Sunday, March 30, 2014

Redwood

7915 SE Stark Avenue
Happy Hour: 5 - 6 PM and ALL NIGHT Mondays

Tomorrow is Monday. The first day of the workweek. (For us, the first day back to school after a week of Spring Break.) It's not a night I usually think about going out for dinner. But all of a sudden, that's what I want. Maybe even every week. There are so many spots around Portland that offer stellar discounts all night on what they typically find to be the slowest nights of the week. Happy Hour is a pretty fantastic concept. ALL NIGHT Happy Hour is about ten times better...especially if you know where to go.


Redwood offers happy hour daily from 5 - 6 PM and ALL NIGHT on Mondays. And their happy hour is not just snacks and plates worth sharing. It can easily be a full meal. I did a little price comparisons (something I tend to do frequently to get a better idea of the true value of an establishment's happy hour) and quickly found the pattern. The majority of the items on the happy hour menu are discounted by two bucks, making an early dinner (or dining out on Mondays) a pretty fantastic choice.

We were there after already hitting up a couple of other spots (it was Spring Break, after all) and were too full to really take advantage of the whole cheap dinner concept. We had room for some shareable snacks, though. And those shareable snacks were enough to have us wanting more. (Maybe one of us has already been back for more....)


Served with a chili vinegar dipping sauce, the cheddar and corn fritters had just enough crunch to keep you from thinking that the middle would be as cheesy and scrumptious as it was. Yum! These are hard to put down.


The fried Brussels Sprouts were crispy and delicious with just enough lemon to make them hard to stop eating. Seriously, it was worse than popcorn. This is a dish that's become more than popular on happy hour menus. At Redwood, they've done a great job seasoning the little green buds with a mix of cumin, coriander, and paprika. And they are sized just right that they are easy to eat. And eat. And eat.



Despite the number of discounts available on drinks during happy hour--well drinks are just three dollars, miller high life a buck, and both wine and draught beer are discounted by a dollar each--we both opted for one of Redwood's specialty cocktails. The Redwood Original is a mix of Ancient Age bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, muddled orange, lime and a cherry.


I enjoyed the La Llarona--which was made even better by the bright sunshine--with its Hornitos tequila, house-made cordial, muddled lime, and little (I assume house-made) sour.

Although I still miss the cute old man who owned and ran the restaurant housed in this same spot years ago, I will be back to Redwood (maybe tomorrow?) for a discounted dinner and then again another day for lunch or even brunch (which I hear is pretty commendable and comes with very little wait).

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
value: Meets

-b

Redwood on Urbanspoon

Oso Market + Bar

726 SE Grand Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6, Tuesday through Saturday
osomarket.com

This is the place that I can't stop talking about. I love it. I love the flavors, I love the atmosphere, I love that I can pick up a bottle of wine, a jar of honey, and a bit of cheese on my way out. Oso Market + Bar is most definitely one of my new favorites. I haven't been in to try brunch yet, but after the experience I had at both dinner and happy hour I am fairly certain it will be beyond delicious.


We stopped in earlier this week just as the sun was peeking out after another bout of heavy rain. The Market is located just off the Morrison Bridge on SE Grand Avenue. From there, we were able to watch as the sky changed from gray to blue to gray and back to blue again. The view of the city is pretty stellar--once you get past the sea of cars, that is--but the combination of shadows and reflections inside the restaurant is what we found to be most impressive. Not as impressive as the food, of course. But still impressive enough to break out the cameras for more than just food pics.

The food at Oso Market + Bar is AMAZING. Whether you are there for dinner or happy hour, there are plenty of small plates available at a reasonable price. They have a number of salads and starters, charcuterie boards (a selection of meats and/or cheeses that can often be found packaged and ready for purchase on the market shelves), full plates, and--my absolute favorite--the section of Montaditos. More commonly known as a small sandwich, Oso Market + Bar is serving a variety of flavor combinations open-faced on a slice of focaccia, but also served over polenta or Peruvian potatoes. These small plates are priced between five and twelve dollars but can be ordered as a sampler--with a choice of four--for $25.


There are so many vegetarian options on the happy hour menu, it made it hard for me to decide what to try. (It also gives me reason to go back again and again to complete the menu offerings.) For this visit, we settled on the roasted carrots ($3) and sautéed radishes ($4) from the happy hour menu and two Montaditos from the regular menu.



