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




  1. I've been here a few times and had absolutely amazing food every time. Sadly, the last time I went the service was so atrocious I vowed to never go back. I even called and spoke to the manager--it was THAT bad. We'd been with out of town guests and this place was my suggestion so I was pretty humiliated. :(

  2. It looks like I need to add Castagna to my list of restaurants to try!