St. Johns is a haven within Portland city limits: From Cathedral Park to its charming downtown, the North Portland enclave feels more like a quaint small town than an urban neighborhood. Its diversity of dining options — from Italian trattorias to Mexican markets, ramen shops to Jamaican restaurants, vegan comfort food spots to cocktail lounges — means that residents won’t have to leave the neighborhood to find something exceptional to eat or drink. In recent years, St. Johns has grown further, adding a wonderful food cart pod, fantastical art-lined cafe, and one of the city’s best pizzerias. Peruse the map below to find some of the newest hits in the area, as well as longstanding watering holes and hangouts. For more options in North Portland, check out our Kenton map.Read More
Vital Restaurants and Food Carts in Portland’s St. Johns Neighborhood
Where to eat everything from Tibetan momos to sourdough pizzas in Portland’s most secluded neighborhood
Urban German Wursthaus
Steps from Cathedral Park, this German restaurant tucked alongside Occidental Brewing offers all the standards — bratwurst, spatzle, schnitzel — as well as a few harder-to-find options. The restaurant’s schweinebraten, a slow-roasted pork shoulder dish, is a good example, available with mashed potatoes or in the gargantuan Das Hüftgold, a platter with schnitzel, bratwurst, butter spatzle, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The beer list is extensive, with Portland-brewed options and plenty of German imports.
Local celebrity artist Mike Bennett opened this fantastical spot on Lombard as both a gallery and a cafe, serving coffee and hot chocolate in a room surrounded by cartoon creatures. While the space alone makes the cafe worth a visit, drinks here are fun and distinctive, pairing espresso with house-made syrups or lemonades with teas and strawberry sauce. Food options here include breakfast burritos, sandwiches, and other cafe staples.
Mikasa Sushi & Ramen
Steaming bowls of ramen arrive filled with delicate-but-chewy noodles and light, bright broths at this Lombard Japanese restaurant. The rich and creamy chicken shoyu is a top choice here, omitting the more familiar slices of pork for soy-marinated chicken, in addition to a jammy egg. There is not a lot of nearby competition for sushi, but even so, Mikasa’s is worth an order: The spicy salmon roll is finished with a spicy yuzu sauce, for a floral kick.
A sibling bar to Concordia’s neighborhood cocktail bar Wilder, the Garrison has similar appeal: a rustic, homey, and casual affair serving high-quality cocktails. The menu is divided between familiar classics — each made with aplomb — and more original drinks. The house drinks are generally spirit-driven and often incorporate more obscure vermouths and amari. While there are options for people who appreciate lighter, refreshing libations, it’s definitely a destination for those who like their drinks with a boozy and botanical kick. Whiskey aficionados will appreciate the bar’s extensive list, as well.
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Pastas at this Lombard Italian are truly made by hand — you’ll find absolutely no extruders in the kitchen. Instead, chef Chase Dopson rolls sheets of pasta to cut into tagliatelle or tajarin, or fill with escarole and spinach for agnolotti or ravioli. While Dopson works on pastas, co-owner Maggie Irwin takes orders and constructs salads with Flying Coyote Farm seasonal produce. Menus change often, so keep an eye on Instagram for the latest.
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Ownership may have changed, but Homegrown Smoker remains a destination vegan dining. Standbys like the trademark Macno burrito come with smoked soy curls glazed in barbecue sauce, though since Mocking Bird owner Kayla Lamberson took over the restaurant, the menu has expanded to include fun offerings made with her faux poultry — the buffalo “chicken” sandwich is a standout. Vegan burgers, cheesesteaks, and faux barbecue plates are also available, as well as a weekend brunch.
Tienda Santa Cruz
Hidden behind a small mercado in downtown St. Johns, Tienda Santa Cruz is a cult favorite for rich and porky carnitas tacos, burritos the size of a small child harboring a full half-avocado, and some bright-red caldos. But the true star of this hole-in-the-wall is the avocado salsa, so popular that the restaurant has set limits on how much anyone can take. Stop in and order some burritos to take to Cathedral Park, just down the street.
Slim's Restaurant & Lounge
Slim’s is an institution, landing between a diner and a dive bar on St. Johns’ main drag. Neighborhood locals roll into Slim’s for hangover breakfasts of biscuits and gravy or corned beef hash. In the evenings, the sidewalk tables fill with folks housing mozzarella sticks and knocking back pints; inside, DJs and bands play for the crowds, while St. Johns lifers take their earned spots at the bar.
