Image: Mei Ratz

SOUTHEAST DIVISION STREET was once a better destination for a bucket of Benjamin Moore paint than a cutting-edge meal. Now, Division has become the toastiest spot on Portland’s dining heat map, with a series of high-profile restaurants rising in recent years.

What happened? Restaurant scene-watchers say Lauro Kitchen, Dave Machado’s long-popular Mediterranean spot, and Pok Pok, Andy Ricker’s nationally renowned Thai shack, put this Southeast strip on the gustatory map. But Division’s layout and economics may have had just as much to do with its revival. 

One company, Urban Development Partners NW, rehabbed the storefronts and built the new buildings that now house several significant restaurants on Division. Firm member Neeley Wells says the area’s mix of high-density commercial architecture and  tight-knit residential neighborhood—which, like N Mississippi Avenue, NE Alberta Street, and other vibrant neighborhood heartlands, began life as a nexus of the city’s original streetcar network—made it a dining cluster (and investment opportunity) in waiting. “The commercial corridor is like old-fashioned America,” she says. She also notes that successful early adopters draw more restaurants like moths to flame: “Consumers know they can come to Division, and if one restaurant’s too busy, there’s always another.”

The street’s culinary hot streak seems poised to continue. This month, Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson plans to open a new Italian restaurant (taking over the now-shuttered Lauro space, ironically), while Urban Development is involved with new locations for St. Honoré Bakery and Salt & Straw Ice Cream. And then? “We should probably open up a gym,” Wells says.

Division Revolution

A decade of change on 15 key Southeast blocks

30th (and Division St.)

  • Sunshine Tavern 3111 (2011)
  • Wafu 3113 (2011)
  • Whiskey Soda Lounge 3131 (2009)
  • Fuego de Lotus 3221 (2010)
  • Pok Pok 3226 (2005)
  • Artigiano 3302 (2012)
  • St. Honoré 3333 (planned 2013)
  • Salt & Straw 3345 (planned 2013)
  • Lauro Kitchen 3377 (2003) to be replaced by Ava Genes (September 2012)
  • Pix Pâtisserie 3402 (2003)
  • Victory Bar 3652 (2007)
  • Stumptown Coffee 4525 (1999)
  • Woodsman Tavern 4537 (2011)

46th (and Division St.)