Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Bent Brick

1639 NW Marshall
Happy Hour: 5 - 6:30, Tuesday - Saturday


Never before had I been to a restaurant on the day that it opened. I was so excited, I felt like a real foodie. (I'm only a little bit of a foodie. In order to be a real foodie I would need more of a financial backing.) By now, the real reviewers have been through and made their opinions known. As a second restaurant from a chef who has already received so much recognition, the word about The Bent Brick is out. And the word is spreading fast. (This place has already received some national coverage.) It's only been two weeks.

Happy hour doesn't last long at The Bent Brick and the discounts don't apply to the regular dining area. (That means get there early, people.) There are a dozen or so chairs at the bar or you can lounge on the cushions at the very front of the restaurant. (It looks more like a waiting area with the cushions winding all the way around...but they have intended for it to serve as something more.)


There are three cocktails listed at a discounted price during happy hour. And they are classics, which should make a lot of people HAPPY. (Especially me, since one of them is my go-to.) For six dollars, you can choose from a Moscow Mule, an Old Fashioned, or a Gin and Tonic. (And this is not your average well drink, these are the classiest versions.) If the cocktails don't appeal, you can also save a dollar on beer or wine.


The food options are pretty limited. (I was expecting to see more and honestly do hope that they will add to the list in the near future.) With three of us, it made the most sense to order one of each item. I was most intrigued by the PK hot dog. Apparently it was a favorite at Park Kitchen but was discontinued when they stopped serving lunch. The happy hour portion is TINY...but comes with a fair amount of "baked bean" hazelnuts that add a bit of crunch to the plate (and protein, for those who need it). I was really hoping for a bite but quickly learned that they are cooked with just the weensiest amount of bacon.



At the table, we also shared the pickle plate (which, like so many other Portland establishments, is a plate of pickled vegetables...not just pickles), the bread and butter, and the smallest plate of peas (which was so tasty and my absolute favorite). All three had great flavor but were not near enough to fill me up. (Not all happy hours have the capacity to turn into dinner. Some are just snacks.)

Service was pretty fantastic. (I am not sure what I was expecting...but I can say that it didn't--at all--seem like it was their first day open.) My only concern is that this place is pretty tiny. It's going to fill up fast! (And no one likes a long wait.)

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets (It's a spendy place.)

-b

Monday, June 27, 2011

Black Rabbit Restaurant @ McMenamins Edgefield

2126 SW Halsey
Troutdale, Oregon
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM and 10 - close (subject to change on concert nights)

I know, I know. Two trips to the Edgefield in a matter of days. I did say it was one of the best places to spend your summer days.


This time we (a different we) started with a flight of wine in the tasting room. (I'm secretly addicted to the complimentary oyster crackers. Or maybe it's not really a secret at all.) This time I tried the red flight. I ended up with two bottles to take home in the end. It's good wine at a fairly good price. (I promise, though, that I won't be back next week. I'll be out of town...so it's completely guaranteed.)

After tasting all that wine, we walked into the Black Rabbit Restaurant with about six minutes to go before happy hour ended. Thankfully, our server was quick to seat us and made the suggestion that we make fast decisions about what to eat so that we would be sure to benefit from the discount.

We quickly ordered two easy-to-share items and three chopped salads (mine without the chicken).


The chopped salad might have needed the chicken to be filling but had plenty of flavor without. It was a mix of cabbage and jicama, some romaine, big tomato halves (they were bigger than cherry tomatoes....must have been those strawberry tomatoes I keep spotting at the grocery store), and kidney beans. The dressing had a little kick of lime and was the perfect amount for my taste.


I loved the homemade crackers that were served with the cheese plate the most. They were BIG and something that you'd definitely have to break into pieces ahead of time to avoid making a mess. They paired quite well with the cheese (as did the fruit and honey).


And then there was the bean dip. It's a black bean dip disguised by a layer of creme fraiche. So good! And it was served with an ample supply of warm tortilla chips.


