In the 1980s, the Pearl District was home to warehouses and rail yards. Today, it's home to families and young professionals who have a vast array of activities at their fingertips—from shopping at the neighborhood's indie clothing boutiques to visiting art galleries to getting fit at a number of yoga studios, spin classes and gyms. (There's even a gym for your dog!) Anchored at its south end by Powell's City of Books and moored by Bridgeport Brewery in the north, the area is densely populated as historic buildings and sleek high-rise apartments soar above the shops of independent retailers and carefully designed parks where kids and, often, pups can play. And while the Pearl's also known for its cuisine—home to Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Peruvian restaurants—its most valuable amenity is its walkability, its proximity to downtown's Cultural District, and its accessibility via the streetcar that crisscrosses its streets.

See and Do

  • First Thursday

    More than 25 years ago, a group of Portland art dealers planted the seeds for what's become the Pearl District’s signature event: a First Thursday art walk where dozens of galleries launch new exhibits on the first Thursday of each month and open their doors to the public. With complimentary wine and nibbles often on hand, upwards of 10,000 people fill art spaces and spill onto the streets. During the warmer months, wander amid the raised loading docks of the brick warehouses along Historic 13th Avenue at the outdoor street gallery, and explore frequent pop-up shops, happy hour samplings, and other music and entertainment in the evening hours. With activities happening anywhere between 5 and 10 p.m., the popularity of First Thursday extends into the surrounding neighborhoods with events taking place in Downtown, Old Town and Nob Hill as well, but be sure to check individual gallery websites to see what’s happening where.

  • Museum of Contemporary Craft

    724 NW Davis Street
    Portland OR 97209

    "The oldest continuously running craft institution in the United States," the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC) was founded in 1937, and today, is run in partnership with Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art, “making the joint institution one of the largest organizations devoted to the visual arts in the state of Oregon.” While the museum’s galleries offer two floors, 4,500 square feet of exhibitions, and the chance to explore artworks from Northwest and internationally recognized artists working in ceramics, wood, metal, glass, fiber and mixed media, you can also purchase contemporary—and locally made—crafts “with a modern design focus” in The Gallery Store at the MoCC, as well as hear talks and participate in hands-on demonstrations. 

  • Portland Center Stage

    Originally the late ‘80s northern satellite of the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, PCS established its independence in 1994 and stands as Portland’s largest producing theater company today. From established stage classics to contemporary plays and premieres, a PCS season averages 10 plays from fall to early summer, spanning Shakespearean traditions to Christmas favorites and new adaptations, live, on the stages of two theaters—the Gerding Theater main stage at The Armory and the subterranean, black box Ellyn Bye Studio.

  • The Armory

    Portland Center Stage’s theatrical magic all happens in The Armory, a stunning, turreted, black stone and red brick medieval fortress built in 1891. Originally the Annex to the First Regiment Armory—and home of the Oregon National Guard (who took advantage of the weatherproof, underground firing range)—the hefty walls of the imposing Romanesque Revival operation have borne witness to public meetings and political rallies, short-lived sporting endeavors (from a boxing ring to the home court of the Portland Indians—a precursor of the NBA’s Trail Blazers), the storage of Weinhard suds, and finally, a state-of-the-art theater. Today’s renovated structure is LEED Platinum certified, and free public tours are offered each month on every first and third Saturday from noon to 1 p.m.

Eat and Drink

  • Cool Moon Ice Cream

    1105 NW Johnson Street
    Portland OR 97209

    In Northwest Portland, Cool Moon is the resident handmade ice cream shop with over 28 flavors to choose from, including four non-dairy options. Their long list of flavors brings about an air of international flair. Lychee sorbet sits alongside Thai iced tea ice and black sesame-flavored ice cream reminiscent of some trip to Asia. Their kulfi flavor is a nod to an Indian dessert made from pistachio and cardamom with a splash of rosewater. Saffron sunshine, Saigon cinnamon and spicy Thai chili (made with coconut, chili and hot peanut and hot chili—wow) will transport you to another land with every lick of your ice cream cone. 

