Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tasting East Bar- CLOSED

909 SW Park Ave.
Happy Hour: 4-7 p.m. and 9-close
Tasting East Website

It has been a LONG time since I have done a Happy Hour review.  A crazy school year, plus trying to cut back on eating out so I will look fabulous in my wedding dress, equals very few Happy Hour opportunities.  (Luckily B. started doing reviews again once summer started, so this blog hasn't been completely abandoned!)  When Tasting East mentioned on Twitter that we should come try their Happy Hour, I thought it sounded like a fun new place (I loved the bar that used to be in this location--I even had my birthday there a few years ago).



Tasting East is in the Paramount Hotel, and it is divided into two sides around the lobby.  One side is a restaurant and the other side is a bar.  We went to the bar and sat in a booth.  We arrived shortly after opening, and we were the first ones there.  By the time we left there were a lot more customers, but throughout our whole time at Tasting East we received really great service. Our server was really nice, checked on us regularly, and offered suggestions when we seemed unsure of what to order.

To start with, all three of us ordered the Bartender's Special for $4.  This drink rotates, but the one that was on special was made with lemonade, vodka, mango and a splash of soda.  This was pretty much the perfect drink for two out of three of us because of our love of the combination of vodka and lemon.  The drink did not disappoint!  They also had well drinks for $3, as well as house wine for $4.  I believe that they also had sake on special, but I can't remember if there was a beer special, too.  I did try the house white wine, too, and I found it really refreshing.



As any regular reader of this blog knows, our favorite places have both food and drink specials during Happy Hour.  Tasting East says on their website that they have happy prices all the time on food and specials on drinks during Happy Hour.  However, they did offer a few discounted specials on food during Happy Hour as well, and their menu was full of small plates that were reasonably priced.  I ended up "sharing" the sweet potato fries ($3.95) with my friend, which really meant I ate all but two myself.  These were different than any other sweet potato fries I have had because they were extremely thin and crispy.  They had a buttery taste to them.  I would not say that they were my favorite sweet potato fries ever (that prize still belongs to Bonfire), but they definitely grew on me as I continued to eat them.



I wasn't sure what to get for my next food item, and the server suggested the scallion pancake sandwich ($5.95).  I doubt I would have ordered it on my own, but I was really glad she suggested it once I got it.  This was the most filling menu item on the table. I got the Bulgogi beef version (they also have a chicken one).  They looked a lot like tacos with a filling of meat, spicy sauce and shredded cabbage.  The pancake on the outside was chewy and delicious. My vegetarian friend said that they should make a tofu-filled version so she can try them out, too; maybe they will add her suggestion to the menu in the future!



The favorite dish of the night was not ordered by me (but two plates were ordered, as one was just not enough once we tasted the first plate). I don't know about you, but whenever I make a veggie tray for a party, the cauliflower is ALWAYS the least eaten vegetable.  Also, "My favorite vegetable is cauliflower," is something I have never heard anyone say, ever. So no one was more surprised than me to find out that Street Cauliflower ($2.95) was an incredibly flavorful and delicious dish. I don't really have anything to compare it to since it was so unique, but I definitely urge you to try it out if you come here.  Even if you aren't a cauliflower fan!



The only thing that I didn't really enjoy was the sake that my friends got.  They tried pear, raspberry and one that was supposed to taste like candy.  The only one that I sort of liked was the pear one. Sadly, the candy and raspberry ones did not taste good at all (and I LOVE candy).

Overall, I really liked Tasting East for Happy Hour.  It's not the kind of place where you can make Happy Hour into dinner due to the small plates theme, but it is great for tasty drinks and unique snacks.

Food: Meets (cauliflower exceeds)
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

--E


Monday, June 25, 2012

Via Tribunali

36 SW 3rd Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM and 10 - close, daily


Via Tribunali is easy to find. It's right next to that very long line of people waiting in line at Voodoo Donuts. You know the line I'm referring to. It's the one that's there regardless of the hour or the day. There are all sorts of cute little restaurants and bars popping up right next to Voodoo. Seems pretty strategic to me. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snacking all in one block. They've even taken over the street with outdoor seating. It's awfully convenient.



I first heard about Via Tribunali on the radio. I did a little research and learned that they started in the Seattle area and have since moved into cities on both sides of the country. It's impressive, I think. And so is their happy hour menu. It's small, but holds up just the same.


The best deal, in my opinion, is the half carafe of house wine. We ordered one to share and were able to pour two glasses each. For only eight dollars, it's a pretty substantial amount of wine. And if you're not interested in wine, they have discounted prices on beer and well drinks.


As far as the food goes, they've got five great options for five bucks each...including dessert. (And--if you've been reading--you know that dessert on a happy hour menu always gets the gold star from me.) There are three pizzas to choose from on the happy hour menu (and more than twenty on the regular dinner menu if you don't see something you like). We decided on the margherita. So simple but so very good.


