Wednesday, August 05, 2009


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