Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irving Street Kitchen

701 NW 13th Avenue
Happy Hour: 4:30 - 6:00,


Irving Street Kitchen has been on my to do list for WAY too long. (The last place that stayed on the list that long closed before I made it in.) Thankfully, it's close to a million (okay, not quite) other restaurants in the Pearl...so when they didn't have too many vegetarian-friendly items on the food menu at one place, this was our next stop. And although they don't have too many food items on their menu, they do have mac and cheese.


Macaroni and cheese is a staple on so many happy hour menus. Some people might think it is a little too overdone. For me, it's safe. And it is sometimes the only meat-free option. So I say, keep 'em coming. They are, however, not all created equal. And a lot of it really depends on personal preference. For me, this one was pretty good. It didn't have too much breadcrumb topping, it didn't taste too much like flour and not enough like cheese, and it came out hot but not burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot. The extra special addition that they use at Irving Street Kitchen to make their mac and cheese extra special is smoked salt. For me, it added just enough smokey flavor to make me wonder if there might have been some ham or bacon built in. It didn't, but the smell (and taste) of smokey things always makes me wonder.


Also at the table was a good-sized portion of the Smoked Tasso Jambalaya. (Again with the smokey flavors!) This one had enough smokey smell to it to give off the impression that it was going to be TOO spicy. Luckily, it was not.


The two of us had wine with our meal, one glass of the Syrah Blend and one of the Grenache Blanc. Both are just six dollars during happy hour...but are smaller pours than what are regularly served. (I noticed across the way that when you order wine off of the regular menu, it is served in a cute little Mason jar allowing you to fill your glass and have some extra waiting on the side.)


I didn't have a chance to look through the regular dinner menu, but I enjoyed the atmosphere so much that I'm pretty certain I will be back for dinner sometime soon. Or maybe just another visit for happy hour.

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

-b

Irving Street Kitchen

Trader Vic's

1203 NW Glisan
Happy Hour: 3 - 6:30 and 10:00 - close, weekdays


Trader Vic's is back in Portland. After how many years, I'm not sure. (I suppose I should look that up. I'll do that now.) Fifteen years! No wonder. I was just about to say that I don't even remember being to or driving by or anything...but I guess I wasn't here to have had the option. Trader Vic's moved out of the Benson Hotel in 1996, just one year before I moved into the dorms in '97. But knowing that it came back after all this time is kinda interesting, right? I suppose some people are super exciting to relive certain traditions or memories or whatever. I was just excited to try a new happy hour.

Happy hour at Trader Vic's runs from 3:00 to 6:30 and again from 10:00 to close...but only on weekdays. And the seating area for happy hour is pretty much HUGE. It includes the bar, the upper area that stretches WAY around the backside of the bar, and some outdoor seating, too. (It's big like Henry's but you can actually get a seat!)


The drink menu is just as big (and it's my understanding that so are some of the drinks--the menu claims that one drink serves four!). Not all drinks are discounted during happy hour...but quite a few are. I tried the Kamaiina which is full of coconut flavored rum and served, appropriately enough, in a coconut shell (plastic, of course). It was sweet like candy and I probably could have ordered four more. I didn't, thank goodness. But I could have. And if I had, it wouldn't have been too spendy because during happy hour the Kamaiina are only five dollars each. That's a good price.


Not included in the happy hour discounts (but served with a keepsake, making it totally worth it) is the Menehune Juice. I had never heard of these little Menehune but I figure that they were the inspiration for the Doozers. (I also think that they might be a distant relative of the Oompa Loompas.) It's some pretty interesting folklore that I think you outta look up if you haven't already. And when you order the Menehune Juice, you get to keep the little Menehune Man.


The snacks listed on the happy hour menu would probably please the meat eaters more than they did me. I guess there were three things total that I could have ordered... but I just wasn't in the mood for fries or chips, despite the fancy dipping sauces. So I ordered the Edamame Hummus. It was definitely pretty but didn't have the most exceptional flavor.

