Friday, June 26, 2015

RingSide Grill

14021 NE Glisan Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 9 - close, daily

After a few short months of renovation, the RingSide Grill at Glendoveer Golf & Tennis Club is open and ready to impress the neighborhood. Like the golf course and remodeled clubhouse, everything is shiny and new. And like the greens, it seems as though they are woking hard to keep that pristine appearance going strong. The menu has changed quite a bit--as has the dining room, itself--but they've still got those trademark onion rings and a stellar happy hour spread.

Happy Hour is offered twice daily at the RingSide Grill. It includes discounts on food and drinks and is available in the bar and their garden patio (which is shaded and overlooks the golf course). The only thing missing is a bit more vegetarian fare. Luckily, the bar bites menu is available and if you're there late enough you can get something from the dinner menu, too. It's not as cheap, but maybe--just maybe--they'll consider adding something more than french fries to the list of happy hour discounts.

The food menu has tiered pricing starting at $2.95 and most drinks are just five bucks. I would definitely recommend checking out the regular cocktail menu, though, as the prices really aren't that outlandish and they've got a number of creative cocktails available on tap. (Speaking of things on tap: they now offer growler fills--both beer and wine, plus you can pick up one of their rotisserie chickens to go. It seems ideal for anyone who's spent their day on the golf course and is headed home to a hungry family.)

Sitting at a table with three meat eaters, we ordered pretty much everything. The steak bites were the big winner that night (and have been mentioned more than once since then) but the cheeseburger continues to be the best value. It's only $2.95 and comes with all the fixings.

I ordered the smoked portobello burger from the regular dinner menu (it was too hot for the grilled cheese & tomato soup combo available on the bar bites menu) and loved everything but the bun. Seriously, so many sandwiches are ruined with the too thick and too chewy qualities of even the best ciabatta roll. It's just too much bread for a burger. Any burger, it seems. The bread overpowers the other flavors and textures. Even as an open faced option (I ditched the top after the first few bites) the flavors of the mushroom and onions and everything else were masked by the big bread-y bun.

My disappointment in the portobello burger was saved by the onion rings (and the Thai Basil Collins--get one, they're good). I always eat too many...but really, who doesn't. They aren't on the happy hour menu--sad, I know--but are worth the full price every time.

Three things to watch out for on your next trip to the RingSide Grill: 1) Keep your eyes open pulling into that lot. That two-mile jogging path is heavily used by the people of East County and no one needs to get hurt. 2) The remodel included one REALLY big change. The men's and women's restrooms have switched spots. It's hard to break the routine. If you're a regular, you're likely to make a mistake. 3) Service is really good. Almost too good. You're likely to stay longer than anticipated, because everyone is so very nice.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds (that garden patio is key!)
Value: Meets


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Friday, June 05, 2015

BTU Brasserie

5846 NE Sandy Blvd
Happy Hour: 2 - 5 PM, Tuesday through Sunday

Sandy Boulevard is growing. It seems that every time I take that route I'm adding another restaurant to my list of happy hour musts. BTU Brasserie has been on that list for a while now, but the sidewalk seating and the summer sun finally got me there late last week.

BTU is a Chinese restaurant AND a brewery. (I'm sure that all restaurants would make their own beer if they had the space and the know how.) They are open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday (although with a later opening on the weekends). And happy hour is available all of the days they are open, making this a perfect spot for an early Sunday dinner (or a really late lunch because Sunday morning pancakes can be SO filling).

The happy hour menu includes a LONG list of food with a number of vegetarian options. We were expecting the portions to be smaller (it being happy hour and all) and might have ordered more than we really needed. Thankfully, they were willing to let us take what was left home (which is not always the case during happy hour).

I ordered the Copper Well Noodles, Smoked Tofu Bao, and the scallion pancake, while my husband enjoyed the Pork Potstickers, the Spicy Chicken Dumplings, and the Braised Pork Belly Bao.

The scallion pancake was the first to the table and would have probably been devoured in minutes if the other dishes weren't so quick to arrive. I went a little overboard with the sweet soy sauce (because it was that good) and loved the chewy, crispy, crunchy textures that the pancake had to offer. This dish is perfect for sharing and something that I would order again, even off of the regular dinner menu.

