Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gustav's Pub & Grill

10350 SW Greenburg Road
Happy Hour: 2 - 6 PM, Monday through Saturday (bar only) and ALL DAY Sundays (everywhere)

Disclaimer: We were invited to attend a special blogger dinner at Gustav's Pub & Grill in Tigard as a part of the restaurant's new winter menu release. We received complimentary food and drinks, but--as always--all of our opinions are our own.


Gustav's has always been a family favorite. It's one of those places that can easily fit a party of ten (regardless of which location you frequent), offers menu items that please each and every family member (even the youngest), and provides a great value for the price paid. Plus, the service is always stellar (despite the special requests, overabundance of questions, and mess left behind when the entire family comes to town). It's an easy go-to every time.

Although I go in wanting the exact same meal (and when I say meal, I mean fondue) every time we go to Gustav's, their menu is always changing. It changes by the seasons--allowing the kitchen staff to make the most of fresh, local ingredients--and it changes, like all things should, to show improvement. Recently, we were invited to attend a special blogger dinner highlighting the new menu items available on their winter menu.



The blogger dinner began with a plate of pretzels and mustard--a perfect start, as we waited for the others to arrive. And although we were invited to take our pick from the cocktail menu, it was obvious that they were attempting to showcase the warm and wintery drinks that would go so well with the new menu items. There were at least four warm drinks listed on the menu--including the Hot Apple Strudel, made with Tuaca, Fireball, and hot apple cider.



The chef was out before long with a warm welcome and a description of the first course. The Schweinshaxe is a brined and roasted ham hock, served with creamy mashed potatoes, beer jus and fresh grated horseradish. While this was well-liked by every meat eater at the table, I happily crunched on a kale salad--topped with fresh apples, blue cheese, and hazelnuts (thanks again, Gustav's, for the special treatment).


The second course included grilled chicken breast, plenty of mushrooms, and a black pepper cream sauce all on top of a mountain of house-made spaetzle. I was especially pleased when the vegetarian alternative included spaetzle as well. Although the texture might not be for everyone, those little German dumplings are a serious comfort food, in my opinion.



The third course was the favorite of the evening, despite its difficult pronunciation. The Hausgemachte Kalbfleischflanzerl, more commonly referred to as pan-seared veal and pork meatballs, were served with a Bavarian potato salad and thinly sliced cucumbers and radishes. It was quite apparent--when looking around the table--that this was the meal people would be returning for, sooner rather than later. After pretzels, cocktails, ham, mashed potatoes, chicken and spaetzle, you'd expect the average foodie to start slowing down. That was not the case with these meatballs. They were just too good to go to waste.


The fourth--but not exactly final--course for the evening was a small sampling of the Bavarian chocolate mouse. Served in a wine glass and topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of espresso beans, this made for the perfect ending to an enjoyable evening.


Before leaving, the chef returned with his final words and a parting gift. As we packed our things to go, we were encouraged to take with us--not only a fresh pretzel sandwich, filled with soft cream cheese and sprinkled with chives--but a full growler. Growlers are the perfect take away, knowing that it can be refilled (at a discount every Monday and Tuesday) again and again. And again.


Although I feel full just thinking about all the food we ate that night, the happy hour menu--with its tiered ricing and variety--has me wanting more. Discounts on both food and drinks are available Monday through Saturday from 2 until 6 PM (in the bar) and again from 9 PM - close (throughout the restaurant). And you can enjoy the low prices all day long on Sundays (again, throughout the entire restaurant). My favorite, the original fondue, is priced at just $6 (down from almost $10 on the regular dinner menu) and the potato pancakes are just four bucks. Drinks are discounted, too, with prices starting as low as three dollars.

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

-b

Gustav's Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon






Thursday, October 30, 2014

Meriwether's

2601 NW Vaughn Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM daily (in the bar only - no minors)
www.meriwethersnw.com


Without happy hour discounts, there's a pretty good chance I would have never tried Meriwether's. The menu is appealing and I've heard great things, but the price points are just a little too steep for me. I was even a bit hesitant to try their happy hour after spotting reduced prices that were still in the double digits listed on their website. That, of course, was before I noticed the Pantry Board selections--allowing customers to pick one, three, or five small plates at a discount. And now that I've been to Meriwether's, I want to go back.





