If one phrase came to mind during last Thursday's opening night for the Diesel Portland store it was this:

"Welcome to Not Portland."

Everything you've come to expect from grand openings for chi-chi new stores (à la Saks Fifth Avenue, Mario's and even Pearl Hardware) was not in sight--at least not on this night.

Take the menu. Served from a deli-on-wheels "roach coach" it was all about hot dogs, pot stickers and bean-and-cheese burritos. It was good, but why was it here and not on Columbia Boulevard? Isn't this the Pearl District and isn't this one of the biggest clothing brands in the world?

Take the guests. Equal parts eastside hipster and New York trend-setter, mixed in with a few West Hills wives, Blazer talent and a gaggle of gay boys. Not exactly Northwest casual (except for the gay boys).

Take the service. Smudged twentysomethings, clad in hard hats and wife-beaters. OK, that was cool--and very Portland. But what was up with the big thugs at the door?

For someone who has trouble affording a pair of Diesel jeans (and suffered a pre-party clothing crisis because of it), the invite-only party felt shabby--albeit attended by quite a few chic people. From ex-first lady Sharon Kitzhaber to Diesel VP Maurizio Marchiori to Hedwig main man John Cameron Mitchell, the party was a name-dropper's paradise.

And as for the clothes inside Diesel's newly minted Brewery Block space? Who knows? They were off-limits, held at bay by yellow caution tape. That meant although there was no shopping, there was plenty of movement inside and out, as guests made their rounds stopping to dance near the DJ booth (the evening's soundtrack was a mix of mainstream hip-hop and more obscure dance tracks) or to seek heat under blowtorch-looking lamps.

I overheard a lot of people commenting on how great the party was. And, by all accounts, it was. Not too crowded (though there were squishy moments), lots of beautiful people, and (the kicker) free booze, CDs, hats and other goodies.

Did the un-Portland-ness contribute to this sense of an über-hip but kind of random congregation of people?


Was it so hip as to be snotty?

Not really.

And what of those West Hills wives?

They may have been trashing the quality of the wine, but they're nicer than you think.

Diesel Portland, 30 NW 12th Ave., 241-1355.