Friday, August 24, 2012

Slow Bar

533 SE Grand Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6, Monday through Friday


Never before have I wanted to order a burger as much as I did last night at the Slow Bar. Not to eat, of course. I'm a vegetarian. But I saw so many walk by and they were so...PRETTY! I just wanted to take pictures of them. I loved the look, with their sculpted buns and the onion ring placed perfectly in the center of it all. I didn't ever check the dinner menu. Perhaps they offer the same set-up with a veggie patty. If not, PLEASE DO.


And veggie sliders. I want those, too. There were four slider options listed on the menu and all of them full of meat. Can you add just one veggie option? Pretty please!


I did enjoy my spinach and garlic pizzetta. It was beautiful, much bigger than I had anticipated, and had the best flavor. I did have to pull off a few of the garlic cloves, though. There were just too many for my taste.


The salad was the highlight of my meal, though. Three dollar salads don't usually come with much. This one, however, was dressed with an assortment of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts), a soft yet crumbly goat cheese, and a light vinaigrette. I loved every bite. (Every bite but the walnuts, of course--but that has nothing to do with their flavor, we just don't get along.)


The Caprese Salad was a little more in price but well worth the value with all of that fresh mozzarella. Each slice was sandwiched between what looked like this slices of an heirloom tomato. And it was topped with the perfect amount of fresh basil and balsamic.


After much (internal) debate, I ordered the Zirkpatrick to drink. It's a pomegranate margarita--that wasn't the hard part--made with a peppercorn-infused tequila. I was worried about the peppercorn but LOVED it. Not everyone at the table did, though. In fact, I think I was the only one. The server even commented that people either love it or hate it. I enjoyed it enough that I ordered a second.

I pretty much loved everything about Slow Bar. Everything but the music, that is. It was loud...which is usually okay. But it was loud AND aggressive. That kind of music is fine in certain situations but made me want to finish my food that much faster. My guess is that it had more to do with the employees working and less to do with the place as a whole. I guess we'll see...next time. 

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


Slow Bar

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jo Bar & Rotisserie

701 NW 23rd Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6, daily

There are only a few days left of summer vacation. The kids aren't back until after Labor Day, but the teachers are expected back next week. (And most of us have already been back for meetings and such already.) All this means that there isn't much more time left in the summer for early afternoon happy hours. It's going to be back to that five o'clock business in no time. It's harder to get a good seat that late in the day at some places. And so I made plans for one last happy hour with my sister. You see, she's a teacher too. We both are ridiculously busy during the year and rarely see each other (despite living so close to one another). During breaks and on those precious three-day weekends, though, we usually get together quite often. And she's a good one to do happy hours with...especially when it comes to new reviews. In fact, she's the one who tops the list for most-happy-hours-in-one-day. A lot of people can do three in a row, but she's the only one who has been with me to hit four. (No worries, there was a lot of strategy involved and we weren't driving!)


We met downtown at Jo Bar and Rotisserie. It's not exactly attached to Papa Haydn, but they do share a wall and they are owned by the same people. (And maybe you can get some of the same desserts there, too.) They offer happy hour from 3 to 6 daily and the menu offers quite a lot to choose from.


We started with drinks, though. And because she's my sister...when I wasn't as impressed with my selection as I had hoped to be, she switched with me. I had originally ordered one of the specials from the chalkboard posted near the bar. It was served in a martini glass, but was made mostly of muddled strawberries, a Rose wine, and Prosecco. There was a basil leaf floating on top but not a huge basil flavor to it. It was good, but I need to do a better job of remembering that I don't usually like champagne-type drinks. Sometimes, but not usually.


I ended up finishing the majority of her Jojito. (A Mojito made at Jo Bar, obviously.) It was extra sweet and not too planty (a serious concern of my co-blogger). I liked it and found it to be perfectly refreshing.

Also refreshing was the open-air quality of the restaurant. They don't have garage-door-style openings (I think they've been around longer than that's been the norm) but they do have plenty of huge windows that open up all the way. We actually sat side-by-side with a table (just a bit lower than us) and they were out on the sidewalk...but you almost wouldn't know it.


To accompany our fancy beverages, we ordered two things off of the menu. The first was a plate of bruschetta. They sell them on their own for two dollars each or as a trio for five. We opted to go for the trio, but selected two mushroom and one shrimp since neither of us were going to touch the chicken. The mushroom bruschetta was piled high with sauteed mushrooms and a spread of marscapone cheese. It truly was delicious. The shrimp bruschetta, topped also with huge chunks of tomatoes, was pleasing but not as big of a hit as the mushroom option.