The Pantry Board selections include at least a dozen small plates, each perfectly presented in the cutest little wooden bowls or tiny cast iron skillets. The menu changes with the seasons but some staples remain constant. We had a hard time choosing (even after eliminating the majority of the meaty options). In the end, we decided on the deviled eggs, polenta fries, falafel, arancini, and the cheese and fruit pairing. The board was perfect for sharing and made it quite obvious that each dish at Meriwether's--no matter how big or small--is accompanied by some serious attention to detail.


Although the Pantry Board provided the two of us with an ample amount of flavors and textures, we felt it necessary to order just a little more. The Meriwether's Beet Salad is available on the bar menu for $13 ($10 during happy hour) and comes dressed with everything you'd expect. It's got great crunch and enough beets to make every bite perfect.


I didn't sample the Prosciutto and Greens Pizza but had to include it in the pictures. It's huge and piled high with Prosciutto. The Pancetta and Potato pizza is sure to be equally impressive. If only a veggie option were available.

Not ideal on a night like tonight, the garden patio is remarkable--full or color and life and dotted with the sweetest birdhouses--and a place you'll want to visit when the sun returns.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (although the discounts don't apply outside of the bar)
Value: Nearly Meets

-b

Meriwether's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Relish Gastropub

6637 SE Milwaukie Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6, Tuesday through Sunday

The sun came out today. The temperatures were back in the mid to upper seventies. It was like summer. And it was beautiful. But tomorrow it will rain. And I will be back in my classroom. The time I spend there has been keeping me from blogging for close to two months. It's been a busy start to the school year and there doesn't seem to be any sign that things will slow down in the near future. Luckily, happy hour is still available. And if I'm too tired to head out on a Friday night, there's always the weekend.


Relish offers happy hour on both Saturday and Sunday. Yes, they have discounts during the week (all but Monday, when they're close) but I'm most excited that they offer happy hour on the weekend because that's when I actually have time to go out.


We were there for an early dinner and had the opportunity to enjoy the last of summer on their over-sized patio. I'm sure it fills up fast, but we walked up just as happy hour was starting. It's right off the street, but traffic through that neighborhood isn't much of a bother at all.

With plans to call it an early dinner, we ordered enough to really fill up. There are plenty of options on the happy hour menu to do more than just snacking--and they've got an assortment of veggies, making this a meal that won't leave you feeling guilty.




I started with the grilled romaine salad--with a substitute for the tomato bacon jam, of course. Grilled romaine is something that I've only tried a few times, but I love it every time. I am not, however, quite ready to try it at home. I just don't want to ruin that smoky goodness by overdoing it. These perfectly blackened greens were topped with giant croutons and plenty of cheese. I snapped an extra picture of that salad as it's listed on the menu. The tomato jam is thick--thicker than any salad dressing I've grown accustomed to--but was apparently a wonderful addition.


Covered in garlic and red pepper flakes, the sauteed green beans were another menu option that makes happy hour at Relish more than just your typical fried food adventure. They were a bit pricey, given the season...but still quite delicious.


Not too pricey was the giant plate of garlic cheese bread. For three dollars, I was NOT expecting such an enormous serving. We ate as much as we could but had to leave some behind.


The gnudi was the most intriguing vegetarian item on the menu--but when I asked the server which was more of a meal, he suggested I go with the tofu and pea masala. Luckily, I was still able to have a bite of the gnudi. I enjoyed the textures and appreciated the roasted red pepper sauce (probably because I've been overwhelmed with the number of tomatoes--and all things tomato-related--that have come from my garden).



Served over rice noodles, the tofu and pea masala was an excellent suggestion. It inspired me to continue my search for the best tikka masala recipe--and I think I've finally found it. The tofu was a bit too chewy for me, but the flavors were perfect. And I love, love, loved the peas.

