Sunday, September 05, 2010

Branch Whiskey Bar

2926 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 and 10 - close (11 - close on Friday and Saturday)

Happy Hour does not mean the same thing to everyone. For some it's all about finding the cheapest beer in town or getting a great discount on a usually high-priced cocktail. Others enjoy cheap snacks (you know, the usual pub fare) or even the occasional six-dollar burger (which, for that price has to be covered in cheese and topped with bacon). For myself, I like to find the perfect combination of cheap, cheap, cheap. It's not that I'm cheap. I just like finding the value in things. That's all. I need discounts on food AND drink. And I'm picky (mostly because I'm a vegetarian and need to see a few greens on the menu) which only complicates things. At happy hour this Sunday, I found a whole new take on how things work. Yes, they still had cheap drinks. I enjoyed a nice glass of house red for just five dollars. (And the well drinks were priced at only three.) It was the food discount that didn't quite match up to what I'm used to. It was still a great deal, considering the quality and fantastic's just not how things are usually done. At least not at the sixty-some places I've been to in the last year or so.

If you've been reading for long, you know that I often comment on how easily happy hour can become a meal. That usually requires a whole combination of foods, adding to the total bill. Tonight's dinner was in fact dinner. It was straight from the dinner menu and everything. You see, at Branch Whiskey Bar, they offer discounts straight from the menu (not everything applies, mind you) rather than introducing a whole new short list of the typical happy hour favorites. I didn't know what to expect when we walked in, but I enjoyed every bite and will definitely return in the future. I'll go for dinner, of course, but I'll go for dinner between the hours of five and seven.

The place was fairly empty when we walked in and stayed that way the majority of the time that we were there. There were a few tables of regulars. I could tell by how they occupied the servers with all of their talk. I guess I've been known to do the same thing at certain places, too. I suppose that if there weren't regulars, more and more places would be forced to close their doors. And we don't want that, now do we.

We were promptly greeted by our server who was quick to take our drink orders. I had glanced at the list of cocktails, but went with a glass of the house red based on what I was planning to have to eat. I'd love to go back again and try one of the cocktails listed and I'm sure that I can convince my boyfriend to join me as he was nearly tempted by the flight of whiskey available for just eighteen dollars (which may not sound reasonable...but when you look at what you're getting, it totally is). The house red was nothing special but did go well with the pasta dish I selected.

We decided to share a salad (which is something we do quite often, actually). There were two to choose from but it was obvious to me which one we would be having. I've never been a caesar salad kind of girl, even before I knew about the anchovies. The butter lettuce salad was a perfect choice (for me). I really enjoy butter lettuce because it can be so...well, buttery. My boyfriend claimed that it was a little too buttery, though, and referred to it as velour. I suppose with the creamy kalamata olive dressing, it could have acquired a velvety texture...but I'm not so sure that I'd go as far as to say it felt like fabric. I had never had a kalamata dressing before and was impressed by the flavor. The salad was more than just lettuce (which happens at some places, sadly enough) but came topped with quite a few slices of red onion and a number of grape tomatoes (both red and yellow). I enjoyed every bite, especially how farm-stand fresh the vegetables were.

Not everything on the dinner menu is discounted during happy hour, but the one thing that sounded perfectly tasty to me was. I went with the dish of summer vegetables and orecchiette pasta. It was tossed with a shallot and lemon cream sauce and was so wonderfully yummy. The sauce was a little runny but probably just because of the extra juices from the summer vegetables. They were a mix of zucchini and yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red onions, and corn and they reminded me of the vegetables in my parents' garden--so fresh. And it was topped with grated cheese and some fresh parsley. I loved every bite (except for the super hot bite when the plate was first delivered that caused me to burn my tongue--my fault, of course) and will love what's left in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, too.

My boyfriend had the burger which didn't received the two dollar discount but did come with a substantially-sized patty. Seriously, this thing was huge. He ordered it with cheese (for an extra dollar) but didn't go for the bacon (available for an extra two) and seemed quite pleased in the end. The pickle however (which I'm assuming to be house made) was still in the first of the pickling stages. We all know that pickles come from cucumbers, but rarely is it THAT obvious. Hopefully it was just that particular pickle and not the whole batch.

Service was pretty efficient at the place. It wasn't fantastic but it didn't ever take too long. It was fairly laid back considered the fanciness of the food...but it is just a bar after all. Or at least that's what the sign says. I'm not too sure I believe it, though. The food's just too good. I'll be back...but I think I've already said that.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets (it's a great price for a fancy dinner but you have to know that going in or you might be seriously disappointed)


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