket with mashed potatoes, gravy and seasonal vegetables.
Address: 8139 N. Denver Ave. Phone: 503-978-9000. Web: www.poshines.com. Don’t miss: Signature “Purple Drink,” a mix of green tea, hibiscus flowers and citrus juice.
Swift and Union
Kenton neighbors Ken “Zig” Naffziger and Kristen Siefkin Bright – who also own Tabor Tavern in North Tabor – opened this bright and airy gastropub in 2015. Offering refined, seasonal new American plates, craft beer and house cocktails, the cafe’s name is a nod to the meat-packing companies that gave Kenton its start.
Address: 8103 N. Denver Ave. Phone: 503-206-4281. Web: www.swiftandunion.com. Don’t miss: Famous sweet and salty bacon jam.
Troy Susan’s garden sanctuary offers more than 30 varieties of bamboo plants, hardy tropical plants, bamboo poles, fencing, fountains, wind chimes, custom-made furniture, tiki bars, jewelry and more.
Address: 2104 N. Willis Blvd. Phone: 503-285-5339. Web: www.bamboocraftsman.com. Don’t miss: The hooch, a 30-foot-tall, free-standing bamboo structure in the side yard to the east of the shop.
Fang and Feather
Nancy Fedelem’s pet supply shop – with a focus on healthy products and feed for dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and more – added a garden center featuring pet-friendly plants in March. Over the years, the store has partnered with numerous local rescue organizations, providing space for outreach, hosting pet food drives, donating food and supplies, and making monetary contributions.
Address: 3131 N. Lombard St. Phone: 503-972-5822. Web: www.fangandfeatherpdx.com. Don’t miss: Wild Chewz elk, deer, and moose antler chews made from naturally shed antlers.
Give and Take Resale
Chelsea Llewellyn Swanda’s consignment showroom offers a mix of furniture, decor, clothing, jewelry, books and offbeat items. Conveniently recycle your extras and excess locally, in exchange for a portion of the selling price.
Address: 8128 N. Denver Ave. Phone: 503-954-2221. Web: www.giveandtakeresale.com. Don’t miss: You never know what you’re going to find at Give and Take. Stop in and explore.
Preston and Rachel Browning’s rustic outpost offers architectural salvage, vintage building materials, recycled barn siding and other reclaimed wood, plus antiques and custom-made furniture. A team of skilled craftsmen build shelves, wall treatments, mantelpieces and furniture on-site.
Address: 2024 N. Argyle St. Phone: 503-899-0052. Web: www.salvageworkspdx.com. Don’t miss: Live Edge Slab sourced from urban-cut and dead, standing trees, kiln-dried and sanded, in a variety of dimensions.
Disjecta Contemporary Art Center
Not-for-profit contemporary arts organization, providing essential resources for artists to create and exhibit new work while building ambitious programs that promote artists and engage communities.
Address: 8371 N. Interstate Ave. Phone: 503-286-9449. Web: www.disjecta.org. Don’t miss: Opening reception of Sensory Gymnastics on April 8.
Kenton Cycle Repair
New and used parts and accessories, expert advice, tailored service and repairs. Specializing in commuter, touring and vintage bicycles.
Address: 2020 N McClellan St. Phone: 503-208-3446. Web: www.kentoncyclepdx.com. Don’t miss: Friendly service and expert repairs.
Mackins Auto Body
Old fashioned auto body service, with advanced technology. Bob Mackin built Mackin’s Garage, the locally-owned chain’s first location, on the corner of Denver and Schofield in 1960 and the business is still family-owned.
Address: 8026 N. Denver Ave. Phone: 503-289-9851. Web: www.mackinsab.com. Don’t miss: Collision services that help you get your damaged vehicle back on the road safely.
Sustaining growth while staying true to its working class origins promises a bright future for Kenton neighbors. As Troy D. Susan, owner of Bamboo Craftsman once said, “We have a history of do-it-yourself, which is a way of life in Kenton.”