  • Nuvrei Pâtisserie & CafĂ©

    404 NW 10th Avenue
    Portland OR 97209

    To complement its subterranean kitchen, Nuvrei—artisan bakers of all things sweet—opened a cafe and espresso bar. Included among the many items Nuvrei now offers are lunch samplings like chicken, tuna, PBJ and Bratwurst sandwiches, as well as niçoise, shrimp endive and prosciutto endive salads. And, all day, every day, they offer breakfast dishes like quiche, bagels and croque monsieurs. Of course, they still serve up plenty of pastries, too. The space may be small, with interior seating for as many as eight or nine, but when the weather's fair, Nuvrei can seat you outdoors along 10th Avenue. 

  • Remedy

    733 NW Everett St.
    Portland OR 97209

    First, there was Michael Madigan's startup food lab, KitchenCru, followed in 2011 by Dan Beekley's neighboring wineshop, CorksCru. Now, the two have teamed up and opened a third space—a stylish 44-seat wine bar—literally located around the corner. Madigan says the wine list features mainly of old world reds, whites and sparklings (although a quarter of the stock is produced in the Pacific Northwest), and is augmented by bottles and cans of Oregon beers and "lowtails," or low-alcohol cocktails (think liqueurs, vermouths and bitters). Also available is a small but substantial food menu—designed by chef Ingrid Chen to pair with the wine (rather than the other way around)—which will change frequently to reflect the city's abundance of fresh, locally grown, seasonal produce.

  • Teardrop Lounge

    1015 NW Everett St.
    Portland OR 97209

    You may not realize it, but every aspect of Daniel Shoemaker's popular cocktail lounge was carefully designed to make sure your afternoon or evening out is a singular experience—the subtleties are quietly celebrated in the details. The island bar was designed to allow you to comfortably communicate with companions three stools down or with new friends across the room. The street-side windows are opened when it's warm, linking the outdoors with the in. And then there are the drinks. Shoemaker estimates the lounge's cocktail Rolodex is comprised of nearly 400 original, classic and interpretative drinks (gleaned from friends in the industry) made with fresh fruits, (often) obscure ingredients, and handcrafted bitter tinctures that give the bartenders a lot of space in which to play. But don't let that intimidate you. Shoemaker's staff is there not just to serve you, but to understand what you like and learn what you may like. A good bartender, he says, is more than just the sum of knowledge and technique—he or she is, above all, a welcoming host. 

Shop

  • Bonnet

    1129 NW Flanders St.
    Portland OR 97209

    After moving to Portland from Sonoma County—where she owned clothing and interior design shops—Patricia Zanger found herself in a mild quandary once the leaves fell and the rains began: She was cold and needed a hat, but after searching the city, couldn't find one she liked. So, she went about finding that hat and then opened a new shop so that others could find theirs too. At present, Zanger's shop carries about 500 hats in 600 different styles—beanies, caps, fedoras, cloches and slouchies—meant for everyday use. If you visit her shop and still can't find what you're looking for, you can help Zanger design your own one-of-a-kind hat, which you can then accessorize with Bonnet's many scarves, umbrellas, mittens and fingerless gloves.

  • Ecru Modern Stationer

    1215 NW 11th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    If a handwritten card arrives in your mailbox, does it so seduce you that you open it immediately? Or, do you open it later, when you can savor what's inside? Both answers are correct because, as Ecru owner LeAnn Dolan points out, there's not much left these days that can charm someone quite like a handwritten card. And while Ecru provides services like custom-designed wedding invitations and personalized stationery, its bread and butter lies in its stock of greeting cards, creative office supplies, and its vast library of blank journals. Need that journal gift wrapped? You can choose from Ecru's many varieties of wrapping paper, and Dolan and her staff will seal it up. Don't need that journal, but nonetheless have an armful of gifts that need wrapping? Just bring them in and, for the price of the paper and a small fee, Dolan and her staff will wrap those too. 

