Friday, July 30, 2010

Trebol

4835 N. Albina Ave.
Happy Hour: 5 - 6:30 PM and 9 - close


I think I've found my new favorite food. It's five dollars, served at a restaurant within walking distance of my boyfriend's house, and full of fresh ingredients that I love. Yum, yum, yum. My sister told me this place was good. She's got pretty good taste. I didn't know, though, that the fantastic food options, fresh drinks and frequent happy hours would bring me back two days in a row. The two of us stopped by for dinner. Without even seeing the happy hour menu, I knew I'd be back to try it out soon. I didn't realize that soon meant the very next day. As embarrassing as that sounds, Trebol is one of those places that I will go to again and again. And again. Even if it means going there day after day.


We had spent a good portion of our evening walking through the crowds and past all of the vendors on an extremely busy Last Thursday on Alberta Street. (If you haven't experienced Last Thursday on Alberta, it's time. That street has grown so much since I first moved to the neighborhood in '97.) All of the restaurants and bars on Alberta were full, naturally. So we made our way from Alberta over to Albina. Trebol is located just south of the intersection of Alberta and Albina, close to the main business district on Mississippi. It's super close to two really popular areas of town...so it's easy to get to AND easy to get a table. We got there just as they were starting the second happy hour of the day.

Food and cocktails on the happy hour menu at Trebol are all at about five dollars each. It's a small price for some pretty fantastic food. Their regular menu has entrees starting at $12 and drinks closer to $8. Knowing this, I was afraid that the servings sizes would be too small to suffice. I was wrong.


I ordered a pineapple Caipirinha to start. I've had the regular version of this drink at Trebol and other locations and prefer it to the ultra fruity blend. I guess it's one of those drinks that shouldn't be tampered with...it's best in its original state. I will remember that for next time. (I'm not sure if the people of Brazil would agree with me, though, as it is their official drink.)


My cocktail choice might have been less than spectacular but what I decided on for dinner (with the help of our server) was--by far--one of the best happy hour food items I've ordered in a long, long time. (And working diligently on the food blog during summer break has led me to try a whole lot of things.) I kinda want to go back and get more right now just thinking about it. For dinner, I ordered the five dollar spinach and cheese quesadilla. It doesn't sound like much, I know, but it was amazing. It consisted of layers of sauteed spinach, four corn tortillas (they use the smallest tortillas), and cheese. And it was topped with a big scoop of house-made guacamole. So good! Again, it doesn't sound like much. But it was. It really was. Even the picture is too dark to show you how wonderfully appealing it looked. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (it's a bit dark)
Value: Meets

-b

Trébol

Jake's Famous Crawfish

Jake's Famous Crawfish
401 Southwest 12th Avenue
Happy Hour Daily 3-6 p.m.
Sunday-Thursday 9 p.m.-close
Friday-Saturday 10 p.m.-close

We arrived at Jake's just after 3 p.m. and were lucky to get an outdoor seat for Happy Hour. Jake's has a great Happy Hour food menu. Like McCormick and Schmick's, it has a tiered menu, offering food selections for $1.95, $2.95, $3.95, and $4.95. The catch is that you have to order a drink for at least $3.50, which means if you don't want to drink alcohol you are probably out of luck. This was not a problem for me, though, because in the summer I love nothing more than an afternoon cocktail. I wish that they offered Happy Hour discounts on drinks here (maybe at least one drink special?), but I guess that they get away with it because they have such an extensive cheap food menu.

I ended up starting with a vodka tonic ($6). This drink was pretty standard, and I had a vodka collins ($7) as well. Both were refreshing.


I ended up going with the $2.95 cheeseburger and fries. If you eat meat, this is probably the best value on the menu. This was big enough to fill me up for the evening, and it was really good, too. It was way better than you could get at a fast food place, for about the same price (or cheaper if you go somewhere like Burgerville). I was really impressed.