Our server was fantastic (super friendly, answered questions, commented on the choices we made, etc.) but was working alone in a pretty big area for most of the time we were there. (Poor thing!) I hope it was just a one time thing and that they aren't trying to save by having too few servers in the place. I guess I'll have to return to see if it's any different (and next time I think I'll bring enough people to order one of those giant fishbowl drinks).

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

-b


Trader Vic's

Mee Sen Thai Eatery

3924 N Mississippi Ave
Happy Hour: 3PM - 6 PM and 9PM - close, daily (All Day Tuesday)

I really need to find someone who is willing to go back for happy hour at Mee Sen Thai Eatery just for the grasshoppers. I don't eat meat so I'm not about to eat a grasshopper...but I'm finding that not a lot of other people are ready to down a plate of fried bugs either. Maybe I can convince my dad to go next time he's in town. I bet he'd do it.


The plate of fried grasshoppers is just five dollars during happy hour. Most of the food options (and there are quite a few of them) are between three and six dollars. And if what you see isn't enough, the regular menu has a long list of small plates that are all about the same price.


Drinks are discounted too, which is always a plus at happy hour (the best ones SHOULD have discounts on both food AND drink). Two dollar discounts on six of their fancy cocktails brings the price down to be quite reasonable. Choosing the perfect mix is a little bit more challenging since they all sound so yummy. I opted for the Mee Sen Margarita which came from the bar looking a little too patriotic (I quickly stirred the colors into a nice pinky-purple before taking my first sip). My math buddy ordered the Lychee Crush (this happy hour--a.k.a. math department meeting--DID include a little "shop talk"). It was blended and came topped with a lychee fruit that left her wondering what it was she had ordered (I think it was her first lychee fruit experience).


There was so much on the menu to choose from that our poor server stopped by a number of times before we were finally ready. I decided on the bowl of Drunken Noodles. I've only recently discovered that I LOVE drunken noodles. I used to be a Pad See Ew girl. I ordered it religiously, no matter where I was. Drunken noodles are similar but with more veggies and more spice. I recommend giving them a try if you haven't already.


I shared, of course. And we also shared the salad rolls (that were delivered almost instantaneously) and the fried tofu. The salad rolls looked fantastic. They were full of vibrant colors, came with a decent amount of peanut sauce, and were perfect for sharing. They, however, needed something. We decided that there might have been the teensiest amount of some fresh herb (maybe basil)...but that there needed to be MORE. I prefer cilantro and think that it has a stronger flavor (which is what these salad rolls needed) but a few extra leaves of basil would have probably done the trick, too. With that, these would have been PERFECT.


The tofu was just fried tofu...but it came with a super tasty dipping sauce. It was more like sweet and hot instead of sweet and sour (like sweet chili sauce, I suppose) and came topped with peanuts.

It was pretty empty in there when we first arrived but I'm fairly certain that the service would have been just as good had it been fully packed. They are quick with the food and quite friendly.

Two additional things about Mee Sen that make it a great place to go for happy hour is that they have plenty of outdoor seating and they are next door to one of my favorite self-serve frozen yogurt places.

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

-b


Mee-Sen Thai Eatery

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bugatti's

2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd
Happy Hour: 3PM - 6PM, 8PM - close, and ALL DAY Sunday

After spending too much time looking at flat screen TVs at what some people call the "shiny happy place" (where they all wear blue and have walls and walls of televisions to choose from), we were HUNGRY! Luckily, we were in Beaverton. And in Beaverton, there are restaurants galore. Many of them homogenized, but restaurants nonetheless. And in the same parking lot as the shiny happy place, we found Bugatti's. And Bugatti's serves happy hour ALL NIGHT LONG on Sundays.


We walked in and found a comfortable corner booth in the bar. In what seemed like seconds, our server delivered a plate of foccacia to our table. (How did she know?) The bread was served with a garlicky olive oil for dipping and was apparently never-ending. (We barely touched the second plate, but that doesn't mean it didn't make it to the table.) It made the hunger issue less of an issue as we checked out the food options on the menu.