  • Eden

    221 NW 11th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    Cindy Rokoff's Pearl District boutique seems more like a carefully composed art installation designed by bohemians who have a collective eye for all things Art Deco and Nouveau than it does a vintage store. But a vintage store it is, and one where you can find carefully selected 1920s to 1980s-era women's clothes alongside antique tables, chairs, lamps, trunks, taxidermic heads (antelopes and alligators), men's shaving kits, Taschen books, candles, soaps, gift cards, and women's jewelry (almost all of which is locally made). Eve is also home to a unique collection of hard-to-find fragrances—from scents designed by French cult perfumer Serge Lutens to local colognes and perfumes courtesy of Slumberhouse and Imaginary Authors. 

  • Mabel and Zora

    748 NW 11th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    Tiffany Bean says the Doris Day movies she watched as a child dazzled her. Each film's costume design was "always so colorful and cheery." Even household items from that era like toasters were exciting to behold, she says. As a nod to those films, and the stylish boutique her grandmother once ran in East Texas, Bean and her husband, Corey, aim to bring those bright colors to the City of Roses and spread them around. For a while, she says, her women's boutique was known as the store where you could find the special dress for that special occasion. But, the shop has broadened its scope and now features plenty of locally designed, stylish casual wear, as well as a line of Bean's own design and a line of retro-inspired modern luggage. 

  • Physical Element

    416 NW 12th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    If you've ever walked by Jo Carter's dazzling window displays and stopped to do a double take, then you most likely have adventurous tastes. Carter’s boutique carries carefully selected women's lines from European, Japanese and Portland-based designers—including designs of her own—whose works appeal to an intrepid sense of style. Think coats, dresses, sweaters, hats, and, recently, shoes, all designed with conceptual, linear and architectural aesthetics. If you like that dress in the window, imagine the impact it will have on others when you're wearing it. 

  • Oblation Papers & Press

    516 NW 12th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    Jennifer Rich compares her wholesale and retail urban paper mill, which she owns with her husband, Ron, to a Paris flea market, "because you never know what you're going to find,” she explains. The shop carries a wide selection of letterpress and locally designed greeting cards, pencil cases, wrapping paper, paper weights, and business card cases. And lately, Oblation has even begun carrying vintage typewriters and fountain pens. The Riches also offer gift wrapping services for a small fee, which is waived if the gift comes from the shop. Of course, their true expertise lies in their letterpress printing services, which provide Portlanders with wedding and party invitations as well as graduation and birth announcements on a variety of handmade and recycled papers. And every October, they give back to their community by halving the paper and printing costs of personalized stationery and business cards. 

  • Pearl Fiber Arts

    428 NW 11th Ave.
    Portland OR 97209

    When she was 6 years old, Cindy Abernethy learned to crochet from her babysitter. Before long, she'd taught herself to knit, and later, to wheel-spin fibers into a variety of functional fabrics. After spending years as a technical writer, Abernethy decided to become her own boss and, in 2010, opened what is now the city's largest retailer of locally hand-dyed, all-natural fibers. So whether you prefer wool, cotton, bamboo, linen or alpaca, Abernethy's shop has what you need in just about any color you wish. The shop also provides plenty of services too. Have a hole in your favorite cashmere sweater? Drop it off and the staff will mend it for you. Live outside the city but want more of something you've bought in the past? Call Abernethy and she'll email you photos of the fiber you want in all its available colors. Plus, the shop stays open late on Tuesday nights—till 9 p.m.—so the spinning public can bring their wheels and spin yarns, both literally and figuratively. 