I haven't had a lot of experience with baos (they're usually stuffed with MEAT) and can't really compare the ones I tried at BTU with any others. I can say that the smokey qualities of the tofu were really only obvious when eaten on its own. That wasn't the case, however, for the meaty version consumed by my husband. He seemed to love every bite.

He also loved the potstickers and the dumplings. He mentioned that--despite their name--the spicy chicken dumplings could have been packed with a little more heat. He's got a pretty high tolerance, though. There's a chance that they are just spicy enough.

My FAVORITE dish was the big bowl of Copper Well Noodles. Available with either tofu or chicken, these wheat noodles are loaded with veggies--mostly peppers, but carrots and bean sprouts, too--and covered in a ginger-y sauce. I loved every bite (both that night and when eating the leftovers for lunch the next day) and will most definitely order this dish again. It's enough food that I'll probably order just this dish (and maybe the scallion pancake, if someone wants to share) next time I am in.

Pints of beer are discounted during happy hour ($3 down from $4.50) and they've got a few cleverly concocted house cocktails to choose from as well. The beer is made in-house and rotates seasonally. And like so many places around town, if you love what you're drinking you can get a growler to go.

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


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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Widmer Brothers Pub

929 N Russell Street
Happy Hour: 2 - 5 PM, Monday through Friday

The Widmer name is pretty well-known (and not just around Portland). Kurt and Rob have been brewing their best since the early eighties. They started small (only forty barrels) but have grown substantially over time, currently producing more than 450,000 barrels per year. Now a part of the Craft Brewing Alliance (with Redhook & Kona Brewing), they are the ninth largest brewing company in the United States. SO big and so well-known, but still producing their famous hefeweizen in the same location on North Russell Street, just below the Fremont Bridge. And at the corner of Russell and Interstate Avenue is the Widmer Brothers Pub, serving lunch and dinner while pouring more than twenty different beers (by the glass, in house, or by the growler to go).

Happy Hour is available at the Widmer Brothers Pub weekdays from 2 to 5 PM. The food menu lists a number of items at a reasonable discount that would be suitable for snacking or easily combined to make a full meal. They also offer a dollar off pints (and will bring out samples to help in the decision making process).

After having shared a cup of their beer cheese soup over lunch recently, I knew what I was going to order before leaving the house. To get a better idea of what their happy hour is all about, though, we also ordered a bowl of baked mac and cheese ($6), a green salad ($4), the pretzel with fondue ($5), and the cheeseburger ($7).

Served with a bowl of chips, a couple of sliced pickles, and enough cheese to keep everything in place, this burger was enough all on its own. That, of course, was something we learned after having ordered almost everything on the menu. It was pretty juicy--enough to soak through the bottom bun without making a complete mess--but came with no other complaints.

On the regular menu, the Pub Mac and Cheese is listed at twelve bucks and comes with the option to add on kale, bacon, or pulled pork for just a couple bucks more. The happy hour size is smaller, to be sure, and is topped with Parmesan breadcrumbs and parsley. Although cheesy and delicious, the Beer Cheese Soup will continue to be my go to.

At only four dollars per bowl, the Beer Cheese Soup is a steal and--in my opinion--the star of the show. From now on, whether I'm there for happy hour, lunch, or dinner, this will be my meal. With a side salad, of course.

And if I decide I need just a little bit more to chew on, I'll add the pretzel. It's listed on the happy hour menu solo (just $4) or with a side on fondue. Some bites are a bit salty, but what pretzel isn't.

Service was fantastic (and seems to be the norm, whether there as a table to two or twenty-two).

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


Widmer Brothers Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pine State Biscuits

1100 SE Division Street Suite 100
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM and 10 - close, Thursday through Sunday

Portland is BIG into brunch. It's been that way for years. I'm less interested--mostly because I'm usually too hungry to wait in line--but completely understand the hype. I've waited in enough of the lines to get that Portland is BIG into brunch because Portland knows how to do it. Thankfully, some of the best breakfast joints offer their goods during all hours of the day.

At Pine State Biscuits, you can enjoy their classic biscuit sandwiches--plus a few other favorites--at a discount during happy hour. It's only available Thursday through Sunday (because they close early the rest of the week) but offered during the late afternoon (3 to 6 PM) and again from 10 until they close.

