It’s our Burstday! While it’s hard to believe that Yelp was born 15 years ago, since 2004 the Yelp Community has explored, discovered, and shared almost 200 million reviews, celebrating the very best our cities have to offer. At the heart of our community is YES: the Yelp Elite Squad. Join us on a trip down memory lane as we explore 15 of Portland’s top Elite Events, gatherings we host for the writers, photographers, and adventurers who always have their finger on the pulse of PDX.
Back in July of 2009, one of Yelp Portland’s first Elite Events was hosted by one of Portland’s very top restaurants! Pearl District Peruvian hotspot Andina welcomed the Yelp community into their private event space known as the Tupai Room. Here guests imbibed on top shelf cocktails and enjoyed endless authentic bites like quinoa-encrusted shrimp, grilled zucchini and eggplant, and tender octopus served with aji panca vinaigrette. To keep the sexy South American vibes flowing, local musician Scott Head serenaded the squad with traditional acoustic guitar. For many Yelp Elites, this was their first event, and it was a (delicious) taste of what’s to come.
The event of the summer was held in August of 2010 when foodie-favorite Departure hosted the Elite Squad for a cruise-themed party in the sky! Guests donned their sailor caps and partied on what many consider the city’s top rooftop. Ninkasi Brewing and House Spirits (now known as Westward Whiskey) teamed up for drink duty, while the host venue shipped out pork belly skewers, papaya salad, and vegetarian sushi! It may not have REALLY been on a boat, but Portland’s Yelp Elites were definitely feeling the love.
Autumn in the Willamette Valley is a perfect time to visit the region’s hundreds of wineries. It only makes sense that in October of 2011 the Yelp Elite Squad took their first field trip! The destination was Dayton, Oregon to visit Red Ridge Farms, where a virtual cornucopia of local vendors shared their bounty with the Yelp Elites. Durant Vineyards poured (and poured and poured) samples of both their pinot noir and pinot gris, and local favorite Red Hills Market brought their mobile wood-fired oven to serve hors d’oeuvres like bleu cheese market sliders and cheesy potato bites. But the biggest surprise might have been the guided tastings by Oregon Olive Mill, who make their olive oils right there at Red Ridge Farm! And if all that wasn’t enough to wow the guests, the the gorgeous colors of the changing season pushed everybody firmly into 5-star territory.
With all of the popular scoop shops in PDX, what’s a small business to do to stand out in the crowd? In November of 2011, What’s the Scoop invited the Yelp Elite Squad to grab some liquid nitrogen, flex their creative muscles, and invent their own custom ice cream flavors! With the option to add booze as in ingredient, the Elites went wild with creations like cinnamon bourbon or Kahlua espresso. But samples of the in-store flavors are what really got the crowd to screaming. Who can keep quiet when there’s options like Pumpkin Spice Pecan Brittle, Blueberry Basil, and 3D Chocolate? To-go bags of toffee and free scoop gift certificates solidified this as one cool Yelp Elite Event.
It was in June of 2013 that the Yelp Elite Squad’s love of costume parties kicked into overdrive. NE Broadway comic book shop Things From Another World played as both host and inspiration, as they invited Portland’s Elites to come dressed to impress as their favorite pop culture good – or bad- guy! Dressed in capes, masks, and more – partygoers browsed the diverse selection of comics and graphic novels (even saving 20% on same-day purchases), while chowing down on the perfect food pairing: pizza! Located just down the street, Blind Onion Pizza & Pub brought enough pies for everybody. And just to keep things interesting, cocktails were all made using Drambuie! If that combination doesn’t create a party fit for a superhero, we don’t know what would.
Bubbles and bling are a perfect pairing, and Shane Co was serving up both to the women of Yelp in December 2013. The non-commission sales team was on hand to answer questions and educate on all things jewelry, including tutorials on the varieties of pearls and how to clean your finest pieces at home. And with free reign to sip and shop, the Elites were quick to try on everything… and we mean EVERYTHING! What Yelp Elite doesn’t look better in diamonds? Thanks to the $50 certificate gifted to each guest at the end of the night, many were eager to find their next statement piece.
In April 2014, the Yelp Elite Squad was feeling a little funny, so it makes sense that they met at Curious Comedy Theater for some serious improv shenanigans. The first hour was a cocktail mixer: Yelpers drank complimentary cava and Deschutes beer while the cast members probed the audience for improv inspiration. Then it was time to sit down for Pipes, an hour-long musical inspired by the Yelper’s suggestions! But one thing wasn’t a laughing matter: the high quality bites that were served up by the host’s kitchen. Some might not think a comedy club can have culinary chops, but those people probably haven’t tried CCT’s pulled pork sliders, arugula salad, or salmon paté.
Fast forward to April of 2014 and Portland’s Elites did something special: they invited the Yelp Seattle Elites down for a two-city shindig! Both squads headed to the new brick-and-mortar location of Portland’s popular food cart Tamale Boy, where it was an unseasonably sunny day on the patio. It was a perfect excuse to don some official Yelp sunglasses and enjoy some horchata or a watermelon margarita! The buffet was overflowing with Tamale Boy favorites including their shaved brussels sprouts salad, elote, shrimp ceviche, and of course, chicken and pork tamales. They even had vegan and vegetarian tamales so that all Yelpers could get in on the action. It was one heck of a fiesta that united the entire Yelp familia.
