John’s Landing Holds Old and New Delights Right Off the Waterfront

The mix keeps things fresh yet familiar in this close-in westside burg.

JoLa Cafe (Michael Raines)

John’s Landing is a South Waterfront neighborhood that has been in existence since before there even was a South Waterfront. Its landmark 1903 water tower has gotten a glow-up recently, with a new mixed-use office and retail complex surrounding it. This mix of old and new keeps things fresh yet familiar in this quiet but close-in westside burg.

A Cafe With Room to Grow

Now that JoLa Cafe (5915 SW Corbett Ave., 503-244-1812,, has knocked down a wall and expanded into the former Corbett Fish House space, the coffee shop is downright sprawling. On a recent weekday afternoon, parents brought their children in for after-school snacks, customers plugging away on laptops, and half a dozen people sat in a circle and held a full business meeting. JoLa—a portmanteau of John’s Landing—is planning to expand to dinner service to keep up with the new space. For now, lunch menu standouts include the warm Moroccan chicken salad ($11), with couscous, raisins, toasted almonds and a honey-lime vinaigrette, and the smoked turkey melt sandwich with provolone, Mama Lil’s peppers, and basil aioli served on levain bread ($9.50).

SUPper Time

The clear greenspace standout in John’s Landing is Willamette Park (South Macadam Avenue and Nebraska Street, At 26 acres, it’s got all the usual park amenities—dog area, picnic tables, a playground for littles, tennis courts—but what makes it a standout is river access. Willamette Park has a nice wide dock for launching and mooring boats. Kayakers and standup paddleboarders can easily put in at Willamette Park (pay for parking, which sucks, but the city does ticket), paddle over to Ross Island, and be back in an hour or two—a top-notch Portland summer afternoon. Greenspace honorable mention goes to the George Himes Trail, which has a trailhead at the intersection of Southwest Iowa Street and View Point Terrace. Look for the “SW Trails” sign and the stone stairs to start the hike, which goes up to Terwilliger Boulevard.

Ahoy, Matey

“Are you a gin drinker?” asks bartender Marilyn Robert at the Jolly Roger (5627 S Kelly Ave., 503-246-5040), eager to pour out a cucumber mint cooler with Aviation Gin from the dive bar’s new happy hour menu ($7 from 4 to 7 pm). Besides the peculiar skill of being able to intuit someone’s hard alcohol preferences on sight, Robert also greeted everyone who walked in to the bar in a 90-minute period last Wednesday afternoon by name and then provided drinks, lighters, Buffalo wings and a metaphorical shoulder to cry on about catastrophic car trouble. “It feels like working at Cheers sometimes,” Robert says. This is the last Portland outpost of the former eastside Jolly Roger, notable for its 60 years of service and the enormous pirate sign in the shape of a ship’s mast. The owners carried the pirate theme through to the John’s Landing location, with nautical and pirate décor, such as a tin sign in favor of “pillaging, drinking, flogging and wenching.” And that gin cocktail? It came in a pint glass.

Fashion Redux

The terms vintage, secondhand and consignment get tossed around interchangeably, but Here We Go Again (511 S Carolina St., 503-244-6910, fits only in the latter two categories. The boutique’s merchandise is no more than about 3 years old, and there are absolutely no mall brands (Forever 21, H&M, see you never). A recent swing through the consignment shop turned up three brown Coach crossbody bags ($93-$128), last season’s Bobeau and Free People tops, and Kate Spade and Trina Turk dresses. Brands for an older clientele—Eileen Fisher, Coldwater Creek, J. Jill—are a little overrepresented here, but an easy strategy is to head straight for the “staff picks” racks up by the register.

Dueling French Bakeries

While the South Macadam Avenue Starbucks closed in April, a few coffee shops are poised to absorb the business. In addition to JoLa, which serves Coava Coffee Roasters, there’s the new location of the French bakery St. Honoré Boulangerie (6565 S Macadam Ave., 971-544-7612, ready to serve up Caffè Umbria along with its full lineup of baked goods. This location of St. Honoré does not have any indoor seating, which the bakery is spinning as being more aligned with a traditional Parisian cafe experience (a large covered patio is out front). Sweet CoCo G (6141 SW Macadam Ave., #100, 503-222-0547, is a strip-mall bakery and cafe owned by Paris-trained baker Bella Chan. Don’t miss her key lime pie, available in full-size or a cute li’l 5-inch version ($10.50).

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