Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hopworks Urban Brewery

2944 SE Powell Blvd.
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM daily
Latenight Happy Hour: 9 - close, Sun. - Thurs. AND 10 - close, Fri. - Sat.


The happy hour menu at the HUB is quite varied (especially when compared to other Portland establishments). They've got simple bar food (pretzels--which tower out of the pint glass they are served in--and roasted peanuts), pizza (both a veggie and a meat option that change daily), salads, wings, cheese bread (YUM!), beer sausage, fries and a housemade minestrone soup (with tortellini rather than a few sad elbow noodles). It might seem a little typical...but, at somewhere between 2 and 4 dollars each, the HUB is a great choice for cheaper cheap eats.


Today I decided to go with pizza (veggie, of course). For just $2.25, I had a large slice of pizza covered in olive oil, multiple cheeses (including feta) and broccoli. It was simple, yes, but as tasty as can be.


With my slice of pizza, I ordered the house salad. Lightly coated in a viniagrette and served with grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and parmesan cheese, this salad far exceeded my expectations. It was cheap but still substantial. (It was probably twice the size as the house salad I ordered on my last outing.) And, it's not like there was just the one grape tomato. When I say substantial...I mean it! Not so much that you can make a meal out of it, of course...but, paired with any of the other menu options, you will be set for the evening, I am sure.


I'm not much of a beer drinker (in fact I don't really drink the stuff at all)...but, couldn't pass up the opportunity to include this shot of a full pint of the Hopworks IPA. Listening to the waitress describe the different options when we first sat down might have been enough to make me want to try a glass of beer. She included words like clove, pear and BANANA? See, doesn't that make you want to try some. You'll notice that the pint in the picture is accompanied by a taste of the double IPA. That's one of the specials currently available. It has somewhere near 9% alcohol content and, therefore, is not included in the happy hour price list. Although I wasn't tempted to order a beer this time (and probably won't be ordering one in the future), I am interested in the drink made by mixing the HUB lager with lemonade. Sounds tasty.

Now, to the service. If you've already scrolled down to the bottom, you'll see just how impressed I was with the service at Hopworks. Maybe I lucked out. Or, maybe they are all that thorough. This woman was perfect. She was friendly (but not bubbly). She was incredibly attentive (so much so that when I declined a refill on my lemonade she promptly brought over a glass of water). And, she split the bill without any request being made.

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

-b

Hopworks Urban Brewery

Monday, August 24, 2009

C Bar

2880 SE Gladstone St
Happy Hour: 5 - 6:30 and 9:30 - 11, Monday through Thursday
and ALL DAY Sunday


All day Sunday happy hours are my new favorite phenomenon. What a fantastic idea!

I had been to the C Bar twice before finally making it in during happy hour. I was disappointed to see that the Mac and Cheese wasn't listed on the cheap eats menu. At only $8 (and knowing that it is chalked full of cheeses--fontina, smoked gouda and tillamook cheddar--Hop Works IPA and large rigatoni noodles) I decided to order off of the regular menu, too. Sharing this entree made it easy to order a few other items from the happy hour food list. At least that's how I felt when placing the order. I was beyond stuffed when leaving the C Bar that night.



To accompany the gooey cheesiness that is the C Bar's mac and cheese (and, I'm guessing the same sauce--dubbed beer cheese sauce--offered with fries on the happy hour menu, YUM!) we ordered a side salad, sliders and tomato confit.



The side salad is nothing compared to the salad that was on the C Bar's menu before the change made earlier this summer. For just $3.50, I won't complain too much. The salad I had ordered previously--with candied walnuts, fresh fruit, blue cheese and a vinaigrette-- is overdone on menus these days anyway. This salad had a small pile of cheddar cheese that would have been welcoming had I not ordered it with the mac and cheese. And, of course, I failed to order the dressing on the side, making my lettuce a little too well-coated with the balsamic dressing. My fault.


My absolute favorite item (and something that I need to remember to order EVERY time I go there) was the tomato confit. Sure, it looks like spaghetti sauce and some olive oil thrown together on a plate and served with warmed bread. Maybe that's all it is...but, it is such a perfect match for my liking. And for only three dollars, you are served this tomato mix and a pile of ciabatta.


The house-made veggie patty had good flavor--especially with the added tomato slice and provolone--but was a little overshadowed by the sourdough bun. The bread to patty ratio of this slider was off by just a touch but it was the actual flavor of the bread that did away with that of the patty. (I love sourdough...but, it can sometimes steal the limelight of a good flavor combination.)

