Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Circa 33

3348 SE Belmont Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM and ALL NIGHT Monday

There are certain areas in Portland--not including downtown, of course--that have been perfectly put together (with grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, and even libraries). These are the neighborhoods that have the highest "walkability" scores. (These are the neighborhoods that I want to live in.) And the really good ones (like Belmont, Mississippi, Alberta, and even Stark) have multiple establishments offering happy hour so that you can go from one to another if it's too crowded, not offering your favorite flavors, or--if you happen to write a happy hour food blog--you just really want to hit three happy hours in one night.

It takes some research and a bit of strategy to do multiple happy hours in one night. (Three is definitely doable, but four is a bit much.) You have to know the hours and watch your clock...but what really makes things difficult is being able to order just enough that you get the idea of what a place has to offer without filling up.

Circa 33 was our first stop of the evening and turned out to be my favorite. They have a pretty substantial happy hour menu, including discounts on both food and drinks. Service is beyond exceptional. But it's the alley that really makes this place stand out. It runs the length of the building and stretches out around the corner offering outdoor seating for those who want shade and those who want sun.

Discounts on drinks during happy hour apply to beer, wine, well drinks, and one specialty cocktail. The Planters Punch--just $5 during happy hour--is made of dark rum, a little sugar, mint, lime juice, bitters, and is topped with some freshly grated nutmeg. It's a little sweet and a pretty good option for a summer afternoon. There were a number of other specialty cocktails listed on the menu that were definitely of interest...but knowing that we were moving on, we both stuck with just the one. I did love that the drink menu included not just a description but the year the cocktail originated as well, some dating back to the eighteen hundreds.

Plenty of the food options looked like something we would both enjoy, but we opted to stick with just a small sample of what they had to offer. The most interesting of our choosing was the plate of Reuben Rolls. I have never before seen anything like this. (Yes, I've seen egg rolls...but not an egg roll stuffed with sauerkraut and corned beef.) There were four to the plate and they came with the dressing on the side. For only four dollars an order, I'd suggest that anyone who likes a Reuben sandwich give these a try.

The grilled asparagus was a pretty small plate but came with a lot of flavor. I'm a big fan of asparagus and make it at home on a near weekly basis (when it's the right season, of course) so when I saw such a small portion, I was a bit disappointed. The flavors, however, made up for it. The asparagus was grilled (adding the start to the flavor combination) and topped with a Romesco sauce. Yes, I could have eaten more...but I was happy with this dish in the end despite its small size.

Also at the table was the Belmont House Salad. The mixed greens were topped with a somewhat tangy but very light vinaigrette and came with some sliced beets.

And, of course, I tried the macaroni and cheese. (How could I not?) It was a good size, had fairly good flavor and a decent consistency (not too roux-y, not too much separation) but was missing the breadcrumb topping I love so much. Even without, though, I would totally order it again. And if I go in for dinner, I will most likely take advantage of the mac-and-cheese add-ons that are available on their regular dinner menu.

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


Circa 33

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