Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shakers Martini Lounge

1888 NW Fairview Drive
Gresham, Oregon
Happy Hour: 4 - 7, Monday through Friday

Gresham has been without a martini bar for too many years. We had found the Elbow Room only months before they closed their doors (and long before we began blogging). It used to be housed in the basement of (and owned by the same people who owned) Central Cafe--a favorite among teachers in our building for fancy-pants breakfasts and lunches that last longer than what the workday could handle. High quality martinis are a must for a strong finish to a hectic workweek. (They are especially appreciated after spending the day on a field trip with 165 thirteen-year-olds.) And that is why we are happy to have found Shakers Martini Lounge.

Like most martini lounges, Shakers has a long list of cocktails designed to please every palate. The menu is divided into three sections: sweet, sassy, and sophisticated. Those listed under the sophisticated strand are made with top shelf (or, at least, close to it) varieties and, therefore, come with a mightier price tag. Knowing that, I will be sure to make my selection more carefully next time. The ten dollar price listed next to my cucumber basil smash would have been more acceptable in a high-end restaurant but could have easily been replicated with something other than Grey Goose and still have been just as satisfying.

They do have plenty of cocktails available for less (I should have been playing closer attention to detail). Their happy hour martinis are all priced at four dollars each (similar in price to martinis at both Vault and Bartini) but are limited to six of those found in the full menu. They do have beer and wine available, despite the name of the establishment. And if you ask nicely, they would probably make you something as simple as a gin and tonic.

The food discounts seem appropriate but the options could use a little work. We love that there are nachos available, but want to see some fresh pico or a little heat built in. Without it, these are a little too like the ones I nooked in the microwave back in early elementary school when using the oven still required adult supervision.

A veggie assortment (even if just a few carrots or a slice or two of cucumber) would add so much appeal to the hummus plate. We know it's discounted, but when the hummus and the pita are served side-by-side the lack of color takes the overall food and flavor rating down by at least three points.

The wedge salad was most enjoyable (of the discounted items purchased--I went full price for the cheese plate, just because) as it was covered in chunks of delicious blue cheese and chopped tomatoes. I was, of course, eating the wedge without its traditional bacon crumbles and so can't describe the quality or change in flavor combinations. Either way, I loved every crunchy bite.

Service was decent and I enjoyed the music selection but did find the window paintings to be more the match of a family restaurant than that of a classy martini bar. I suppose when the seasons change, their approach to window treatment will change as well. Even without a second review, I will be sure to mention any improvements made with the next visit. It's to be expected, being so new, that there will be changes to the menu and the approach.

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


Shakers Martini Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Cheese Bar

6031 SE Belmont Street
Happy Hour Wishlist

Mmmmmmmmm cheese. I know what you're thinking. I know because I am thinking it, too. How can anyone decide on a cheese when faced with so many new and flavorful options each and every time you walk into The Cheese Bar? There's really no way to answer. It's more about your strategy from this day forward. Do we always trust the server? Work your way through the cheese offerings alphabetically? Make decisions based on price points alone? Either way, know that without an official happy hour this place still makes everyone happy. I know it makes me happy. Happy enough to want to return on a near weekly basis.

Early in the summer, I ran across a recipe for Burrata. Oh, I was excited. They had pictured the finished product in such a way that made me sound just a smidge like Veruca Salt with all of my demands to have it NOW. Finding it NOW was a little harder than I had imagined. Sure, I could make a special request at the grocery store. But I wanted to know where I could get it NOW. The Cheese Bar is that place. They have assured me that orders come in weekly, but finding it NOW isn't always a guarantee. Apparently, there are many other Portlanders searching for that same fresh and creamy Mozzerella. Which makes sense since once I first heard of the stuff, I've seen it listed on menus everywhere. Not to worry, though. If they are out on Thursday, there is probably another shipment arriving on Friday.

If you aren't just in to purchase specialty cheeses, please do sit and enjoy your time. You can opt for one of many cheese boards or go all out with a plate of pate. They offer wine by the bottle or by the glass and have a number of bottled beers available either at your table or to take home. There are also small snacks to sample and a few full-sized plates to enjoy if you are more interested in making it a meal.

With only a few options listed for wines by the glass, we recommend that you purchase a bottle. That's our plan from now until forever. It is the more financially responsible way to go, anyway. And it's not as if you HAVE to finish it while you are at The Cheese Bar. You can take what's left home.