Even though I was full, I didn't turn down my friend's offer of sharing some spinach/artichoke dip ($1.95). This was good spinach dip with warm tortilla chips. It was pretty standard Happy Hour fare, but the price was definitely right.

Another exciting thing about Jake's was their mini desserts. They had three choices for $3.25 each--creme brulee, berry cobbler, and strawberry shortcake. I ordered the strawberry shortcake, and it was the perfect amount for me since I was already full. I wish more restaurants would offer these mini desserts!


Jake's is a great place if you are in the mood for a Happy Hour that doubles as dinner. If you are in the mood for just a small snack and multiple drinks, it would probably be more cost effective to go somewhere else where you can get cheaper well drinks or drink specials.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets
--E

Jake's Famous Crawfish on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jake's Famous Crawfish

401 SW 12th Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM daily, 9 PM - close Sunday through Thursday, and 10 PM - close Friday and Saturday



Jake's Famous Crawfish is the NEW McCormick and Schmick's. I know that they are, in fact, related and that their menus are practically identical but I didn't realize that something could so easily fill the void when the original McCormick and Schmick's closed. I was in love with the original McCormick's. Okay, maybe that's taking it a bit too far...but I really liked hopping off the MAX for appetizers and fancy cocktails in the bar or dessert and coffee late at night (or sometimes even both). It was a "go to" place for fancy occasions and late night cravings (they had the best bread pudding). Now that I've been to Jake's, I know that everything will be okay. Like most seafood places, I can't order much from the menu but I like the atmosphere (despite the ultra uncomfortable wooden benches), appreciate the fresh citrus drinks, and love that they tempt everyone with a dessert tray at the end of the meal. (I'm a sucker for a dessert tray. If it comes to my table and I can see how scrumptious it looks...I'm gonna order it.)


We made it to Jake's just in time to get a seat outside. This place fills up fast. Plan to get there early or be ready to stand around (possibly even hover) to get a table. I hadn't done as much research ahead of time and needed to take a look through the food offerings before placing my order. I did, however, know exactly what I wanted to drink. I always, always, always ordered the Tom Collins at McCormick's and I will probably always order that here, too. They make it with fresh citrus and that makes all the difference.


I was pretty hungry when we first arrived but decided that I better start off with something small. I ordered the fresh mozzarella bruschetta. I'm fairly certain that they have something just like this listed under appetizers on their regular menu. Of course, their regular menu is printed daily (if not twice daily) and might only have this same bruschetta some of the time. (That's what's nice about this place. Everything is seasonal and fresh, fresh, fresh.) For happy hour, the bruschetta is only $1.95. In fact, all of the vegetarian options for happy hour are just $1.95. The menu is tiered with prices going up one dollar at a time to the fanciest of options. For me, the $1.95 prices meant I'd be eating quite cheaply this time. Even with the drinks included, my bill wasn't too bad at all.


The bruschetta was pretty amazing with reduced balsamic, fresh mozzarella and a tomato mix but I was still a little hungry. I ordered the spinach and artichoke dip to share with everyone at the table. The dip was served with a bucket of chips and had the best salty finish. Of course all that salt led me to want something a bit sweet. Lucky for me, mini desserts are available on the bar menu at Jake's.


I ordered the mini creme brulee. I was so excited when it arrived to the table that I cracked the sugar layer before taking a picture. The brulee was a little colder than I prefer and the layer of sugar was a bit too think in places. I still loved every bite.

Service at Jake's was a little slower today than I've experienced in the past. I'm guessing it had something to do with the crowds of people and the limited number of servers. It's probably typical for happy hour and not something that you'd ever expect in the main dining area of the restaurant. They are a little too classy for that.

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

-b

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Deck

The Deck
2915 NE Marine Drive
Happy Hour 12-6 p.m.

The Deck is definitely a place that is more about atmosphere than about the food. Don't get me wrong, the food was decent, but the real draw here is the novelty of a floating restaurant. My boyfriend and I were able to ride up on his boat, hop out, and sit down outside on the water. To me, this made the visit worthwhile!