The happy hour menu at Bugatti's is a big one. They've got all sorts of things to choose from and according to the menu (as well as from the photos) the portions are LARGER than what you might expect to see at happy hour. Which means, of course, that this is one happy hour that you can go to expecting to eat an entire meal. And there are four locations total, meaning that you all don't have to head to Beaverton (unless, of course, you need something from the shiny happy place--perhaps a vacuum, they've got dozens to choose from).


We started with the Champagne Salad. There were two at the table for the three of us to share, one without walnuts and one without onions. Both had sliced strawberries and crumbled Gorgonzola. The dressing was a champagne vinaigrette (hence the name, Champagne Salad) but seemed a bit heavy for me. It coated each piece of spinach, front and back. (Note to self, always order the dressing on the side. Always.)




I ordered the angel hair pasta with marinara sauce (simple, yet good) and we all shared the Margherita pizza. It was covered with fresh basil and tomato slices and had plenty of cheese. It was a great deal for five dollars, that's for sure.


My boyfriend (I suppose I should start referring to him by his new title, my fiance) ordered the meaty version of what I had. It was a traditional Bolognese Spaghetti but came with a meatball in addition to the meat sauce. He seemed quite pleased with the selection.


And for dessert (yes, they have dessert on the menu) we ordered the Profiterole. For just two dollars, they will serve the cutest little cream puff filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream, and drizzled with the perfect amount of Belgian chocolate sauce. A perfect ending, in my opinion.


To wash it all down, I sipped on a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. It's just $4.50 during happy hour. Also at the table were discounted well drinks: a vodka gimlet ($5.50 during happy hour) and a gin and tonic ($3.50).

They seem to know what they are doing at Bugatti's (at least in the bar). Our server might have been one of the only people working that area on Sunday, but she was quick and checked on us often. And it seemed that there were regulars there...and when people come back time and time again, it makes me think that this place is a pretty good place. (Plus, they have dessert on their happy hour menu...something that I love and that will bring me back time and time again.)

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

-b


Bugatti's

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tree's Restaurant and Catering

1211 SW 5th Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - close

Never had I heard of or seen this restaurant before now. It's hidden away on the ground floor of the PacWest Building. I'm sure that all of those people occupying all of those floors know all about Tree's Restaurant and Catering. But I did not.


It's a cute little restaurant and bar with "outdoor" seating in the foyer of the building. You can still catch a little sunshine out there AND avoid the noise of the traffic and the potential drizzle of rain. The three of us, however, sat inside. And I'm glad we did--service was a little slow and being closer to the bar made a difference (especially that time I walked up to place an order).

The three of us had dinner plans, and so this was really just a stop for drinks. For the purpose of blogging (and because I was a little hungrier than the others after spending my afternoon at the gym) we did order one food item.


The menu has quite the assortment of food selections. Most things are priced between three and five dollars but they do have two big ticket items. (Big, as in eight whole dollars.) They are the housemade chips and salsa and the halibut fish and chips. They've also got three different types of sliders (no veggie version, though) and the price gets better as you buy more.


We decided on the Pesto Flatbread with Spinach and Feta. It was SO yummy (and not just because I was hungry). After taking my first bite, it made sense to know that this place started as a catering company and then became a restaurant. They know how to do food.


They also seem to know how to make great tasting cocktails. (Although I highly suggest that you stick to what's on the menu. My boyfriend ordered a Gimlet and we were both pretty convinced that it had club soda in it. Who puts club soda in a gimlet?) I had the Avocado Margarita even though it wasn't a part of the happy hour discounts because I had never ever seen avocado listed on a drink menu before. (Avocado milkshakes, yes. Avocado anything else, no.) It was yummy. Green, but yummy. And it definitely mellowed out that typical tequila flavor that some people are so greatly opposed to. (I am not one of those people...but I know that they are out there.)

Service wasn't exactly up-to-snuff but I'm going to assume that the bartender was just a little too distracted. I need to give this place one more go before I make anymore comments about how hard it was to get his attention.