We also selected the fancy Gorgonzola fondue from the food menu. It came in a tiny ceramic fondue dish made with space for a tea light to keep everything warm and melty. The fondue was served with green beans, apple slices, and a few slices of a baguette. I loved every bite (even the green beans).

Jo Bar is most definitely a good option when in the neighborhood of NW 23rd. It's a great place to stop when working your way through the cute shops and trendy spots. Next time I just need to allow myself more time (and more space) so that I can enjoy some of those fancy desserts. They all looked SO good.

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

-b

Jo Bar & Rotisserie

Sam's Lounge (@ The Monarch Hotel)

12566 SE 92nd Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 daily AND 9 - close, Sunday through Thursday

Happy hour doesn't always have to be in a fancy restaurant. Sometimes it's not about the surroundings at all. Having good discounts is important, yes. And, of course, a food menu with multiple options (even for us vegetarians) is a huge plus. But a lot of the time, it's really about who you're with. And that's how I ended up at the Monarch Hotel way out near the Clackamas Towne Center. But, hey...they have a happy hour...so why not write about it.

At the Monarch Hotel, happy hour takes place in the lounge. They call it Sam's Lounge...which is perfect because I was there to see Sam's mom. And you can enjoy heavily discounted snacks from 3 to 6 daily and again from nine to close on all days but Friday and Saturday. There's a minimum purchase required on beverages but it's only $2.50.

I love catching up with friends (especially those that have moved so far away) over happy hour. We were there long enough to share a plate of nachos, a couple of fancy martinis, and enough gossip to make up for the past few months.


The nachos were just nachos, but they were pretty tasty. They were covered with diced tomatoes, green onions, black olives, plenty of melted cheese, and were topped with a dollop of sour cream and a scoop of guacamole. They weren't good for me, but I ate them just the same.


Martinis might also qualify as being not-too-good for me, but it's not like I drink them all the time. And I avoid the sugared rim as much as possible...which makes up for my decision to consume so many liquid calories (I think). I'll be back to my usual boring food self as soon as the school year starts anyway. That's my new favorite excuse. So there.


This martini was a play on the cosmopolitan...but with a few extra additions. It was tasty and super refreshing. On the other side of the table was the official creamsicle martini. Yum!

I'm probably not going to hit up the Monarch Hotel again anytime soon...but that doesn't mean they don't have a great happy hour. Instead of driving all the way out there, though, I think I'll just try to recreate the creamsicle martini at home. That sounds like a good plan, I think.

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

-b


Sam's

Caro Amico Italian Cafe

3606 SW Barbur Blvd
Happy Hour: 4:00 - 6:00, daily


I had never been to Caro Amico before moving to the west side of Portland, but now it's a definite go to when we aren't in the mood to cook at home. They've got pretty fantastic food, it's a comfortable atmosphere, it's super close by, and they've got a long list of wines to choose from. That, and they always send out coupons in the mail making dinner at Caro Amico a reasonably priced meal even when we go all out with fancy cocktails and dessert. Now that I know all that is on their happy hour menu, even a night without the coupon will result in decent sized meal for a pretty low price.

Happy Hour runs daily from four to six and you are welcome to sit anywhere in the restaurant, including the patio. It was our first time on the patio and it was a perfect evening for it. (I definitely hope to get back before the Portland evenings get too cool to eat outdoors.)



We both started with a glass of red wine while looking over the menu. Bread was delivered promptly and--at my request--was accompanied by a big bowl of marinara. There was no extra charge for the dipping sauce and it made the basket of bread that comes with every meal at Caro Amico turn quickly into an appetizer. Usually I stick to dipping my bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar...but when the table next to us had big plates of pasta delivered just as we were sitting down, I knew I wanted something different. It was so good, I think I'll ask for it every visit from now on.



The happy hour menu includes a Caesar salad (which my fiance ordered and enjoyed) but not a green salad. I'm sure that I could have ordered the usual side salad (which I know comes topped with cucumbers, carrots, sunflower seeds, black olives, and tomatoes) but I wanted something special. That, of course, meant ordering off of something other than the happy hour menu. The Caprese salad is not cheap, but when it was delivered to the table it was completely obvious as to why it comes with such a high price. There was the equivalent of an entire ball of mozzarella cheese, sliced pretty thickly, and layered with plenty of tomatoes. All of that was served on a bed of mixed baby greens and drizzled with a flavorful balsamic reduction.


For dinner, I ordered the plate of angel hair pasta. It is served with a simple Aglio olio sauce and came with a number of grape tomatoes. It was the perfect finish after a big salad and was even large enough in size to share with my fiance, who had ordered the Salscicci.