Another plus about this restaurant is that they are dog-friendly. We were able to bring my boyfriend's Jack Russell, and the waitress seemed happy to have him as a guest--she even brought him his own little bucket of water. The service here was really friendly and attentive in general.


The Happy Hour specials weren't that great, really, although it is nice that Happy Hour is so lengthy here. There really aren't any healthy choices on the Happy Hour menu, so we went a little crazy ordering extremely unhealthy items. Sometimes you just have to do that in the name of Happy Hour reporting, right?


We ended up ordering the cheeseburger sliders ($5 for two), the chili ($4 ), and the nachos ($5 for a half order). The cheeseburger sliders were my least favorite--they were totally not worth five dollars, and the meat seemed a little on the rare side, which worried me. The chili was pretty good, and it came with a bag of Fritos, which really added to the joy of eating it. The nachos were the best value because they were really big. They weren't the best nachos I have ever had, but they were pretty good.


They offer $1 off on beer and wine and $3.50 well drinks. I got a speciality cocktail ($6.75)--the lava, which was a mix of a pina colada and strawberry margarita. I also got a vodka tonic. My boyfriend was happy with his $2.75 Pacificos.


We were both pleasantly full after our experience at The Deck. If I hadn't ordered the sliders or the lava drink, our visit would have been a much better value for the money. I had a good time here, and I would come back again in the future.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets
--E
The Deck on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pope House Bourbon Lounge

2075 NW Glisan Street
Happy Hour: Monday - Saturday 4 - 7 PM and ALL DAY Sunday


Another ALL DAY happy hour opportunity awaits Portlanders and those who visit this wonderful little city at Pope House Bourbon Lounge every Sunday. I love this concept. Cheap eats and discounted drinks are available from the time they open until the cook goes home. On this sunny afternoon, Pope House was pretty quiet. It's just off of NW 21st which seemed quiet as well. Perhaps it was the heat, as the temperature hit somewhere near ninety today and it hadn't quite cooled off by the time we arrived. Although there are quite a few tables on the patio out front (many of them shaded by the large fig tree at the front of the house), we decided to take advantage of the air conditioning inside.


Signature drinks run at $5 during those three hours every afternoon and all day Sunday. There are also discounts on beer and wine. Although a glass of red wine might have gone better with my dinner selection, I was tempted by the Pimm's Cup listed on the happy hour drink menu. There were a couple of other drinks that caught my eye (including the Kentucky Bramble, which I've tried in the past and liked quite well) but on a hot day, a Pimm's cup can be quite refreshing. This one had a little something extra to it making it less like soda and more like a real cocktail. On a Sunday afternoon, it was almost too much. Almost. I learned while on a cocktail tour in New Orleans that it's best to save that cucumber garnish until last. Allowing it to soak up the Pimm's flavor as you sip your drink gives it the perfect taste and still holds a great crunch for a perfect finish.


For dinner, I had to make a last minute decision. It was so hard to choose between the veggie panini and the four-cheese macaroni. Both were a great price. Both sound ultra cheesy. Both were going to be just enough to tide me over until morning. I went with the macaroni and a side salad off of the regular menu for good measure. The macaroni and cheese was quoted as being "snack size" on the menu and it was exactly that. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be enough. Luckily, we also ordered a plate of sweet potato fries for the table.


The fries were hand-cut, it seemed, and much larger than the typical fry. They were softer than most fries, too. They came with two dipping options, ketchup and something we couldn't quite identify. To be honest, they were a bit too greasy. I was, however, fairly hungry and helped to finish the plate just the same.


