Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Bonfire Lounge

The Bonfire Lounge
2821 SE Stark St.
Happy Hour: everyday 2 - 7 PM


I can't believe that we waited so long to do a review of this place. Bonfire is, by far, one of my favorite happy hour locations in Portland. It's cheap. The food is fantastic. The service goes back and forth...but, with the number of people in the place, it's kinda understandable.

I tend to go back and forth between two options when it comes to the incredibly cheap happy hour food options. Okay, they really are the same thing...just with a different filling. Bonfire has the most amazingly enjoyable gyros. I don't eat meat and that's not a problem. Like I said, I go back and forth. This time I ordered the falafel gyro. It's the less messy choice. The gyro isn't dry like at some places. It has a great crispiness on the outside of each little bite and the inside holds its flavor well. It's covered with tzatziki, some lettuce, tomatoes and feta. Usually there are red onions in the mix but I opted to go without. My other favorite is a portabella mushroom gyro. It has the BEST flavor. I've made a lot of portabella dishes before and have tried twice as many while dining out. When I say this has the BEST flavor, I mean it. But, it's crazy messy. The mushroom holds as much of the juiciness in but tends to drip down the paper wrapping (sometimes down my arm) and all over the plate. It's worth it...unless, of course, you are there with someone new and quite possibly trying to impress them. That's simply a bad idea.



To accompany the gyro (an obvious match as it is usually paired with these when ordering off of the regular menu) we ordered a basket (and then a second basket) of the sweet potato fries. Some people have a strange aversion to sweet potatoes. (Some of those people were sitting at my table...and still we ordered two baskets.) I am not one of those people. I love sweet potatoes. I love them baked. I love them in burritos. I love them, love them, love them. Eating these sweet potato fries at Bonfire helped me to realize that their true calling is to be sliced, deep fried, and tossed (while still warm) with salt and pepper. Pepper, I think. That's what it looks like anyway. Amazing. I think that's all I can say. Eat them. You'll love them. Every time!


To wash everything down (including all the salt that came atop my fries) I ordered one (and then a second) gin and tonic. Not fancy, no. But, it's only two-fifty. That's right, $2.50. With an extra lime (my signature...along with so many others) it is the most refreshing drink after a long day at work (or, at play).

The service today was better than it has ever been. I'm hoping that this is an upward trend as in the past the service would have been my only complaint. It's a busy place...so it would make sense that they are sometimes running behind. Perhaps the difference is the season (or better yet, the weather). During the summer, this place is packed. Outside tables are hard to come by and the servers are going in and out and out and in. While it is too cold to sit outside (those tables are now reserved for the smoking crowd), the servers aren't forced to move around quite as much and are, therefore, more attentive.

One last thing that makes this place so incredibly fantastic is its location. It's just a couple of doors down from the Goodfoot. The Goodfoot also has good food and good drinks, sure, but it's the dancing and live music that makes it so inviting for me. Imagine, you start with happy hour (as early as two), move to the main floor of the Goodfoot for pool (free, at times) and then end the night dancing until closing. It might make for a long night...but, a good night, no doubt.

Food: Exceeds
Drink: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambience: Meets
Value: Exceeds

-b

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bonfire Lounge

The Bonfire Lounge
2821 SE Stark
Happy Hour 2-7 p.m.

The Bonfire Lounge isn't much to look at, but the delicious food and cheap drinks makes this place one of the best Happy Hour options in Portland. I have visited Bonfire a number of times, but I always order the exact same thing--the Portobello Mushroom Gyro (without red onion) and Sweet Potato Fries. The tricky thing about it is that if you order the gyro off of the regular menu, it comes with sweet potato fries. So the server may try to talk you into that when you try to order the Happy Hour gyro and a basket of the fries. Do not fall for this! Once you try the sweet potato fries you will be unhappy that you did not order the whole basket. For yourself. Trust me.


On this particular visit I ordered my usual. The Portobello Mushroom Gyro is a great price--only $3.50. They also offer other flavors, but I haven't tried them. The only drawback of the gyro is that it is pretty messy. There are also other $3.50 deals including Tacos, Quesadillas, Hummus, and Burgers. A basket of the Sweet Potato Fries is $6.00. Our table of five ordered one basket. We quickly polished off that basket and ordered another. These seriously are the best sweet potato fries ever. Crispy, but not too crispy. Salty and slightly peppery. Perfect!


