Friday, November 23, 2012

StreetCar Bistro & Taproom

1101 NW Northrup Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 10 - midnight, daily

Finding a new happy hour on a Saturday night can often be a bit of a challenge. Finding a new happy hour on a Saturday night that offers good food, good prices, and a good view of college football makes it even harder. But we did it. And we found a pretty fantastic place that will go on the "eat and repeat" list for later. It's definitely one I'll want to return to for dinner and more.

Happy Hour at the StreetCar Bistro and Taproom is new to me AND new to Portland. They've only been open for a couple of months and from what we heard, they are still tinkering with both the food and drink menus. They've got a great location, though, on 11th and Northrup and the crowds have already started piling in.

We were there as a table of four last Saturday. We had a good view of the game (not that I was watching) and were able to really sample the menu. They've got a long list to choose from, and we ordered just about one of everything. Everything but the wings, that is. They ran out early that night.

We started with fancy cocktails. Mine was the Citrio Martini and had only been added to the menu that night. It was a mix of grapefruit vodka, pineapple juice, and orange juice and came with a sugared rim. The menu had listed a candied grapefruit as garnish but the server warned me in advance that those were still in the works and would be available in another day or two. I'm not the biggest fan of grapefruit anything and was a little hesitant to order this cocktail. The combination of citrus and sugar worked well, though, and I was impressed with both the appearance and the flavor (even without the missing garnish).

Less appealing was the whiskey sour across the table. We all took a sip of this one, so I can say for sure that it was not quite up to par. The menu made it out to be something special with egg whites and all. With a little more experimentation, this could easily become my drink of choice (now and then). The egg white addition, though, can lead to trouble. I've had both good and bad. And when it's bad, it's usually very bad. And a lot of what makes it bad is the smell. So not appealing.

The third drink pictured is one that is ONLY available during happy hour (for whatever reason, I am not sure). We know this because there was an attempt at a second following the close of happy hour and it was NOT the same. Not the same at all. This Lemongrass Spitz was delicious and refreshing and "clean" and everything that you would imagine when running through the list of ingredients (basil, ginger, lemongrass vodka, simple syrup, lemonade, and soda water).

I wanted a little of everything on the menu (everything available without meat, that is) and decided to order something extra for the table. When the food came, though, and we got to see the portion sizes...I knew that the extra plate was not at all necessary. In fact, I was almost too full from my own dish to take any extra bites at all. (That's how big portions are at the StreetCar.) It was a very pretty cheese plate, though. It had a little bit of everything. And the bites I did have were quite tasty.

For dinner, I ordered a side salad and a dish of the macaroni and cheese. They offer both a house salad and a Caesar salad for just three dollars during happy hour. The house salad is loaded with olives (watch out for the pits, people) and the Caesar is extra special due to the topping of crispy fried sweet potato strips.

The macaroni and cheese looked to be quite small in its little white ramekin. After the first few bites, I realized that this dish was one of those that just keeps going and going. It was as though I was never going to run out of that creamy deliciousness. (Not everyone at the table thought it was as good as I did, but not everyone at the table has a love for mac and cheese and an ability to eat it again and again like a professional.) The mac and cheese had a mix of four cheeses (including Crater Lake Blue), was topped with herbed breadcrumbs, and had a few granny smith apple slices hidden within for extra crunch and a surprise shot of tartness now and then.

The large portions were not limited to the macaroni and cheese. The Sauteed Shellfish was a HUGE dish and came with an endless supply of bread used to soak up the salty broth. (Too salty for some but just salty enough for others....)

Smashed between two sides of a pub bun were three (yes, THREE) giant meatballs smothered in smoked mozzarella and tomato sauce making the handcrafted meatball sandwich one of the best values on the happy hour menu. And the five dollar price tag included a small salad, too.

The Half BLT had the same good flavors but lacked the ratio needed to make it as much a value as the meatball sandwich. It, too, came with a salad but lacked the strong veggie components needed in the sandwich itself. It needed a little more B, a crunchier L, and a thicker slice of T to make it work.

I always love when a happy hour menu includes a dessert or two. This one did not, but it seemed that all of the desserts listed on the dessert menu came at happy hour prices. We finished our meal with a creme brulee bread pudding that was sweeter than sweet and served with a stout beer caramel sauce. It was a GOOD ending. And one that makes me want to go back for more.

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


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