Although tonight I stuck with a plain glass of Merlot (which is $1 off at happy hour), I am partially in love with The Gordon. A mix of gin, fresh lime, muddled mint and ginger ale...it combines some of my favorite summer flavors to be quite refreshing and perfectly pleasing.

On a Sunday evening, service can be a little slow. Knowing this (and after recognizing that there was only the bartender working that night), we placed our order at the bar. Once that was done, both the food and drinks were delivered quickly to the table.

And, if it weren't already so late...the C Bar is equipped with pool tables and pin ball machines (lots of them) in the adjoining room.

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

-b

C-bar

Sunday, August 16, 2009

B.J. Willy's Public House and Eatery: for those of you who live in the suburbs.

http://www.bjwillys.com/

1717 Willamette Falls Drive
West Linn, OR 97068

Happy Hour 7 days a week, 3-6 pm and 9:30-close.


Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in the most popular areas of Portland, but there are some good Happy Hours available outside of the Hawthorne area and downtown. B.J. Willy's Public House and Eatery opened recently in West Linn, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite places for Happy Hour.



Right down the street from West Linn Saloon, this is the perfect place to come for a late night drink and snack. I have come to this place twice for late night Happy Hour, and I was impressed both times. The best thing is the cheap, fancy drinks. During Happy Hour, they offer well drinks, Lemon Drops, Cosmos, and Margaritas for $3.25. Are you kidding me? A Lemon Drop, my all-time favorite drink, made correctly with a sugar rim, for only $3.25? I had both a Lemon Drop and a Cosmo, and they were both strong and delicious. They also offer $1.00 off on draft beers and premium alcohol. So basically, the drink specials are unlimited here.



Also impressive is the wide array of cheap food to choose from. Although a lot of it is not exactly healthy, sometimes you just have to give in to your cravings for things like cheeseburger sliders ($2.99) or corn dog bites ($5.99--on the regular bar menu). Both are delicious, but the corn dog bites also bring up fond memories of corn dog day school lunches and trips to the Rose Festival Fun Center. You can always make yourself feel better by eating a healthy side salad along with your sliders ($1.99).


Options on the regular menu were good as well--a side mixed field greens and pear salad ($4.99) and a half order of the Mac and Cheese ($5.99) were more than enough to fill me up. The Mac and Cheese was rich and flavorful, and the side salad had just the right amount of nuts and fruit.

Service has also been good on both of my visits. When I sat in the restaurant, the owner was extremely friendly, and he pointed out that he made Happy Hour available in the bar and the restaurant so families can enjoy Happy Hour specials as well. The waitress was attentive and checked in regularly. When we ate at the bar, the bartender did a great job as well, and he also showed concern for a regular who had a bit too much to drink.

Overall, I would recommend this place for anyone who lives in (or near) West Linn.

Food: Meets
Drink: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

--E

B.J. Willy's Public House and Eatery on Urbanspoon

Mama Mia: another perspective.

I had eaten at Mama Mia for dinner before and was very unimpressed (I had gnocchi with red sauce, and it was bland and tasteless). That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by my Happy Hour experience.


I started off with a ginger ale and vodka, which I believe was $5. I just wasn't excited about most of the cocktails, and none of them were on special anyway. Then I ordered two items off of the food menu. Everything on the food menu was $3, and there was enough of a variety to please just about anyone. I ordered the lasagna of the day and the fried zucchini, and I was really impressed with both the size and the flavor of both dishes. The zucchini was freshly made with a light batter and dusted with Parmesan cheese. The lasagna was exactly what lasagna should be--cheesy and meaty with lots of marinara sauce. Eating these two items together made me feel stuffed, and I could definitely see myself making Happy Hour into dinner again in the future. The food here ended up being some of the best that I have had during our Happy Hour adventures this summer.



The bartender was our server, and he was having a rough night. Despite his problems (broken wine bottles, smashed finger), he was still friendly, funny, and attentive. I got the impression that service is generally good here.

The biggest complaint I have about Mama Mia is that Happy Hour is only available in the bar, which is sad for parents who want to get a good value, too! Mama Mia should offer Happy Hour outside or in the restaurant area as well to accommodate people with little ones. I understand not wanting to have babies in bars, but it is not as if Mama Mia is solely a bar. I felt Andina was much more welcoming in this regard--they said that since their bar has a full menu children were welcome during Happy Hour, and they also had outdoor seating that was kid-friendly.