Sitting on the patio made for plenty of people watching. And many of those people were enjoying what appeared to be frozen yogurt. With a quick search, we learned that this happy hour was within walking distance of dessert. Including something sweet isn't a requirement for a happy hour to make it to the top of our list, but it helps. Being a few doors down from frozen yogurt is almost just as good.

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

-b

Relish Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yara Lebanese Cuisine

3928 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, Sunday through Thursday
yaralb.com

Not everyone likes happy hour as much as I do. Sure, they love the discounts. They enjoy that they can snack and have a drink or two without spending much cash. But they don't all want it to become dinner...not like I do. For me, happy hour is a chance to go out to eat (sometimes to a super fancy place that I'd usually have to save for a special occasion) on the cheap. But that's hard for some people. The portions are too small, they say. It's not enough to fill me up. I say, they're just not working the menu like they should. I'm usually stuffed after a happy hour outing. (Of course, I often go to two or three in a row...I guess that's a different story.)


Happy Hour at Yara on North Mississippi is one of those places that can become dinner without any question. It's Lebanese food. There's fresh pita and hummus, falafel and tabbouleh. It's the same as you would get if you were there for lunch or dinner, but it's cheaper. That's what makes a happy hour a good happy hour. And the happy hour at Yara Lebanese Cuisine is right on track.


Five days a week, you can get a super discounted meal between 4 and 7 PM. It doesn't matter where you sit, there's no requirement that you purchase beer or wine, it's just cheap. And it's good. We were there recently and ordered the hummus ($4), a spinach pie ($5.50), and a falafel sandwich ($5). On the way out, I even picked up a chicken shawarma sandwich for my husband.


There's no way to get around loving fresh pita (as long as you still consume bread, that is). It's hot (almost too hot to start), it's delicious, and it works wonders at getting the goodness that is hummus from the plate to my mouth. Sure, cucumbers work too...but warm pita is so much better.


I loved the hummus (as I usually do) but wasn't the biggest fan of the other sauces that accompanied our selections. They were just a bit too spicy for me. For those of you with stronger spice tolerance, be sure to give them a try.



The spinach pie--also known as a fatayer--took a little longer than the rest of the meal (which seems to be the case at every Lebanese restaurant) but was worth the wait. Just don't forget that it's on its way...sometimes I get too full before the fatayer makes it to the table and end up taking it to go.


My favorite part of the meal--which was also quite delicious as leftovers--was the falafel sandwich. It wasn't ginormous (which happens at some places) but was enough for me to not finish what I started. The falafel had a good crispiness to it without being overcooked in the middle, the pita was just as fresh as the rest of the pita I had already eaten, and the veggies added just enough freshness to make every bite perfect.

Happy Hour at Yara is an easy sell. It's good and it's super affordable. What's tough about it is that it's on Mississippi Avenue along with SO many other really good happy hour options. Knowing that, I still want to go there right now for another falafel sandwich because when you're in the mood for a specific flavor, that's what you're going to have.

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

-b


Yara Lebanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Interurban

4057 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday; 10 - close on Sundays
www.interurbanpdx.com

It's nearly impossible to believe that I could have actually found another new favorite. Or, I suppose it's just like me and milkshakes. There's no real all-time fave. But there is a seasonal favorite, and made-at-home favorite, and a favorite from the fast food joint in my hometown. As long as I can put some kind of extra title on it, it can be another favorite. Same with restaurants. Same with happy hour. It's even the same with cocktails.


My newest favorite made it to the top for two reasons. Sure, the food is good. The cocktails, too. And the prices are quite stellar (which is a big plus when reviewing any new happy hour spot). But this place won me over with their service and their gorgeous patio. I guess I could have been lucky with just the right server...but I know for sure that this is a place I want to be at when the sun is out.


Interurban is located on Mississippi Avenue and offers happy hour from three to six on weekdays. They also do a late night happy hour on Sundays from ten until they close their doors. They have a great menu with a variety of items all reasonably priced. The majority of the items are between three and six bucks, but they do have fries & aioli for $2 or oysters & bubbles for ten. Oh, and there's a dessert item on the happy hour menu (always worth extra credit, in my opinion). It's a warm oatmeal cookie--which means you have to wait for it because it's coming to you fresh from the oven--and it's only three bucks.


