At District, most everything, from frito misto and savory salsa-rosa meatballs to a bracingly strong Shanghai Cocktail, bears the same $8 price tag. That might sound like a steal in a neighborhood where properties wear million-dollar price tags.
But be forewarned—the "thrifty" pricing doesn't bode well for anything but your wallet. For starters, the menu does little to set District apart. The food will feel familiar to any barhopping Portlander: Those ubiquitous crab cakes, saucy pork ribs and a burger all make a cameo. Though the fritto misto is crispy and light as expected, the crab cakes are miniscule, the ribs fatty, and the burger arrives overcooked. Even packing the bun with pickled veggies, aioli and fontina cheese can't hide its faults—though the accompanying flaky onion rings encasing a tiny salad are an eye-appeasing distraction.
Although the cuisine leans toward bland bar food, the dishes are prettily presented and blend perfectly with District's funky, artistic decor. Owner Chris Handford has updated the space with far more glamorous aspirations than those of the doomed space's previous tenant, La Vanguardia, an upscale taqueria. (Or its most recent squatter, the rustic Cobras & Matadors tapas bar.) The effect is equal parts intimate and lush. In the room's center, a gorgeous U-shaped bar serves double duty as the room's focal point and the divider between a conversational lounge and a small sit-down dining area. A mix of chandeliers, large mirrors, striking blue velour banquets and pretty people mark District as a place to see and be seen.
A solid drink list further establishes its lounge persona. Veteran barhoppers might try the aforementioned Shanghai Cocktail, which marries local Indio blood-orange vodka with muddled mandarin for a bright, pulpy combo. The signature District Cocktail is a bit lighter, featuring prosecco, fresh kumquat and Grand Marnier. Order both (and your food, for that matter) at the bar, where attentive, quick service is the norm. Opt to sit in the dining room only if you adore aloof, absent servers who will make a strong impression—though not of the favorable variety.
While hip enough to exist in the Pearl, District doesn't make the kind of lasting impression that warrants a repeat visit to this address just yet.
District, 232 NW 12th Ave., 228-8888. Open daily 3 pm-2 am; happy hour 3-6 pm, all day Sunday. $$ Moderate.