Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Altabira City Tavern

1021 NE Grand
Happy Hour: 4 - 6, daily
www.altabira.com

Change. Man, it can be tough. My whole life changed when I had a kid. I got BUSY. And my blogging hobby went on the back burner, for sure. And while my life was all askew, the restaurants of Portland kept "a coming and a going." Seriously, the top three spots on my official happy hour to do list are all places that I've been to, but before...when they were something else.


Altabira is one of those places. It used to be Windows. It had--and still has--an amazing rooftop bar, but back then the food was mostly fried and the drinks weren't all that special. Things have definitely changed. And not just the restaurant. The entire hotel has been fancified. I'm guessing it's a little more expensive than it was back in the day, too.

I know for a fact that it's more expensive to park. Pulling into the lot, I didn't realize that the only option was valet. (And there was no backing out....) It's five dollars for every two hours you're dining in the restaurant. Sure it's convenient, but next time I might pack across the street and walk in.


Happy hour is available at Altabira daily from 4 to 6 PM. They've got a decent list of food available at a discounted rate plus reduced prices on wine (including bubbles), beer, and the cocktail of the day.

We ordered a little bit of everything - to be fair, but also because this was dinner. And we're eaters. That's what we do. It wouldn't be a very telling blog if we didn't try a little bit of everything.



The soup was my favorite...which is pure trouble, because it was the soup of the day. Who knows when you're going to have the chance to taste the deliciousness that was the cauliflower leek soup? The only thing that made it less than stellar was that it cooled off too fast...but that was my fault for sitting outside on a windy, the-sun-is-just-barely-out kind of October day.





The pretzel and the hushpuppies arrived during the first round, making it a lot like a tennis match on the table. (And by tennis match, I hope you get that I mean I took a bite of this, then a bite of that, then a bite of this, and so on until there was no more to eat.) The pretzel was accompanied by a pimento cheese (yum!) and mustard, while the hushpuppies were paired with a peri-peri sauce. The puppies had good texture--just enough crunch, but still soft in the middle--but needed a touch more salt, in my opinion. And the peri-peri sauce was not nearly as spicy as I was expecting.



Picking a pizza was not easy. There were three on the menu--two without meat--and the toppings all seemed a perfect mix of fresh flavors and cheesy goodness. We settled on the Pizza Margherita with Roma Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, and Basil Pesto. The garlic was aplenty, the pesto tasty, and the tomatoes and cheese all worked well together (as I had expected) but the crust--although barely dark at all--tasted so much like the oven that the flavor overpowered the rest of the ingredients.


Despite all the downsides, I'll go back to Altabira. I just won't be going for the food. I might order another pretzel...but, really this is a place to go when the sun's out or when you are trying to show off the cityscape to friends from out of town. It's all about that view.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets

Altabira City Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, August 26, 2016

TeSoAria

4003 N Williams Avenue
Pizza Tuesdays & "Hangry Hump Day" Wednesdays
tesoaria.com

Years ago while traveling in Louisiana, I discovered that their version of happy hour was not much like ours at all. Everywhere I went, they referred to this ONE hour where well drinks were discounted--maybe beer and house wine too--and the happy hour food was all FREE. You couldn't order what you wanted. Instead there were giant bowls of popcorn, trays of spicy chicken wings, and potato salad, coleslaw, or some other mayonnaise-heavy "salad" just waiting to be devoured. The food never lasted long--which might be why happy hour was really only one hour--but it was free, and that's not what I'm used to.

Apparently the concept of FREE FOOD has hit the Portland area. And it hit over a year ago. (I'm so behind on the foodie scene, it's ridiculous. I blame having a child.)


TeSoAria gives out FREE FOOD on both Tuesdays & Wednesdays. Sure, it's just a tasting room. But they have a pretty extensive list of tapas available thanks to chef Max. (They focus on vegan tapas every Thursday, if that's what you need.) Small bites to accompany a flight of wine is perfect (when you've eaten a late lunch or have dessert plans later that night) but sometimes people want a full plate of food. And that's exactly what we had last Wednesday. And it was FREE.


Pizza Tuesdays started two years ago. "Hangry Hump Day" Wednesdays have been on the calendar for about a year. Tuesdays & Wednesdays are no longer the slowest nights of the week. Instead, that place is packed. They've got plenty of outdoor seating, so there's no need to worry about getting a table within a reasonable amount of time during the warmer months. (But winter is coming, so maybe get there early if you can.)

According to the menu, they don't offer tastings during these free food nights. That doesn't mean they won't bring you a glass and let you sample something before you make up your mind. I think I made it through three small pours before I settled on one to go with my meal.




The meal is up to Chef Max, of course. We were there on what must have been Southern cooking night. The plate was packed with slow-cooked meat, a generous portion of macaroni & cheese, coleslaw, half a deviled egg, and a slice of thick white homemade bread.

And all that was FREE.

They do the same on Tuesdays with pizza. It's available from 6 - 9, with the purchase of a glass or bottle, until the pizza runs out.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds (the food is FREE!)