I was quite impressed with this happy hour. Partly because it's rare that a server will be so accommodating to a party walking in at the last minute. And partly because I love that it's one of the only McMenamins happy hours I've been to that doesn't have the same ol' happy hour menu. It's a nice change (especially since I was just at that other restaurant across the grounds a couple of days ago). And partly (I know, I know...and I had almost forgotten this last part) because they have three dollar mini desserts on the regular menu. I had a teeny tiny creme brulee that was the BEST ending to my night.

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


-b


Black Rabbit Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Alameda Brewhouse

4765 NE Fremont St
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 p.m., Monday through Friday

We continued on our Happy Hour Crawl to our next stop, Alameda Brewhouse. I love the atmosphere of this place--it is definitely a step above the typical Portland brewpub. It is light and airy with interesting booths.


The cocktail list had lots of interesting choices, and most of them were around $7.00. They didn't have a discount on cocktails, but they did offer discounts on beer ($3 for all of their homemade pints!) I think they may have had a discount on wine and well drinks, but I can't remember (bad HH blogger!) I chose the Klickitat Ale, and it was pretty good.


The food was the real star here, though! All of their appetizers were $5, so we each got one to share. We got onion rings, hummus, and southwestern nachos without meat. These were GIANT portions. You could seriously get one item and be full if you ate the whole thing. My favorite item was the southwestern nachos. They had all the usual fixings, but they had a sort of smoky BBQ flavor as well. The onion rings were a bit too greasy for my taste, and the hummus was a little bit bland. I was really impressed over all with the food, though, because it was such a great value!


The service was good, too, so I have absolutely no complaints. I would definitely come here again!


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

--E
Alameda Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alameda Brewhouse

4765 NE Fremont St
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday


The Alameda Brewhouse fits perfectly in the category of Portland's typical Breweries. It's a lot like Amnesia Brewing (but with less outdoor seating), very similar to Lucky Lab (but without the dog motif), and almost identical in terms of its neighborhood draw as the Old Market Pub (one of my favorites). They have more than just beer, though. The cocktail list seems to go on and on. But it was the food specials that made this place top the list for biggest portions. Seriously, next time I'm in the mood for bar food (nachos, onion rings, and more) AND I've got someone to share it all with, this is the place I'm going to hit.

They have five dollar food specials every weekday from three to six. We weren't expecting such HUGE portions, so we each ordered one item. We shared all three, but next time I'm going to suggest that the three of us share just one. (That, of course, would require that we agree on something.)


I ordered the hummus platter. It came with a mound (not kidding) of hummus that had been attractively decorated with slices of cucumber and tomato. There was a sprinkling of red onions on top and a mess of grilled pita wedges on the side. It was good--nothing to shout about--but good.


Also at the table was a big ol' plate of nachos and a heaping pile of onion rings. I don't think I've every seen so many onion rings fit on one plate before. It was a bit overwhelming. That might be why the three plates of food weren't much more than half-eaten when we got up to go. Our server did offer boxes, though...which is often not an option during happy hour.


To wash down the large portions, I ordered just one cocktail. It was mix of fresh lime juice, sweet and sour, chambord, and something else I can't quite remember. It's one of those layered drinks, with the red raspberry on the bottom and hazy "white" on top. So pretty. It wasn't discounted during happy hour but wasn't over the top, either. It only could have been a better deal if I was a beer drinker. They make their own (obviously) and they are just three dollars during happy hour.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (great food deals)

-b

Alameda Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Alameda Brewhouse

Amalfi's Take Two

4703 NE Fremont St
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 p.m. daily, late night happy hour from 9 - close Monday through Saturday

Amalfi's was voted for having the best Portland Happy Hour by The Happy Hour Guidebook. To me, to rank among the best Happy Hours a restaurant should have a good discount on both food and beverages, and it should have great service. Unfortunately, on this particular visit, Amalfi's fell short of qualifying for a "Best Happy Hour" in our book.

Our table of three started our with a small carafe of Sangria ($10--enough for each of us to have a glass). This was enjoyable but not the best Sangria I have ever had (I think La Costita does a better version!) I believe there was one drink special, but it didn't appeal to any of us. There wasn't a discount on other drinks at all. I would really appreciate a discount on house wine, beer, and well drinks, at least.