Food: Exceeds
Drink: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

--E

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mama Mia

439 SW 2nd Avenue
Happy Hour: weekdays, 5 - 7PM

Happy Hour? More like dinner. The prices are low (everything's just three dollars) and the portions are huge. Comparably speaking, that is. I've only been to Mama Mia once before...but, now that I know, I will only dine there during those happiest hours. And, it's more than just the two listed above. They have an extra hour on Friday, one on Saturday and all of Sunday evening, too. The down side, of course, is that you have to eat in the bar. If there are just two of you, it's perfect. For larger groups, you'll have to get there early to secure group seating at the bar itself. And then, of course, you'll have to practice the sideways conversation. It's tricky. But, it can be done.

We were the first to enter the bar that night. (This is part of the plan, of course. While we are on summer vacation we make a point to get to each selected establishment as the doors for happy hour open.) This meant that--due to some slight mishaps by the hostess--we were provided with entertainment. Our poor, poor bartender. He was having quite the night! And, it showed...through the use of many inappropriate words. He apologized once...but, it continued. Two broken bottles of wine and one smashed finger led to his choice words. I suppose that as a bartender, he doesn't exactly need to filter. It's not as if there are children around.

Our bartender--despite all of the foul language--was very friendly to our party of four with talk of shared birthdays and our upcoming trip to Vegas. He also took the time to console a woman across the way who had obviously had a trying day at work. I suppose they do say that bartenders carry some of the same qualities as therapists. The stories they must hear...



I decided to order something fancy to drink because...well, I wanted to. The drink prices aren't discounted during happy hour but with well drinks at around five dollars, it's not really that necessary. For eight dollars, I had a mix of pomegranate and limoncello plus a few other fitting ingredients all served in a champagne flute. It was quite tasty but not something that I could drink more than one of. It was just a touch too sweet for my taste (which is something I rarely say).



According to our bartender, the fried zucchini is prepared fresh upon order. Knowing that, there was no question as to what I would order. Yum! It was a perfect treat, dusted with Romano cheese and served with marinara. Yes, zucchini is in season right now...but, I'm assuming that this dish is good year round. And, I'll be sure to return--ordering it every time--just to be sure. I also ordered a bowl of the Minestrone soup. It, too, was garnished with Romano cheese adding just the right touch to the mix of vegetables.



Food: Exceeds
Drink: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

-b

Mama Mia Trattoria

Friday, August 07, 2009

Calaroga Terrace

1400 NE 2nd Ave
Happy Hour: Fridays @ 4 (by invitation only)


Our weekly happy hours started taking place last summer. (Don't get me wrong...we enjoy happy hour during the school year as well.) During the summer months, though, it is nice to take advantage of our vacation. We can show up right as the doors open, if necessary, to get a good table. And, we can try new restaurants...restaurants that are too far across town to make it to after a long day of working with middle schoolers.

The blog is just for fun. It gives us a chance to share our experiences and opinions, an opportunity to practice our writing and photography skills...and, to keep track of where we've already been so that we don't make the same mistake twice. And like I said, it's fun. We might refer to it as homework...but, it's not like that at all. (Not that homework isn't fun...homework is ALWAYS fun.) This post, however, is special to me. It's by invitation only...but, not because I'm already being recognized in the food critic world. This post is all about happy hour at the Calaroga Terrace, a retirement community like no other.


My grandmother moved into the Calaroga less than two weeks ago. They have adorable apartments (hers overlooks the Willamette River), a welcoming staff, a dining area that serves more variety than some restaurants in Portland, and a laundry list of weekly activities for all of the residents to enjoy. On that list is Happy Hour. Every Friday, the residents of the Calaroga are invited down to the terrace for wine, beer and snacks. The lines are never long (but don't move too quickly for obvious reasons), the food seems to be endless and the wine comes in full glasses. And, no one will stop you if you get back up for seconds. Or, thirds.


Today's food selection included salmon bites, chicken wings, and spring rolls. They were served by Gary, the executive director for the Calaroga, and other friendly staff members. Residents were also provided with what seemed to be an endless supply of olives, cheese, fruit and vegetables and an assortment of crackers.


To accompany the assortment of appetizers, full glasses of wine were poured upon request. The list was not printed (nor very long) but included all of the basics. Bottled beers were also available. As there is no limit, many residents found themselves with a second glass to take into the dining area for the evening meal.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds (it's free)

-b

Andina, a third perspective.

Andina is a great place for Happy Hour, because you get to experience the upscale atmosphere, unique food, and delicious cocktails, without having to drop $100 for a meal. My only complaint is that I wish that they had a bigger variety of Happy Hour food to choose from. They only offer three kinds of skewers (none of which are vegetarian), so I ended up ordering food off of the regular menu.

