Portland's Pearl District: A Hip Dining Destination

Once mostly warehouses, this neighborhood north of downtown Portland has become a culinary hot spot.

The outside patio at Barista in Portland, Oregon's Pearl District neighborhood, image
Experience the bounty of the Northwest in the Pearl.
Joshua Rainey Photography

Once home to bustling factories and rail yards, Portland's newly hip neighborhood, the Pearl District, gained its nickname when the area’s art galleries opened in the mid-1980s. “All these crusty warehouses, they’re sort of like oysters on the outside,” says Heidi Burnette, co-owner of local Forktown Food Tours. “But on the inside there are these hidden pearls.”

Now the secret is out. French bistros, Mexican cantinas, and sushi spots dot the district’s streets like a string of culinary gems. Fortunately, this triangular neighborhood just north of downtown, on the west side of the Willamette River, can be an easy food getaway: Take the light-rail in, stay at one of several fine hotels, visit Powell’s Books with its epic cookbook section, and then eat.

The area supports multiple brewpubs. At Deschutes Brewery and Public House, pair a hoppy Mirror Pond Pale Ale—or one of the 26 other beers on tap—with an elk burger.

Portland may be a beer-centric city, but the Pearl offers motives to forsake the tap. At Oven and Shaker, sip on a Pineapple Trainwreck, rum and pineapple juice cut with spicy ginger syrup, while you wait for your wood-fire-cooked pizza with bacon, ham, mascarpone, apple butter, and ricotta.

In the morning, wake up with Pearl Bakery’s signature pugliese bread, baked with olive oil for a silky texture. The Pearl’s eateries know how to take something simple and transform it into something extraordinary.


This article was first published in November 2014 and updated in August 2018.