Saturday, August 28, 2010

Candy - CLOSED

31 NW 9th Ave
Happy Hour: Monday - Saturday, 3 - 7 PM


This place really does live up to its name. The servers wear bright red tops, the decor is covered with all the sweet stuff you can imagine and the drinks are like sugar. Sugar with alcohol, but still SUGAR.

We walked in to find red tables and booths mostly empty but mostly reserved for later in the evening. It's definitely a night time place. In fact, we heard the servers preparing for a party of seventy coming in later for some sort of celebration. I can only imagine that this place is taken over by bachelorette parties on most Saturday nights. Thankfully, we were there around six and didn't have to fight any crowds to get a good seat.

The booths have built-in computers and drew us in right away. The computers are fully equipped to keep you entertained if the people watching and sparkly decor is not enough. We played a couple of rounds of Mahjong while we waited for our drinks.


The drink menu is loaded with sweet options. During happy hour there are at least nine different cocktails to choose from for just five dollars each. This is a great discount considering that the other side of the menu contains a dozen or more options for twice the price. Almost everything is fruity and bright on arrival. We tried three different drinks, the electric lemonade, a pineapple martini and the red riviera. All were bright in color, sweet in taste and as easy to drink as you can imagine from looking at the picture.


To go with the excessive colors of our drinks, I also ordered an appropriately themed item off of the food menu. The Red, White and Blue Salad was just four dollars and filled with dried cranberries, fresh blueberries and goat cheese. The blueberries were a little past their prime and I wasn't a big fan of the viniagrette, but enjoyed the overall flavor of this salad.

Service was quick and easy during happy hour. There were plenty of employees gearing up for a busy night, but our server was there for us and not just to prepare for what was in store for the evening. And although the crowd of seventy started pouring in before we left, we were able to get our bill and be on our way before things got to be too busy.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (be prepared for a lot of shiny red)
Value: Meets

-b

Candy on Urbanspoon

Life of Riley

300 NW 10th Ave
Happy Hour: Daily, 4 - 7 PM


They call it the casual alternative in the Pearl and that's exactly what it is. They've got comfy booths, outdoor seating, a fully-stocked bar and a menu that includes fresh approaches to typical pub fare plus some tasty veggie alternatives. And they've got fun fun fun and games in the basement. It's a great place for a crowd, late at night or when the sun's still out and the food specials are aplenty.


I was totally impressed with the food I selected off of their happy hour menu. It wasn't just the tofu (in fact, on its own those little bits might have been a little too plain) but the total flavor combination that made the tofu tacos so very good. The tofu was chopped and topped with red onions, pepper jack cheese, fresh pico-de-gallo, and a creamy cilantro crema. They were served in pairs with a little lime garnish for just four dollars and made me as happy as can be. Yum!


My boyfriend ordered a plate of the piglets in blankets. They were super cute (but something I wouldn't eat) and served with ketchup and a stone ground mustard. I did take a little nibble of the doughy "blanket" and was impressed with its homemade flavor. These are most definitely not poured onto a baking sheet straight from the freezer bag. Now, if only I can convince them to make a meatless version, too.


There were plenty of fancy cocktails on the menu (most around $7.50) but I decided to go with the ol' standby. Yep, that's right, a gin and tonic with extra lime. It was as it always is...super refreshing and totally my style. This time, however, it was an extremely full glass making the value that much greater.

Service was pretty good at the Life of Riley. I'm sure it's a different story when the place fills up at night, but for our daytime visit, our server took great care of us. She was patient as we tried to make up our minds and came back to check on our drink status on a fairly regular basis.

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

-b

Life of Riley on Urbanspoon

Rock Bottom Brewery

206 Southwest Morrison Street
Happy Hour 2-6 p.m.

I have been to Rock Bottom Brewery lots of times, but I have never had the chance to go for happy hour before. My mom and I decided to meet on Thursday to try it out since she works right nearby, and it is a stop on the MAX line, making it easy to get there for me.

Rock Bottom has discounts on drinks at happy hour ($3 well drinks, $4 beers, and $5 wine) and very reasonably priced food items as well. I really like it when places have tiered food menus, and Rock Bottom has items ranging from $1.95-$3.95. We each ordered one item from the $1.95 section (house made guacamole and a house salad) and one from the $3.95 section (grilled chicken sliders and nachos). There is a one drink requirement, so we both ordered the wheat beer.

