The Portland metropolitan area is rich with beautiful neighborhoods: little enclaves and regions that are full of charm and grit and livability. Gresham, a suburb just on the edge of the city, is not often lauded as one of them. Compared with other parts of Portland, Gresham can be overlooked; it feels far away, and its reputation is of a sprawling town with little personality. However, there are parts of Gresham that are surprising, just waiting to be discovered. It’s an area worth driving 30 minutes east for, at least, to check out for an afternoon.
1. Peruvian Food!
Gresham has some of the best (if not THE very best) Peruvian food in the area. El Inka Restaurant, an unassuming little place in the middle of a strip mall, serves authentic ceviche and lomo saltado, as well as mouthwatering rotisserie chicken. The atmosphere is endearing: friendly service, colorful tablecloths, soccer on the television. The prices are also reasonable; because the portion sizes are huge, you can split an appetizer and entree between two people and walk away very full.
2. Main Street
Gresham’s Main Street, in the heart of the city’s historic downtown, is bustling with quaint establishments. If Peruvian food’s not your thing, there are fantastic choices on this street for lunch or dinner, among them: a Nicholas Restaurant, one of Portland’s favorite places to eat Lebanese food (although at this location you will rarely have to wait for a table) and The Local Cow, a casual eatery that serves–you guessed it–local, hormone-free burgers (and killer blue cheese fries). Main Street also offers a great latte, at Cafe Delirium–a coffee house with funky furniture and a relaxed atmosphere, as well as places to shop for retro items, such as Foxtrot Vintage–a venue with hip decor and multiple antique vendors.
3. Springwater Trail
Gresham’s 4.8 mile stretch of the Springwater Trail is beautiful (and a great place to work off all of the great food on Main Street!): it leads walkers, runners and bikers around Johnson Creek, through woodlands and past landmark buttes. The paved path is part of the Springwater Corridor, which stretches from Boring all the way to downtown Portland.
4. Tsuru Island
Tsuru Island is a hidden gem in Gresham, a Japanese Garden that was donated to the city 40 years ago.
After years of neglect, in July 2011, a team of volunteers restored the garden back to a place of serenity (Tsuru is the Japanese word for crane, which is a symbol of good fortune and longevity). The garden is now a favorite place to meditate and enjoy unique landscaping.
After a full day of shopping, eating and walking, visitors can cross the lovely footbridge at the entrance of Tsuru Island, then linger at one of the many picnic benches and maybe, just maybe, reconsider past misconceptions of Gresham, Oregon.