Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tuxedo Charley's - Reopened! New Location in West Linn

Located in the Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach
Happy Hour: Monday - Thursday, 4 - 7 PM and Fridays, 4 - 8 PM

The Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach is a little out of the way. And, getting there on a Friday afternoon is less than ideal. Fridays on I-5 are not easy...and, Fridays on I-5 when you need to take that last exit before crossing the blue bridge into Vancouver are at least three times worse. But for one weekend out of the year, I find myself driving back and forth to that very hotel to attend the Oregon Education Association Representative Assembly. Sure, I've been there one or two other times (they have a pretty decent Sunday Brunch buffet) but with regularity, the only trips to the Jantzen Beach Red Lion hotel are for the weekend-long assembly.

Knowing that it takes place once a year in their conference area...and, that somewhere around six hundred and fifty teachers show up beforehand to eat dinner (or at least get drinks) might be enough that the restaurant, Shenanigan's, and the lounge, Tuxedo Charley's, would be appropriately staffed. No! Not even close.

In the past, we had eaten dinner in the restaurant part of the hotel. The menu has quite a lot to offer. They call it upscale and the price listings reflect that. There are special cuts of meat, plenty of seafood selections and when your food comes with a baked potato, the server will dress it for you after displaying a tray of topping offerings. Plus, they wear their aprons long. That has always been a sign to me. That, and the food is covered with a metal dish when it first arrives (holding in the heat and smells so that when it is first presented you are hit with a blast of scented steam). Sitting in the lounge, you can choose to order from the bar menu or off of the Shenanigan's menu.

The lounge, referred to as Tuxedo Charley's (not Charley's Tuxedo, silly), they also offer what they call social hours. With a beverage purchase, you can order from the menu listed a variety of (mostly meat-filled) items for $1.95, $2.95 or $3.95. For a vegetarian, like myself, there weren't many options. Onion rings or whiskey mushrooms, if I am remembering correctly. Thus, I made my diner selections from the bar menu...and the regular menu...and then by special request.

I started with a cheese plate. Listed on the bar menu, it had a fancy name and was promised to be served with fruit. What came to the table was the saddest excuse for a restaurant-quality cheese plate I have ever seen. Yes, it had a wedge or two or Brie...but, honestly, I could have put together a better cheese plate with the cheese I have in my own refrigerator. There were plenty of what looked like Swiss and yellow cheese (I can't even call it cheddar) triangles and those two pieces of Brie served with some crusty (dry, not toasted) baguette slices, a quarter of an approaching-the-end-of-the-season apple or two, and some puny grapes (that were far less appealing than those grapes I had packed in my lunch earlier in the day). I, seriously, could get up from my computer, walk to the kitchen, and make something that looks and tastes far better. And, mine wouldn't cost nine dollars.

As there weren't any suitable salads listed on the happy hour menu (and the "white" lettuce that was served to some others at the table as a side to their meal looked a little too disappointing), I ordered the spinach salad from the regular menu. It is meant to be served with prosciutto (which I requested be omitted), roasted red peppers, portobella mushrooms and goat cheese. Although the dressing was a little abundant, I was impressed with the flavor combination and will remember this as the one thing that I can order from the actual menu.

As everyone else at the table continued to dine on prime rib, crab cakes and seafood fettuccine, I was still feeling a bit hungry. (A small spinach salad, a few slices of cheese, and that handful of grapes weren't going to cut it.) I had attempted to order the beer cheese soup but learned that it was made with a pork base. Pork! Why would a beer cheese soup need to be made with a pork base? So, when the gentleman stopped by with one last plate, I made a request for mashed potatoes and asparagus (both things that I saw on the sides of the meaty dishes). This special request turned out to be the best move of the evening.

Paired with my meal (as inconsistent as it was) were two glasses of the house Merlot. Being a full bar, there was a lot I could have ordered...but, I felt that this was the best choice for me. It wasn't anything special but was quite pleasing after a long week of teaching.

Tuxedo Charley's has comfy seats, a great view of the water and live piano music during social hour on Fridays. But, they also have slow service, overpriced food items and a very limited selection for vegetarians.

Food: Nearly Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Does Not Meet
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Does Not Meet



Sunday, April 04, 2010

Dragonfish Asian Cafe - CLOSED

909 SW Park
Happy Hour: Monday - Saturday 4 - 6 PM, Sunday 3 - Close

The happy hour menu at Dragonfish is covered with 2, 3, 4 and 5 dollar food items. It's a great menu with plenty of variety and should please pretty much anyone (even those who--for whatever reason--have sworn off sushi). Plus, they offer these cheap eats EVERY DAY. Cheap drinks, too. There are four to choose from at just five dollars each...but the regularly priced cocktails are worth a look, too.

We decided to hit Dragonfish for dinner prior to a concert on Saturday night. It was fairly empty...despite the advertisements at each table for March Madness deals. (The place is covered with televisions. A sushi sports bar? Who knew!) The server was quick to stop by our table, and returned on a regular basis to see if we wanted more to eat or drink.