I really only ordered the house salad in an attempt to eat some veggies. I have been on a really unhealthy food path lately, so it felt like the right thing to do. It was enjoyable and did the job, but it wasn't anything special. I have had some pretty good house salads at happy hours this summer (Hopworks Urban Brewery comes to mind), and this one didn't compare. It was a great price, though!

The house made guacamole was pretty good, although the chips were a little bit too salty.

I didn't try the sliders, but my mom said they were good. She didn't like the fries as well as the sandwiches, however.

My favorite meal of the night was definitely the nachos. I paid an extra dollar to add chicken to them (you could also add guacamole or beef instead), and it really made a difference. With black beans, tomatoes, jalapenos and cheese, these were pretty good.

Even though I had plenty to eat with the two food items I ordered, my mom and I still wanted dessert. The dessert menu had the perfect choices for us--two mini desserts for only $2.50 each. My mom got the mini strawberry cheesecake and I got the mini pint glass sundae. We were both too into our own desserts to try each others, but they were the perfect ending to the evening.

I thought that the service was good here, too. The only complaint I have was that it took awhile to get the bill at the end, but by that time the bar area was extremely busy. We each had multiple drinks and food orders, and overall I thought our server did a good job!

Overall, Rock Bottom has a fun, laid back atmosphere. I really had a great time hanging out here with my mom. It's a good place to go for Happy Hour, especially if you are downtown and want to avoid spending a ton of money. I will definitely be back.

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

Rock Bottom Brewery on Urbanspoon

--E

Lotus Cardroom and Cafe

932 SW 3rd Avenue
Happy Hour: Monday - Saturday, 3 - 7 PM (discounts on food and drinks)
Monday - Saturday, 9 - close (discounts on food only)

We spent the early part of our afternoon on the Portland Spirit for the Friday Early Escape Cruise. It was a beautiful trip and well worth the discounted price of the tickets we bought earlier in the summer through a Living Social deal. After the two-hour ride, though, we were quite hungry. The boat docked at the Salmon Street Fountain along the waterfront and we quickly made our way to the Lotus for happy hour.


The Lotus offers happy hour discounts twice a day, Monday through Saturday. The drink specials are, however, only available during the afternoon. The discounted drinks don't include any type of fancy cocktails but do include great deals. I ordered my usual gin and tonic (with extra lime) for just three dollars. (I also ordered a second one later on. It's a great discount!)


The food menu has plenty to choose from for a vegetarian. Healthy options are harder to find, but I'm okay going the fried route now and then. We ordered five things in total (four that I could pick from) and shared them between the three of us.


My first bite was one of the nachos. It was a smaller plate of nachos but came with enough cheese-laden chips to make everyone happy. (I'm always afraid to order nachos out as they so often only have any of the good stuff across the top layer. These were not like that.) The multi-colored chips were covered with refried beans, jalapenos (which most of us picked right off), black olives, cheese, salsa and sour cream. They were a bit messy, but worth the need for an extra napkin.


The wedge salad (with the bacon on the side) was covered in a blue cheese dressing that could have been of a higher quality. The blue cheese crumbles were great and helped to alleviate the tang from the dressing. They had tossed on some red onion (which I could handle because it was such a small amount) and some grape tomatoes (which I could have eaten more of--I'm not sure why restaurants are so stingy with tomatoes). The bacon on the side made my boyfriend happy as he could then use it to top off his sliders, making them a little bit more than the typical teeny tiny hamburger.


Those teeny tiny hamburgers were awfully cute this time. I love that they are showing up on so many menus across town. (They really do remind me a lot of the movie Batteries Not Included. So cute!) They make for the perfect little bite. Both meaters said that they enjoyed them. (They also both added a little bacon and, I think, some blue cheese from the extras left from the wedge salad making them taste that much better.)


The quesadilla was probably my favorite choice of the afternoon. It was filled with black beans, jalapenos (which were chopped up enough that I didn't have to pick them out), green onions, ranchero sauce (I don't know what that is, but I think it's what made it so tasty), olives, cheddar and pepperjack cheese. The quesadilla was cut into four triangles, arranged nicely on a rectangular plate and drizzled with chipotle sour cream. It had a good flavor, not too much spice (at all) and was more filling than most of the other food items we'd selected.


