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

Friday, May 01, 2015

Cafe Nell

1987 NW Kearney Street
Happy Hour: Monday through Friday 3 - 6 (3 - 10 Wednesdays) & Saturday 4 - 6

Ahhhh, sunshine! The forecast for the weekend looks quite promising. It's not summer, yet. There's still bound to be a few weeks of rain (it is track season, after all). But it seems that all of Portland has had a head start on the outdoor dining scene.

Patios tend to fill up fast around here. Even today--with the high reaching just into the 70s--the picnic tables at every local brewery are likely to be packed before four. But sidewalk seating isn't always all that bad. Sure, it's often accompanied by the noise of steady traffic. But that's not always the case. Not at Cafe Nell.

Cafe Nell offers Happy Hour weekdays from three until six and on Saturday starting at four. The discounts are limited to the bar area only, but when the sun's out--and it's warm enough--that includes the tables that line the sidewalk on both Kearny and NW 20th Avenue. (Parking in that neighborhood can often be a pain, but there's a little parking lot hidden away just behind the restaurant.)

The discounted menu includes a number of items regularly available during dinner, but at a much lower price. There are also a lot of "daily" items--which means seasonal ingredients and the freshest of flavors. While sipping on cocktails, we enjoyed the daily salad ($5), an order of the mac and cheese ($5.50), fish tacos ($7), and some fries ($5).

The prices are reasonable compared to those listed on the dinner menu and seemed appropriate given the quality of the ingredients used...for everything but the fries. They were deliciously salty and came with a small dish of aioli, but the five dollar price tag seemed a bit steep.

I was most impressed with the daily salad. Of course, it being a daily item means that I am likely to not come across the exact same mix again. (Having been there more than once and ordered the daily salad each time, however, I trust that the combination of flavors will always be quite pleasing.) The fresh flavors and crunch made me feel SO much better after having also ordered yet another plate of macaroni and cheese.

A favorite of mine, this macaroni and cheese was made with a mix of three cheeses and topped with breadcrumbs.

Although I didn't sample the fish tacos, I was quite impressed with the appearance of the dish. Must have been something to do with the vibrant colors of the cabbage and house-made salsa. The fish and the tortilla alone might have carried enough flavor but wouldn't have been nearly as pleasing to the eye.

Having filled up on all that we ordered, I was not ready to try the brownie caramel sundae. (I know, it's not like me at all.) Next time, I will be sure to save space.

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


Cafe Nell on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Face Rock Creamery @ Dig a Pony

I've been a vegetarian since I was twelve. In the earliest years, I ate a lot of cheese. Cheese and bread. Cheese and crackers. Cheese and pasta. I consumed more than my fair share of cheddar and a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates. Now I eat vegetables, legumes, and the like...but I haven't given up on cheese.

Reading through old posts, it's obvious that I love cheese. Sure, I will order a cheese plate here and there. But it's the macaroni and cheese that I can't seem to avoid. Over the years, I've posted so many pictures of macaroni and cheese that my mom is convinced it's one of Portland's specialties. Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it's just me (which would mean I might need to branch out a bit).

The macaroni and cheese on the happy hour menu at Dig A Pony is one that I especially enjoy. It starts with a great pasta (a shape that really allows the cheesy goodness to cling right on, making every bite even better than the last) but it's the cheese that really makes it what it is. And now I know where that cheese is coming from.

I first came across Face Rock Creamery last fall at The Wedge, a cheesy event held annually with proceeds going to the Oregon Cheese Guild. I sampled a lot of cheese that day, but only went back for seconds at a couple of tents. The extra stop at Face Rock wasn't just for a second taste. That was one of the only purchases we made that day.

Face Rock Creamery is located on Highway 101 in Bandon, Oregon. It's only a four-hour drive to the creamery (where you can find ALL of their cheese offerings) but the basics are available at New Seasons Markets, Food Front, Green Zebra, Costco AND in a few of the dishes at Dig A Pony--including their macaroni and cheese.

I enjoyed samples, a few specially-made snackables, and perfectly paired mini cocktails at Dig A Pony earlier this week. (I then made a trip to Costco the very next day to buy the big block of Aged Cheddar--just $9.99 per pound.) You can enjoy some of the same at their 2-year Anniversary Party May 9th and 10th. Enjoy live music, Arch Rock Brewing, BBQ, and lots and lots of cheese. It'll be well worth the drive.