This wasn't my first time to Pope House Bourbon Lounge. It was, however, my first time for dinner and my first time during happy hour. There's a big difference between the busy Friday night and the quiet (and nearly empty) Sunday afternoon. On Fridays, there are servers moving in and out the front door keeping glasses full and customers--both in the restaurant and out on the patio--happy. On Sundays (or, at least, this Sunday), you might actually have to go up to the bar to get any attention. We did. I'm hoping that tonight's bartender was just a little too occupied by the group sitting at the bar. They were the only other group there and had obviously started into a conversation before we arrived. It would have been nice, I think, had he kept a better eye on us during our visit. It also would have been nice had he (or perhaps it was the cook who is to blame) not overlooked my order and left me to wait as everyone else at the table started eating.

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

-b

Pope House Bourbon Lounge

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Siam Society - CLOSED

2703 NE Alberta St
Happy Hour: All. The. Time. (Seriously! You just have to sit in the bar or on the patio.)


I've seen happy hour Sundays. Even Happy Hour Mondays. Before today, though, I had never been to a restaurant in the Portland area that serves happy hour priced food and drinks all day, every day. It's fantastic. And, the patio out back is enclosed and super relaxing on a Friday afternoon.


We arrived to Siam Society just as the place was starting to fill up. We were probably one of three tables to start. Odds like that usually make for pretty good service. By the time we left, it was packed. We decided the patio was the place to be on this sunny afternoon. It was a bit breezy at first, but with the menus anchored, it turned out to be the best place to be. The patio was already set for one large party but had tables in and out of the shade all around it. I'm finding more and more enclosed patios around Portland and I love it. Gone are the days when you have to sit street-side to enjoy the sunny outdoors while enjoying a refreshing beverage.


We started with drink orders and then spent our time perusing the menu. It's worth a look at both sides (happy hour and not) as the appetizer prices are fairly similar and provide you with a little more variety. Not that the happy hour menu doesn't offer variety as is. They have a wide range of flavors (for both the meat and non-meat eaters) with a good range of prices as well. We ended up ordering from both menus, for drinks and food alike.



I started with a Caipirinha. It's a drink I remember trying for the first time at Andina last summer. Why haven't I ordered more since? (Probably because I can't pronounce it.) This time, it was garnished with a piece of sugar cane. I also had the ginger-infused cosmopolitan. The ginger was definitely there but not too strong and mixed well with the sweetness of the cranberry juice and triple sec. The specialty cocktails are not discounted during happy hour and--at eight dollars each--can quickly add up. There are, however, discounts on well drinks and wine.


For dinner, we shared a number of plates. We started with an order of Tofu Fries, the Thai Street Wrap and--from the regular menu--the salad rolls. The Tofu Fries were a big hit. (Which is pretty huge coming from the two meaters at the table!) It was the total combination that made them such a success. They were marinated and tossed with fresh mint, fried to the perfect texture (and chewiness), and served with a sauce so good that it led to frequent double dipping. The Thai Street Wrap was similar to the breakfast burrito I make at home but with an added punch of spice. Even the cabbage served on the side had a layer of spice to it. The salad rolls were perfectly presented, served with a side of peanut sauce, and held together quite well. Unlike the last place I had salad rolls, these were quite tasty.


There was also a plate of potstickers on the table that I didn't bite into (obviously). Stuffed with chicken and veggies, they seemed to be well-liked as they were dipped and devoured quite quickly.


After spotting the many plates being delivered to the tables surrounding ours, we decided on one last thing before leaving. The sweet potato fries at the Siam Society are unlike any I've had before. They are most definitely the tempura version of a fry but with a crispy salted finish. These fries were not on the happy hour menu (other than an optional accompaniment when ordering a burger) but well worth the six-dollar price tag.


Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (especially when ordering the happy hour discounted drinks)

-b

Siam Society

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Equinox

No830 N Shaver
Happy Hour: Tuesday - Friday, 4 - 6 PM


My boyfriend recently moved into the Mississippi neighborhood. He's been there for a couple of months now...and during that time, we've walked from Fremont to Skidmore a dozen or so times, checking the menus posted on windows and doors along the way. We walked by the main gate to Equinox a few weeks back and when I spotted the happy hour menu, I knew that this was a place we should review (and, soon).