I started with a house Greek salad ($1.95). This was the best part of the meal! It was a little heavy on the dressing, but I liked that. It was a great mix of salty flavors, and both people who ordered it really enjoyed it.


Since we were doing a Happy Hour Crawl (invented by my co-blogger?), I ordered just one more thing--the artichoke dip ($3.95). This is a pretty standard Happy Hour item and it's hard to mess up. Even I, a non-cook, am able to make a fairly decent version at home. Unfortunately, this was just not good. It was extra greasy and salty, and the bread that it arrived with was too herb-y and moist. I did not care for it at all.


The service was good. Our server was polite and friendly and he brought out extra (plain) bread for us.

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

--E
Amalfi's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Amalfi's Italian Restaurant

4703 NE Fremont St
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM daily, late night happy hour from 9 - close Monday through Saturday


I've been eating at Amalfi's for almost as many years as I've lived in Portland. I don't remember how I found it in the first place, but I can say that it was one of my go-to restaurants during college. It was--and still is--one of those places where the price of the meal includes salad, a beverage (depending on what you order, I suppose), and dessert (which means a choice of vanilla ice cream or spumoni--and I love spumoni). As a college student, it was perfect. And the portions were large enough that I'd have leftovers to last another day or two.


Amalfi's has changed A LOT since I was in college. They went through a massive remodel at some point, changing the entire layout of the restaurant. And I'm afraid that the cost of the construction has been tacked onto the price of every meal. I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't be able to afford frequenting the place as often as I did if I were still paying tuition. It's too bad, too. It is far more aesthetically pleasing, but I worry that the price of a simple plate of pasta might be keeping some people from enjoying their once-favorite spot.

Although I'd been in for dinner so many times over the years, this was my first time stopping by for happy hour. The sign on the door states that this place is THE number one place for happy hour in all of Portland. I'm not sure if I agree. They do have a lot to offer as far as food goes (and the prices start pretty low) but I feel that the very best happy hour needs to offer greater discounts on both food and drink. At Amalfi's, they offer just one discounted drink of the week. And it isn't much of a discount.


The rest of the drinks (not including beer and wine) are priced between seven and twelve dollars. Twelve dollars is a bit steep, but I promise that's the only one on the menu (and it's made with Patron). Most are about seven or eight dollars. Since there were three of us--and we had plans to continue on to another happy hour--we opted for a half-carafe of the Sangria. It was light and refreshing (too bad it was too cloudy to sit outside on their beautiful patio--that would have been perfect), but a little too watery for my taste.


I only ordered one food item off of the menu (but was able to share some of the other plates at the table). There were plenty of other options for me (being a vegetarian), which is nice to see but somewhat normal at Italian places. (I'd do well in Italy, I'm sure of it.) I opted for the Mozzarella ala Caprese (otherwise known as a Caprese salad). It was only $3.95 and was quite tasty but not all that it was promised to be. The menu described it as being a combination of imported buffalo mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and balsamic. They really skimped on the mozzarella (there were just a few chunks, not thick slices like at so many other places) and the vine-ripened tomatoes were just grape tomatoes.

Service was good, though. It was early and they weren't busy (we might have been the only people there) but our server was quick to greet us and happy to accommodate our requests.

Food: Nearly Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (but could use a bigger discount on drinks)

Amalfi's Italian Restaurant
Amalfi's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Power Station Pub @ Edgefield

2126 SW Halsey Street
Troutdale, Oregon
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 10 - Midnight


Yesterday was the first day of summer and the second official day of summer break. Sure, I went to school for a few hours to work on plans for next year...but then I spent a few more hours shopping the outlet stores before stopping at one of THE BEST places to go on an 82 degree day. It was a perfect summer day. And McMenamins Edgefield is the perfect place for summer. There are restaurants and bars aplenty, two par-3 golf courses (that don't require much equipment or skill), a soaking tub, a movie theater, concerts on the lawn, and you can even enjoy an overnight stay for an easy "get away" without really getting too far away.