The roasted carrots were thinly sliced and came with a dill yogurt dressing. It wasn't a large plate, by any means, but came packed with flavor.



Although cooked slightly, the radishes still held their own with both crunch and their usual bite. The sharpness in flavor had diminished just a bit--which I enjoyed--but having not always been the biggest fan of the root veggie, I was not able to finish the bowl. This is one of those dishes that might just be best when shared.




Hard to share, however, were the two Montaditos. The first was a mix of chopped kale, thinly sliced roasted red pepper, and parmesan all piled high on a slice of focaccia and carefully topped with a fried quail egg. The second--my new favorite--was covered in Cremeux (a cheese I now have in my own refrigerator), topped with quartered figs, more than a drizzle of honey, arugula, and a balsamic reduction. Regardless of the meal or your current state of hunger, I would suggest ordering one of these two open-faced sandwiches--or both, both would be better--to try with the rest of your selections.


All of this paired perfectly with a glass of Tikves Vranec, a red wine from Macedonia. There are plenty of wines available by the glass or the bottle on their regular menu but there's a pretty good chance you'll find something on the market shelves that you'll love if you don't see it in print first. We didn't work our way through the last of the store shelves until just before leaving. While closing out, I learned that happy hour discounts include 10% off all bottles of wine. Rather than fill my arms to capacity, I left with the one I had already selected knowing that--since I can't get enough of their delicious Montaditos--I would be back soon enough anyway.

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

-b

Oso Market + Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yorgo's Greeley Avenue Bar & Grill

5421 N Greeley Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 7 PM and 10 - close, daily
www.greeleyavenue.com

Every June, we end the school year with a golf tournament. It's held on an actual golf course and some of us bring real golf clubs, but it's not really about golfing. Not by a long shot. We play a few holes like we are supposed to but then we bring out the baseball bats, the sling shot, maybe a frisbee and a few tennis balls. There are drinks and snacks and I usually make cart-side guacamole. Too many of us rent golf carts, we get dirty looks from the official starter, and occasionally someone gets locked in the porta-potty. It's the last day of school and after spending one hundred and seventy some days with one hundred and seventy some middle schoolers, we are ready to let go.

Along with my cart-side guacamole tradition--I've been mashing avocados at the fifth hole for about four years straight--I like to bring something special to sip on. Don't worry, I always share. In the past I have made lemon drops and birthday cake shots. Last year, hurricanes were the drink of choice. And when our favorite Spanish teacher retired, I made her a big blue bottle of AMF so that she could say goodbye to teaching in style. This year, I am ready to try something new. And I wouldn't know about this amazingly delicious yet oh-so-simple treat if I had never walked into Yorgo's.


Yorgo's added a whole lot more to their name a couple of years ago but since my sister has lived a few blocks down the street for so long, we can't call it by anything other than Yorgo's. It doesn't have the best curb appeal--and you have to walk through a wall of smoke on your way in--but they are working to transition the place into something a little more inviting. They've got plenty of seating, pool tables and shuffleboard, a number of big screen TVs ready with basketball and soccer and baseball and mixed-martial arts, and my new favorite boozy treat: pudding shots. Served in a plastic lidded cup, this fortified chocolatey treat is so good we each ordered two. Bookends, my sister called them. They're listed under appetizers on the main menu but deserve to be called dessert, too.




Yorgo's offers happy hour twice daily, from three to seven and again from ten to closing. That's a lot of time in one day to receive discounts on both food and drink. And they have daily specials, both a beer of the day and a shot of the day, and a number of items that are so reasonably priced it doesn't really matter if you are there at the wrong time of day.

There's a lot of fried food on the menu but there are a few healthy options in the mix, too. On the happy hour menu, they have soups and salads ad even half a sandwich mixed in with the typical fries and tots and mozzarella cheese sticks.



We opted for the veggies sausage sliders ($4.95). Served two to a plate, these little guys are piled high with grilled onions that are held in place with a piece of melting cheddar cheese. There's a pickle in there too, which helped the flavor combination--at least as they stand in my brain--transition from breakfast into something else.


Despite the low price tag, the tater tots ($2.95) are served in a sizable basket. My sister and I were sharing them and still did not finish the whole thing. It's a whole lotta tots.


To wash it all down, the two of us finished off a Bloody Mary each. If we were there on a Monday, each of these could have been served with a slice of bacon..because on Mondays every beer or cocktail ordered comes with a free slice of crisp bacon. I, however, am not sure if they offer veggie bacon in addition to those veggie sausages.

