Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bernie's Southern Bistro Update

2904 NE Alberta St.
Happy Hour Tuesday-Sunday 4-6 p.m.

*Sadly, this entry doesn't have any pictures because I took them with my phone and haven't figured out how to upload them!

My co blogger did a review of Bernie's over the summer, but I wasn't able to attend due to my pneumonia. I had been here a few times before but didn't love it as much as she did (other than the Carolina Cooler, quite possibly the best drink ever). I liked my food, and I thought the service was good, but I wasn't blown away.

However, I feel the need to update because I had such a great happy hour experience there. We arrived right after it opened and sat at the bar. What a wonderful bartender! She was so nice and friendly without being over the top or pushy in any way. She was definitely the highlight of our time here--I almost wonder if she is my co blogger's "favorite bartender" that she mentioned in her entry because she was awesome.

My boyfriend and his friend ordered Guinness (sadly, there are no beers on tap here) while I tried two of the special Happy Hour cocktails. I got the Southern Belle ($5) which was very refreshing. A gin drinker would probably really enjoy this one because you can taste the gin without it being too overwhelming. I loved the raspberry flavor. I also ordered the Key Lime Cooler. This drink was magical because it was one of those +1 drinks that I adore. It came with a little carafe on ice that had extra drink. Why can't all drinks be like this? It charms me every time. This drink also was made with vanilla vodka which gave it an amazing flavor.

I ordered sweet potato fries ($3) and my boyfriend's friend ordered a meatloaf sandwich ($3). He enjoyed it (I would never order meatloaf because I hate it with a passion). The sweet potato fries were really good. They came with a really delicious smoked tomato sauce that I couldn't get enough of. The bartender also surprised us with a plate of the fried okra. She overheard me trying to convince my boyfriend to order it since we had never had it, so she made us some! I thought that was really nice, and it was a really interesting treat. I liked it especially when I dipped it in the tomato sauce from the sweet potato fries. It was fun trying something new.

Before you think that I loved our bartender so much just because she gave us something for free, I have to say that she was great about checking in with us and giving regular water refills. She just seemed to really be a people person who enjoys her job and does it really, really well. She also had no idea that we were there to start my boyfriend's birthday celebration, yet she made it a really nice experience for him.

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

--E

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Casa Naranja, a third look

4205 North Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM



Orange house for those of you who don't speak Spanish.

It's a cute bungalow style house on Mississippi st. (I wondered if the man who runs the restaurant lives upstairs?) It was a cold, rainy day when we visited, so we didn't get to sit outside. I'm coming back to sip on a few sangrias during the summer, though. There are hammocks and lots of seating outside in the back.

The inside ambiance is average. The lighting was a little low and the music a little loud, but at least they were playing some good tunes.

The happy hour drink menu was 2.50 well drinks and 1 dollar off specialty drinks. I had the sangria ($5). It was one of the best sangrias I have ever had. It came with a piece of orange on the edge of the glass with cinnamon sprinkled on it. The mix of the cinnamon and the sangria was divine. Every sip I took brought me closer to total relaxation.


The HH food menu had several choices. I ordered the chicken stuffed peppers ($7). They were two smaller red chili peppers (not spicy, but unsure of the name) stuffed with ground chicken and seasonings. They were breaded and deep-fried. They were delicious. It kind of reminded me of our homemade stuffed green peppers except my stuffed peppers are assembled by a newbie and these peppers were done by an artisan, and you could taste the difference (thank you, chef!). They came with a little bit of some sort of sweet sauce drizzled along the edge of the plate. I'm a saucy girl and would have liked more sauce so I could have a dab with each bite of the peppers. I really enjoyed this upgraded version of some home cooked comfort food.

Overall I really enjoyed this HH and restaurant.

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

-O

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another look at Sidecar 11

3955 North Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM (closed Tuesdays)

This is one of those places that you have to know about before going in. It's a good size once you're inside, but it's WAY TOO easy to walk by (even if you are in search of a good place for dinner and/or drinks). Even knowing the address might not be enough...so from now on, when people ask, I will refer to it as the bar to the left of Gravy. There's another bar (with similar issues) to the right of Gravy. They are both good, but this one might be better. In fact, I know it is.


We stopped in for happy hour soon after they opened. (The entire establishment has only been open for a couple of weeks.) It was quiet when we got there, but picked up quickly. I have a feeling that it's going to fill up and be constantly packed before too long (assuming, of course, that people can find it). It's a perfect little neighborhood place and worth the drive (and the trouble of parking on Mississippi) for those who aren't so fortunate to live in the neighborhood, too.