  • Powell's Books

    1005 W Burnside
    Portland OR 97209

    A Portland landmark since the ‘70s, it’s not called the City of Books for nothing. The mother of all independent bookstores occupies an entire city block (and then some, with the adjacent Bldg. 2 housing technical books) and carries “more than a million new, used and out-of-print books.” Proudly calling itself “the largest independent bookstore in the world”—a crown we’ll gladly concede—the massive tome-filled floors (covering 68,000 square feet) may be loaded with every imaginable literary genre (technically, “122 major subject areas and more than 3,500 subsections”), but it’s also a hub of activity and socializing with some 3,000 people purchasing books every day and “another 3,000 people just browsing and drinking coffee.” Consistently named one of America's best bookstores, it’s all too easy to spend hours perusing the shelves unorthodoxly mixed with new and used titles. Powell’s hosts frequent book signings, readings, art showings, and a weekly kids storytime, plus ambitious, enterprising types can attempt to make some extra scratch by selling your own books—but fair warning, you may be hard pressed to make it out of the store with that cash intact.

Insider's Tips

  • Breakfast at Fuller's Coffee Shop

    With its horseshoe counters and elbow-to-elbow stools, Fuller’s, as many may know, is about as old school as it gets: There is no website, no social media presence, not even an email address. (But, the clock on the wall reveals that it was founded in 1947.) Likewise, the menu is strictly classic too, listing mid-century diner dishes that are both wholesome and unfussy. If you’re really hungry, you can get a carbohydrate-rich hot cake sandwich (three housemade flapjacks garnished with a bit of protein in the form of a pair of eggs) or an order of French toast (made with fresh bread baked daily), which comes in full and half sizes. But, the Fuller’s Reuben is the epitome of a classic’s classic: rye, swiss, sauerkraut, corned beef and a homemade special sauce. Unlike so many other Reubens, this one isn’t greasy and it’s paired with either a side salad or a small bowl of homemade potato salad (scallions, onions and crunchy celery riblets). And sticking to its old-school bona fides, Fuller’s doesn’t accept credit cards—here, it’s cash only, although there is an ATM on-site to make things easier for you. Breakfast is served daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.

  • Breakfast/Brunch at Byways Cafe

    In a city alive with playful, adventurous chefs, there's probably nothing more vanilla than waiting in a brunch line just to order a stack of pancakes—unless those pancakes are griddled at Byways Cafe. What you get is a plate (a shallow bowl, really) filled with three flat-as-Kansas, three-nickel-high, organic blue corn pancakes served with a scoop of crunchy honey pecan butter and a pitcher of hot, real maple syrup. You don't necessarily need to spread those extras between the cakes—they're grainier, tastier and more savory than buttermilks so they taste fine as is—but they're certainly better with them. If you consider even blue corn cakes still too vanilla—they're not—you can always request eggs because Byways serves up nearly 20 scrambles, hashes and three-egg omelets. Brunch hours are actually breakfast hours and, since 1999, it's been served daily from 7 to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.

  • Brunch at Oven & Shaker

    We've all ate cold pizza for breakfast. In fact, some of you may have even snacked on last night’s Oven and Shaker pizza this morning. But next time, consider that you can save those leftover slices for an afternoon snack, and go back to the pizzeria for brunch. The menu here is slim, but it has plenty of tasty, breakfasty options. Try the Eggs Purgatory, a piping hot dish with Parmigiano-Reggiano melted atop a sunny side up duck egg in a sea of spicy red sauce (which you can sop up with some thickly sliced, wood-fired bruschetta). Or, you can get a puccia, an egg, potato and smoked mozzarella frittata sandwich that comes wrapped in a pocket of fluffy, springy, wood-fired bread. But if you really want to treat yourself, ask for dessert, which comes in the form of a broiled grapefruit covered in melted mascarpone and topped with ribbons of basil. Although it’s brunch, don't expect a Bloody Mary—the folks behind the stick are known for pressing seasonal juices each day and would never think of using a bottled Bloody mix. And even though they won't make them, they will make you a Pepper Smash (aquavit, fresh lime, maple syrup and juice extracted from yellow bell peppers). You should try one, and then after you've had your second, ask yourself if you have indeed stumbled upon what should someday soon be in the pantheon of brunch classics. Brunch hours last from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Brunch at Verde Cocina