-b


Tesóaria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fino - Bistra, Bar & Pizzeria

8225 N Denver Ave
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, daily
www.finopdx.com

Traffic in Portland is getting worse and worse. Everyone knows it. And everyone has someone (or something) to blame. Whatever your solution to this problem might be, it's likely to take years to fix. In the meantime, it's probably best to have some close-to-the-freeway happy hour getaways on file. And Fino should be on your list. It's in the Kenton neighborhood, just minutes from I-5 between Lombard Avenue and Columbia Boulevard.


Happy Hour at Fino runs from four to six, daily. They've got a long list of food--including salads, small plates, pasta, AND pizza--with prices as low as 4 bucks. And there are discounts on drinks. Get a dollar off house cocktails, draft beer and cider, or enjoy a glass of wine for just $5. It's a good price and the portions are definitely large enough to make happy hour into a meal. Which is exactly what I did...



starting with the Beet Salad. If you've been reading, you know I love beets. And I love beets with arugula & goat cheese. This salad is exactly that, plus pepitas and a champagne vinaigrette. I loved every bite. I loved it so much that I powered through it, almost forgetting to offer a bite to my happy hour conspirator.


The starter plate of roasted cauliflower must be a seasonal veggie. It's not listed online. Instead they've got it as grilled broccolini. Either way, they both come with polenta and sofrito. The broccolini was served with soft polenta, the cauliflower comes with a fried wedge and some chickpeas. I enjoyed it, but could have easily eaten a second salad instead (because I love beets that much).



Across the table was a plate of Arancini. It's a common dish during happy hour (especially for any Italian restaurant) but these seemed so much better than most. Maybe it was the peas? Or the leeks? Or the abundance of mozzarella? Whatever it was, I suggest an order of these fried risotto balls for the table. They come four to a plate, so order accordingly.


There are three pizzas to choose from on the happy hour menu (but you can always just grab a slice of whatever's fresh that night). They've got plain cheese, pepperoni, or the vegan special. Neither of us are opposed to dairy (obviously), but the vegan special had so much more to offer than the others that we had to give it a go. It came topped with marinated tempeh, spinach, roasted red peppers, and a red pepper & cashew spread. (Yes, that's peppers on peppers...but still, it was yummy.) The pizzas range in price from 8 - 12 dollars, making them the most expensive items available during happy hour...but it's a pizza (a twelve-inch pizza) with plenty of slices to share and/or take home.


My meal ended with a mini baked pasta dish called the Rustico. It's a combination of all things I love about pasta, together in one. Served with marinara AND pesto (plus a pile of freshly grated cheese) is a block of pasta that was first coated with spinach and ricotta and mozzarella and breadcrumbs, then baked just enough to hold its shape (and still taste fresh and cheesy and delicious). There's a larger version on the regular dinner menu that I will probably order next time, if I'm there after six.



So much good food AND they've got excellent cocktails too. Pictured is the Fino signature cocktail, called the Limonata Fresco. It's basil-infused vodka with freshly-squeezed lemon juice, triple sec, simple syrup, and soda. Next to it is the Lucy, I'm Home. This one is SO much like summer in a glass it's almost ridiculous. It's a lime juice rickey made with coconut rum and a splash of soda. Picking a favorite between these two was nearly impossible. I could have easily gone back and forth--sipping one and then the other--all through dinner.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

-b


Pizza Fino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Prime Rib + Chocolate Cake

1200 NE Broadway Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM & 8 PM - close, Monday through Saturday
ALL DAY Happy Hour on Sundays
primeribcc.com


I'm a vegetarian. I have ZERO interest in the prime rib at this place. Chocolate cake, on the other hand. I'm all about chocolate cake. And any restaurant that offers discounted desserts on their happy hour menu deserves extra credit, in my opinion.


Prime Rib + Chocolate Cake has a pretty familiar feel. It's owned by Restaurants Unlimited. In Portland, that means Stanford's, Portland City Grill, Portland Seafood Company, and Henry's Tavern, but there are PLENTY of other familiar names (including Palomino & Kincaid's) from neighboring states. They've got a decent dinner menu and the prices aren't outrageous, but like so many others listed above, there really isn't much to eat if you don't eat meat. Besides cake, that is. And Chipotle Mac + Cheese. And a salad.


The Chipotle Mac + Cheese IS available on the happy hour menu as well as the dinner menu. They've got tiered pricing for happy hour, with items listed as low as $1.99. The most expensive--Wicked Shrimp, Beer Battered Prawns, a Classic Cheeseburger, or Prime Rib Tacos--are only $5.99. And the drinks are discounted too.


They offer beer, wine, and well drinks for pretty cheap. And they've got a list of four cocktails that are only $5 each. I knew that wine would pair better with my chocolate cake than a watermelon drop or a cranberry mojito, but that doesn't mean they weren't all just a little bit appealing.