There were two men working behind the bar. From what I can tell, one is the official owner but they both take quite a bit of responsibility for the place. They seemed more than knowledgeable about the drinks they were serving and the food that was offered.


I had a hard time selecting a drink from the cocktail menu. They've got a lot to choose from, which always makes it a challenge for me. It's a good thing, don't get me wrong. They also have a fairly good wine list (including Cabernet Sauvignon from Waterbrook, one of my favorite Walla Walla wineries--only because I always stop there on the way to visit my parents). And my boyfriend (who joined us during happy hour and was the one to tell me about this new place) enjoyed their selection of whiskey. I ended up getting the Gin Gin Mule. It was a good mix of gin, pureed ginger, lime, mint and some sugar. It was very refreshing and a good "go to" for this place (when I'm not in the mood for a glass of red wine).


We ordered what turned out to be too much food for the table. Appetizers are half off during happy hour, making them well worth the price. To share, we ordered the cheese plate and the nachos. They were both HUGE. The cheese plate had three different cheeses (my favorite being the chevre), apple and pear slices, roasted garlic cloves (yum!) and slices of a rustic bread (probably from down the street at Grand Central Bakery). The nachos were piled high and covered with all of the traditional goods.


I also ordered a salad even though it was not included in the discount. For just $5.50, it seemed worth the price. And it came with a small piece of the cheese bread that IS available on the happy hour menu and topped with a substantial amount of cheddar and plenty of roasted garlic. The salad was simple but came with the perfect amount of blue cheese vinaigrette. The black beans sprinkled on top were a great source of protein but didn't quite match the flavors (they went better on the nachos) and added a bit of a challenge when trying to get everything to balance on the fork.

All of the food was good. The prices were great. And the location (being just about three blocks from my boyfriend's house) was perfect. I know I'll be back. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that I'll be back before the weekend's over.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds (for food), Meets (for drinks)

-b


Sidecar 11

Sidecar 11

3955 N. Mississippi
Portland, OR
Happy Hour 4-6 p.m.
http://sidecarpdx.wordpress.com/

Sidecar 11 is a cool new place on Mississippi. They have only been open a little while, but it seems like a really promising place!


My friends and I were a few of the first people to arrive, and we got lots of attention. This place seems very serious about their cocktails and focuses on classic, old-fashioned drinks with clever names. They are $1 off at Happy Hour, so I ended up getting a Jets to Brazil. This was a very strong rum and lime drink. It could have been a little sweeter for me, but it was definitely strong. I imagine that someone who is really into whiskey and strong-not-sweet cocktails would be very happy here. My palette is a little less refined, and I found myself wishing there were some vodka options on the menu (Lemon drops made with vanilla vodka? Please?)


The best part about the Happy Hour here, though, is the food. All appetizers are half-off during Happy Hour, making them a ridiculously good deal. I ordered the cheese plate for everyone to share. It's normal price is $8.50, so all of this delicious cheese, bread, garlic, apple, pear was only $4.25! It was a really good cheese plate that four people could easily share, and it had a good ratio of cheese to bread (I hate it when you get too little of one or the other). My favorite parts were the pear and the chevre. This was definitely one of the best--and biggest--Happy Hour cheese plates I have experienced, and I have experienced a lot!


Our table also got the chicken nachos ($5 at HH, $3 without chicken). You could easily make a meal out of the nachos if you ordered them by yourself or even with one other person. They were huge, salty, and good. I liked them a lot. I would like them even more if they had guacamole, but that would probably make them have to increase the price.

I thought the service was also very good. It was obvious that they care a lot about their cocktails and food presentation, and they wanted to make sure that we were happy with what we ordered.

My total bill was $11.25 for a cheese plate and a fancy cocktail. I was very impressed with that deal!

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

--E

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Casa Naranja

4205 N Mississippi
Portland, OR 97217
Happy Hour Tuesday-Sunday 4-6 p.m.
and 10 p.m.-close Tuesday-Saturday
So, once again, our happy hour strategy revolved around frozen yogurt! This time we were trying out a place on Mississippi, so we looked at places nearby that had happy hour. While the grasshoppers at the Thai place next door sounded tempting, we ultimately decided on Casa Naranja a few blocks away. I was pleasantly surprised that a place we picked pretty randomly ended up being so good!