It is a McMenamins, though. And that means poor service. It's like they haven't figured out a system yet. (And it seems that they don't want to.) We had at least three different servers greet us and attempt to take our drink orders...during the time we waited to get the drinks we had already ordered. And then again with the food...argh! I guess I should have known. It's just that is seemed so empty walking in and there were all these servers. And they're all friendly and seem to be competent at what they do...it's almost as if the whole thing is intentional.




The happy hour menu is the same at almost every other McMenamins...which is good because that means that I can get a garden burger for just four dollars. They also have french fries, Cajun tots, hummus and pita, and a cheeseburger. I was a little jealous of the cheeseburger delivered to our table...not because of the patty (of course) but because of the slice of cheddar cheese melting down the edge.


We also shared a basket of fries. These were the one thing that weren't typical of the usual McMenamins, though, and a pretty serious disappointment. They are well known for their basket of shoestring fries. And these were NOT shoestring fries. They were thick and greasy and a little undercooked for my taste.


The drinks were good (and ultra refreshing on the sunny afternoon) but it was the atmosphere that made this trip well worth it. The atmosphere and the wine tasting. I know it's not related to the happy hour offerings but I have to mention it...because that's what's going to bring me back again and again before the summer is over.


We stopped in the winery on our way out of the restaurant. (That's how it is at the Edgefield. There are restaurants and little shops--even a glass blowing place--all mixed together on the beautiful grounds.) I was expecting a taste or two but soon discovered that for three dollars (you can pay a couple of dollars more for a white- or red-specific flight) I could get the equivalent of two glasses of wine. These were some of the heaviest pours I've ever had at a tasting. It was THE BEST value ever.

F00d: Nearly Meets (the fries need work)
Drinks: Meets
Service: Does Not Meet
Ambiance: Exceeds
Value: Meets

-b

Power Station Pub

Monday, June 06, 2011

Touche

1425 NW Glisan
Happy Hour: 5 - 6:30 Monday through Saturday
Late Night Happy Hour 10 - close Monday through Thursday, 11 - close Friday - Saturday (their kitchen stays open until 2 AM)
ALL NIGHT Happy Hour on Sundays


Although it's not a place I frequent, Touche has been a standby in my family for big dinners for the last ten years. We've had at least three birthdays and one graduation dinner there. And when the foreign exchange student returned as an adult with his own family to visit, it was the place we took them. They are really good at taking care of a big table. And there's enough variety on the menu that everyone is pleased in the end.

With all of the visits in the past, it was hard to believe that I hadn't already been by for happy hour. I actually double checked when my boyfriend questioned it because I wasn't 100% sure that I hadn't already done a review.

We stopped by on a Friday afternoon a few minutes before opening. We waited at one of the patio tables for the sign to turn and quickly decided that sitting outside was not an option. One, it would require sun block. And two, it's LOUD out there. Too much traffic noise can cause a real damper on an afternoon outing.

The menu has a lot to offer--with items ranging in price from $3.50 to $8.00--and enough sizable items that happy hour can easily become an early dinner. And not even that early, for that matter, since the discounts apply until 6:30 and again in the late evening.


I opted for the Margherita pizza and a house salad. They call it the Mista Salad but I am not entirely sure why. It's fairly basic with a vinaigrette, a few slices of cucumber and a couple wedges of tomato. I'm working on my veggie intake (I'm always working on my veggie intake), so I'd order a salad here despite how simple it is. Plus, simple can sometimes be EXACTLY what I need in a salad.


The pizza was WAY bigger than I expected (but still smaller than some places). The crust was perfectly chewy and the sauce-to-cheese ratio was right on. There was an extra dusting of fancy cheese on top that had started to melt into the mix, but I could still tell that there was a little extra effort put into this plate. I shared a few pieces...and even without them, this was definitely enough to make a meal.


To wash all that down, I enjoyed a vodka gimlet. (I know, I know...I'm becoming predictable. Actually, I've always been predictable.) It was missing the sweetness that I prefer. It was still good, mind you, I just had to sip it a little slower than usual.

