Life in Portland Blog

Getting to Know the Montavilla Neighborhood

 Corner of SE Stark and 80th in Montavilla, Circa Nov. 1939

Corner of SE Stark and 80th in Montavilla, Circa Nov. 1939

The Shining Star in the Shadow of Tabor: Montavilla

A relatively small neighborhood buffeted to the east by Mt. Tabor and embracing 82nd Avenue (the Avenue of the Roses), Montavilla manages to offer up just about anything you can find elsewhere in Portland. Its commercial strip along SE Stark is a concentrated jolt of bars, coffee shops and entertainment, and its residential blocks are marked with charming craftsman houses and tree-lined streets.

As the overall face of Portland becomes more and more modern, Montavilla retains the same charisma that has been causing people to move to the city for the last twenty years. And Montavilla is that special neighborhood that really knows how to balance family life and nightlife, with equal space for both.

Montavilla Comes of Age: The History of the Neighborhood

In the 1890s, Montavilla was actually known as “Mount Tabor Village.” The word “Montavilla” is an abbreviation of the phrase “Mount Tabor Village,” and originates from the signs mounted on streetcars that traveled through the area from 1892-1948. The neighborhood was a popular place to stop for travelers who were journeying from Hood River to Portland, and now Portland has expanded to embrace it. 

 Montavilla, All Grown Up

Montavilla, All Grown Up

Geographically speaking, the Montavilla neighborhood is considered to be contained north to south between the Banfield and SE Division; Mount Tabor Park to the west, and then all the way to the 205 on the eastern side.

Over the course of its history, Montavilla has experienced several different Renaissance periods. From its original hey-day in the late 19th century, to its next hey-day in the mid-twentieth century, Montavilla has long been considered a perennial up-and-coming’ neighborhood. In the 1970s and 1980s, Fred Meyer’s, Dixson’s Drugs, The Montavilla Department Store, and The Montavilla Beauty School all either closed up shop, or left the neighborhood for other parts of the city.

The Academy Theater, considered by many to be the spiritual center of Montavilla, opened back in 1948 and then closed in the ‘70s. When the theater was re-opened in 2006, the neighborhood knew they were in for another Renaissance, and that’s exactly what has taken place, with tons of new quirky shops and restaurants opening up, and home values heading sharply upwards in recent months.   

A Few Favorite Places in the Montavilla Neighborhood

The Academy Theater

 The Academy Theater in Montavilla, With Mt. Hood in the Background

The Academy Theater in Montavilla, With Mt. Hood in the Background

With its second-run movies and kid-friendly matinees, Academy Theater is a classic Portland movie theater experience. A far cry from the impersonal megaplex environment, the Academy upholds a distinct 1940s feel. Offering beer, wine and pizza from Flying Pie, the Academy Theater is a theater for people who love to go to the movies often, and for people who love the whole experience of cinema.

Vintage Cocktails

Vintage Cocktails is a bar that you really didn’t know you needed until you actually went there. Focusing on crafting a personal and exciting drinking experience for every one of their patrons, Vintage makes great cocktails to order, and provides the kind of bartending service that’s typically not found anywhere outside of Portland. If you think that cocktails are not your thing, this is the bar that’s going to convince you.

Bipartisan Café

 Bipartisan: Coffee, Pie & Wi-Fi, With an Eye for Politics, Too

Bipartisan: Coffee, Pie & Wi-Fi, With an Eye for Politics, Too

Let’s get the most obvious neighborhood detail out of the way: Bipartisan Café makes the best pie in Portland, if not the entire Northwest. Their award-winning handmade pies come in an extensive assortment of berry, cream, vegan and gluten-free; but their most famous is the Marionberry pie. Besides the pie, Bipartisan is a true community-gathering place, and strives to be the anchor that holds the neighborhood together. When angsty teenagers dream of growing up to be poets, Bipartisan Café is the type of coffee shop they can see themselves writing their masterpiece in. 

Country Cat

Despite the rustic, more traditionally Portland appearance of the neighborhood, Montavilla also has its own landmark restaurant, in the Country Cat. Serving up what they affectionately refer to as "American craft cooking," Country Cat features culinary hot shots Adam and Jackie Sappington at the helm. With 65% of their menu ingredients coming straight from the local farmers market, this cozy neighborhood restaurant will have you feeling extra good about living and eating local.

Monticello Antique Marketplace

Featuring more than 100 individual antique dealers within its space, the Monticello Antique Marketplace is indeed much more than just your typical, average antique store. Open all seven days of the week, the Marketplace spans over 20,000 square feet of space and includes a salvage garden, tons of antique furniture stalls, and even has its own tiny cafe, known as Monti's. If you're looking for real treasures in Portland's SE side of town, this is definitely the place to go.

Mr. Plywood

 Mr. Plywood -- Not Your Grandad's Hardware Store

Mr. Plywood -- Not Your Grandad's Hardware Store

Montavilla is a neighborhood that really has everything. Grocery stores, excellent vintage signage, plenty of friendly neighbors, weekend farmers markets, cafes, bars of all stripes – and on top of all that, Mr. Plywood resides at the end of the commercial strip, completing the neighborhood picture.

A super-helpful supply store for home improvement projects large and small, Mr. Plywood carries all the raw material necessary to complete whatever project has been on your plate. Mr. Plywood caters to professional builders and carpenters, but is friendly enough for a first time DIY-er to get what they need without feeling an ounce of embarrassment. They’ll take your project seriously there, and you’ll leave feeling like you just got some expert advice, too.

[Photos Via: Vintage Portland; MusingsbyPaul; Portland Octopus; Bipartisan Cafe; Mr. Sauce]