Let's be frank, the Pearl District is a yuppie nightmare crawling with Nike employees paying $400,000 for lofts and thousands more for tiny dogs to decorate them with. Pearl District people are, for the most, shallow, art-collecting dorks with big paychecks and tiny personalities. And while you may think I'm judging harshly, take a look at the new restaurants that have popped up since the yuppies moved in: Manzana, P.F. Chang's (ohh, those salad wraps!), and Henry's Tavern. Does any self-respecting food lover step foot in those places? But despite the suburban sprawl leaking into the Pearl, there are a few great Portland relics we shouldn't forget about, lest another Baja Fresh stomp them out.
1212 NW Glisan, 221-0011
One of the cutest little diners in Portland, Byways is a Portland staple. Dressed up with vintage tourism decorations like 3D viewfinders, collectible spoons, plates, and photos, it's like eating lunch in the 1950s. Favorite menu items include the Space Needle Scramble made with spinach, onion, tomato, cheese, and garden sausage, and the Crater Lake Cobb made with fresh spinach, and heaps of meat and cheeses. If you need to make your daily fat, calorie, and calcium quota, order one of their thick chocolate milkshakes made at the old school soda fountain. Even though you may not be rich, at least your milkshake can be.
Little Wing Cafe
529 NW 13th, 228-3101
A totally affordable cafe with romantic outdoor seating, Little Wing is a little bit of down to earth in the Pearl. If you're carb-fasting, order the perfectly portioned Steve's Salad ($7) made with mixed greens, chopped artichoke, tuna salad, and sliced turkey breast. They also have the substantial and delicious Ploughman's Lunch, comprised of homemade soup, fruit, cheese, and bread. And any of their standard, but delicious sandwiches (many vegetarian, and they even have a vegan burger) are great. Dinner is a little pricier with entrees running $10-17, but still, for the Pearl that's like McDonald's prices.
Fuller's Coffee Shop
136 NW 9th, 222-5608
It's best to show up at Fuller's in coveralls to preserve the workman's diner aesthetic. If you don't have coveralls, that's cool, but leave your sequined tank top and Fendi bag at home. Primarily a breakfast joint, Fuller's has tons of counter space and serves up plates of food so big you'll wreck your diet for a week. Don't miss their homemade baked bread, big meaty omelets, or if you're up for lunch, a piled-high Rueben. Your meal can pretty easily stay in the five-dollar range, saving you cash for a new sequined tank top at Anthropologie.
1230 NW Hoyt, 241-8800
Dinner at Fratelli these days is going to cost you a C-note (AKA a Benjy). No worries, though, because a few drinks at Fratelli's bar and an antipasti plate ($9) should do you fine. Fratelli always employs a host of fresh, Northwest and organic ingredients and pairs them in simple but delicious ways. Take their amazing bruschette, for example: the mascarpone, truffles and shaved beef bruscette are creamy and phenomenal, and the roasted root vegetable and horseradish variety is smart, hearty, and spicy. If you're hungry for a meal, order a few Primi (or first course) dishes to fill you up like the gnocchi with pancetta, ricotta, and pumpkin seed oil or the exquisite pear tart with blue cheese.
Low Brow Lounge
1036 NW Hoyt, 226-0200
While the Low Brow doesn't make my favorite food in the city, their tater tots and mini corn dogs are always a good liquor sponge. And besides, the Low Brow is more about drinking than dining. With an endless supply of cold Jagermeister, Guinness on tap, and the coveted green Chartreuse liqueur behind the bar, you can get drunk any number of exciting ways. Their dim lighting, and cushy booths, too, will make sure you get tipsy in cool, relaxed comfort. Just stay out of the place on first Thursday, when the bar is invaded by amateurs. And do not ask them for change for your parking meter, because as the sign says, the Low Brow is not a bank!