I started with one of the two beers on tap, a Ninkasi IPA ($4). If you are a beer drinker, this is definitely a beer you will enjoy. My friends had Sangria ($5), though, and I was a little jealous when I saw it. Maybe next time!


For food, I ended up ordering the casa burger with escabeche and chevre ($7). I wasn't sure what escabeche was, and I was a little worried when I found out that it was onions and peppers. Those are two of my least favorite things. I decided to try it anyway since I was assured that it was really good. I don't know what exactly made it so special, but somehow the onions and peppers tasted delicious instead of disgusting. The chevre also was delicious--I had never had it on a burger before, and it was perfect--I thought it might be too mild to taste, but it really stood out. This was really a great burger--fresh, tasty, and big enough to fill me up.


I also tried a few of the yam fries ($5) that my friend ordered. These were different than other sweet potato fries I have had before. They were bigger, and they seemed to be breaded in something sort of like a tempura. I liked them a lot (I still think Bonfire Lounge has the absolute best sweet potato fries in Portland, though!)

This was the first time anyone had ever asked us what we were taking pictures for (the owner?) It was a little embarrassing, but we admitted that we do a Happy Hour review blog. Luckily, I really enjoyed this Happy Hour, and I happily recommend it!

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets (super nice and friendly even before he heard about our silly blog)
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

--E

Casa Naranja on Urbanspoon

A Second Review of Casa Naranja

4205 North Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM


It's been forever since we last did a group review! These are my favorite because I get to do happy hour with some of my favorite people AND it gives multiple perspectives on the same restaurant. I especially enjoy writing as the official vegetarian...and so that is where I will start.


This was not the first time I visited this particular establishment. If you've been reading, you know that my boyfriend moved into the neighborhood last May and we've been to almost every establishment on Mississippi. We stopped in at Casa Naranja in the first few weeks of exploring the neighborhood. I didn't realize that is was a small plates kind of establishment going in...which was a mistake. You see, I don't eat meat (and haven't since I was thirteen) but I do eat. And I eat a lot. As per my usual routine, I had been to the gym and was READY for dinner. We sat down in the back and were quickly greeted by the server. I ordered a margarita that was especially tasty. The food was all very good, too. It just wasn't enough. I think that I ordered every vegetarian option but one--sharing them, of course, with my boyfriend--and left still quite hungry. For dinner (especially having avoided all the fancy meat options listed on the menu) I was seriously disappointed. For happy hour, I can't say the same. And I'm glad that we stopped in...because now I'm ready to return. It looks like they've even added a few things to the menu.

We were the first to walk in for happy hour but the place started to fill up as the time went by. And I have a feeling (especially after taking a look at the outdoor seating--read, hammocks--in the back) that this place is especially busy in the summer months. I ordered a glass of the sangria and started to peruse the menu.


The sangria is a lot lighter than others I've had. It's less sweet and more flavorful. And it came garnished with an orange slice that had been dusted with cinnamon. (It's the little things, right?)


For a light snack, I selected the yam fries to share and a salad. The salad was good but very typical. There were candied walnuts (which I had to push to the side--they taste so good but do serious damage to the roof of my mouth) slices of apple and a light vinaigrette. I enjoyed every bite.


The yam fries were exceptional. I know that my co-blogger believes the Bonfire has the best sweet potato fries...but I'm going to have to argue that these are too different to compare. First, the flavor of the yam is still apparent. It's more vegetable, less fried. Second, they aren't as salty (and I really do think that if the Bonfire fries were served without their special salt and pepper topping they wouldn't be nearly as appealing). And third, the size of them made every bite that much better. No, not because I was eating more...but instead because I could crunch through the outer crispy layer and hit the soft and perfectly cooked yam inside. So good!

Service was great (just like last time) but I do think that we might have received a few extra stops by the table once he knew what we were up to. It's all my fault, too...sometimes I can be super discrete with my camera but this place just didn't have the lighting to let me get in a good pic. Oh well.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (unless you are super hungry, not planning to eat meat, and going for dinner)

-b

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tiga

1465 NE Prescott
Happy Hour: 5:00 - 8:00


I'm fairly certain I've driven by this place in the past, but if it wasn't for my favorite happy hour app (and the fact that they serve happy hour until 8) I probably wouldn't have ever stopped in. Thank you, technology.