Equinox has a beautiful courtyard-esque patio for summer dining. We got there just as they were opening and were able to get a table that was still half covered by the sun. (A request of mine that I quickly regretted.) Within the hour, the sun had moved past the neighboring building and was no longer an issue. It was still warm and beautiful, but we no longer needed to shade our eyes from the sun's rays.

The happy hour menu at Equinox is two sided. The drink specials, on the back, include beer, wine and well drinks at a discounted price but also specialty cocktails for only $4.50 each. As we were there for a good portion of the afternoon (and I knew I'd be walking back to the house), I was able to try three different cocktails. One of them was shared a bit by others at the table...but, I was able to get enough of a taste to include it in this review.


I started with the French Kiss. It was a little too sweet for some people, but something that I could easily finish. Served in a martini glass, the French Kiss is a mix of vodka, strawberry puree and fresh lemon juice. I'm assuming that the strawberries were fresh (as it's the end of the season and the Equinox website boasts the use of local ingredients) and that added to the sweetness of the drink. I also had a No Po Manhattan. Whiskey is not something that I usually order on my own (I actually didn't order it today, either, but was traded for my "better" choice) but have tasted many times. It's a favorite of my boyfriend's and every time he orders something that sounds the least bit appealing, I take a sip or two. I figure it's like red wine. I didn't like that at first and now it's like a staple in my house. The No Po Manhattan is a mix of cherry puree, vermouth and whiskey (obviously). I finished it...but, probably wouldn't order it again just because I'm not ready to drink more than two sips of whiskey at a time (yet!). My third drink (I think it was the low price and wide selection that convinced me it was okay to try a third drink) was a lime gimlet. As my boyfriend reminded me, this is the drink that they had so often in the book (and movie) Julie and Julia. It was good. A perfect lime treat, I think. And, since lime is my favorite citrus flavor, I think I'll start ordering these more often. (Perhaps I'll start a special gimlet review to see who makes the best one!)


Like with the drinks, I was able to taste many different food items. That happens when you go out to eat with your favorite people. You can reach across the table and take from their plates without much fuss. (It's also especially nice when they love you enough to order vegetarian items so that everything can be shared.) The Equinox Happy Hour menu has a lot to offer with prices ranging between two and six dollars. (Okay, $6.50 if you count the cheeseburger...but, I'd never order that.)


I started with an order of the Mushroom Crisps. The menu description didn't give me much of an idea as to what made these crispy. I get it now. And, looking at the picture, you will too. I've only had mushroom crisps at one other place...and they were nothing like these. They were good though, don't get me wrong. The Gorgonzola was a bit strong for some people but I enjoyed the bite that this cheese added. The accompanying sauce, however, wasn't really necessary. It was some sort of sweet chile ailoi...which to me just means flavored mayonnaise. And, mayonnaise on a hot day isn't that appealing.


After the crisps, we shared the Chick Pea Crepe, the Penne Rigate, and a plate of asparagus. The Chick Pea Crepe was my favorite item but didn't amount to too many bites when sharing. It was stuffed with (more) asparagus, basil and goat cheese. It was also topped with a mix of field greens making it difficult to get a good look at it in the picture. The Penne Rigate was tasty. It reminded me of a Puttanesca sauce without the capers. There were artichoke hearts and kalamata olives combined into a fresh tomato sauce. And, it was covered with cheese. Yum! My only concern (and it's something that really surprised me) was that the kalamata olives were not pitted. That's something I only expect when ordering olives. Plain olives. Biting into a pasta dish without some sort of disclaimer could potentially lead to a troublesome dining experience.