As I so often do, we asked for recommendations when selecting the three cheeses that would be served alongside a dish of chutney and (what turned out to be never-ending) crostini. Ordering the Cheese Board--as opposed to one of four other cheese-specific boards--meant we were getting what the cheesemonger had selected. I appreciated his selections but will gladly go in again knowing that I might not have the same three tastes. And the more often I go, the more likely I am to work my way through all they have to offer. Now I just need to decide on a strategy to get through the more than 200 rotating selections. It's going to be tough, but I am up for the challenge.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (even without the typical happy hour discounts)


Cheese Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tannery Bar

5425 E Burnside
Happy Hour: 4 - 6, daily

I love neighborhood bars. I especially love how close the newest ones are getting to MY neighborhood. Long ago I lived in an apartment within walking distance to cutesy shops and restaurants in Montavilla. Then in a townhouse steps away from Hillsdale's central location. When we bought our house, though, we traded convenience and a high walkability score for a big garage, a fenced yard, and room to grow. Soon enough, those neighborhood bars will stretch all the way out to our neck of the woods. I hope.

Tannery Bar is just a block away from Tabor Tavern on East Burnside, just blocks from 60th Avenue. Both offer fantastic craft cocktails and food to fill you up, but Tabor Tavern seems awfully family-friendly while Tannery Bar is, indeed, a bar.

With the farmhouse feel, china that could have been my grandmother's, and teeny tiny tabletop gas lamps, the Tannery Bar is clearly making an attempt to stick to the theme. Their specials are listed on chalkboard cupboard doors painted with an antique crackled finish. They even serve their Moscow Mule in the traditional copper cups (which could have also been my grandmother's...I'm almost certain she had a set). To complete the feel, you'll have to make your way at some point in the night to the back of the bar where you will find more than one turntable and--while maybe not intentionally a part of the theme--a chocolate lab curled up on the rug.

We were there shortly after they opened at five and after considering our options found a seat at the window. Although they had plenty of outdoor seating available, inside consisted of tall stools at either the bar or window and two oversized communal tables. The communal tables filled up quickly and we were pleased with our choice as we were waiting on a third to join us for dinner.

Happy Hour discounts apply to much of their food menu and a few of their drinks. House wine and draft beer are priced with the usual discounts found at similar establishments. (Not super cheap, but still worth the early start to our evening.) They also offer a cocktail special. This evening there were two listed on the board, both at a dollar discount.

After perusing the cocktail list, I opted for a Moscow Mule. No, not because of the copper cup. I decided on this one after having ordered enough Moscow Mules (or variations of one, at least) during the summer months that it might soon be on my list of official go-tos. This one was small but of high quality. I'm sure that had something to do with the house-made ginger beer.

To share, we ordered a plate of fries. They were simple fries, not the Sasquatch Special that came topped with fancy cheeses and chanterelle mushrooms. They were salty and quite obviously freshly-made (we saw the pile of potatoes being processed as we first walked in).

Knowing this was dinner, I opted for a salad in order to increase my veggie intake for the day. It was lightly dressed and topped with almonds and slices of fancy cheese. The biggest slice fell victim to gravity, but the rest added to the flavor and made the salad that much more appealing.

To really fill up, I ordered the ham and brie baguette (minus the ham) after reading the description on the regular dinner menu. It came with a delightful house-made mustard that will probably continue to call my name for weeks to come. My husband ordered the same (with ham) when he arrived and after comparing, I can say for sure that they piled a few extra slices of brie on mine. That, of course, caused the size of the sando to be a bit too large and I proceeded to deconstruct and reconstruct it into two open-faced sandwiches. I may have looked like a small child pulling it all apart, but I didn't make the same mess others might have when taking each bite.

While not having had a bite of the Monte Cristo, I can comment on its presentation and the added benefit it had being offered as "fingers" instead of the traditional sandwich. Covered with powdered sugar and served with berry preserves, these styx were delectable while at the same time easy to eat. I can only imagine that the full-sized sandwich causes more than a light dusting of powdered sugar down your front with each bite. Unless, of course, you opt to use both fork and knife. These, however, don't cause a mess, don't require utensils, and might even have the better ratio of batter to bread with the added surface area.

Although the stools weren't the most comfortable and the server didn't appreciate our helpful spelling suggestions, the Tannery Bar is somewhere I'd like to return. Its farmhouse feel appeals to me and its coziness seems just right for fall. That, of course, means that I will have to return in the very near future.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets (although just barely)


The Tannery Bar on Urbanspoon