Speaking of cheap, Bonfire has really cheap, strong drinks. I ordered a Vodka Tonic and was shocked to see that it was only $2.50 at Happy Hour. I proceeded to order two more and--in the only sad part of my Happy Hour--managed to spill my third drink all over the table! That was embarrassing, but my friends believed me when I said that I was just clumsy, not tipsy (I think).


I haven't always been too impressed with the service at Bonfire, but on this visit both of our servers were attentive and prompt. I was definitely a satisfied customer!

Food: Exceeds
Drink: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (but could use a little work)
Value: Exceeds

-E
Bonfire Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Observatory


I love trying new places for Happy Hour! The Observatory is located on 80th and Stark, which means that you could go for Happy Hour and then go right down the street to the movies at the Academy Theater. You could also go for coffee at The Bipartisan, and if you were really hungry, you could have some Flying Pie pizza.


I ended up ordering a number of items from the Happy Hour menu. The first was a Lemoncello Cosmopolitan, which was their special $5 drink. It was a little bit too strong and not sweet enough for my taste, so next I switched to the $5 house wine. This was one of the best house wines that I have had, and it tasted very similar to my favorite $4 Trader Joe's Pinot Noir. It was also a generous amount, and I was feeling a little bit tipsy after drinking both of my drinks.


I also ordered the $2 cup of tomato and red pepper bisque. I thought it was perfect and almost ordered another cup. The $2 mixed greens salad was also good--it had an interesting mix of lettuce and was topped with fried onions. Later on I ordered the rosemary garlic fries. These were just okay, but it was my fault for forgetting that rosemary is my least favorite herb. I also have to warn people who want to impress their dates with fresh breath--the garlic on these fries is extremely powerful. I went home and brushed my teeth, and my boyfriend could still smell the garlic when I saw him later that evening!


When we got to The Observatory at 4 on a Friday, it was pretty empty, but it soon got really busy. Something about it also seems to cause echoing, so we could hear the people next to us very clearly. I liked the busy, fun atmosphere, and I thought our waitress was prompt, helpful and extremely nice. This is a place that I would definitely try again.

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

-E
The Observatory on Urbanspoon

The Observatory

8115 SE Stark Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM everyday
and again Tuesday - Thursday from 10 PM - 12 Midnight

The Observatory--a new restaurant in the Montavilla neighborhood--is within walking distance of my house. Any restaurant within walking distance makes me smile. I love knowing that I can get somewhere without stepping foot in my car. This restaurant makes me happy, thrilled in fact, to know that I can spend hours in a relaxed environment, all the time enjoying good conversations with friends, great food and cheap drinks.

I had been to The Observatory once before. During that visit, I had a chance to glance at the happy hour menu and knew that this was a place to which I would soon return. It was the Oregon Fry Bread that brought me back so quickly.


Fry bread was one of my favorite purchases at the County Fair as a kid. Usually covered with melted butter, cinnamon and honey, the fry bread would be the best treat following a day of walking through barns and the 4H exhibit hall. The lines were always long for fry bread. The oregano fry bread--on the happy hour menu for only two dollars--is a savory version of the fair favorite. Served with two ramakins full of dipping options (one an herbed sour cream and the other tomato bisque) and sprinkled with sea salt, this is something that I would enjoy again and again. And, as seen in the picture above, the serving size is not small. My suggestion would be to have someone to share this with.


A perfect accompaniment to the oregano fry bread--which became more obvious when it was served with a small ramakin in which to dip the breads--is a bowl of the roasted red pepper and tomato bisque. A little salty for my taste, this soup is one that I will probably not order again. Everyone else at the table did not agree, however.


I was enticed by the combination of flavors in the specialty cocktail--one that changes daily and is a mere five dollars during happy hour. A limoncello cosmopolitan might be the perfect drink on a hot summer day. During the start of Autumn, on a blustery evening just days after the end of daylight savings time, is not a prime time for a drink like this. My second choice--a glass of the house red wine, also at five dollars--was a much better match for the day. (It also matched well with the flourless chocolate torte that I ordered off the regular menu to finish my meal.)


Food: Meets

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

-b