We also shared the antipasto plate. It came with foccacia, grana padano cheese, freshly sliced meats (one of the slicers is right there on the bar, so I knew it was fresh), olives, and peppers. These two plates (the pizza and the antipasto) made for a pretty fantastic snack. It would have taken a salad and another pizza to make it dinner...but we weren't interested in a full meal so it was perfect.

Service was the only thing that I found a little questionable at Via Tribunali. (I say questionable, but maybe the right word is misleading.) The bartender was very friendly and was the first to greet us (which makes sense because the bar is what you first walk into upon entering) but it was not her job to seat or serve the two of us. And even when our drinks were ready and waiting on the bar, it was not her job to bring them to us. And there were others working in or near the bar, too, making it seem that the place was full of servers. But none of them were there to help us. They all had their own tasks and, as friendly as they were when the walked by, they were not there to serve us. There was just the one server working our table and it always seemed to take him forever to find his way to us.

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

-b


Via Tribunali

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Secret Society

116 NE Russell Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 AND 10 to close, Sunday - Thursday


It's tiny. And dark (which is why my pictures are awful and so completely limited). But, it's GOOD. The portions are beyond what you expect at happy hour, the drinks are of high high HIGH quality, and the service was phenomenal (maybe better than usual because we sat at the bar, but still phenomenal). I will most definitely return. Again and again, I will.


We ended up here for late night happy hour after a political shindig at the Memorial Coliseum. We had been expecting shorter lines for the food cart happenings and left that place a little hungry. And...it was the first week of summer break, so we were up late and it didn't matter if we stayed up even later.


Sitting at the bar made it easy to watch the bartender at work. She was just about to pour four identical (somewhat frothy) drinks when we sat down. I asked, of course...and we ordered three of the same. I had never had a Pisco Sour, before. (Thankfully, I had already had drinks made with egg whites or I might have been a little too hesitant given the description.) It was perfectly delicious.


I was most impressed with the size of the popcorn. Seriously, we got the giant bowl all covered with Parmesan for three dollars. It's perfect for sharing! And they've got two flavors to choose from, making it one of those items that will please the crowds.


The macaroni and cheese was crazy hot when it arrived, but cooled down fast enough that we were all able to enjoy it. It was creamy and yummy and a most delicious late night treat. We were sharing this treat, though, so we didn't stop there.


Our last treat really was a treat. I love when desserts are included on the happy hour menu. It's one of those things that deserves extra credit, I think. An ice cream sundae topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a maraschino cherry is a pretty fantastic way to end a late-night happy hour adventure. Yum!

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

-b

Secret Society

Doug Fir

830 East Burnside Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM

Why has it taken SO long for me to write about happy hour at the Doug Fir? I know I've been there before, multiple times. I can even remember going for happy hour. I suppose it must have been before the food blog came to be.

 
Doug Fir is AMAZING. It's been one of my favorite music venues forever. It can get crowded, yes...but it's so nice to be able to see a band rather than to just know that they're up there, on that stage, so far away. And when you're not just there for the music, the bar has an excellent patio making this place a fantastic stop on a summer afternoon. Plus, there's a hotel attached...which makes this a perfect option for a staycation. (Just imagine--dinner, drinks, music, late night snacking, bedtime, breakfast. Yes, it's a lot of food--but it's all in one location.)


Happy hour runs from three to six, but you can find fairly decent prices on their bar menu all night. Prices range from 3 to 12 bucks on the bar menu, 2 to 5 on the happy hour menu. There were four of us that afternoon, and we were happy to share three items adding up to just seven dollars. I'd say that's pretty reasonable. The discount on drinks is pretty substantial, too...I, however, almost always go for the Brokeback Lemonade, which does not come with a discount regardless of the hour.

The Brokeback Lemonade is perfectly refreshing on a summer day (especially when basking in the sun on the patio). It's a mix of Stoli Strasberi vodka and lemonade. Seriously, I think I've been ordering this one for years. It's not my typical go to--but when at the Doug Fir, it's for me.



We ordered a plate of fries ('cause it's an easy sell for almost anyone) and a bowl of the Spicy Fried Garbanzos. The garbanzos, in my opinion, are like popcorn. Spicy popcorn. The two even have the same "stuck-in-my-teeth" qualities...except skin of a garbanzo bean is not as irritating as a popcorn hull can be.



Because I was also in the mood for something of the vegetable sort, I ordered a wedge salad. Rather than being topped with bacon, there were thin slices of radish atop my perfectly cut iceberg. In my opinion, all wedge salads should be made that way. There are a lot of bacon connoisseurs out there that might not agree. Perhaps a radish/bacon options should be in order. Or not. I can always order mine without.

The Doug Fir is one of those places that I would most definitely take someone visiting Portland for the first time. It's pretty high up there on the list for me. I hope you agree.