This time I was out with both of my sisters. We were interested in food, at a discount, and within a few blocks. This place seemed perfect. (How many places offer happy hour until 8? Usually they stop and start again for late night, if anything.)


We ordered at the bar (which is what you do there) and found a seat in the back. We were seated next to a table of adult (obviously, it's a bar) students who were there to practice their conversational Spanish. Both of my sisters took Spanish in high school (and have taken more since) and could tell that this was definitely a beginner group. I, having taken German, knew close to nothing of what was being said. It was fun eavesdropping, nonetheless.

Drinks came out quickly but the food took some time. And it was delivered one at a time. Good thing we weren't in a hurry because it seemed that there were just two people working the whole place. One, at the bar, and the other, in the kitchen. And it was BUSY. They were moving quickly...and most people seemed to understand. I'm hoping someone called in sick and they aren't always that overworked...but since I've never been there before, I can't say for sure.


We ordered salads, calamari (none for me, thanks) and a plate of linguine. The linguine was very simple--with parsley, lemon, red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese and that's about it--but was pleasing to the palate.


The salads went down without much comment (mostly because I was so hungry). The dressing was light and the portion a good size.


The calamari was the one thing that didn't go over so well (and as a vegetarian, I only know this from listening to my older sisters). One suggested that they put it back in the fryer for another ten minutes so that it was a little less doughy and a little more ready-to-be-served.


To drink, both of my sisters ordered a glass of red wine but I opted for the vanilla cocktail. It was a mix of lemon and vanilla vodka and turned out to be much more than I expected. My guess is that they infuse their own vodka there (although I didn't see any signs of this...but...it was dark). It was obvious (from the little black specks) that this vanilla was straight from the bean. It was sweet but not too sweet and I really, really liked it.

The one thing that makes me not want to go back to Tiga (and I hope it was just a one-time occurrence) was the smell. It wasn't a stale smoke smell (I'm so glad I live in a smoke-free state) but more of a kitchen smell. Maybe they need more ventilation. Either way, the smell is still in my coat today. And I don't like it.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Nearly Meets (if it wasn't for that smell)
Value: Meets

-b


Tiga

Palace of Industry - CLOSED

5426 N Gay
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 PM (Closed Mondays)


Palace of Industry was unknown to me until two weeks ago and now I want to tell everyone about it. It's practically magical. This place is perfect. It's like a vintage shop and bar all in one. You can sit on super old couches with your friends, nosh on a tasty treat (even vegan cupcakes), sip a champagne cocktail and play dress up in the same evening, in the SAME location. It's completely ideal. I want to live there. That's how fantastic it is. Whoever thought up this place (even if they copied the concept from someone or somewhere else) is a GENIUS.


Both the food and drink options are limited. (But it doesn't matter.) They've got some beer and wine, sake, and champagne cocktails to drink, a few sandwiches and dips to eat, and cookies and cakes, too. There's space at the bar or you can sit closer to the racks of clothes that are for sale.


My sister bought the cutest sweater. She tried it on while we were waiting for our sandwich to be ready. I was more interested in reading the old postcards sitting at our table...but really, there's plenty to peruse in this place. (Did I mention that I LOVE it?)


We both ordered a glass of wine to drink but also decided on a champagne cocktail to share. There were a few to choose from, but we opted for the Fancypants. It came with a sugar cube that added all kinds of fizz to our glass.


For snacking, we decided on the crunchy veggie dip and a sandwich. The veggie dip came served with chips and was pink in color. I decided that there must have been some beets mixed in. I didn't taste them but couldn't think of anything else that would add such a vibrant red color. Maybe red cabbage? I don't know. It was tasty, though, and we even considered ordering a second plate.


The sandwich was just barely grilled but turned out to be perfectly warmed and melty just the same. We were doing our best to be adventurous and ordered a strange take on the typical grilled cheese. It had cream cheese and orange marmalade in it. Weird, but good. My sister thought it was a little too heavy on the marmalade...but I think she just got one bite with too much in it.


We were there on Tuesday. The woman working the bar (and potentially the owner) said it was Girl Group (or ladies night). They have other events as well...including Euchre every Sunday afternoon. I don't actually know how to play...but I've heard it's a fun game and totally popular in the Midwest.


