Beyond downtown, a stranger is likely to choose three of Portland's roughly 90 neighborhoods for exploration: Northwest, Hawthorne and the Pearl. (And if you look lost or perplexed, there's a good chance someone will volunteer to help you out. That happened to us three times during a four-day visit.)
The commercial blocks of Northwest, also known as Nob Hill, are viewed as the yuppie area and dominated by upscale shops and pubs. The main drag is 23rd Avenue, beginning at Burnside, with spillover to 21st Avenue.
Hawthorne, in the largely residential Southeast area, is a Bohemian zone near Reed College. Its liveliest stretch is from roughly 32nd to 39th, with spillover to Belmont between 34th and 39th, including the Ego, Hunger and Aggression Cafe. I didn't taste the food, just savored the name.
Strolling Hawthorne Boulevard, you can't help but smile. At Biddy McGraw's Irish Pub, where most of the evening programs run to poetry and folk music, one Thursday is billed as "invisible naked band night." On the glass door of the Pasta Works grocery, a red circle and authoritative lettering declares the premises a "Portable Phone Free Zone" -- just one sign, we were told, of a gathering backlash against cellular phones. At the old Bagdad Theater & Pub, customers over 21 can buy a microbrew, order a pizza, then plop down another dollar and watch a movie while eating and drinking.
The least obvious of these neighborhoods is the Pearl. It's not on the tourist maps, but it's in the warehouse district around 13th Avenue and Hoyt Street.
There are a few galleries, a few residential loft buildings, a handful of interior design stores, restaurants and pubs. (On the first Thursday of each month, many of the area's otherwise-private studios open to the public.)
We see an exhibit of glass art and an engaging show organized by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art ("The Tool Show," featuring 48 artists' paintings, sculptures, photos and assemblages of drills, shovels, hammers and saws, and so on).
Pub Date: 8/11/96