I shared two items with a friend, the Causa Solterito and the Tabule de Cereales Andinos. At $8.50 each, they weren't cheap, but they were both delicious. The Causa Solterito was a cake made of mashed potatoes with corn and avocado. The Tabule de Cereales Andinos had quinoa mixed with other flavors. Both had a unique, fresh flavor. If I had to choose a favorite it would be the Causa Solterito because I loved having so much avocado.



The highlight of our visit to Andina was the cocktails. Normally $8.75, during Happy Hour you can try any of the cocktails for $5.50. There were so many that I wanted to try, but I ended up getting the Atardecer Porteno. This was one of the best cocktails ever. It had pink guava and honey infused vodka, and the rim was lined with anise flavored sugar. It was also extremely strong, and I started to feel a little tipsy after just a few sips! Our friend, D, had her favorite drink, the Scasayhuaman, which has passion fruit puree and spicy vodka. If you aren't into spicy drinks, this drink is also good made with regular vodka.



The server was incredibly friendly, and he was prompt and professional. Overall, I would definitely recommend trying Andina out for Happy Hour.


Food: Meets
Drink: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets for Cocktails, Does Not Meet for Food

--E

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Andina


Serving Peruvian food in a very charming three story tall restaurant, Andina is worth the hassle of downtown driving and parking. We sat on the main level in the bar. Its decoration was minimal and modern but on my way out I saw down through to the courtyard. It looked lovely. It was like you were sitting outside on a cobble stone street. I would like to sit down there next time.


The best part of my experience at this Happy Hour was the drink I ordered. E also ordered the same drink. It is the “ATARDECER PORTENO (pink guava nectar shaken with honey infused vodka and lime juice topped with a float of ruby port and a sprtiz of lime zest, served up with an anise sugar rim)” The drink was Delicioso and only $5.50. The best part of the drink was the anise sugar rim. I love black licorice and you could smell it faintly every time you lifted your drink. As of right now today I would say this is the best drink I have ever had!!!!!



I didn’t eat much this trip but I did have the Chicken Kabobs off the HH menu. They come in serving sizes S, M, L (3, 6, 12) I ordered the medium and shared it with a friend. It came with 4 kabobs. I thought the kabobs would have veggies on them too but it only came with two small pieces of chicken on each kabob (about the size of a dollar coin). I don’t think each kabob was worth 2 dollars. But it was good. What I liked better than the paid for chicken kabobs was the free bread and dipping sauces. The bread looked like a poppy seed bread but did not taste sweet. It was soft and chewy. I love sauces! The sauces were three different blends: one, a peanut sauce, two a mango chili sauce and lastly, a jalapeno and garlic sauce. Pay attention here! The waiter didn’t bring this to our table right away. He only brought it after a friend requested it, so maybe you have to know about it to get it. -O



Food: Exceeds
Drink: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Nearly Meets

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Andina

1314 NW Glisan
Happy Hour: seven days, 4-6PM

Can I make a suggestion? Please let me do so. And, if you follow through...then, I promise to make this one of my top happy hour picks for all of Portland. Andina has fantastic cocktails, great waitstaff, a remarkably comfortable atmosphere...but is missing something that--in my opinion--is crucial for a successful happy hour operation. As a whole, this place has it made. For any other meal, I'm sure that I would be beyond impressed. It's just the happy hour menu that lacks one thing. And, that one thing only applies to a fraction of the population (making it seem a little less important, I'm sure). Please, please, please, Andina chefs and menu-writers, add some sort of fancy vegetable to your skewers (and, therefore, your cheap eats selections). If you do, I'll be such a happy girl.


Don't get me wrong. I still ate. And, I loved every bite. Following the recommendation of the menu (and the suggestion of the server), we shared two small plates. I ordered the Tabule de Cereales Andinos which was priced a little high for my happy hour budget at $8.50. The quinoa salad was formed perfectly by a ramekin, piled high with a mix of queso fresco, avocados, red onions and olives and surrounded by a drizzling of two green sauces that didn't really provide additional flavor but did make this teenie portion scream out in beauty. It was gorgeous. The flavors melded well together and the texture--yes, the texture--was what won me over. Perhaps I need to order quinoa more often. Or, perhaps Andina just knows how to make it well. Yum!


To accompany the small sharing plates, we requested a basket of bread. (Thankfully, one of us had been there often enough to know to ask. Always ask, people.) The bread isn't exactly magic...but, it's served with some great dipping sauces. The first tasted a bit like a light peanut sauce. It didn't have the same qualities that I'm accustomed to in a Thai peanut sauce, but had a similar feel. The second, a jalapeno passion fruit concoction, tasted like it MUST be the base to one of Andina's most popular drinks, the Sacsayhuaman. It was lovely, but a little strange to try on bread after sipping the same spicy flavors out of a martini glass. The third was said to be the spiciest of all (or, at least, that's what I heard) but seemed to be the freshest, if anything. It's bright green color led me to assume that it would be hot, hot, hot. It was not. Good, yes. And something that my tongue (which isn't as accustomed to heat as it once was) could handle.