According to some of the reviews I've read about Equinox (and some that I've just heard word-of-mouth), service isn't their strong suit. I'm guessing that, like so many places, they had to make a few cutbacks in order to stay afloat. So, that means that they are understaffed. I can accept that. I wasn't in any hurry. The sun was out, the servers stopped by frequently to take drink orders and make sure we didn't need anything more...the only issue was the time it took for the food to be ready. But, it's summer break and I'm feeling beyond patient. I can wait.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Nearly Meets (they're doing their best...they just need more people to do it)
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets

-b

Equinox

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bernie's Southern Bistro

2904 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: Tuesday - Sunday, 4 - 6 PM


After having spent the last year or so blogging about happy hour deals in the Portland area, I've had a few people come to me (as the "expert") to see where I suggest they take out-of-towners, big groups, etc. There are two places that top my list and Bernie's is one of them. For the majority of the year, it's a tie for first. (Both of them serve southern food, interestingly enough.) During the summer months, Bernie's is definitely in the lead as they have the BEST patio in all of Portland, in my opinion.

I'm not sure why it's taken so long to write a review of Bernie's Southern Bistro. It's been the place to go for years now. We often go as an entire family and it's been the birthday restaurant-of-choice for parties large and small at least three times, if not four. You're welcome to keep reading, of course...but you might as well know now that everything I write from here on out is going to be extremely positive (and this is based on more than one visit...which makes it even more accurate).


Bernie's closes the main part of their restaurant during the summer months so that they can better serve customers on the patio out back. The patio is enclosed, covered with comfortable seating and umbrellas to provide shade on the hot days, and is equipped with a full bar. And, it's huge, which means you'll rarely have a hard time getting a seat during happy hour. And, no worries for those staying for a late dinner as there are heat lamps out there to keep you warm when needed. (Portland summers can be pretty unpredictable...especially this year.)

I knew exactly what I wanted to order when I first sat down (that's just how many times I've been to Bernie's) but decided I'd better explore the happy hour menu a bit (just to keep things authentic, you know). The happy hour menu is pretty complete with plenty of food items--even dessert--and drink specials, too. With all of us, we probably ordered just about everything on that menu (minus the fried pickles--which I've had before).



I started with a plate of the spinach cakes. No, they are not on the happy hour menu. But, I love love love them. They are on the appetizer menu and a good price for the size. Plus, they are creamy and delicious. Creamy is not an adjective I hear a lot when reading about spinach cakes (creamed spinach, sure, but not the cakes) but these really are. And, they are coated with a panko crust (or something similar to that) giving them a perfect combination of textures.


After finishing the spinach cakes, I decided to order a salad from the happy hour menu to complete my meal. This salad is more than just lettuce and dressing (but, their salad dressings are house-made and pretty fantastic). You can choose to have your salad topped with a piece of fried chicken or a stack of fried green tomatoes. I, of course, went with the tomatoes. It makes for a pretty substantial salad and probably could have been enough to make a meal without the spinach cakes.


We also ordered a plate of fried okra to share as a table. They were topped with a whole lot of paprika (causing me to be in need of a few extra napkins) and served with a remoulade. I also seem to remember taking a bite of someone's mac and cheese and a few of their sweet potato fries, too. All of these were super tasty and make me want to return REALLY soon so I can order everything that I didn't have today.


To help wash down all of these good flavors, I first ordered a Key West Martini. It's a mix of vanilla vodka, fresh lime juice and a little Tuaca and made for a very refreshing lime treat. As a martini, it comes served in the traditional martini glass with an additional tiny carafe waiting on ice for when you are ready. Ordered on the rocks, though, made it even more refreshing on this hot summer day. After the martini (and a whole lot of conversation) I ordered a Carolina Lemon Cooler. It is, by far, my favorite drink on the menu. Also a mix of vanilla vodka and citrus...this is one of those drinks that I try to replicate at home because it's that good.

Service at Bernie's is always pretty excellent. Most of the people working there--including my favorite bartender--have been there for years. They seem to all genuinely enjoy what they do and work hard to make the meal (and the whole experience) completely enjoyable for their customers, too.

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

-b

Bernie's Southern Bistro