Face Rock Creamery on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mediterranean Exploration Company

333 NW 13th Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 5:30, daily

Five days before giving birth to my baby girl, I enjoyed happy hour with friends at Mediterranean Exploration Company. It wasn't supposed to me my last hurrah. I was sure--as research had indicated--that she would be late, like most other first borns. Nope. There was no waiting around during my first days of leave. I didn't get my toes done. Never got that massage I wanted. There wasn't a chance to relax before our lives completely changed. I even went to work the day that she was born. That little girl will be eleven weeks old this Thursday. She doesn't sleep through the night...but either does the dog. She does, however, take naps. And if I've eaten and I've showered and there are clean clothes for tomorrow, I still have time to blog. I am, however, almost out of material. I guess that means I will have to head out for happy hour soon enough. And when I go, I'll be bringing her with me.

I would love to head right back to Mediterranean Exploration Company for another bite of their falafel sandwich. Perhaps my senses were heightened due to the hormones, but I'm pretty sure that I would LOVE that sandwich if I were to have another go at it now that things are somewhat back to normal. It's hard to tell by the picture (as things were so perfectly wrapped) but that sandwich was stuffed with good flavors and amazing textures. And the ratio of falafel to hummus was spot on. Included in the mix was a handful of arugula, a little tahini, and just enough s'hug. (I spend a lot of time googling ingredients--to avoid embarrassment--but this time I decided just to ask. It's a condiment, can be super spicy, and is apparently as common to Yemenites as ketchup is to Americans.) All that, and the most delicious pita. It wrapped up perfectly, didn't fall apart like so many do, and helped to balance the other flavors involved as opposed to being a bit too overpowering.

An easy dish to share with friends--and something that can stave off a little hanger, if the potential exists--is a bowl of olives. At the Mediterranean Exploration Company, they serve my favorites: the castelvetrano. Warmed and served with a little olive oil and a bay leaf, this bright green snack is something that I can't say no to. (And I don't mean just once or twice. I can't say no until the bowl is empty. It can be a problem.)

Also pictured are the Keftedes--Greek Meatballs--made with lamb, pistachio, parsley, mint, and tomato. The presentation was commendable--I know the pickled red onions were fantastic because they came on my plate too--and every meat eater at the table seemed to really enjoy the dish.

My husband enjoyed one of their seven dollar cocktails (a decent price at dinner, but a little high compared to some happy hour establishments) while I sipped on the house-made ginger ale. They also offer three dollar draft beer and seven dollar pours of wine (with one sparkling, one white, and one red made available during happy hour).

Happy Hour is limited to the bar (at the bar itself or one of the many high top tables) and things fill up rather quickly. If you are going with a crowd, plan to get there early or expect to spend most of the night standing.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets (it's pricey)


Mediterranean Exploration Company on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Stella Tacos

2940 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, daily

I love avocados. I love them in salads. I love them on sandwiches. I love to eat them straight from the source with nothing more than a little salt. And now I love fried avocado tacos.

Fried Avocado Tacos are on the menu at Stella Tacos for just $2.75. And they're only two bucks during happy hour. In fact, most of their tacos are just $2 during happy hour. (Only those made with seafood don't come at a discounted rate.) We stopped in for a late lunch recently and easily filled up without spending much cash at all.

With multiple veggie tacos available, I picked one of each. The Vegan Mole Taco was full of flavor and came topped with peptitas, adding just enough crunch to the mix. The Black Bean Taco included smashed beans, pickled carrots, sweet onions, jalapeƱos, queso fresco, and cilantro. And that Fried Avocado Taco--the one that will have me back for more, perhaps ordering nothing but--was topped with grilled onion slaw, roasted mushroom sauce, and fresh cheese. The texture--especially that crunch from the freshly breaded and fried avocado--and flavor combined to create an enjoyable treat that was both good for me (loaded with veggies) and not (fried foods can lead to trouble, eventually).

My husband enjoyed three meaty tacos, favoring the Shredded Brisket most of all. Also pictured--although you can barely see the Shredded Brisket in the back--is the Pollo Asado (Char-broiled Draper Valley chicken topped with shredded lettuce and an avocado creme) and a Chile Colorado (pulled pork shoulder topped with matchstick potatoes).

Although not included in the discounts, we enjoyed a (very small) side of guacamole and a bag of freshly made tortilla chips. The ratio of chip-to-dip was WAY off, but the chips had enough flavor all on their own that it wasn't too much of an issue.

Despite the name on the door, there are a few other items on the menu (including a lunch special, if you get there too early for happy hour). I'm most interested in the Alberta Bowl (topped with a chile relleno) or the breakfast Chilaquiles Tacos (available until 3 PM daily).

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

Stella Taco on Urbanspoon