Visitors to the historically Black Alberta District in North and Northeast Portland today have their pick of vibrant shops, restaurants and other businesses to explore. A new trio of businesses at the corner of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Alberta Street happen to be Black-owned, and the owners could not be prouder.
“This is a momentous time for our community,” said Theotis “Uncle Theo” Cason, owner of Cason’s Fine Meats, in summer 2019 as he opened his shop’s doors in the new development known as Alberta Commons. “The relocation of my butcher shop, as well as the relocation of Champions Barbershop and greenHAUS gallery, is our effort to collectively replant our roots on MLK,” says Cason, who was born and raised in Northeast Portland. “It is time for us to celebrate our return to the heart of the neighborhood.”
At Cason’s — which has occupied six different storefronts since its founding in 1975 — visitors can find a full counter of fresh and smoked meats to go, as well as a tasty menu of daily specials like fish tacos, fried chicken, Philly steak and ribs, with sides of mac ’n cheese and cornbread, for dine-in or takeout.
Portland is full of more dynamic Black-owned businesses, if you know where to look. Here are several excellent ones to support — during Black History Month in February and all year long.
Editor’s note: Call to confirm hours before visiting, and show your love for these food establishments currently serving takeout and delivery only.
A Shave and a Chat
More than just a place to get a straight-razor shave, beard trim or haircut, Champions Barbershop is about community. The sparkling, open space invites families in for conversation and relationship building, the way barbershops used to be the gathering space of any downtown area. Jamaal Lane and his wife, Christina Lane, both grew up in Northeast Portland and aim to be mentors in their community, modeling professionalism, customer service and hard work.
Art for All
Similar to barbershops, art galleries are places for communities to gather — and greenHaus Gallery + Boutique owners Cole and Dayna Reed aim to bring people together over their showcases of local art. Open by appointment only as of June 2020, the gallery would love community support. One recent show highlighted the work of local artist Henry Frison, as well as a group of fellow African American artists who created the large murals at the corner of North Vancouver Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street depicting themes including Black cowboys, civil rights heroes and other iconic Black figures. Shoppers can find artisan-crafted and salvaged vintage goods at the gallery’s boutique.
Brunch, Barbecue and Community
If you like chicken and waffles, Po’Shines Cafe de la Soul serves up a killer brunch in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood. But the restaurant is about more than just food. It’s a longstanding work-force training program through its nonprofit, Teach Me to Fish, that sprung from the nondenominational church Celebration Tabernacle. Founder E.D. Mondaine sought to empower local youth with work readiness and culinary-arts trainings, employing them at the cafe. It began in 1990 with coffee; today it’s a full-service restaurant with Southern breakfast favorites, brisket, shrimp, po’ boys and catfish served all day. Trap Kitchen and Kee’s Loaded Kitchen are both Black-owned food carts with huge followings and fans like Snoop Dogg and Kobe Bryant.
Ethiopian, African and Carribean
There’s nothing like tearing off a piece of fresh injera (Ethiopian flatbread) and scooping up bites of food. Find one of the city’s top Ethiopian spots at Bete-Lukas in Southeast Portland, an artsy space with a veggie-centric menu, plus tasty sambusa (fried pastry with a savory filling). Also in Southeast Portland, Spice of Africa dishes up modern Kenyan and Ethiopian classics for lunch and dinner. If you love the cuisine, you can sign up for a cooking class taught by Kenya-born chef Wambui Machua, who founded Spice of Africa in 2008 as a cooking school to raise funds for a library, community center, community kitchen and other economic development projects in rural Africa. Nearby, at the popular Portland Mercado collection of international food carts, Mathilde’s Kitchen is beloved for its Haitian cuisine, including curried goat, oxtail stew, fried plantains and her homemade sorrel-ginger drink. Bole Ethiopian Restauranton Northeast Alberta is hard to miss with its bright green facade, serving up vegetarian and non-vegetarian delights at every spice level. And Jamaican Homestyle Cuisineon North Killingsworth is a go-to spot for mouthwatering jerk wings, island-style curries, stews and Jamaican sodas.
Coffee, Tea and Wine
Old Town Portland’s Deadstock Coffee Roasters is a great spot to get a cup o’ joe — and soak up the sneaker culture that owner Ian Williams, a former sneaker designer, imbues throughout the space. You can’t buy sneakers here, but Williams is happy to recommend some of his favorite spots. West of Portland, Mamancy Tea Co. sells a curated collection of luxury teas, chocolate and fine goods from around the globe — all easy to order from the online store. In North Plains, the tasting room at Abbey Creek Vineyard is decidedly hip-hop, with music, bold colors and a distinct swagger to the typically buttoned-up experience of wine tasting. Owner Bertony Faustin is known as the first Black winemaker in Oregon and produced the documentary “Red, White and Black” to inspire other people of color to pursue their entrepreneurial passions.
There are dynamic Black-owned businesses all across the greater Portland metro. Check out these directories of restaurants and retail shops in the Portland Region:
For more about Oregon’s black history, read up on the Faces of Black Oregon.