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

-b

Tree's Restaurant and Catering

Bartini Take Two

2114 NW Glisan
Happy Hour 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m daily
Also available all evening Sunday and Monday
and from 9:30 to close Tuesday-Thursday

Earlier this summer, my co-blogger went to Bartini without me. I was trying to find a fun place to go for Happy Hour before the Timbers game on Wednesday, and I remembered that she liked this place, so I figured my boyfriend and I should give it a try. We had been to the connected restaurant, Urban Fondue, and we enjoyed it despite really slow service (it was better than the Melting Pot, in our opinion, but I think going out to fondue is kind of overrated--so little food for such a high price!)


We arrived at about 4:30, and the place was fairly empty (but by the time we left just after six it was completely packed, with some people who were waiting eying our table like vultures.) The service was really great. Our server was friendly, checked back frequently, and delivered everything quickly. This made me want to keep ordering martinis.


Bartini reminds me of the martini place we all love/hate, Vault, because it has a huge book full of exciting cocktails that all sound delicious. Bartini is better, though, because at Happy Hour all of the martinis are half price except for one page of "premium" martinis. At Vault they have certain ones on special, but you don't get as many choices for the discount. The vibe was also better--it didn't have that feeling that Vault has sometimes where everyone is trying to look cool and sexy. In any case, I was encouraged to order many martinis, so I was able to try four different ones (all $3-4 due to the discount!) The first one I ordered was made with mango and cucumber. It was really, really good. The next one had pear puree and grapefruit, and it was just okay. The third one was a watermelon cooler--this was the most tasty and I would get it again. It tasted just like a Jolly Rancher. Some people might think it too sweet, but I thought it was perfect. The final martini was the Oatmeal Cookie, and it was the perfect dessert. The drinks weren't super strong, obviously, since I was able to drink all four without any funny or embarrassing stories to show for it.


The food was also quite good. I ordered the goat cheese polenta cake and the shrimp tacos. I liked the shrimp tacos the best. My boyfriend really liked his BBQ chicken flatbread and mini shrimp and crab cakes. I tried both of them, and I think he made the better choices this time!


If I lived in Northwest, I would definitely become a regular at Bartini. My experience overall was excellent!

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

--E


Mio Sushi Take Two

4204 NE Halsey
Happy Hour 4-6 p.m.

I have heard many people say that Mio Sushi is not the best sushi in Portland, but I have always enjoyed my meals at the Hollywood location. Maybe it's because I often come here after the gym, so I am extra hungry and it is something to look forward to while I am working out. I almost always order the Bento box meal with Teriyaki salmon and California rolls because it is a huge amount of food for a pretty decent price. As many times as I have been here, though, I had never tried the Happy Hour, so I was eager to try it when my co-blogger suggested it.


I ordered the tempura for $3.95. Normally I am not a huge fried food fan because of my sensitive stomach, but I love their vegetable tempura here (I ordered it without shrimp). The batter is light, the dipping sauce is good, and they always have a variety of veggies--my favorite is the sweet potato. I also wanted to order a more exotic roll since they were on special for $6.95. I got the banzai roll which had shrimp tempura--along with some other flavors I was unfamiliar with--and was delicious.


They have good drink prices as well. They had a few specialty cocktails, but they weren't offered at a discount. I ended up ordering a $3 glass of Pinot Grigio. It was a nice drink for a hot day.


I have never had bad service at Mio Sushi. They are always friendly and attentive, and this visit was no exception.

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

--E

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mio Sushi - Hollywood Location

4204 NE Halsey Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM

Mio Sushi has happy hour? I know, I thought the same thing. But when I saw it posted on the door a couple of weeks ago when I was in for lunch, I knew that I needed to go back.


There have to be a dozen or more Mios around these days. They started with that one teeny location in NW Portland and now have restaurants across Oregon. (I think I read somewhere that they are opening the first one in the Seattle area soon, too.) We stopped in just as they were reopening yesterday afternoon (they close between lunch and dinner, so make sure you check the hours first if you are planning to pick up some sushi or one of their bento boxes). The Hollywood location was the most conveniently located for the four of us but the parking is always such a pain. Mio parking at this location is shared with the 24 Hour Fitness and there are never enough spots in that garage.