I ordered the Guava MaiTai from the five dollar specialty drink menu. It was heavy on the guava flavor (which makes sense, right?) but refreshing and something that I wouldn't mind ordering again in the future. I kind of think that the guava slowed me down and left me with just one drink for the evening. (I did take a few sips off of the other drink at the table, though!) It was bright green and flavored adequately with pineapple juice...a juice that I do love far more than guava. My opinion, of course.

As far as the many small plates of food that were delivered to our table, I especially enjoyed the avocado roll. Four pieces for three dollars might be steep at your neighborhood sushi boat restaurant...but, at Dragonfish the freshness and high quality make that a pretty reasonable price. I ordered two plates.

We also had the veggie salad rolls that had more vegetables in it than I'm used to. The peanut sauce was a little too runny, though, and ran down my salad roll (and could have hit my arm if I wasn't so quick to react) with every bite. The flavor was good, yes, but the mess made it difficult to eat. (If this was our first date and not our 231st--making up that number, of course--this could have been a little embarrassing.)

As a means to fill up (you know how sushi works...the hunger strikes again soon after leaving the restaurant) I also ordered a bowl of miso. It wasn't quite hot enough (something I'm sure that varies with each bowl) but I was also a little disappointed with the miso flavor itself. I'm not sure that it was bad...I think it was just a little weak. That's all.

Despite the few complaints, this place has a lot going for it. It's cheap. The food is fresh. The service is constant...what a grand concept. And, it's most likely going to please the whole crowd. Plus, it's in a great location...just a block or two up from Pioneer Square (which means it's on the Max line).

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


Dragonfish Asian Cafe

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Victory Bar

3652 SE Division St
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 PM

Two things:

1. The spaetzle is AMAZING. From what I can tell looking through to the kitchen, each pan of melted Gruyere goodness is made fresh, then mixed with spaetzle and topped with crispy shallots. Perhaps I'm wrong about how it's made...but it sure does taste freshly made in all of its deliciousness. Every bite is worth the calories, the clogged arteries, and any other body-damaging character that really good cheesy pasta dishes offer. During Happy Hour, you can get a bowl for just five dollars. For two dollars more, you can get it any time the bar is open.

2. The Victory Bar fills up fast on a Friday night. So fast, that you'd better plan to be there when the place opens at five or expect to stand, hovering if you please, waiting for a table to clear. The crowd also brings out the volume of the place. It's LOUD. Like--hear every word that the people at the adjacent tables are saying because they have to shout to be heard--loud. From what I've heard (no, not through the hollers) this place is pretty quiet on a Tuesday or Wednesday...when the spaetzle is just as good.

We walked in to the Victory Bar when it was just beginning to fill up. The server was quick to stop by with water and glasses, and with the menus right there at the table, we were set. The happy hour menu only has three food options...but the regular menu has plenty of cheap eats on it, too. Rather than ordering all at once, we took it one step at a time. First hushpuppies and the spaetzle, then the salad, and finally an order of the weekly sausage special (this week's offering: boar).

The hushpuppies were hot. Luckily, I wasn't the first to bite into one. Waiting just long enough, I was able to bite through the crisp outer layer and into the soft cornbread, mixed with cheese and fresh jalapenos. They were good but a bit overshadowed by the rest of the food. In fact, I had completely forgotten we'd ordered them until I added pictures to this post.

The salad was made with fresh organic greens, sliced radishes and pickled onion and was dressed with a housemade mustard vinaigrette. The flavor, although a bit bitey on its own, went perfectly with the German fare served throughout our meal.

The sausage was served on a bed of red cabbage. If only I had known that they had red cabbage on the menu! I was able to sneak a bite that hadn't yet touched the meat. After that, though, it was pretty well tainted. Too bad! I love, love, love red cabbage.

It's the beer list that makes this place well-known throughout SE Portland (and, all of Portland, I'm sure) but--as I don't drink the stuff--I ordered a glass of the house red wine (at just five dollars) to accompany my meal. It was a Syrah this evening...but, you'll have to ask the server to find out what's on rotation when you are there.

Finding a server might prove to be a bit of a challenge, though. It seems that they are one of those establishments that believes in sharing the tables. All servers help all customers. On a busy night like tonight, the plan was failing. Big time. The food was slow to arrive (even the salad). Our drinks took longer than normal. And, we could have walked out a little sooner (opening up a table for one of the parties waiting at the door) if our check had arrived in a more timely manner. And, it wasn't just our table. I heard the table across from us ask if their order of spaetzle had been completely missed, it took that long to arrive.

In the end, the spaetzle makes up for it all. My suggestion, though, is to try it on a weeknight to avoid the crowd and the excessive noise levels.

Food: Exceeds
Drink: Meets
Service: Does Not Meet
Ambiance: Nearly Meets
Value: Meets


Victory Bar