It was the spinach artichoke dip that I didn't try more than two small bites of. I've had a lot of spinach dips while blogging, most of them mixed with artichoke hearts and most of them served warm. Some are amazing (like last week at the Tin Shed or during our first summer at Sapphire hotel) and some are just so so. This dip was something that I couldn't even help to finish. It had a funny tang. I've noticed something similar at a few other places. It's something I can't quite place. Here, though, it was so strong that I couldn't eat another bite. I'm pretty sure that the others were in agreement as it was the only thing left on the table by the end of happy hour.

Service at the Lotus was great. We were able to find a table out on the sidewalk and stayed even though the temperature has dropped recently and the wind had picked up. The server was quick to greet us and returned plenty of times to see what else we might need. I think that she was covering the majority of the outdoor seating, making her busy but totally efficient.

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

-b

Lotus Cardroom & Cafe

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A second look at Departure

525 SW Morrison Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM

We arrived at Departure promptly at four to find that the best of the outdoor seating had already been taken. Apparently you have to get there super early to get the good seats. With the temperature in the nineties, we opted to sit inside after spending just a few minutes out on the balcony overlooking the buildings of downtown Portland. It's a great view from the fifteenth floor of the old Meier and Frank building (and the new Nines Hotel)...but it's not worth the heat or the potential sunburn. Thankfully this place offers a late night menu as well, which has more to it than the happy hour menu. We'll have to try it again when we can enjoy a cool night and the sparkle of the city lights.


The theme at Departure is done fairly well. The servers all matched in their flight attendant style. (It really did remind me of the signature blue skirt suits worn by the KLM flight attendants.) The hallways were even narrow like that of a plane, and I swear I had to step over other people's feet to get to the restroom.


We had ordered drinks while sitting out in the heat. Moving inside caused a bit of a setback with servers, it seemed. Our original server brought our drinks but we were left for quite a while before anyone asked if we would be interested in ordering something to eat as well. I attributed this to our moving, but noticed that the service following our move wasn't what it could have been. There were plenty of servers in all, and they seemed quite knowledgeable when delivering our food (they announce every little thing) but they weren't as quick to check up on us when our glasses emptied or when it was obvious that we were ready for the bill.


The happy hour menu includes both discounts on drinks and food. There are five dollar glasses of wine--both red and white--as well as a bubbly option, and they've got one specialty cocktail of the day for the same price. Today's cocktail was a mix of gin, something fruity that I thought was Framboise when it was first described to us but heard something totally different when it was said a second time by a second server, and lemon and lime juices. (I might be missing something. It's much easier to share when I see it on a menu rather than just hear it from the server.) I do know--with confidence--that it was very similar to a sweet tart. It was part fruit and part fizz. It was refreshing and I saw a lot more go out on trays so I'm guessing it was well-liked by others as well.


The happy hour menu had just a couple of vegetarian options but I was pleased to learn that the Maki Sushi roll of the day was something I could eat. It was a roll of asparagus, cucumber and daikon radish with a mustard sauce. Like all sushi, it was presented nicely with the cutest little pot of soy sauce on the side. I was apparently too hungry to remember to take a picture and am now almost too embarrassed to show you the half-eaten plate in an excessively cropped picture. (Yikes! How could I forget, this is business...not dinner.) The sushi was fresh and the vegetables had a great crunch to them but I'm afraid that the mustard completely overpowered the other flavors and ruined the overall flavor quality. I was disappointed with this but also with the price. Seven dollars would seem appropriate for a roll that included tuna or salmon but was a bit steep for a few veggies rolled together with rice. Even considering the mark up for being in a classy place with a beautiful view, this was a bit excessive.


I also ordered a dish of Wok Fired Mushrooms. It was a mix of mushrooms and green onions and was obviously cooked with a whole lotta soy sauce. I love salty things but this was almost over the top.

In the end, I spent too much for too little. I am always really impressed when I can go out for happy hour in the afternoon and not show any signs of hunger for the remainder of the evening. After happy hour at Departure, I was ready for dinner. I would like to give it a second chance but will go in after a full meal for fancy drinks, a great view, and time spent with friends.