    Verde Cocina chef Noé Garnica has more than just a few tricks up his sleeve. His entire kitchen is free of anything that contains gluten. Much of his menu is vegetarian, if not vegan. His dishes are generously sized but don't leave you feeling stuffed. And, everything on the menu comes with local, seasonal, fresh market veggies. If all that weren't enough to separate Garnica from his peers, consider his huevos rancheros. First, Garnica starts with one hand-formed tortilla, on which he spreads his signature garbanzo-white bean mash—a recipe he inherited from his mother. Then, he builds it up with a pair of over-easy, farm-fresh eggs with bright yellow yolks, which he covers with another tortilla. Next come the finishing touches, which are many. There is Garnica's ranchero salsa verde. There are several tart clumps of cotija-style cheese, a chèvre-based delicacy made by a friend of Garnica's from his farmers’ market days. And, as promised, veggies. Lots of them. Pair your brunch with a Bloody Maria (tequila reposado, fresh jalapeños, and orange, cranberry and tomato juices). Brunch service runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Can't wait till then and need your fix now? The huevos rancheros are also served daily for lunch.

  • Happy Hour at Park Kitchen

    For 10 years, the folks on the line at Park Kitchen have been putting out well-executed, yet playful happy hour plates (like fluffy salted cod fritters and gently fried chickpea fingers served like a bouquet in a pint glass), while the bar staff has mixed up drinks like the flirtishly named Dom Draper (a no-nonsener made with brandy, Dom Benedictine and drops of smoked bitters that cut the brandy’s sweetness). But, the back of the house is at its best when making seasonal—and conceptual—dishes, like one simply titled "beets, pumpernickel, smoked sablefish and sour cream." If its unadorned name doesn't inspire you, the story it tells you will—executive chef Ethan Snyder wanted to create a plate that showcases the smells, textures and tastes he used to find in New York delis. What you taste is the feeling of wandering through Snyder’s recent memories as you take in the dish's main elements with little plot twists (fennel, celery, mustard greens and a mustard vinaigrette) thrown in that make you feel a lot like your dreaming someone else’s dream. Happy hour lasts from 5 to 6 p.m., every day.

  • Happy Hour at Teardrop Lounge

    We've come to expect great things from the bartenders at Daniel Shoemaker's Teardrop Lounge. Since the doors opened, they've been mixing inventive and often surprising cocktails that are always artfully presented, whether the spirits are garnished with origami-like fruits or simply poured over rocks in a pretty glass. The drinks on the current happy hour menu are no exception. To get a taste of what they do best, try the nutty, tart and brilliantly pink Afternoon in Paris (gin, Lillet Blanc, pastis, lemon and Peychaud's bitters) or the impossibly chocolatey Graduate (sweet vermouth, tonic water and a jigger of orange curaçao that burnishes the drink's shot of blended Scotch). What you may not expect, however, is how good the food is. Teardrop has a tiny kitchen and, therefore, a limited menu, but you’d be cheating yourself if you pass on the kitchen's pork belly sandwich (served on a ciabatta roll with whole-grain mustard and a green cabbage and red onion slaw). For such a small kitchen, the pork belly's preparation is as complex as the drinks. First, the pork is brined for a full day. Then, it's cooked confit-style, after which it's pressed, portioned and floured before it's finally gently fried. Portland's seams are bursting with great sandwich carts and shops, but Teardrop's pork belly sandwich is among the best the city has to offer. Ask for one and see if it doesn't surprise you as much as the drink you're pairing it with. Happy hour runs from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Important Links

Pearl District Neighborhood Association
Pearl District Business Association
Coalition Office: NWNW
Neighborhood Map
Capital Improvement Projects
Crime Stats
Parks
Schools
Zoning Designations