We ordered the fries (of course), a quesadilla ($4), the polenta croquettes ($3), and the grilled broccolini ($4) plus a couple of cocktails.


The grilled broccolini had just a hint of heat with their chili flakes. The parmesan cheese was a nice touch and the fact that they were cooked just right made me love that this veggie was available at a discount.


Although ours came with it on the side, the quesadilla is more than just melted cheese and a little pico de gallo. This one comes stuffed with an oh-so-meaty chili and plenty of ooey-gooey cheese. You can order yours with the chili on the side (like we did) or they'll even chop up some of the broccolini as a substitute, if you'd rather.


For just two bucks, I was expecting a much smaller plate of fries. These ones seemed almost endless and came with a good amount of aioli.


I was seconds away from loving the polenta croquettes--seriously LOVING those little balls of fried polenta--until I spotted the teeniest triangle of what looked like processed meat. I checked the happy hour menu--only warning mentioned was concerning raw egg--and then cross referenced the regular menu to find absolutely no mention of meat. When our server came by again, we learned that these near perfect, snack-sized polenta treats were in fact tainted with pepperoni. All of this would have been fine, of course, had there been any mention of it on the menu. This vegetarian, however, does not like to be surprised by the presence of meat. It's not going to keep me from going back, of course...but I thought it best to spread the warning to any other vegetarians out there.


Knowing we were headed to a second location kept me from ordering the berry salad, the black lentil stew, and the Mexicali grilled corn (all priced at just $5 on the regular dinner menu). This, of course, gives me reason to return before too long. You should too...as their patio is one that everyone should see before the rains return.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds (patio seating)
Value: Meets

-b


Interurban on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dick's Kitchen

704 NW 21st Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6, weekdays
www.dkportland.com


Dick's Kitchen offers happy hour on weekdays between three and six. With locations on both sides of the Willamette and a menu that includes gluten-free, paleo, and vegan options, this place is sure to please the entire table. They are all about real food from responsible resources. Yes, it's a burger-based kind of place. And yes, you'll probably want to order dessert. What's different about Dick's, however, is that you won't walk out feeling full of guilt. You'll be full, but having eaten such a real meal might just leave you inspired to change the way you think about food in the future.



There were a number of vegetarian options on the happy hour menu, but once I saw the veggie Reuben on the regular menu I knew I had to have it. There are only so many veggie Reubens out there and I am determined to find the best one in Portland. At Dick's, they make theirs with Tempeh and add just enough sauerkraut that it doesn't all just spill out the sides of the sandwich. Topped with melted swiss cheese (a vegan substitute it available) and 1000 island dressing, this sandwich is one that I would have again.




Also at the table was the specialty burger (this week's "guest" burger) made with wild boar, the "Elvis" burger (topped with house-made pimento cheese spread), and a plate of sliders. Both the guest burger and the happy hour sliders came with a side, but the regular menu items do not. They are, however, priced accordingly. Other than the guest burger--which is priced at $10.50--all burgers and sandwiches are listed between four and nine dollars. Sides are three bucks--even less if you're adding on to a meal--and include "not-fries" and other healthy veggie options. The infamous "not-fries" are air-baked after being lightly tossed in a hi-oleic safflower oil, are available as either regular "not-fries" or yam "not-fries" and can be upgraded to include a fancy dipping sauce for just fifty cents extra.


Happy Hour prices are even less, with most items priced between $3.50 and $7. Draft beers are a dollar off or you can get a glass of wine for just five bucks.


Not included on that discounted menu, however, is dessert. After seeing it on the cover of Portland Monthly, I knew I wanted to try the Paleo Parfait. It's just so pretty. The parfait is made with cashew "cream" and topped with a raspberry compote and crunchy "cookie" crumbles. I enjoyed both the flavor combination and the crumbles but will probably opt for the adult milkshake next time (just because I can).


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

-b

Dick's Kitchen on Urbanspoon