And now, to the drinks. It is the drink menu that makes Andina's happy hour worth leaving work early (as if I wasn't on vacation!) to fight traffic and the parking situation that is the Pearl. Cocktails, which are normally priced in the eight to nine dollar range, drop to just $5.50. And, these are quality cocktails. Fancy, quality cocktails. The caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, is my new favorite. Now I just need to figure out how to pronounce it properly. This cocktail--made with cachaca, muddled lime and sugar--combines so many of my favorite flavors. I am surprised I haven't been urged to order one in past years. It was simple, yes. And, it looked quite small next to all of the sugar rimmed martini glasses that it shared the table with...but, it was a ridiculously pleasant option on an August afternoon.

Food: Exceeds
Drink: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Nearly Meets

-b

Andina

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

McCormick & Schmick's

17015 SW 72nd Ave
Tigard, OR 97224

Happy Hour Daily (bar only) 3-6 pm and 9-close

Going to McCormick & Schmick's reminds me of stepping back into time, especially if you dine in the restaurant section. I have to admit, I am completely charmed by the overly polite service: "May I hang your coat for you?" and, "Excuse my reach," were two phrases I heard on my first visit. While the service in the bar at Happy Hour wasn't quite the same, this is definitely a Happy Hour menu that shouldn't be missed.


I really liked the variety on the food menu, and the prices were quite reasonable (please note that you also have to make a minimum $3.50 beverage purchase). There were items available for $1.95-$4.95. I ended up ordering the pork sliders ($4.95) and the cocktail special Absolut"ely" Divine ($6.75). My boyfriend ordered a beer (not on special, as far as I could tell) and a chicken quesadilla ($4.95) and a burger and fries ($2.95).


The pork sliders were definitely the best choice of the three dishes. The sauce was a perfect blend of spicy BBQ, and I am not even usually a huge pulled pork person. It also had coleslaw, which added to the flavor, even though I normally hate coleslaw. These were delicious and filling. I ate just the sliders for my meal, and I was full.


My boyfriend was pretty impressed with the cheeseburger, especially since it was only $2.95. He didn't really care for the fries, however, and left most of them behind. The quesadilla was pretty standard, but he ate it all without complaint. He seemed to like his beer, even though they didn't have his favorite, Mirror Pond, and he had to settle for Drop Top.

The highlight of the meal for me was the cocktail special. Absolut"ely" Divine was a mix of Absolut Raspberry, vanilla, lemon, and fresh raspberry puree. It was one of the best cocktails I have had in ages. It was a perfect balance between tasting good and having enough alcohol. It really lived up to its name!

Food: Meets
Drink: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (some items Exceed)

--E
Mc Cormick & Schmick's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Gotham Tavern (from another point of view).


You know the old cliche: if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all. Unfortunately, I don't have very many good things to say about Gotham Tavern, which makes this Happy Hour review post a little difficult. I went with a group of seven teachers, and almost everyone was unsatisfied with something about the place. The Happy Hour menu was small, with the only drink discount being Session lager for $2. I opted to order only a drink, but it was a regular price blueberry lemon drop ($8). I had no problems with this drink, but I would have preferred to have some cocktails or wines on special. I also think that they could have a bigger variety of items on the food menu. One thing I think that businesses make a mistake on is having all of the items a certain price. While $3 appetizers are great, this often results in a very small, limited menu. I would rather have more exciting choices for a higher price, but maybe that's just me.


Another friend ordered the Wasabi. This was wasabi-infused vodka with pieces of ginger floating in it. It would not have been my first choice, as I don't really like either wasabi or ginger, but my friend likes both of those things. Unfortunately, she said this was one of the worst drinks she had ever tasted. It wasn't spicy at all, and the ginger didn't help matters. She ended up asking for another drink instead.Other friends were somewhat dissatisfied with their food. The lettuce wraps were declared gross. The artichoke dip and quesadilla were both deemed just okay. No one had anything they loved.
On the positive side, the decor was interesting. We sat in a birdcage-like booth that gave us privacy. We were also allowed to stay as long as we wanted without really being bothered. The server was friendly but a little slow giving us our bill at the end. I didn't really mind that so much, but overall this was not a place that I would recommend for Happy Hour.

Food: NA (though friends didn't seem to think it meets)
Drink: Meets
Service: Conditionally Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

--E