August of 2015 was record-breaking hot, but that didn’t stop the Yelp Elites from attending what was one of the coolest events of the summer! Lake Oswego’s premiere BBQ destination, Pine Shed Ribs put up the misters and invited guests to party on their patio. As the owner and pit master prepared huge slabs of meat in front of the Elites, everybody kept themselves entertained with Ninkasi beers and games of ladder golf and cornhole. Once the dinner bell rang, it was time to feast! Tender bbq brisket, grilled chicken and two styles of ribs made this event a carnivore’s delight, and the meal was rounded out with delicious sides like cornbread, potato salad, and coleslaw. Comfort food and cold beers on a hot day with friends from all across the community. That’s how the Yelp Elites party.
By March of 2016, the Elite Squad had grown up from its humble roots, larger than ever before. As a way to give a special thanks to those Yelpers who had been in it for the long haul, we introduced Gold Elite Events! Extra-luxe gatherings reserved for those Elites who had been on the squad for 5 years or more. To kick things off, we teamed up with NE Broadway’s Zama Massage, a gorgeous Victorian home transformed into 4 floors of spa relaxation. Guests were able to pick and choose from a variety of services including hydra facials, waxing, and deep tissue massage. Guests toured Oregon’s only himalayan salt cave, and then sampled gourmet finishing salts from The Meadow. Delicious vegan truffles were served by Missionary Chocolates, as well as bottomless pours of vino, compliments of Balboa Winery. It’s always been neat to be a Elite, but guests agreed that this was the dawn of a golden age of Yelping fun.
The Dude would definitely abide by this event from October 2016, when the family fun center Kingpins hosted an epic Big Lebowski-themed bowling party! Dressed in their favorite bathrobes, guests were greeted with Free Play cards for the center’s state-of-the-art arcade, and encouraged to sign up for some free frames in the TapHouse Bowling Lounge. To make things a little more interesting, Yelpers who knocked down special colored pins were gifted private bowling parties for them and their friends! New Deal hosted a special bar where guests could create custom Caucasians, while beer drinkers stuck to the selections from Sunriver Brewing Co. And everybody was impressed with Kingpins’ massive spread of eats. Traditional bowling alley bites with a gourmet execution, Yelpers chowed on pizza, sliders, wings and more. Much like Lebowski’s rug, this was one event that really tied the whole Yelp community together.
Everybody likes a deluxe apartment in the sky, and that includes the Yelp Elites. In July of 2017, the Pearl District’s enviable address NV invited the community to not only on their gorgeous rooftop patio and clubroom, but also to marvel at the urban views from three different apartments. This party had partners galore: DJ Nyrdcore played the beats that got the party flowing, while The SnapBar made sure there was photo evidence of all the fun. Health-Ade Kombucha kept everybody hydrated while Portland Sangria served up something a little harder. Pearl Tavern served fruit bruschetta, fried chicken sliders, and a delectable cocktail known as the Pineapple Explosion. Elsewhere, The Crown impressed with their gourmet pizzas with creative combinations, like chicken & pickle alongside classic pepperoni. Imperfect Produce educated about sustainable agriculture, Missionary Chocolates satisfied guests’ sweet tooths, and European Wax Center made sure everybody’s brows were on point. Lyft joined the party to host a bevy of carnival games, and DIY Bar set up a crafting station so that everybody could leave with their own handmade custom leather keychains. This was truly an event that was greater than the sum of its many parts.
How do you make laundry day fun? By doing it with the Yelp Elite Squad! Lucky guests were invited to meet at Spin Laundry Lounge, and instructed to bring their biggest load of dirty clothes. Why? Because it was time to wash and fold while we rocked and rolled! Elites were blown away by Spin’s state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly laundry facilities, and they were entertained by the arcade loft hosted by Ground Kontrol. The craftier Elites enjoyed a “make your own sock puppet” station while the thirsty Elites enjoyed the drinks from Full Sail Brewing Company. And everybody enjoyed the fun of getting your laundry done with the Yelp Elites.
What’s Yelp Portland’s (second) favorite kind of pot? Hot Pot! At least that’s what you’d believe if you saw the fun in March 2019, when the Elite Squad traveled to Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot in Beaverton for a lesson in DIY Chinese Cuisine! Guests gathered at family-style tables where the friendly staff taught the do’s and don’ts of enjoying hot pot, and then the food started coming. And coming. And coming. With both a traditional and a spicy broth to choose from, Yelpers were soon dipping their thin-sliced lamb and beef tenderloin, udon noodles, roe-filled seafood balls, mushrooms, and more into the broth. Endless plates of appetizers kept the feast flowing, and at the end, delicious bites of mochi ice cream satisfied every last sweet tooth. And as they waddled out the door, the very full Yelp Elites enjoyed one last surprise: gift certificates so they could come back and do it all again. Talk about a fulfilling event!
With nearly 15 years of food-filled events, the Yelp Elites love a chance to burn some calories for a change. And it had never been quite as fun as in June 2019, when Urban Warrior invited the squad to join them in Milwaukie. Specializing in obstacle course awesomeness, this event allowed the squad to unleash their inner ninja. After a brief but thorough safety introduction, the lights went down and the tunes went up. Spider-crawling up walls, swinging on trapezes, and climbing cargo nets – the Yelp Elites were performing feats of strength of which they didn’t think themselves capable. They walked away a little sweaty, a little sore, and a lot more confident.
All across North America, the Yelp Elite Squad have shared and enjoyed the best of their cities for over 15 years. If you’d like to learn how to join us on YES, simply visit yelp.com/elite. And if you’d like to learn how your business can host an Elite Event of its own, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.