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

-b

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Departure

525 SW Morrison St.
Happy Hour 4- 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Departure isn't the typical Portland bar/restaurant. Nothing about it is makes me think of Portland, but I guess that is the point. At the top of The Nines hotel, Departure is a rooftop bar that is set up to make you feel like you are leaving the city. Upon arrival you feel as if you are walking down a runway to a plane. When you do actually get to the restaurant, there are waitresses dressed up as retro flight attendants. The rooftop seating has a great view, and everything feels very chic.


The swanky atmosphere does come with a price, but it wasn't too bad. Maybe a little bit more than I wanted to spend for happy hour, but to be fair I ended up ordering some items that weren't on the HH menu.


Departure has daily drink specials for $5 each, including beer, red and white wine, sparkling wine, shochu, sake, and a cocktail special. I started with a glass of white wine. This was a standard Chardonnay, but it really hit the spot on such a hot day. Later on I also got the daily bubbles special, which was Prosecco.


My friends were all able to find something that appealed to them on the happy hour menu, but I guess I was being a little picky. I ended up ordering two items off the regular menu since nothing really appealed to me. The first was a very interesting salad ($7). This salad might not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. It has carrots, avocado, ginger, sweet pickles, croutons, and some sort of delicious vinaigrette. If I was on a date I might be worried about the little black seeds getting stuck in my teeth, but since I was with my girlfriends I just asked them to tell me if my teeth were in the clear. (Please remind me to tell you about the time that I went on an Internet first date for sushi and realized when I went to the bathroom at the end that I had sushi rice stuck in my teeth the whole time. And I think that's why he didn't ask for a second date. Whoops, I just told you the whole story!)


My second item was a citrus salmon roll ($9). This was very delicious and fresh. Sushi almost always looks pretty when it comes out, and this roll was no exception. I enjoyed it a lot.


My friend ordered the chicken samosas ($6) and the wok fired mushrooms ($5) from the happy hour menu. As you may be able to see from the picture, these items were pretty small. I didn't taste the samosas, but she said they were spicy. The mushrooms were pretty good (I tried a small one), but I don't know that I would want more than a few.


Unfortunately, $26 dollars plus tip later, I was still hungry. Don't worry--a pretzel at the mall solved that problem!

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

--E

Departure on Urbanspoon

Island Cafe

250 N. Tomahawk Island Dr.
Portland, Oregon 97217


Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3-6 p.m.

Island Cafe is a floating outdoor restaurant on the Columbia River. It can be accessed by car or boat, and it is one popular place! I met a group of people for Happy Hour at around 4:30 on a Tuesday, and it quickly became so full that there was a wait to get in.


We got a seat at the bar, but I was at the end of the group so sometimes I wasn't able to participate in the conversation. What was interesting for me, though, was that I was right next to the place where people came up to order drinks. I am pretty entertained by people watching, and I am also pretty nosy, so this quickly became a sociological experiment. One of the first things I noticed was how few people say please and thank you...in the hour or more that we were there, I only heard two people say please. There were more thank yous, but overall I was pretty appalled by how many people just barked out their drink orders at the bartenders. "Yes, I'll have an IPA and a Corona." No please, no thank you. Ugh. I also noticed that many of these people were bad tippers. Which brings me to an interesting question--what is the proper etiquette for tipping when you are getting drinks? Some people feel it is one dollar per round, regardless of how many drinks you ordered. Other people seem to think it is one dollar per drink. Still others follow the 15-20% rule that they normally adhere to at a restaurant. During my observation at this particular place, some people seem to feel no tip or a fifty cent tip is acceptable as well. I'm eager to hear opinions on this issue.


Bad manners aside, the Island Cafe had really nice, awesome bartenders. They were friendly, checked in regularly, and put up with people whose parents apparently forgot to teach them the magic word. I liked them a lot.


As far as drink specials go, it was unclear to me exactly what the Happy Hour deal was. I think it was $1 off of draft beer, but I wasn't sure about mixed drinks. This meant that my boyfriend's IPA was $3.50, which wasn't a bad deal. I got a Corona (another side note here--is Corona really on par with PBR or Coors Light? I always thought it tasted way better, but the people I was with argued that if you put a lime into either of the other two the taste would be identical). Ok, I actually got multiple Coronas ($3.50).


I forced my boyfriend to order the pulled pork sliders ($4.95) even though he wasn't hungry. The things he does for our Happy Hour blog! These were just okay. There were only two, were pretty salty, and you had to put the extra BBQ sauce and coleslaw on yourself. Not good for lazy people like me.