This minimalist Korean restaurant on North Lombard serves organized, meticulously laid out plates of gochujang-glazed chicken, cold-smoked steaks, and salmon speckled with red gochugaru alongside bowls of a miso-esque doenjang soup and banchan. Comfort food bowls of glass noodle japchae arrive alongside corn cheese paired with a surprisingly fun mint butter — must-add appetizers or sides for any meal.
Portland is home to relatively few Greek restaurants, but this Ivanhoe spot offers standards like souvlaki, gyros, and horiatiki (often known as Greek salad). Those stopping in for dinner may want to sit down to a whole grilled branzino or red snapper, followed by a slab of baklava; otherwise, a stuffed pita sandwich works well for a picnic at Cathedral Park.
Gracie’s Apizza owner Craig Melillo has established himself as one of Portland’s premiere pizzaiolos, though he’d probably bristle at the superlative. Melillo’s delicate, tangy, naturally leavened crust supports a rotating cast of Oregon and Washington-grown produce, house-made cheeses, and drizzles of green garlic olive oil, landing at tables alongside fun seasonal salads and inexpensive, tasty glass pours. Ice creams here — with flavors that range from fig leaf to honey pink peppercorn — are a must.
Adored for its sweet and savory pies, Paiku owners Marica and Justin Thompson went from pie cart to brick-and-mortar in April 2018. Luckily for the St. Johns community, the cozy wood-toned restaurant has stayed in the neighborhood. Locals pop in for brunches of venison-filled buckwheat crepes and wild boar chili hash, while others pick up pre-ordered pies ranging from chicken pot pie to lemon chess. The shop’s Easter pie, an Italian tradition loaded with cured meats and eggs, is a rarer treat found at the Leavitt shop.
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Jamaican restaurants are not exactly abundant in Portland, but this cozy, casual house-turned-restaurant is all the fun of a beachside barbecue. Inside, hand-painted murals line the walls; outside, listen for the sizzle of the restaurant’s knockout jerk chicken, a true crime to miss. Only vegans can get away with swapping for the jerk tofu — and with a pile of plantains, everyone is happy.
The Sparrow Bakery PDX
The Portland outpost of this Bend bakery delivers all the laminated pastry excellence of its Central Oregon sibling: Croissants sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning, braids of cinnamon knots, pinwheels of cardamom vanilla sugar the shop calls “ocean rolls.” The bakery also serves an array of bagels, sandwiches, and cookies, with espresso drinks for early risers.
Banh Mi Up
This Vietnamese restaurant is one of the neighborhood’s only spots for hulking banh mi, vermicelli noodle bowls overflowing with grilled prawns and pork belly, and shimmering, oversized, golden-fried bao. The shop’s garlic noodles are an underrated star on the menu, as is the “beef stew pho,” which falls somewhere between bo kho and beef pho, fragrant with star anise.
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A cozy coffee shop catering to locals and University of Portland students, Cathedral Coffee is an essential part of the St. Johns community. The large, cozily industrial space offers coffee drinks made with house-roasted beans and massive pastries. Alongside planet-sized cinnamon buns and baked apple fritters, the cafe offers savory and sweet breakfast turnovers as well as quiche. A few vegan and gluten-free options round out the pastries.
Little Tibet PDX
This St. Johns Beer Porch cart specializes in the foods of its namesake, including delicately folded momos, the comforting noodle soup thukpa, and the knotty steamed bun known as tingmo. The butter chicken-smothered momos are a particular winner here, though any momo with the house hot sauce is sure to please.
Located in the St. Johns Beer Porch, this colorful food cart is all about the karaage, crispy little nuggets of seasoned fried chicken that are impossibly juicy at the center. The move is to get the chicken bowl, a $10 wonder of rice, chicken, and a tangy and sweet pickled vegetable salad. Like the other carts, the fare here can be enjoyed at the lot or taken home.
Chefs across Portland love to whisper about this under-the-radar cart and its next-level carnitas. El Coyote serves a shockingly large variety of tacos and burritos for its size, with fillings ranging from shrimp to buche to ham and pineapple. But here, it’s all about those salty, crispy carnitas, folded into a taco for less than $2. It’s open for walk-ups.