Now about that cake. I love teeny tiny bundt cakes. I love chocolate. I love ooey-gooey centers. I love melty chocolatey ganache. I even love caramel sauce. And I love love LOVE freshly whipped, whipped cream. So yeah, the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake available on the happy hour menu for just $3.99 is going to get me back into Prime Rib + Chocolate Cake (despite their lack of vegetarian options) again and again and again.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

-b

Prime Rib + Chocolate Cake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Prime Rib + Chocolate Cake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Basil Bar

3135 NE Broadway Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 8, Monday through Saturday (5 - 9 on Sunday)
www.sweetbasilor.com

Not all happy hours serve small plates. Sure, it's normal. Maybe it's what you'd expect, but that doesn't mean it's required. Happy Hour at Basil Bar is just one happily discounted dinner. And it's a super extended happy hour (during normal dinner hours) which leads me to believe you are basically getting a great deal for sitting in the bar (instead of upstairs at Sweet Basil). They call is Basil Time and it happens daily from 5 - 8 PM (5 - 9 on Sundays).


Discounts on drinks include beer, wine, and just a few of their signature cocktails. There's a LONG list of cocktails worth looking at, in addition to what's listed on the happy hour menu (and they come with more accurate descriptions). I ordered what I thought would be a Mango Margarita and ended up with the SUPER spicy Habanero Mango Margarita. I might have been able to drink that heat through a straw, but once my lips touched the chile coated glass, I was done for the evening (or at least the next ten minutes while my lips recovered).


I quickly switched to a boozy Thai Iced Coffee as soon as the server returned. It was DELICIOUS, super creamy (which helped with the heat) and something all Thai restaurants should offer (in my opinion).



The food menu is not as long as it is upstairs at Sweet Basil, but you'll find all the typical Thai favorites on the menu during happy hour. They've got a good list of appetizers (including the fried tofu pictured above), stir fry, teriyaki, Pad Thai, and a couple of curries. I decided on the House Special Curry and am so glad I did. It's a red curry peanut sauce--served with veggies & chicken or tofu--all on a bed of jasmine rice. I'm not the biggest fan of green peppers, and I would have preferred a different cut of carrots (baby carrots are easy, but the bite just wasn't right), but the sauce was enough to make up for all of those setbacks.



I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to get to Basil Bar for their happy hour. They've definitely been around forever. (Now that Broadway is booming with new developments, they're probably not going to go anywhere.) And if the location isn't right for you, they cater AND deliver (for a pretty reasonable rate). You can get big party trays or boxed lunches.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

-b


The Basil Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Hale Pele

2733 NE Broadway Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, daily
halepele.com

I love a good challenge. I always have. And this one doesn't have a time limit, so it's totally doable. (Plus it's not one of those "earn your own stool at the bar" beer drinking challenges, so I actually have a chance.) If you can get through every cocktail listed on the menu, you can join the official cool kids club at Hale Pele. No, you don't have to drink them all in one sitting. That would be ridiculous. There's a punch card. And only fifty-one drinks to punch off. Do that and you're in.


Eight of those drinks are listed on the happy hour menu. They ARE available all night, but why not save a little cash while working your way through the menu, right? From four to six--every single day of the week--you can enjoy one of their "lightly delightful" cocktails for just six bucks. And they've got discounts on food, too.



Whatever you do, don't start with the grilled Hawaiian Bread. It's too good. You'll fill up on one plate, order another, and then there won't be any room for cocktails...or other food. But do order one plate. Just treat it like dessert. It's that good.



Also very good, according to my happy hour collaborator, were the onion chips. They come served with all of the available sandwiches, appropriately referred to as "fun on a bun." She ate the Pork Sandwich and seemed to love every bite. It's listed at only $6, down from eight, during happy hour.



The sandwiches are all covered in meat, but they do have a number of vegetarian options on the menu. I had a hard time deciding, but with a little help from the bartender, went with the WeeBimBap. For only five bucks, I enjoyed a rice bowl with kimchi, wakame salad, pickled carrots and green papaya, fried tofu, and half a pickled egg. The fried tofu was my favorite part of the plate. Next time I will try the Basil Fried Rice. It comes with the same kimchi & I wouldn't mind paying the price to add a little tofu to that dish. It's only three bucks to add protein to the "fauna friendly fare" and they've got pork, chicken, and sausage to choose from, in addition to that tofu.


The food on the menu is all labeled quite well--in case you need something that is gluten free--and so are the cocktails. They've got a system down to help you differentiate between something "pleasantly punchy" or one that's going to do damage, referred to as the "KA-BOOM." It's also pretty obvious, when reading the descriptions OR just looking at the drawings, which drinks are meant for two and which might arrive in flames.



Happy Hour cocktails pictured above are the Rangoon Gimlet - a blended version with vodka, lime, demerara syrup and Angostura bitters, and the Passion Fruit Batida - passion fruit-infused Cachaca & rich coconut cream.

That's two drinks down and forty-nine to go. I'm not going to write about them all here, but follow us on Instagram and see how we do.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets

-b



Hale Pele Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato