Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Radar

3951 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 5 - 7, Tuesday through Sunday
radarpdx.com

While we were still dating, my husband lived a block off of Mississippi Avenue. It was an amazing neighborhood to live in, but a spendy one, for sure. With enough willpower, I'm sure we could have stayed in every night. But there were so many restaurants and everything was within walking distance. It was just too hard to say no. We still head back to certain favorites now and then, but it had been quite awhile since I had really paid attention to the new spots that had opened up shop. Now, of course, it is my mission to get to every single one of them--or at least those with happy hour offerings--between now and the end of summer break.

Radar is one of those places that moved in after we moved out. I am pretty sure that there used to be a bike shop in that space. Either way, it's in a row of restaurants all scrunched together just south of Shaver. (It's a good row of favorites--Sidecar 11, Gravy, Moloko, plus Equinox just around the corner--so if Radar has a wait you can always make it your second stop.) They offer small plates Tuesday through Sunday starting at five, brunch on the weekends from ten to two, and happy hour for the first two hours they're open each night. The happy hour menu includes discounts on snacks as well as wine and at least one cocktail. It's a decent set up and might just be the perfect way to lead into a multi-course meal. Even without the discounts, the descriptions of some of the dinner items make it sound well-worth the price.


We stopped in last week for a drink, some snacks, and a impromptu conversation about ice. Ice is big when you are crafting fancy cocktails. They take it seriously. It's pretty fantastic. Fantastic enough that it makes me want to go back to try another round of cocktails just to see which style of ice each drink will be paired with. The coolest one isn't even pictured.





While we were still making decisions on food, our server dropped off a tiny ramekin piled high with roasted garbanzo beans. (I love a happy hour that includes complimentary snacking.) These had just the right amount of crunch and were covered in smoked paprika.


Although the Sope is usually served with skirt steak, I requested one without. Thankfully, our server recognized what that meant and came back quickly to warn me of the true ingredients in the masa cake. I was still able to enjoy the dish--and enjoy it, I did--with the substitution of a perfectly-sized tortilla round. I appreciated the accommodations immensely. If the Sope is as good as it was without the masa cake and the skirt steak (the main ingredients, mind you), I'm sure it will be a favorite to many.



The rest of the meal became a bit of a theme (unintentionally so, of course). The soup is not included in the happy hour listings, but at only four dollars per bowl it is perfectly priced. The soup that day was a creamy cauliflower soup, and although it was quite warm out, it sounded too good to pass up.


The favorite for everyone at the table, though, was the plate of cauliflower fritters. Served with bravas sauce, these lightly battered cauliflower bites had more favorable flavor than either one of us expected. They are most definitely something that I will order with each return visit.




With delicious food, quality crafted cocktails, and serious attention to detail, a visit to Radar--whether it be for happy hour not--is a must.

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

-b

Radar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 19, 2014

North Light

3746 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM and 10 - midnight, daily
www.northlightpdx.com

First official happy hour outing of the summer and we have a keeper. An honest-to-goodness keeper. Put it on your list, people. This place has great food, delicious cocktails, and an amazing patio.

North Light opened on Mississippi Avenue just a couple of months ago. They open for dinner daily at four, offer brunch on the weekends, and have a long list of discounted items--both to eat and drink--during happy hour every day (yes, every day) between four and six and then again at ten. That's fairly promising. And so is the fact that this place is directly related to everyone's favorite Night Light on SE Clinton.


We showed up within minutes of opening, had our choice of seating, and started working our way through the menu. Well drinks are discounted by a dollar. Wine, too. And beer is down by fifty cents during happy hour. I opted for the daily happy hour cocktail (something my co-bloggers and I agree is a MUST at every establishment), priced at just five bucks. The deal of the day was made with house-infused vanilla vodka, a freshly made strawberry shrub (they are still in season), some fresh lemon juice, and--I'm guessing--just a splash of simple syrup. It was a perfect patio option. Super refreshing and nice and cool.


The cocktail menu--that's sadly not included in the discounts--had a number of tempting options as well. After narrowing down the choices, the Cannon Smoke made it to the top of the list. Made with black tea infused rum, fresh lime juice, and a dash of scotch, this cocktail didn't last long.


If there were more than just the two of us, we could have easily ordered every item on the food menu. Everything sounded so good. Having a limited amount of space (on the table and in our bellies), we went with the top three picks: the OTA tofu ($6), the chicken lollipops ($5), and the grilled cheese ($6).



The grilled cheese was made with their own pullman loaf--grilled to perfection--and had pockets of cheesy goodness throughout as the combination of cheese included fontina AND cheese curds. I've never had cheese curds on a sammy before. They worked perfectly. So much so that I'll probably be making an attempt to do the same at home. (And when it doesn't work out as well--because I'm not a professional and my bread is nowhere near as good--I'll know where to go.) The sandwich came with fries (or a salad for a dollar more). Although the weather wasn't really appropriate for it, what I really wanted--or rather, what the sandwich was calling for--was a bowl of tomato soup. Perhaps that will become one of the options come fall.



Of course I didn't try the Crispy Chicken Lollipops, but they were quite adorable--for chicken, that is--and seemed to be more than pleasing to the meat eater at the table. They come three to a plate and are topped with a Garlic Thyme Glaze. Like many of the appetizers (and even their macaroni and cheese), these were gluten free. (Sure, chicken is an obvious one...but mac and cheese. That was intentional. And something that many Portlanders are going to appreciate.)




I loved the combination of flavors that accompanied the OTA tofu. (We both did, in fact.) Two lightly fried triangles of locally made OTA tofu came perched above thick slices of roasted sweet potato and sautéed spinach flavored with a delicious soy mirin glaze. (The OTA tofu shows up on their regular dinner menu as well as the brunch menu. I'm definitely going to order the tofu and black bean breakfast chimichanga in the near future.)

Service was exceptional during our entire visit. We tend to ask a lot of questions--and sometimes make silly requests--and never did it seem like we were a bother. I'm anxious to get back there again--for both brunch and more time spent on that patio. It's perfect for Portland's summer and provides ample people watching opportunities (without requiring you to be right up against the hustle and bustle of Mississippi).

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

-b

North Light on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aviary

1733 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 PM, Monday through Friday
www.aviarypdx.com

My first experience at Aviary was not a good one. Service was awful, the atmosphere bland, and the food only so so. That was years ago. (Back when Salt & Straw was just a cart in their courtyard.) Before the fire. Now they've remodeled, added happy hour to their menu, and increased my likeliness to return tenfold.


Happy Hour at Aviary is available weekdays between 5 and 7, but only in the bar. It's dark in there, which is why my pictures are less than stellar. There are a few comfy seats with tables all to your own, but we opted to sit at the bar mostly because it had the best lighting but also because it's always entertaining to sit where you can watch the work that goes into every drink.


There are a number of discounted food items on the happy hour menu. Drinks, too. And being there with my sister meant that we were going to order it all. (She knows how this blogging business works.) We shared everything, naturally, and had similar opinions after almost every bite.


Having grown up on tempura, the lightly battered green beans were an easy sell. They were a little pricey at $6 per plate, but I'm sure that has something to do with the cost of purchasing local, organic produce.


Fried brussels sprouts are becoming a happy hour menu staple, but at Aviary the brussels sprout are served nacho style and come topped with a mess of deliciousness. I say mess because of the potential for disaster. Unlike tortilla chips, these fried brussels sprouts didn't provide the same structure or surface and could have led to a serious spill. If you aren't going about it strategically, I would definitely suggest using a fork. (Or a spoon, which makes licking the plate without licking the plate much more doable.)


Although I loved the brussels sprout nachos, it was the eggplant that left the most lasting impression. It's a simple dish but packed with flavor. The eggplant is prepared with a tomato miso, a Peruvian yellow chile pepper called the aji amarillo, and dill. It's a flavor that I probably won't be able to recreate at home and so I'll have to return to Aviary (despite my initial opinion) for this dish. Luckily, it's available on both the happy hour menu ($6) and the regular dinner menu ($8).