I ordered off the regular menu. I got the corn dog and fries ($4.95). Corn dogs bring back happy memories of my favorite kind of school lunch when I was a kid, so I can rarely resist them when they are an option on the menu. This corn dog was exactly how a corn dog should be. The fries left something to be desired though. They had this crunchy batter on the outside that was somewhat tasteless. I didn't like them at all.


Based on our experience here, Island Cafe is one of those places that you go to more for the atmosphere than for the food. The food wasn't memorable, but it's fun for people watching, has good service, and it gives you that island feeling of being on vacation. It was a fun place that I wouldn't mind going to again.


Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (some drinks are a little pricey for what they are)

--E

Island Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 22, 2010

H5O Bistro and Bar

50 SW Morrison Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 7 PM, 9 - close, and ALL DAY on Sunday



H5O has been on my happy hour to do list for a number of weeks, but as it's right across from the Tom McCall Waterfront Park (which houses so many of the summer events in Portland) I had to pick just the right weekend to avoid any major rushes (and parking difficulties). This past Friday was a perfect day to stop in.


They offer happy hour pretty consistently throughout the evening. Basically, if you avoid those two hours between seven and nine you'll be set for great prices. I suppose stepping foot into the regular dining area will increase the price just a bit, too. There are menu cubes scattered throughout the bar. It's a cute concept, using picture cubes that way. It's just too bad that their offerings are repeated three times to cover the entire surface area. If only they had more drink specials, they could fill every square.


The limited drink offering was really the only thing that I was disappointed with at happy hour today. I had spent a long day at school (preparing for the upcoming school year) and was a little too tired for a glass of wine. (Too bad, because it's generally a safe bet.) Since I didn't want to fall asleep at the table, I ordered a Blueberry Press. It was light and refreshing, made with blueberry vodka, sprite and club soda but it seemed a little heavy on the club soda. Perhaps I'm too sensitive to the stuff. I have been having a hard time with carbonation lately.

At the table, there were two other drinks ordered. The white wine was a chardonnay that day and just six dollars for a pretty generous pour. The Jack and the Giant Peach was also six dollars down from its usual ten dollar price tag and probably the best choice made at the table.

I was starving upon arrival and ready to eat just about every veggie option listed on the menu cube. It was difficult deciding because everything sounded SO GOOD. In the end, my selection came partially from the suggestion of the server and even more so after seeing what was delivered to the table next to us.


I started with a green bean salad. It was dressed with a whipped Dijon mustard and had a few red onions and sliced radishes mixed in as well. The interesting part (which looks a little silly from the picture) was the soy cloud. I wasn't sure what to expect hearing that there was going to be a cloud atop my dish, but I went with it. Apparently, the cloud is hiding all of the seasonings and must be mixed in before taking the first bite. I did as I was told and enjoyed every bite (even the red onions, which is a little unusual for me). My guess is that the cloud is some sort of fluffed up soy sauce concoction, as that's kinda what it tasted like.


Following the cloudy salad, I had a bowl of pasta. It was originally to come with some sort of meat, but when I asked if it would do on its own the server dais YES. She actually commented that the meat is just a teeny portion on the very top and doesn't add too much to the dish at all. I loved the flavor but found the sauce to be a bit too runny. Thankfully, the pasta shape itself made it easy to scoop up more sauce and enjoy every bite.


Also ordered at the table was a blue cheese burger. This thing was HUGE for only six dollars and full of flavors. The burger was topped with blue cheese, caramelized onions and mushrooms. From what I heard (NO! I didn't take a bite), the burger itself could have been better. The meat wasn't the best and it wasn't exactly cooked to order.


Another dinner option selected that evening was the PDX roll. It's always funny to see sushi mixed in with burgers--on the menu and on the table--but I suppose the variety pleases the customers and, as a restaurant, that's exactly what you've got to do. The PDX roll looked yummy and, like most sushi, was presented beautifully.

The server that night did a great job keeping up with all of our requests. She came by often before all three of us were there to make sure that everyone was happy. There were a lot of servers in the place by the time we left, getting ready for the dinner hour, I suppose. I especially loved that they were all wearing the same pin stripe shirt. So classy! I guess that's what you get at a hotel restaurant in downtown Portland.

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

-b

H5O bistro & bar