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

-b


Greeley Avenue Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smokehouse 21

413 NW 21st Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, daily
smokehouse21.com


Smokehouse 21 is made for meat eaters. I was still able to find something to snack on while sipping my Huckleberry Gin Collins, but this place is really made for people who enjoy bacon and sausage and pulled pork and brisket. Apparently, it's a place where people who don't even really like brisket learn to love it. That, of course, does not mean that this is the place that's going to turn me back into a meat eater after twenty-two years of living without...but it does mean that you should probably order the brisket sliders. Don't stop there, though.


There are a number of meat-laden items on the happy hour food menu that you'll want to try. And the majority of them are portioned so that it won't be impossible to finish more than one plate. Sharing is a pretty remarkable way to work through the menu, as well. The sliders come two to a plate and the deviled eggs are served in threes, so you'll have to do the math and order accordingly so that no one misses out on any given flavor.


We were there on Saturday--I wish every restaurant extended their happy hour into the weekend--and were able to taste so much of what they have to offer. I enjoyed the wedge salad ($3) and pickled veggies ($2) while others at the table finished off the brisket sliders ($4), a plate off deviled eggs ($3), one bacon-topped cornbread muffin ($1), and a bowl of macaroni and cheese topped with piles of pulled pork (the day's chalkboard special).


Smothered in blue cheese dressing, the wedge salad was topped with pickled red onions, boiled egg, and plenty of freshly cracked pepper. I passed up the option to add bacon and stuck with with traditional blue cheese dressing despite the number of options available. It's a LOT of dressing, though, so next time I might just order it on the side.


The pickled veggies had just enough vinegar to add a slight punch with each bite. Buried beneath the carrots and cauliflower were a couple of beets and one delicious but unidentifiable root vegetable.


Topped with hot link slices and dusted with paprika, the eggs were consumed almost upon arrival. My husband is quite the deviled egg connoisseur and he LOVED these.


I was a little jealous of the cornbread muffin. The menu boasted of molasses, making me want to give it a try but the bacon seemed to be everywhere. That's a very good thing for bacon lovers but has left me craving cornbread for days.



Sliders come topped with pulled pork, BBQ chicken, or brisket. I should have checked to see if you could order a combination. The price is the same for all three, so I can't see why that would be a problem. Both the bread and the pickles (and the fact that all sliders are so adorably cute in their petiteness) made me wish that they had a vegetarian option. That, however, might be asking too much of a restaurant called Smokehouse 21.



To wash down all that food, we each ordered something from the drink menu. My husband ordered beer (mostly because he wanted the koozie--which you can purchase for just two bucks) but the rest of us stuck with cocktails.


The Ginger Donkey is a simple mix of New Deal Ginger Liqueur, Whiskey, and ginger ale. It's a perfect summertime drink.


I enjoyed the Huckleberry Gin Collins with its citrus berry blend. It was nowhere near as sweet as I had been expecting.

Smokehouse 21 is located in the mix of the almost too many food options available on NW 21st. It's small and easy to miss, but something that is definitely worth giving a go. Even having not tasted a single meaty option listed on their food menu, I know that this is a place to which we will return. I just hope that it doesn't mean we are about to start a collection of beer koozies.

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

-b

Smokehouse 21 on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 24, 2014

La Bonita

2701 N. Killingsworth
Happy Hour Wishlist
labonitarestaurant.net


La Bonita is probably one of the oldest restaurants in what is now so well-known as the Alberta Arts District. They've been there since before Alberta was a place you'd want to venture for dinner. I remember walking there with the rest of the paint crew during the summer months when I was just a sophomore at Concordia. Their food has been delicious this entire time...but the neighborhood wasn't much back then. And it's so well-established now that it's hard to remember what it looked like at that time. It has grown so much. And so has La Bonita. They now have a second location--not too far away--at the corner of Killingsworth and Greeley.


My sister--who lives just a couple of blocks away--and I stopped in last Sunday afternoon. After seeing that they offered brunch items (including chilaquiles-yum!) I was surprised to see it so empty. Perhaps we had just missed the rush.

La Bonita doesn't offer happy hour--at either location--but do have plenty of small plates that are priced fairly low. We were off to a second location shortly after and opted to order just enough to get a taste (that has since made me want to go back for more). We ordered chips with guacamole and pico de gallo and an Horchata Borracha to share.