We started with drinks while checking (and cross checking) all of the menus. They have quite a few special rolls listed by their name only on the happy hour menu. Luckily, the sushi menu was there for us when we didn't know exactly what was in the Volcano Roll.


I ordered the Pom Pom Saketini even though there wasn't a discount. They have other drinks that are included in the happy hour pricing, but the idea of this mix sounded super yummy. And I loved it. The sugar rim was a little too much, though. It seemed a little thick.


I was able to order the tempura appetizer from the happy hour menu with only veggies (it regularly comes with shrimp). When it arrived at the table, I was happy to see the assortment. There were green beans and carrots, broccoli, an onion ring and a slice of squash.


The best value it seemed was the roll combo. It came with two rolls (about sixteen pieces of sushi) and could have easily become dinner if paired with some miso or an order of edamame. I didn't order it, of course. Instead, I ordered the super veggie roll off of the regular menu. It's only three dollars, making it a better deal than many of the happy hour sushi choices (which are more expensive due to the high quality ingredients, of course). I've always loved their super veggie roll (it comes with the bento boxes that I've had so many times before).

They have all sorts of perfectly decorated desserts at Mio Sushi, but we opted to go next door after sushi for self-serve frozen yogurt at Sweet Cream. It's a smaller location serving YoCream with all of the toppings you would ever want. So yummy.

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

-b

Mio Sushi

Monday, August 22, 2011

Shakti's - Wenatchee, Washington

218 N Mission Street
Happy Hour: 4:30 - 6:00


With only two weeks of summer break remaining, I knew I needed to make the most of this extra long vacation. (We are starting the school year with furlough days this year.) I packed up the trunk and put just under 1000 miles on the car in seven days time. Along the way, I stopped in Wenatchee, Washington (for my first time as an adult...it had been quite awhile) to visit my college roommate. I had told her ahead of time how I wanted to spend my time (besides catching up, of course) and going to happy hour was, of course, on that list. So on the very first night we walked into Shakti's.



Shakti's offers five dollars off all appetizers during happy hour. (When I had first looked online I thought that it had said all apps were five dollars....) With a discount of five bucks, the appetizers all drop in price to eight dollars. In my opinion, that's still a little spendy...but they are high quality options. Things like crab croquettes and clams aren't going to be listed for $3 on any menu (and if they are, I'd be a little bit hesitant about the actual ingredients).


We started with drinks and then ordered the only two vegetarian options on the menu. My college roommate (despite her dislike of onions) ordered the Warm Artichoke Gratin. The onions were caramelized and only added to the flavor of the artichoke spread. Also mixed in were toasted pecans. Plenty of cheese, too. But instead of using the typical assortment of Parmesan or Asiago, this restaurant chose to substitute Gruyere. It was topped with a couple of roasted red peppers and served with plenty of bread.


I ordered their Crimini Marsala. When I had at first placed my order, our server shared with us that they had just pulled that dish from the menu due to a lack of ingredients. Luckily (she was nice enough to go check since I wouldn't be able to order anything else off of the menu besides another dish of Gratin) they had just enough criminis to make one more dish. It was quite tasty--with plenty of freshly chopped garlic--but might be something that needs to be shared in the future (and my college roommate lives by a strict no mushroom lifestyle). It was a lot...and not just in the actual amount. It was a lot of the same flavor...and the same texture.


To drink, the two of us ordered cosmopolitans. There is a list of six happy hour martinis, all down to just five dollars each. (You can get wine for the same price or they have Stella draft and well drinks listed at just three dollars each.) The cosmo was like any other cosmo I've had. It seems that they are one of those foolproof drinks. This one came without the sugared rim, making it much easier to finish (sometimes they are just so sticky).


Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Exceeds (fantastic patio seating)
Value: Meets

-b


Shakti's