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Southwest Neighborhood Guide

The neighborhood highlights featured below offer avenues for exploration close to home. There's always something more to discover in Portland, even on your own block:

Slow and sure as bread, reputation rises

Everything about Baker and Spice (6330 S.W. Capital Highway, 503-244-7573) - from the handcrafted artisan breads, pastries, cakes and sandwiches to the lattes, counter service and work being done in the open kitchen - is delivered with an eye on quality rather than speed.

If you're looking for a quick pastry and coffee on the go, you'd be better served ducking into the neighboring Starbucks.

At Baker and Spice, there's a devotion to excellence you can taste. A favorite at farmers markets for the past several years, Baker and Spice's small retail cafe and bakery is still a fairly recent arrival but already has developed its own devoted fan base.

There's no skimping on ingredients: imported butter, organic flour, local seasonal fruit and l-o-v-e make these treats a cut above. And if you're looking for the perfect croissant, it's here. (Barbara Mitchell)

Once a Crab Bowl, now a shrimp feast

A tiny two-story bar/restaurant nestled on a curve of Southwest Barbur Boulevard, the Boulevard Cafe (7958 S.W. Barbur Blvd., 503-245-9954) is easy to miss even if you know where you're headed. It's worth seeking out.

Formerly known as the Crab Bowl, this cozy neighborhood spot has been dishing out some of the best fried shrimp west of the Mississippi for decades.

At night, the upstairs bar (decked out with a piano and old headshots of some of the performers who appeared at the owner's father's club in Eastern Oregon) hosts a colorful - and slightly Twin Peaks-y - karaoke scene. (BM)

Meet me in Multnomah

The Multnomah Center (503-823-2787), located in the heart of Multnomah Village at 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway, is the vital community center for much of Southwest Portland.

Throughout the day and night, the sprawling red brick building hums with activity, including theater classes, exercise programs, neighborhood meetings and even citywide public affairs forums.

Sometimes members of the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism dress up as medieval knights and joust in a covered section of the adjoining playground.

The building and playground first opened as the Multnomah School in 1913. After sitting vacant for several years, it was acquired by Portland Parks and Recreation in 1978, renovated, and reopened as a community center in 1982. It includes classrooms, offices, a large gymnasium with a stage and an outdoor basketball court.

The parks bureau operates the center by leasing space to nonprofit organizations that provide programs and services to the public. The current tenants include Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., the coalition office serving neighborhood associations in the area, and the Multnomah Arts Center, which offers a broad range of arts activities, including a ceramics studio with pottery wheels, slab roller and kilns.

A health clinic for low-income individuals and families also is located in the center, along with a Waldorf and Montessori school for young children. (Jim Redden)

Gimme a pizza, and some gasoline

It's hard not to imagine Frank Sinatra slipping away to Caro Amico (3606 S.W. Barbur Blvd., 503-223-6895) for a martini and a hearty plate of pasta.

Stepping into this local institution is like stepping back in time. The cozy downstairs bar still has wood paneling, you're likely to hear Ol' Blue Eyes and friends on the sound system, the menu likely hasn't changed in decades and the staff is famously friendly.

And the pizza? Caro Amico was reputedly the first restaurant to bring pizza to Portland, and it's perfected it.

With a crispy thin crust, perfectly seasoned sauce and a selection of old-school toppings to choose from, it's delicious.

Most amazing of all, Caro Amico is equally suited to romantic dinners or extended family gatherings, kids included. (BM)

Pop in for groceries, stay a while

'Grocery' might be a slight exaggeration.

If you're in need of staples, you'll likely find more selection at a Plaid Pantry - but that's not the point of Ross Island Grocery (3338 S.W. Corbett St., 503-227-4531).

This tiny neighborhood corner store serves fresh, tasty sandwiches, hearty soup, a selection of salads and desserts, plus coffee, wine and beer. On Fridays, it also hosts an intimate open mike night.

There's a relaxed, friendly vibe - it's as inviting a place to grab a bottle of wine to take home as it is to sit and grab a bite with a friend. (BM)