The horchata is my favorite beverage when ordering Mexican food. It's got great flavor AND helps to tone down anything that might be considered too spicy (for me, even if it's not for you). This one was the traditional cinnamon-y rice drink but with Bacardi. I'm not usually in the mood for rum-based cocktails, but I can't imagine anything else being in the mix.




The chips were fantastically fresh and worked perfectly as vessels for both the guac and the pico. I couldn't help but to add a little of both--plus some sour cream, now and then--to every bite I consumed. We both seemed to like the chips fully packed and left a number of them in the bowl upon leaving. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as though there wasn't enough dip. The chips were great--and super crunchy--but served their purpose as the supporting role. The guacamole and pico de gallo were the real stars of the show.

It's good to know that there are now two locations. Stopping in for tacos or burritos or nachos or even just another Horchata Borracha will always be easier when I don't have to worry so much about parking or the hustle and bustle that is sometimes present on Alberta.

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

-b


La Bonita on Urbanspoon

Castagna

1752 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Happy Hour Wishlist

Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary but our opinions are always our own. Thanks to the lovely ladies at Watershed Communications for the invitation.

This morning I'm headed downtown to my first photography class. I've learned a lot about my camera since we started the blog, but I haven't done anything "official" since I completed that 4H photography project when I was still in high school. I'm sure that we will head outside at some point and take pictures of the cherry blossoms or the Benson Bubblers. (I assume this, of course, because I always encounter photography classes when I'm running the esplanade...and almost always they are in the way when all I want is a quick sip of water.) What I really want to learn about, though, is how to get better pictures of food.

Below are pictures of a tasting meal I enjoyed at Castagna thanks to Watershed Communications. The food is gorgeous. The presentation beyond aesthetically pleasing. Everything seems as close to perfect as humanly possible. Except the shadows. And that glare. And the way the color seems just a bit off. I want to be able to fix all of those things. I know it won't happen overnight. But for a meal like this, I think it's a must.

Castagna is most definitely a special occasion place. The Cafe next door is a great option for the rest of the year. (The side-by-side offering reminds me of the stacks of everyday dishes resting next to the fine china in my own kitchen cupboard.) Both restaurants offer delicious food prepared by Chef Justin Woodward. At Castagna Cafe you can order oysters, pasta, sautéed rockfish, or a grilled New York steak with truffle butter. At Castagna, you can choose between the Prix Fixe ($65) or the Chef's Tasting Menu ($110)--both available with wine pairings. Knowing now how amazing the flavors and textures of every plate served at Castagna can be, I'd be willing to pay the full price. It's just that I am going to have to wait until my birthday or my anniversary to enjoy these flavors again. Sure, there are some people who can afford this type of meal on any Friday night--just like there are some people who eat every meal on their fine china--but for me it's just a little (no, a lot) too pricey.

The bites below are offered as snacks on the regular tasting menu at Castagna. The current menu starts with snacks, but then is followed by oysters and dungeness crab and razor clams before moving on to sweetbreads and then elk served with wild rice and chicory. With a few more plates in bewteen, it all ends with THREE different dessert offerings. And it's not as though you have to choose between number one, two, and three. You can taste them ALL. Things do rotate quickly as Chef Justin does his best to work with in-season local ingredients. Although some of the items are available year round, it's best to go in ready to taste something brand new.







My favorite of the snacks was the Onion Terrarium. Topped with pea vines, sunflower sprouts, wintercress, and fresh garbanzo beans, this encompassed all that I love about spring in the Northwest.





Although we were there to sample the snacks available on the tasting menu, Chef Justin thought it best that we also enjoy one of the current entrees available at Castagna. Like with all of the snacks pictured above, mine was the vegetarian version. The textures of this mushroom dish were phenominal but what has lasted the longest (and what I wish I could recreate) was the parsley puree. It was sharp and clean and buttery in feel. I tried to pair it with every bite and still leave some to enjoy on its own.



We enjoyed two desserts before parting that evening. The first came with a cake that had been blasted with freeze dried berry dust.



The second dessert paired meyer lemon with brown butter ice. I was still talking about that brown butter ice cream days after enjoying the last spponful.




Although it doens't seem likely in the near future, we hope that Castagna will someday consider offering happy hour in both the Cafe and the main restaurant. We love the discounted food and drink menu available at the Cafe but don't really want to wait until the next special occasion to order another Onion Terrarium.


Castagna on Urbanspoon