Monday, April 25, 2011

Nel Centro (Hotel Modera)

1408 SW 6th Ave
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM


There have only been a few nice days in Portland so far this Spring. And I spent one of them at Nel Centro. They have a fantastic (yet very urban) patio with plenty of seating, fire pits, and food options that can easily become dinner.



My boyfriend and I had spent the early afternoon hiking in the Columbia Gorge and were ready for an early dinner. At Nel Centro, happy hour runs from four to six, daily. We were there shortly after opening and were able to watch the tables fill up. On a nice day, this is a GREAT place to be.


We started with a round of gimlets. We learned later that they aren't included on the happy hour drink menu (when served up) but can be made on the rocks for just five dollars each. This, of course, means that we started with a round served up and finished with a round on the rocks.


We were HUNGRY on arrival and quickly ordered the warm hazelnut crusted goat cheese. It came with roasted red peppers, olive tepanade and a few pieces of crostini. I'm not sure why they don't list all of these on the menu. I'm sure more people would opt to order it knowing that the five dollar price tag is well worth it for the amount of food you get. There wasn't enough crostini to last, though...but the pizza crust worked well as a substitute.


The salad was next to arrive. It was a simple mix of fresh greens and had a light vinaigrette as well as a few house-made croutons.


And then came the pizza. This is what made our happy hour turn to an early dinner. The pizzas were HUGE. If we had known, I'm sure we could have shared. I ordered the cheese and my boyfriend had the sausage. They were both fairly plain, but the crust and the combination of cheese made this a yummy dinner.

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


Nel Centro on Urbanspoon

Nel Centro

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stanford's

1440 N. Jantzen Beach Center
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 daily, 9 - close Sunday - Thursday and 10 - close Friday and Saturday


Stanford's is by definition a chain restaurant. Nearly all of the locations are in the Portland metropolitan area...but with two near Seattle and one in California, it is officially a chain. Homogenized is what I call them. And every homogenized restaurant comes with some good...and some not so good qualities.

What's good at Stanford's is that they have a ba-jillion (how DO you spell bajillion?) different items to choose from on the happy hour food menu. And the prices are FANTASTIC! There was a big group of us that night (nine, I think) and we barely fit at the table. WE barely fit around the table (you really have to get there early if you are trying to seat a large group) and our plates barely fit ON the table.


I remember having the southwestern chop salad once before (years ago) and was excited to see that it was still on the menu. I ordered one chopped salad, the grilled portobella mushroom and a small bowl of macaroni and cheese.



The salad wasn't exactly the same...but it was still good. It's covered with all sorts of suitable toppings. Corn, black beans, tomatoes,...but the salad itself is less lettuce (romaine and other crisp greens) and more cabbage. It was good--and super crunchy--but made me think of coleslaw with each bite. And the dressing was as heavy as coleslaw, making this a less-than-good-for-you salad choice. The mushroom was was good but salty and the macaroni and cheese was creamy and delicious.


What's less appealing about most chain restaurants (besides just the fact that they're chains--and I'd rather be supporting a smaller, locally-owned business) is that their drinks are where they make their money (at least during happy hour). I was tempted by the discounted red wine until I heard the opinion of someone else at the table. Instead, I went with my new usual - a vodka gimlet. And this vodka gimlet was a serious let down. First, it was light on the vodka. And second, there were no fresh limes involved in the making...whatsoever. Disappointing!

Service was great, though. From what I've heard, they have fairly high standards for their employees (like your shirt has to be starched, and hanging--still in the plastic from the cleaners--when you get to work). I hope that they have benefits to match. These people deserve it. They are quick to respond, even on a busy night.

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

-b

Stanford's Restaurant & Bar

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Duke's

14601 SE Division
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, daily

Sure, it's a country western bar. And yes, it's practically in Gresham. But they have two dollar well drinks during happy hour AND a mechanical bull. Okay, so the bull isn't available during happy hour...but it's still worth mentioning.


