Sunday, September 09, 2012

Castagna Cafe

1752 SE Hawthorne Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 6 PM and 9 - close, Monday through Saturday


Turning happy hour into dinner is ridiculously easy at Castagna. You can get plenty of food for a fairly good price. And they are great dishes made with high-quality ingredients. I loved everything I tasted and will definitely return. And when I do, I will remember that it is important to get there soon after happy hour begins. You see, it seems that there are a number of people who already know about this place. They know the benefit of a good happy hour. And they are willing to get there early to guarantee a good meal at a great price.


I started with the drink they refer to as the bartender's mood. I can't say for sure how often the mood of the bartender changes, but I can say that I enjoyed what I had. It was a Cherry Lime Rickey. The cherry part wasn't too strong but had enough of a hint that it made for a nice end-of-summer-vacation choice. I'm sure it would be good any day, but it had qualities that made it fun and refreshing and perfect for the last weekend before kids were back in school.


Most popular at the table, though, was the Marionberry Lemon Drop. They have a number of lemon drops available during happy hour for five dollars--including a Hibiscus Lemon Drop.

We had an assortment of plates around the table. All of the dishes were gorgeous (really, food can be beautiful) and everything I bit into tasted delicious. My dinner consisted of a Panzanella Salad (if was my first) and the majority of a plate of Arancini.


The Panzanella salad was made of a mix of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, basil,red onion, and--of course--bread. I have seen this on menus many times but have yet to order it. Now I'm ready to make it at home. And I happen to have a few heirloom tomato plants in the yard that are ready to pick.


I've had Arancini many times while out exploring happy hour establishments in Portland. I now can pronounce it without hesitation and can identify differences from plate to plate. This order was especially crisp on the outside making the initial bite that much better. The gooey cheese on the inside wasn't too excessive. They didn't spill over or make a mess. They were close to perfect.



Another dinner was comprised of a garden salad and a side of roasted beets. I was at first convinced that there were more tomatoes mixed in with the beets. I was wrong. There were just so many different colored beets in the dish and I'm used to red. Red, red. As in beet red.



The easiest of all meals at the table (and I say easy because it was a complete meal on its own) was the cheeseburger. It comes with all sorts of sliced veggies to put on top and a choice of cheddar or Swiss. What it did not come with, however, was a plate of fries. Luckily, that can be ordered on the side. And thankfully, that side was shared with everyone at the table.



Before leaving, we decided that--with it being the last night before heading back into the classroom--we should probably take a look at the dessert menu. There were all sorts of delicious options listed on that menu. Two made it to the table. I was intrigued by the ice cream espresso float (that's what it was, despite its fancy title) but instead stuck with the fresh peaches baked in a puff pastry. My fiance and I shared this dish, although I probably ate more than my half of it (something I'm sure he expected). There was ice cream involved. And fresh peaches. How could I not?


Service was pretty great at Castagna. And food was delivered quickly. Drinks, too. The only one not hard at work was the cat. He definitely worked his way through the tables but never really ever offered any assistance. My guess is that he's a neighborhood cat and has adopted this place as his afternoon hangout. He never asked for food and didn't really seek our attention. He was just there to be there, I guess.

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

-b


Castagna

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

442

1739 SE Hawthorne Street
Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 3 - 6 PM


We ended up at 442 on labor day when every other place on our happy hour agenda was closed. It's a cute little spot in a slower section of Hawthorne that offers Bosnian food specialties and all the soccer you can stand. Seriously, there are TVs all around, football paraphernalia covering the walls, and they have their own fantasy league (or maybe even more than one).


The drink menu is lengthy and includes some fairly creative options. We both went for the West Ham. It was a mix of berry vodka and ginger ale and was a little too much like kool aid for my taste. It's always dangerous when drinks taste like kool aid, but this one was also just a bit too berry for me.

Sitting outside allowed us to escape the hubbub of the soccer games being played on the multiple televisions. It did not, however, allow us to escape the secondhand smoke. There are tables clearly identified for both smokers and non-smokers, but I don't think anyone ever took into account the direction that the wind typically travels.


There are just a few food items listed on the happy hour menu. Two of them are a traditional Bosnian sandwich, one served with a white sauce and one that has a bit more heat to it. It's called a Cevap and is made of a mix of both beef and lamb. I didn't have any bites, of course, but was impressed with the size of the sandwich. And the bread is something special, too. I didn't catch its official name, but will forever refer to it as that very delicious Bosnian bread.



An entire basket of that bread was delivered with my order so I wasn't too jealous, in the end. The bread was served with the Mediterranean plate.When I first read Mediterranean Plate, I quickly assumed hummus. Maybe hummus and cucumbers, a little feta, and some olives. Nope. It was plate of sliced tomatoes, crumbled feta, and two olives. It was good, don't get me wrong, just not exactly what I expected.

This place seems like a fantastic option for soccer fans. It also seemed to be full of neighborhood regulars. I loved that delicious Bosnian bread enough that I might stop in again someday, but since I'm not the biggest soccer fan and I don't live near enough, I don't think that I'll ever become a regular.

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

-b


442

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Original Roadhouse Grill

2370 SE Burnside Road
Gresham, Oregon
Happy Hour: weekdays 2 - 7 PM, weekends 2  - 6 PM (served only in the bar)


The Roadhouse Grill will always remind of college. I made my first visit soon after moving into the dorms when I was eighteen. My roommate was an Oregon native (Boring, Oregon -- to be more exact) and spent plenty of time cracking peanut shells and watching the flames of the grill while dining with her parents at The Roadhouse Grill. She took us there for some family function early in our Freshman year and it soon became the place to go. There really isn't much for me on the menu, but I've always been able to piece together a meal. Not the healthiest of meals, but enough food to fill me.


We stopped in for happy hour last week after a day filled with meetings. (School is starting, and that means MEETINGS.) I quickly learned that food available during happy hour is also not too healthy. (I expected it walking in, but still.) The drinks, however, are available in mason jars. (Always a plus.) And you can eat as many peanuts as you want. (And throw the shells on the floor! Another plus.)


I was a little too intrigued by the Bale of Hay advertised on both the table and the sign near the main entrance. They called it a bale but really it was a block of onion rings. They were skinny onion rings and they were GREASY. We were expecting them to be a bit more crisp. Perhaps they usually are. Either way, I couldn't eat too many before pushing them to the far side of the table.


Also greasy were the Texas Egg Rolls. These, however, are the thing that brought me back so many times. They are delicious. (Or, at least, I think they are.) They are made to be similar to jalapeno poppers but instead of a whole jalapeno, it's chopped up into more manageable pieces (I say manageable because this makes the heat more tolerable for weenies like me). And rather than the typical breading, the whole thing is wrapped in a wonton wrapper. Sounds delicious, right? And the dipping sauce makes them that much tastier. It's sweet and spicy. And delicious.


They've got quite a lot to choose from as far as drinks go at The Roadhouse Grill. I opted for a margarita (because it came served in a mason jar) but soon realized that almost any well drink can be made in a mason jar if you ask nicely. And for a dollar more, you can make it a double. (Which I quickly learned does not mean your 16-ounce jar will be a full 32.)

The ambiance is what makes this place all that it is. (And maybe the steak -- if you eat that sort of thing.) The buckets of peanuts are only the beginning. And this isn't the only Roadhouse. It's a chain. They are everywhere.

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

-b


Roadhouse Grill