Now, if I had been here at any other time other than happy hour, you have to know that I would have ordered the Fettuccine Davide--minus the chicken, add mushrooms. (I said I was predictable, right?) It has been my meal of choice at Touche for more than ten years. Sure, I have fewer options being a vegetarian...but this is what I ALWAYS turn to. It's got a great balance of creamy sauciness with just the right amount of sun-dried kick. Yummy.

Knowing how things usually are at Touche, I wouldn't want to end this review with too much negativity toward the service. It's usually fairly fantastic...I mean, they have successfully served my family of ten without any complaints multiple times. I'm going to have to make an excuse for the server this time cause he was S-L-O-W. It was obvious, though, that he was busy multitasking, getting all of those things ready for the dinner crowd. I forgive him, but if it happens again, I'm going to have to edit this post.

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

-b


Touche Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Original Dinerant

300 SW 6th
Happy Hour daily 4:30-6 p.m.

I'm going to try really, really hard to be objective about this review. You see, I answered a trivia question on Twitter and ended up winning a pie! I had wanted to check this place out for a while, and the pie prize gave me the perfect excuse to visit for Happy Hour. I really loved it here! I am hoping that I am not being biased, because hello, winning a pie puts you in a great mood!


To try to keep the objectivity in check, I decided to wait until after we had our Happy Hour to reveal that I was indeed the BIG WINNER. I was afraid that if they knew I was the winner they might give me special treatment during Happy Hour ("She's that awesome girl who won the pie, make sure you are extra nice to her!" or "She's a winner, don't forget to keep on top of her water refills!") Even though I kept my identity top secret, the service was great. Our server was a goofball (in a good way), and he was helpful and funny.


We started with two beers--a Pilsner and a local, dark beer ($3 at HH). I was going to go with the punch, but luckily the server mentioned something about it having ginger and vodka. Ginger is definitely not my favorite, so I switched to beer. Later on, I had one of the most delicious drinks ever. They make their own sodas, so I tried the Five Flowers flavor ($3). It sounds a little strange, but it was really, really good. You can also add alcohol to these sodas for an extra $4, which I would like to try on my next visit.


My boyfriend has wanted to try Poutine for awhile ($5). He claims that he had it once in Canada, and in England "chip shops" put gravy on fries all the time. He also ordered the chicken sliders ($4). I was going for the most unhealthy options on the menu, so I got the chili cheese fries ($4) and the hamburger ($5). This was just too much food! I only was able to eat half of my fries and burger. My boyfriend ate all of his, but he was stuffed (and he has a BIG appetite). He really liked the Poutine, except he thought there was too much cheese. He preferred the gravy. I liked the chili cheese fries, but I liked the cheese the best and thought there was too much chili (you can't win with us!) The hamburger was good. It had an interesting sauce on it. Normally I don't like mystery sauce (particularly if it has chunky bits), but this one was actually pretty tasty. My boyfriend said the sliders were good, and he encouraged me to try them for blog purposes, but I passed since I was too full.


Finally, it was time to reveal my true identity: PIE WINNER! This was both the best part and the worst part of the evening. It was the worst because I had to tell them my "Twitter name" and I felt like a huge dork. It was the best because the server thought at first that I won a piece of pie, so when the manager (owner?) came over to confirm my winning status, she said that we got a preview piece for now AND the pie to take home. It was also the best because I found out that the pie was strawberry creme. ( I worried that I might get a pie that I hated such as lemon meringue, banana cream, key lime, or pecan.) Although we thought we were full, we were able to eat the delicious preview pie. It was AMAZING. I also loved it that they seemed just as excited as I was about my win.


Even if I didn't win a pie (are you tired of hearing about my pie yet?) The Original was quite a good value for the money. We got three beers, one soda, and HUGE portions (except the sliders--those are supposed to be mini, obviously) for $30 before tip.


Food: Meets (PIE exceeds)
Drinks: Meets (soda Exceeds)
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Exceeds

--E

The Original: A Dinerant on Urbanspoon