The Salcicci is a good option for meat eaters, especially those who also LOVE cheese. It is not served with pasta, though, so if you are in need of both (and there isn't someone across the table willing to share) it is a good idea to get that PLUS the angel hair. The Salcicci is a plate of sausage mixed with a tomato-based sauce, plenty of pepperoncini peppers, and covered with cheese. It is obvious that the whole thing goes into the oven as it is served in a hot dish and the cheese is melted perfectly over the whole plate.

We did not order a dessert to go with our meal...but that doesn't mean we didn't finish with a little taste of chocolate. At Caro Amico, every meal comes with an Ovation. I'm not sure if these are available in stores regularly, but they are SO good I wouldn't mind going on an official Ovation search. These minty chocolate sticks are SO much better than the usual mints served at the close of dinner at some Italian places (which is saying a lot, because I love those mints too).

I'll be back soon (not just because of the mints) but I've already decided that I MUST try the pizza next time. While we were sitting on the patio, I saw at least three or four pizzas delivered and they all looked amazingly delicious. We always have pasta and it's fantastic...but maybe the pizza is even better. I won't know until I try it. And I think I'll have to try it soon.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets
 
-b

Caro Amico Italian Cafe

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old Market Pub & Brewery

6959 SW Multnomah Blvd
Happy Hour: 2 - 6 AND 9 - close, daily


I've been a fan of The Old Market Pub & Brewery for years. I lived just around the corner from this place when I was just out of college and since then it's been one of the top choices for group gatherings. We've done birthdays, graduations, and going away parties there over the years and have always been pleased. They have plenty of space and all sorts of options to keep people happily entertained (including multiple shuffleboard tables). The food is great (I especially love their calzones), they make their own beer (and they know what they're doing), and their happy hour menu includes upgrades making it easy to turn simple snacks into a full-on dinner.


We stopped in on one of those super hot days at the end of last week so I was quick to order the Citron Pink Lemonade off of the cocktail menu. Old Market Pub is known for their beer, but I'm not quite ready to finish a full pint. I did have a sip of the Hot Tamale (super spicy) and I have always liked the way Mr. Slate's Gravelberry smells. I'm not a beer drinker, though, and I' probably won't ever become one. If you are--and you are curious about all they have to offer--I'd suggest getting the beer Taster Tray. It's only $10.95 and you get NINE 4 oz samples.


Our party of six didn't arrive all at once, but our server was able to keep up and took pretty good care of us as everyone arrived. (The Old Market Pub can get pretty busy and it often shows in service...but today was a good day and we didn't have to wait long for anything really.)


Since we weren't all there from the start, it seemed most appropriate to order just a few snacks while we waited. We started with the Falafel Balls. They were a little darker than usual and they might have changed their recipe for Tzatziki but they still gave us something to snack on while we waited for the rest of the crew.


Once everyone was there and we were ready for dinner, I ordered a side salad (just $2 during happy hour) and a Tex Mex Wrap. The wrap was good (and huge for the three-dollar price tag) but next time I'm going to add all the extras. For an extra two bucks, I could have had enchilada sauce, melted cheese, sour cream and more salsa. Next time.


The favorite at the table turned out to be the Shove-A-Burger. (Where that name came from, I don't know.) It's bigger than a slider and smaller than the burger on the regular dinner menu but really seemed to be just about right for everyone ordering it tonight. Plus, you can add all sorts of goodies to it. There's bacon, different kinds of cheese, and sauteed mushrooms to choose from (even a gluten free bun if that's what you need). Plus, you can add fries or chips. It's a really good deal for meat eaters.


The best part about happy hour at The Old Market Pub is that it lasts almost all of the night, every night. Seriously, just don't go between six and nine and your dinner will be CHEAP.

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

-b


Old Market Pub & Brewery

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Hobnob Grille

3350 SE Morrison Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM


The Hobnob Grill has some serious sass. Sass, I say, for two very obvious reasons. So obvious, I'll show you.

Number one: They want you in your undies. It's not "no shirt, no shoes, no service" at this place. They'll let you have your pick of daily discounts if you show up in your skivvies.


Number two: They don't mind dropping an "F-bomb" on their menu. That's bold. So bold, I was thinking about leaving it out. But without the picture, you might not believe me when I say that The Hobnob Grille has some serious sass.


Beyond the sass, though, they've also got pretty good options during happy hour. The food menu is fairly extensive, with a variety of options for both meat eaters and vegetarians. The prices are good, too, with nothing over seven dollars. And they've got FRICKLES, which makes me smile just a little every time I say the word.