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

-b

Palace of Industry on Urbanspoon

The Hop & Vine

1914 North Killingsworth
Happy Hour: 3:00 - 6:00


The Hop & Vine recently expanded giving me a reason to give it another try. It's just two blocks from my sister's house...making it a perfect location. Last time I joined her it was after Race for the Cure. We always run back to her house after the 5K and go out for brunch. When Roux closed a couple of years ago, we thought we'd break tradition and try something new. Breakfast at The Hop & Vine is good...but we needed something more substantial after running close to seven miles.


There are quite a few great food deals on the happy hour menu (as well as their regular menu) but the drink specials are what really make this happy hour worth it. We both ordered a glass of the house red wine, knowing that it was only three dollars. That's two dollars less than the typical price listed in the area for house wines.


To accompany our wine, we decided on a bowl of the daily popcorn. Today's popcorn, however, was TOO spicy. I could barely finish two or three pieces...and they were barely dusted, unlike so many others. (Note to self, never say yes to popcorn that's been coated in cayenne pepper. It's just a bad idea.) We left the bowl, nearly untouched, on the table.


The grilled cheese sandwich, though, was super yummy. It had the perfect amount of butter on the outside, giving the bread the most golden appearance. And the cheese was perfectly melty. I dipped a few bites into the too-acidic tomato soup but decided that it wasn't worth it, knowing that the soup was just distracting me from the good, good flavor of the grilled cheese.



There are plenty of other items on the menu that I can try next time. Given its location and the ultra-inexpensive glass of wine, I'm sure I'll be back in the future.

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

-b

The Hop & Vine

Tasty and Sons

3808 North Williams
Happy Hour: 2:30 - 5:00


Tasty and Sons is one of the most popular breakfast places in Portland. Driving by on a Sunday morning, you are likely to see people lined up (possibly halfway down the block) before they even open. I've made it in once with very little wait and consider myself to be very lucky. I hadn't been back until now, but thought for sure that it wouldn't be nearly as packed. Boy, was I wrong. Even on a Tuesday at two-thirty in the afternoon, this place is BUSY. At 2:30, Tasty and Sons switches over from breakfast to their happy hour menu. There are many breakfast-like items still left on the menu, but it's obvious that they are switching gears before the dinner hour officially hits.


My sister and I arrived just as happy hour was starting. Due to the crowd, we were seated at the large table in front. If you are lucky to get in with a big group, this table might be all yours. We, however, were seated with at least four separate parties (I guess it's a community table when necessary), two of them with small children. Not ideal, in the least.


Since it's most known for breakfast, we opted to go with a traditional breakfast drink. At Tasty and Sons, it's appropriately called the Tasty Mary. It was tasty, and well garnished...but it seemed that one of those flavorful additions was added at a higher concentration than the rest. The ratio was just a bit off, in my opinion. I'm not the biggest connoisseur...but my sister said the same thing and she's more likely to go with the tomato-based drink than I am.


Sitting with so many other people gave us a chance to peruse the menu in the most ideal fashion. The food was all around us. It was perfect. I only wish that I could have reached across the table to try the fries. It was awfully tempting...but maybe not the most appropriate thing to do with perfect strangers.


No worries about us being too hungry while waiting for the food. It would have been especially hard being surrounded by all those people and all that food...but as we were seated and served teeny glasses of water, we were also given a bowl of peanuts. They were treated with some sort of spicy-but-sweet flavor dusting.


We decided on just two items to try. First up (and apparently much faster to make) was the fried cauliflower. Growing up, cauliflower was only served one way. (It happens to be my least favorite way.) I didn't know that I could even like the stuff 'til I was living with a family in Germany while on exchange in high school. And I don't even just like it, I kinda love it. And I now know that I love it fried. I will try to avoid it (since I attempt to avoid lots of fried things) but will probably give in now and then (like I do with all those other fried things). It's good!


To accompany the fried veggies, we also had fried hush puppies. (I know, what was I just saying about fried stuff? But it's spring break and it's okay to splurge on calories now and then.) They were okay...but nothing special. I guess that hush puppies aren't really anything special traditionally...but I had higher expectations coming from a place that has lines around the block prior to opening.

I'm hoping to someday make it back for dinner (assuming that I don't have to wait too long) but for now will be happy knowing that I've made it in the door twice without having to wait for more than two or three minutes BOTH times. I do suggest that everyone make it in for breakfast at least once. And I suggest that you order the french toast, even if just to share with everyone at the table. It's pretty remarkable!

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

-b


Tasty and Sons on Urbanspoon