Up until the 1990's, the Pearl District in NW Portland revolved around warehouses and other industrial spaces. In the late 1990's/early 2000's the area was completely revamped, and now is one of the trendiest and most upscale neighborhoods in Portland.
One huge draw of the Pearl District is the incredible art scene. The area is home to Pacific Northwest College of Art, a notable art school, as well as many different art galleries and showrooms. In the warmer months (technically March to December, although summer months are much more popular) the Pearl District hosts First Thursday on the First Thursday of every month. Many art galleries keep their doors open late and offer light refreshments to encourage guests to check out their spaces. A portion of 13th Avenue is also shut down, allowing an art fair to be set up with interesting art, jewelry and home goods for sale. Local shops and restaurants also participate, offering drink specials or other incentives to keep the fun going all over the Pearl.
Coming up with the featured restaurants, bars, breweries and shops below was incredibly difficult due to the sheer number of amazing restaurants and shops in the Pearl. The lists below are certainly not exhaustive, and honestly I love almost anywhere I have been in the Pearl. Another great activity in the Pearl related to the breweries is the Brew Cycle, which takes groups of about 12 people on a self-pedaled tour of different breweries in NW. It is the perfect way to spend an afternoon and get to sample beer and see the sights.
If I missed any of your favorites please let me know!
Andina is, hands down, one of my favorite restaurants in all of Portland. Andina specializes in Peruvian cuisine and offers delicious shared plates that are perfect for a large group and a long dinner. They have an entire vegan/vegetarian menu, which is great for me, but they also excel at various Peruvian meat dishes. I haven't had anything that I don't like, but you have to try the Tres Salsas Con Pan, 3 fantastic dipping sauces with bread. It sounds boring but it is an amazing starter. If you are in the mood for a cocktail and can handle a bit of spice get the sacsayhuaman (try saying the name out loud!).
The perfect spot for happy hour with friends, a casual dinner or weekend brunch, Brix Tavern pretty much has it all. I'm a huge fan of their weekend brunch (vegetarian benedict for the win!), and they offer "bottomless" mimosas for only $9. Go on a Wednesday night and try Flip Wednesday- after your meal flip a coin, and if you call it right your meal is free, just pay tip! Brix is nice and big too, so chances are the wait will be short, if there even is one.
Latin American food is always good, at least in my opinion, but Oba really does it right. Their happy hour serves delicious drinks and small plates and is one of my favorite options in the Pearl- I recommend either the mango or guava mojito with a handful of appetizers to share. They have outdoor seating as well, perfect for enjoying the spring or summer sunshine and people watching. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is beautiful as well, and perfectly complements their complex, delicious food.
Oven & Shaker
Who doesn't love pizza? Oven and Shaker is the Pearl District mecca for great artisan pizza and fantastic sides and cocktails. I love going for happy hour (that seems to be a theme for me here...) and getting their $7 margherita pizza with a glass of wine. The pizza is big enough to share as dinner, or take it home for delicious leftovers! Whatever you end up getting will be delicious, and the atmosphere and attentive staff only add to the experience.
Sinju Sushi Bar & Grill
I'm a huge fan of sushi, and Sinju is definitely my go-to in the Pearl District. They have a pretty traditional sushi menu so you can find all of your favorites, as well as many other Japanese dishes. They always present their meals in a fun, creative way which helps make the meal even more memorable.
The Mediterranean Exploration Company
The Mediterranean Exploration Company is owned by the same company as Toro Bravo, Tasty N' Sons and Tasty N' Alder. Their latest foray into tapas style shared plate meals puts an upscale twist on traditional Mediterranean cuisine. I recommend getting as much food as you think you can handle, because you will want to eat absolutely everything on the menu.
Olive or Twist
Olive or Twist offers both traditional martinis as well as creative twists on the classics. I am a huge fan of both their spicy and fruity drinks, and their snacks are definitely more upscale (and more delicious) than traditional bar food.
River Pig Saloon
Although the River Pig Saloon is a fun spot for dinner, happy hour or evening cocktails, it is also a great place to go for a fun night out. They have great events at night, sometimes with live music, and it is also a lively place to watch a sports game.
Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
Another great cocktail lounge in the Pearl District is Teardrop on 10th and Everett. Teardrop is all about the cocktails- their bartenders are skilled and knowledgable and use seasonal, local ingredients to make the best drinks possible.
Vault Martini Bar
Vault Martini Bar is great for a casual night out with friends to a more wild, bar-hopping time in the Pearl. They have curated a hip, trendy atmosphere, complete with DJ's, live music and other themed nights. Their drinks are great and their food is perfect upscale drinking food.
10 Barrel Brewing
Not only is the food delicious, the beers some of my favorites, and the staff friendly and attentive, but their rooftop bar is AMAZING! It just opened a few weeks ago, so right now expect a long wait (think up to 3 or 4 hours!), but you can get a beer without a table and enjoy the sunshine. I'm hoping the rooftop gets a little less packed soon, but even so, 10 Barrel Brewing is where I want to be.
Touted as Oregon's oldest craft brewery, Bridgeport has a fun BrewPub on the North side of the Pearl attached to its brewery. They offer fun brew tours on the weekend, as well as a very large dining room and separate bar. Their beers are fresh and tasty, and their menu is certainly not traditional bar food.
Deschutes beer is an Oregon classic, and one that you are likely to see all over the country. Their brewery is in Bend, Oregon, but they have a great location right in the heart of the Pearl that is always jam packed. They have a little bit of outside seating, but there is almost always a wait to sit there. Instead hang out at the bar, which has a fun vibe where you are sure to meet some new friends.
Fat Head's Brewery
Fat Head's Brewery is the newest addition to the brewery scene in Portland but is already incredibly popular. Located just blocks from the Brewery Blocks in the Pearl, Fat Head's has an ideal location, as well as a great size that is perfect for a large group. Their food is varied and delicious (great fries) and they have an extensive beer menu.
Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House
Rogue is definitely the quirkiest brewery on the list. They have locations throughout Oregon and multiple in Portland, including a location in the Pearl. Their beers are very experimental and come in many different varieties, perfect for anyone in your group. Last time I went I had an IPA mixed with a sparkling tea (a sort of shandy) that was delicious!
Powell's City of Books
If you are looking for the quintessential Portland experience, you have to go to Powell's. They have a HUGE selection of new, used and out of print books, as well as quirky, fun gifts and goods. It is a place that you could literally get lost in and spend a whole day, and that is not a bad thing.
I don't know if it is just me, but if I had the budget I would most likely blow it all on flowers. There is something about a gorgeous bouquet or arrangement that just gets me going. Sammy's is an amazing flower shop that makes perfect bouquets and is great for gifts, or just for things for yourself! It is also very fun to look around, and the staff is very friendly.
Although West Elm is a chain, it is one of my favorite stores in the Pearl. My dream is to have an entire West Elm home, but for now I have to satisfy my home decor dreams with just browsing the shop and picking up the occasional odds and ends. I buy tons of gifts at West Elm, for both clients and friends. This location even hosts fun events, and tries to be very involved in the community as well.
Selling mens and women's clothing and accessories, Lizard Lounge is the epitome of cool. They have a very well-curated style and only sell the hippest clothes. They also host great events, specifically during First Thursday, and sell fun home accessories as well.