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

-b



Doug Fir




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Ratskeller - Alpine Bar and Pizzeria

88335 East Government Camp Loop
Government Camp, Oregon

I don't spend a lot of time on the mountain. I have attempted skiing twice in my life, both times unsuccessfully. And although I would LOVE to spend more time hiking and camping in the Mt. Hood National Forest, it doesn't always fit into my schedule. I was in Government Camp the other day, though. And I was hungry. And it was that time of day that happy hour tends to fall. You know, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. Finding happy hour in Government Camp, however, is not as easy as finding happy hour in Portland. Of course they don't have as many restaurants, making it quick to check even if you have to go door-to-door.

The Ratskeller offers happy hour pricing on drinks and has daily food specials that may even be better priced than some of my favorite Portland happy hour destinations. I ended my food adventure with a bill of $5.50. That's pretty cheap.


Keeping things simple, I ordered a gin and tonic (extra lime, of course) at the bar. The bartender had to run in the back to get the lime...which makes me think that most of the people at The Ratskeller are there for beer. (Everyone around me was, that's for sure.)


On Wednesdays, you can buy pizza by the slice. It was pretty good, but I was pretty hungry. They have specials for each day of the week (maybe not weekends) and all of them appear to be just as pleasing as the pizza.

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

-b


Monday, June 11, 2012

Produce Row Cafe - CLOSED

204 SE Oak Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM


Summer is here! Well, technically, I'm just enjoying the sun during the five days of furlough that we had left to serve. It sure feels like summer, though. And that is why I can finally say that I'm ready to blog, blog, BLOG. (Which really means, I'm ready for some serious happy hour-ing. Yes, it's a verb!)


On the first day of break, my fiance and I celebrated the end of a VERY long year by hitting up Produce Row Cafe. He'd been there plenty of times, but it was my first visit. I loved it. Service was fantastic. The food was yummy. They have beer and whiskey pairings.  And they have something on their menu called a waffle sandwich, which--minus the bacon--sounds heavenly.


We started with drinks. I ordered the five-dollar drink of the day--a cosmopolitan on the rocks. My fiance ordered one of the pairings. He's a whiskey guy. Or, a scotch guy. Or, maybe a bourbon guy. I'm still trying to figure out the difference. Either way, the menu of pairings seemed to make him happy.

Since we had dinner plans, we only needed a snack. (Of course, I hadn't eaten lunch...so I was ready for a BIG snack.) I ordered the pita pizza (it was one of the only veggie options) from the happy hour menu and a side salad from the dinner menu.


The pizza had the perfect amount of balsamic drizzled over the melted cheese. It made for an interesting appearance but a pretty fantastic flavor.


And the salad came with freshly baked bread. So good!


My fiance ordered the pulled pork quesadilla (that's the third I've seen on a happy hour menu in the past couple of months--must be the new trending food item). He was a little hesitant to try it with the coleslaw and ordered that to be on the side.

Such a fantastic way to start the summer. If only it had been warm enough to sit on the patio out back. That is the ONLY thing that would have made it any better.

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

-b

Produce Row Cafe


Chevy's Fresh Mex

12520 SE 93rd Ave
Clackamas, OR
Happy Hour: Daily 2 - 7 PM


I'm not the biggest fan of what I have always referred to as homogenized restaurants. Sure, they're safe...because no matter which location you hit, the menu's the same and the food tastes exactly as you remember. And they are often conveniently located. No, chain restaurants are NOT my favorite...but there are a few that have a lot to offer. At Chevy's, they have portabello mushroom and asparagus fajitas (a combination I have learned to love and now recreate at home), that yummy sweet corn cake that comes with almost any entree as a mini-dessert, and a super-duper EARLY happy hour. Two o'clock is more lunch than dinner...which means you can benefit from the discounted prices early in the day, too. 


I stopped in with one of my best friends after spending an hour shopping for bridesmaid dresses. One hour doesn't sound like near enough time, I know. This was the preliminary trip. We will go again next weekend. After all that time spent in the fitting room, we were in need of lunch (because who's going to eat before trying on dresses) and happy hour was just starting.


The happy hour menu is mostly meat...but they do have their signature guacamole appetizer listed. It's made fresh at your table, which allows you to control the heat (more or less jalapeno) and the over abundance of cilantro (because some people like it and others DO NOT. (I actually really like the stuff, but my fiance is only just learning to like it. He, like so many others, think it tastes like soap.)


Along with the guacamole (and bottomless chips and salsa), we shared the chopped salad. It wasn't on the happy hour menu but came at a great price. It was served with both chicken and bacon, but they were happy to accommodate my needs and left those two ingredients on the side. I loved the fresh corn and chunks of avocado.  All of the yummy flavors combined made it easy to not miss the salsa vinaigrette that I had completely overlooked when loading up my plate.


As for a beverage, I spent quite a bit of time pondering their list of fancy cocktails. In the end, I decided to go basic and enjoy a margarita. They have plenty of flavors to choose from if you aren't up for an original. Blended or not. With or without salt. They are all good.

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

 -b

 Chevys Fresh Mex