Happy Hour discounts apply to food AND drinks. Pictured is a Poor Man's Hattan, complete with the tiny bottle of Maker's Mark. In addition to that bourbon, the mason jar drink included Peychaud's bitters, Cherrywine Soda, and one maraschino cherry.

The breakfast sandwiches at Pine State range from quite petite (something you can actually bite into) to the overabundant, how-am-I-gonna-fit-that-in-my-mouth, complete meal on a biscuit. During Happy Hour, the Reggie Deluxe--piled high with fried chicken, bacon, cheese, gravy, and a fried egg--is only $7.  Sure, it's only a two dollar savings from the regular menu...but it's everything you could imagine sandwiched between the two halves of a buttery biscuit that's made fresh daily.

For those of us not interested in all the meaty options, Pine State Biscuits does offer a few veggie versions of their breakfast sammies. The Regina--with its braised greens and Texas Pete Hot Sauce--and the classic Egg & Cheese are available at a discount during happy hour. Or you can go full price with a plate of biscuits and (shiitake mushroom) gravy.

And if you're looking for something a little less breakfast-y, the happy hour menu includes their homemade Andouille Sausage corndog. Served with a stir-it-yourself honey mustard, this corndog is ten times better than anything you'd find at the country fair.

Pine State definitely has its following...which is why you can find them in multiple locations (including the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturdays) and why their lines are sometimes just too long. If you're not up for the wait, take advantage of happy hour. You'll be glad you did.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets (order at the bar)
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets


Pine State Biscuits on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fire & Stone

3707 NE Fremont Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday

Neighborhood restaurants are the best (especially when they serve delicious pizza). Although they might increase parking issues and foot traffic, it really is a fantastic feeling knowing that you can walk just a few blocks to find a complete meal--whether it's brunch on Sunday morning, an easy weeknight dinner after a long day at work, or happy hour (especially when it marks the start of the weekend). Fire & Stone is the perfect example of a neighborhood restaurant. They offer dinner and dessert nightly starting at four--now including happy hour during the week--and there's a little coffee shop in the back. It is situated in an area that serves the Alameda, Wilshire, and Beaumont neighborhoods.

Happy Hour is new to Fire & Stone. It's not uncommon for new restaurants to hold off on happy hour offerings after first opening their doors, but Fire & Stone really revamped their hours. The first time I stopped in was for lunch. I enjoyed a delicious Margherita Pizza and an order of their stuffed risotto. Since then, they've nixed lunch and are instead advertising discounts on food and drinks during happy hour--weeknights from four until six. That Margherita Pizza, however, is not included in the discounts.

The food menu--as printed--is pretty limited. They have selections of both meat and cheese (served with freshly baked bread), the daily crostini, and a pretzel. But there's more on the chalkboard in back. Not only does it list what's on the daily crostini, it has a few extra snacks that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The discounts on drinks are almost more substantial than that on the food. They've got four fancy cocktails (priced between $5 and $7), four dollar drafts, and a dollar off well drinks and wine.

I was most impressed with the cheese plate (and that freshly baked bread). We opted to try all three. I am sure that they will rotate through different cheese offerings, but if I make it back anytime soon I will definitely order the fresh ricotta (and I'll look for it used as an ingredient on the dinner menu, too). It paired perfectly with the rhubarb preserves. And although the three slices of crusty bread that first accompanied the cheese plate might not seem like much, they kept the bread coming upon our request.

Although the romesco sauce has left me eager to make it myself (in mass quantities), the polenta didn't hit the highest mark. I love polenta for its taste but also its texture. It's enjoyable when baked or fried but oh so much better--in my opinion--when creamy and served piping hot. I got super excited when I saw the dish listed on the chalkboard but wasn't as pleased when it arrived at the table. This, of course, is my own texture preference. I suppose I should have read the description more carefully.

The cocktails listed on the happy hour drink menu are currently all suited perfectly for the sunny weather we've been having. I've always associated anything served with fresh lime to summertime and couldn't pass up the Rum Rita. It was hard to have just one, that's for sure.

Although happy hour is definitely my thing, I'm eager to get back to Fire & Stone for more pizza. Luckily, the dinner menu is available starting at four as well. Discounted drinks, a few reasonably priced appetizers, and a big crusty pizza are definitely in my future.

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


Fire and Stone on Urbanspoon