Willamette Week’s View of Foster Neighborhoods

I must have been busy when the Willamette Week released the 2012/13 edition of the Finder a couple months ago. If you’re not familiar with the Finder, it’s a glossy magazine “Guide to Portland.” The Willamette Week has been putting these together for years, and they serve as a good introduction to what’s hip in Portland. When friends move to Portland I usually throw a Finder at them to help them get up to speed.

When the Finder brings up neighborhoods, it’s worth looking at to see how we’re portrayed. Are we still Felony Flats? Are we mentioned at all? I consider it as a window into the Portand zeitgeist, and from what I can tell, things don’t look good:

First off, here’s the map they drew of the City. (Sorry for the blurry camera phone picture)

Sorry Mt Scott-Arleta, you have been left off the map. We still love you.

The first things that stands out to me is that 82nd is the ‘end’ of the city (for those of you who don’t know, the actual eastern border of Portland zig-zags along 162nd /174th).  For many inner-neighborhood residents, this is probably an accurate mental map.

In the name of fair-use I’ve reproduced the text from the Foster-Powell and Lents entires below:


WHO LIVES THERE: Bikers, roughnecks, Russians and first-time homeowners.

WHERE TO EAT: Foster Burger is probably the only place you’ll see giant suburban families noshing on squid ink aioli (which the burger shop serves with its fries). Pal-Do Market has a wide selection of Korean and Southeast Asian foods, including housemade kimchee.

WHERE TO DRINK: The Slingshot Lounge has an adventurous tap list, great food and a wide selection of booze, including Fernet Branca. For local flavor, pop into Da’ Hui. The Hawaiian decor has seen better days (a defunct Ms. Pac-Man machine serves as a table), but barflies still pack the place.

WHERE TO PLAY: Laurelwood Park is a neighborhood park, but Red Castle Games is where the action is. The place gets packed on weekends with Magic: The Gathering fans tapping mana and slugging soft drinks. Tired of people who take Uno too seriously? Try the shop’s Uno league, which promises casual play of the trade-marked Crazy Eights variant.

WHAT GETS MADE THERE: Amphead rebuilds guitar aps and tweaks vintage equipment. But he neighborhood’s landmark artisan is Artistic Taxidermy. With a publicly visible show room stuffed with tanned and mounted animals, the shop is a sidewalk natural history museum.

NEIGHBORHOOD LANDMARK: You can’t skin a buck without killing it. And the easiest way to do that is to visit The Gun Room, open since 1965. The shop’s blue awning is a symbol of red-state pride in the heart of Portland.

-Christian Gaston


WHO LIVES THERE: In a word? Everybody, as long as they’re working class. Black, white, White Russian  Asian, Hispanic -among the young, no racial or ethnic group has a majority in the ‘hood. (The old-timers are mostly white.) Also? Lots and lots of medical marijuana cardholders. Lots.

WHERE TO EAT: The medicine does make you hungry, doesn’t it? From June to October, the immigrant-heavy Lents International Farmers Market will feed you right from the soil and sea, with an array ranging from Asian and Mexican veggies to fresh crab and oysters. Also, JC Rice Noodle Shop and Restaurant is a largely unsung maker of some of the finest flat rice noodles in the city, the kind that make for drunken noodles and carb-drunk afternoons. And they will sell them to you by the pound.

WHERE TO DRINK: The manic weekend late-night thump-thump-thump of the Armenian-owned Ararat Bakery can be witnessed, but never quite understood- in a space with the feel of a made-over church rec room, metronomic house beats unleash and explosion of pent-up energy from mildly threatening men dressed in denim and sunglasses and women with ’80s hair.

WHERE TO PLAY: Why, at PlayHaven Park, of course. But only if you’re 8 years old and into crazy gyroscopic playsets. Otherwise you go to the Mt. Scott Community Center, slide down the wavepool slide and then air-dry on the roller rink. Best. Birthday. Ever.

WHAT GETS MADE THERE: Often, the seeds of new American dreams. But the gift shop of the serene Leach Botanical Garden also offers homespun quilts and home-fostered honey from neighborhood craftsfold, plus Lilla Leach’s own special blends of teas.

NEIGHBORHOOD LANDMARK: Lents is a crossroads neighborhood defined bu and traversed by transit. Accordingly, it’s two defining landmarks are the I-205 freeway and the Springwater bicycle corridor connecting Gresham – by a meandering, circuitous route- to downtown Portland.

-Matthew Korfhage

Hmmm. Their take on our home areas is not as awesome as I’d like, but maybe my expectations are unrealistic. What do you think?

It’s probably worth noting that when the Finder was distributed it was not available in Foster area neighborhoods. Not a single copy made it our way. Woodstock gets ‘em, Montavilla gets em, but Foster/Lents does not. I’m not sure if this is reflecting their interest in our part of town, or of their crappy distribution services. Here’s their map of the original distribution locations:

If you want a copy, they are selling them at Powells Books downtown for around $10.






  1. I say let the suboptimal press continue so we can keep this jewel of an area to ourselves!

    • Good point! Although for that, maybe no press is better than bad-press. I’d hate to see good businesses and families kept out of the area because of fear mongering WWeek articles.

    • My feeling is that the goal wasn’t to capture the good, rather they wanted to perpetuate a few stereotypes and make cynical and sarcastic the editorial style. Typical, and very unfortunate.

  2. This is exactly why we pulled our advertising from Willamette Week; we don’t need to support a publication that openly sours the reputation of our neighborhood.

  3. Sadly, Willamette Week has a history of really crappy articles about our Foster Powell and Lents. They wrote a really horrible article totally mocking Fun on Foster back in maybe 2007…making fun of businesses like the neon store that used to be where Meticon is now…all the businesses they targeted for mockery were small local businesses filling specific niches (Gun Room and the taxidermy place among them). It was sad to see small businesses targeted like that. Coverage has gotten slightly better, now that Andy Ricker says it’s cool to eat at hole in the wall asian restaurants.

  4. Hmph. “Suburban.” I walk to Foster Burger with my husband and kid and friends and family with husbands and kids.

    I suppose taking a shot at people who still like loud music and poutine despite having children and health insurance is understandable for an elderly alt-weekly always chasing the desirable disgruntled 17-year-old demo.

Submit a comment