Frickles are, of course, fried pickles. These ones are spears, making them awfully attractive upon arrival. They aren't as easy to eat as the fried pickle chips I've had elsewhere, though. They're a little too much to put in your mouth all at once and so as soon as you bite into one, the fried outside starts to fall apart. It's messy...but still tasty. Watch out, though, because they are made fresh and that means they will be HOT when they get to your table. (Like, burn-your-mouth-hot.)


They also have a Flatbread 'Za on the menu. It's tasty and COVERED with vegetables. And a little cheese.



The star of the show, in my opinion, were the sliders. They have SO many options and they're just $5.50 for a pair. (No vegetarian sliders, though...maybe you can fix that, Hobnob.) At our table, we had one pulled pork slider and one fried chicken slider...but they also have ground Angus and a brisket. No matter what you order, it'll be dressed properly. The pulled pork comes with both an apple chutney and some sour slaw.



Deciding on a drink (with all that they've got listed in the fancy cocktail section of the menu) seemed especially daunting...so I asked for a suggestion from our server. She pointed me to the Pink and I'm glad she did. It's actually quite like something I've attempted at home. It's a berry-infused vodka mixed with simple syrup and lemon. I had all sorts of luck when I attempted to infuse vodka with blueberries and lemon, less so when I tried raspberries. Perhaps this drink will have me trying again. (Which gives me another reason to head to Sauvie Island.) The Nice Pear was less exciting, in my opinion. It was a mix of Pear Vodka, Campari, fresh lemon, and cranberry. Refreshing I'm sure, but without a sugared rim.

I'm not going to say for sure if I'll be back soon. But I do have a feeling that it might be on a Sunday. And maybe it'll be between the hours of eight and ten. And maybe I'll be in my underwear.

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

-b


Hobnob Grille

The Sweet Hereafter

3326 SE Belmont Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, daily


The happy hour menu at The Sweet Hereafter is pretty slim. The menu itself doesn't have much listed. The flavors, however, are fantastic and make it well worth the visit. And since it's a vegetarian restaurant, I can eat anything listed on the menu. That makes me happy. And so do their fancy drinks.



I ordered this month's most popular drink. It's a fancy iced tea concoction, so it makes sense that this is the one people are choosing. It's the perfect summertime drink. And it comes in a mason jar. A big mason jar. I was barely able to finish the whole thing. But I did. And it was good. The Hereafter (the drink, not the bar) is made of vodka, bourbon, iced tea, and lemon juice. It's seriously refreshing and could easily be labeled THE DRINK OF THE SUMMER. So good.


Snacks are pretty limited on the happy hour menu. In fact, they just have the one appetizer (chips and salsa) discounted at half price. We opted to go full-price and order a couple of plates to share. (Full price is just five dollars, by the way.) There is a dollar discount on entrees, so if this had been dinner it would have been perfect. Next time, I guess. For now, we sampled the rosemary almonds and a plate of pretzels.


The Rosemary Almonds are perfect for someone who loves both rosemary and almonds. The size of the dish made it well worth the five dollar price tag, but it was WAY too much for the two of us. We might have finished half the bowl. They were good--a little messy--but just too much. They'd be a perfect bar snack for a bigger group.


The pretzels were absolutely delicious and came with two dipping sauces. One was a stone ground mustard that would have made my co-blogger furious. (She HATES that kind of mustard!) The other, a cashew "cheese" sauce, turned out to be my favorite. I've made cashew "Alfredo" in the past and wasn't afraid of the idea. I'm actually interested in trying to replicate this one at home. The only ingredients I'm certain were in the mix, however, were cashews and nutritional yeast...so if I'm going to make this at home, I'll need to do a little more research.


Service was great but The Sweet Hereafter is one of those places where you have to order both your food and drinks at the bar. It's super convenient for large groups and doesn't really add much of a hassle, in my opinion. Just don't forget while you're out back on the patio and lose patience over it. That would be embarrassing.


Speaking of the patio, I think that's one of the best features of The Sweet Hereafter. It's covered (which is perfect for rainy Portland) and has multiple "garage door" openings. (So you can be outside without really being outside.) And it extends past that part, too...so if you do want to be all the way outside, it's available.

I've already decided that I am going to order The Jamaican Bowl when I return. I saw one at the bar and have decided that it fits all of my criteria for comfort food. It's made of brown rice, black beans, marinated tofu, and coconut kale. And, of course, I'd spend the extra buck for the avocado. The drink I choose to pair with my dinner, though, will totally depend on the weather.

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

-b

The Sweet Hereafter