We stopped at Duke's after school to "scope out the place" for a group event to take place later this school year. And if we can convince them to mix up the music a bit (it's straight country, people) I think this place might actually do. They have two dollar well drinks (did I already mention that?), a pretty decent selection of food items (ranging in price from $1.95 to $4.95), and friendly bartenders. Plus, it's super quiet in the early afternoon and would be perfect for the event that still needs planning.

Duke's is related to a lot of other well-known establishments in downtown Portland. It's related to Gypsy, the Lotus, the Thirsty Lion and more. I've been to quite a few of these happy hours and they all seem to go about it the same way. The food menu has tiered pricing, the well drinks are super cheap, and the service is guaranteed to be of quality (maybe not remarkable, but efficient every time). It's nice knowing that little has been overlooked...but at the same time, it makes it seem more like a chain than anything else. Oh well. At least the well drinks are cheap, right. And I can handle country music, in small doses.


I ordered the black bean quesadilla and a basket of corn muffins. The muffins were only a buck ninety-five, so I wasn't expecting to get much more than a couple of bites. Instead, four giant-sized muffins appeared before my eyes. They looked good. But they didn't look good for me. The server claimed that they weren't deep fried...but the amount of butter used in the recipe could have been enough to make it seem as though they were. They were good, but I couldn't eat more than one.


The black bean quesadilla was a lot better than I expected. I appreciate the fact that there was a black bean quesadilla available. So often I have to order the chicken quesadilla minus the chicken.


To wash it all down, I had a gin and tonic. (Did I mention that the well drinks are cheap?) I only needed one as the bartender poured the first one a bit on the heavy side. I wonder if that's how it always is.

I can't say for sure if I'll be back to Duke's in the near future (the event location is a group decision and I can only make suggestions) but I know I'll be back.

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

-b

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Liberty Glass

938 N Cook Street
Happy Hour: 3:00 - 6:00 and 9:00 - 11:00 PM


The Liberty Glass is not exactly out of the way. It's just more than a block down the hill from the main strip of Mississippi. But that's far enough that you can easily get a table without much of a problem. It's kind of perfect. There are so many times when the long wait lines keep us from going where we originally plan. Mississippi's a busy place. In fact, yesterday afternoon we were really headed to Mississippi Pizza. (I'd been craving a slice of pizza for days...ever since the foods class at school made pizza earlier in the week.) But we didn't stay at Mississippi Pizza. The pizza side was short on tables and the music side was packed. Packed with small people, bouncing in excitement to whatever made-for-children band was playing. We quickly turned and walked out. And that is when we walked down the hill to The Liberty Glass.

It's a cute little old house that's been painted pink and converted into a restaurant. From what I can tell, there is seating both upstairs and down. We stayed downstairs, close to the kitchen. The bartender was working the entire place, making service a bit slow to start. During the time we were there, though, two other employees came in.

We ordered drinks first and looked through the menu. It was fairly limited but included some classics plus a few Portland-esque options. During happy hour, there's a dollar discount on appetizers. We decided on a plate of nachos and a side salad (not included in the discount...but only three dollars).


These nachos weren't your everyday nachos. I was a bit hesitant at first but then learned on arrival that they were very much like the after school snacks I made on a fairly regular basis as a kid. Instead of chips (or Ritz crackers, which was my choice at the age of ten) they used triscuits. They were topped with cheese, sliced jalapenos, and an olive and red pepper tapenade (otherwise known as olives and peppers chopped very finely). The whole thing was placed in the oven and melted just until the cheese started to bubble.


The salad was a mix of greens, a few wedges of tomato, some sliced cucumber and the perfect amount of dressing to lightly coat every piece. It was a basic vinaigrette and went well with the rest of the flavors at the table.


To drink, I started with something directly from the fancy cocktail menu that was more like an upgraded gin and tonic...so, of course, I liked it. There was lime AND lemon and it had a splash of simple syrup. Other than that, it WAS a gin and tonic.

Next time we'll have to go for dinner and maybe try sitting upstairs. Or outside, if it ever really warms up.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Nearly Meets
Ambiance: Meets (typical Portland, with antlers and all)
Value: Meets

-b

The Liberty Glass