No matter what you order, be sure to get a plate of the bread and bagna cauda. At only $2 during happy hour, it's worth the price and the extra calories.

First impressions are pretty important, but they are not everything. I'm not going to let that one bad experience keep me from returning to Aviary. (And it's definitely not going to take YEARS before heading back there again, this time.)

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

-b


Aviary on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 16, 2014

Punch Bowl Social

340 SW Morrison Street (3rd floor of Pioneer Place)
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM and 10 - close, daily
punchbowlsocial.com/pdx


It's Monday, the first official day of summer break...and it's raining. It's been sunny and beautiful for weeks, but not today. At least it's not as bad as it was last year. Or the year before. But it sure would be nice to kick off the vacation with a little fun in the sun.


On days like today it makes sense to stay inside. That does not mean, however, that you need to curl up on your own couch. Get out. Head downtown. And spend your afternoon at Punch Bowl Social. They've got good food, great drinks, bowling, karaoke, shuffleboard, darts, ping pong, and so much more. It's a great place to celebrate and a perfect spot when the weather just isn't quite what you want. Plus they have happy hour twice, every single day.


Punch Bowl Social offers happy hour daily from three to six and again from ten to close. They've got discounts on both food and drinks, including "old man cans" for just three bucks a pop and the featured punch of the day for only $6.


We were there with a group large enough that we had a chance to sample a little bit of everything on the menu. The deviled eggs ($4) were a crowd pleaser for sure, most likely due to the coffee bacon jam that topped each one.


The mac and cheese was a favorite, as well, although I had to special order mine without the guanciale (pork jowl salumi just isn't for me). It's made with marscapone, Tillamook cheddar, caramelized onions, kale, and just the right amount of breadcrumbs. The texture is spot on and the onions add that extra something that makes this mac and cheese one that you'll want to have again and again.


My favorite food item--on both the happy hour menu and the regular dinner menu--are the veggie street tacos (they've got a meaty version that are probably equally delicious). During happy hour, they are just $2.50 each. Made with Mexican-style rajas and topped with avocado, salsa, cilantro and crema, it's hard to eat just one. (If I hadn't been intentional in ordering a little of this and a little of that for blogging purposes, I could have easily eaten nothing but these. They are just that good.)


Although we stuck to singles this time, ordering a punch bowl is something that everyone should do at least once (assuming, of course, that you can agree on a punch to share). They come large enough to serve four ($36) or eight ($72). If that's not your thing, they've also got a few adult milkshakes listed on the menu that are awfully tempting. If only I hadn't filled up on tacos and mac and cheese.

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

-b

Punch Bowl Social Food & Drink on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Songbird

6839 SE Belmont Street
Happy Hour: 3 - 5 PM, Tuesday through Saturday
songbirdpdx.com


I used to live just a few blocks from Mt. Tabor. I made it a part of my everyday running route. I didn't always love running up, up, up to the top but I enjoyed the view every time I did. Despite the many trips I made, there are still parts of Mt. Tabor that I have yet to discover. Songbird--an adorable restaurant tucked into the side streets of Mt. Tabor--is no longer on that list. Instead, it is on the list of places that I will return to again and again. And not just for happy hour. They've got breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus desserts. And they all look very good.

Songbird is located on Belmont Street, just east of 60th Avenue. It's not too far up from The Cheese Bar but far enough that one might expect nothing but residential space. I first learned of Songbird when I saw it listed on the restaurants participating in Portland's Dining Month. I am so glad I did.



Happy Hour is available from 3 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday. I love that they extend the discounts all the way through Saturday. The menu includes a number of snackable items but options that could make a meal as well. We opted for a little bit of both with an order of the beet chips($4), a bowl of the daily soup($5), and the house-made veggie burger($8).



The beet chips are a definite must. They are gorgeous--not necessarily in my pictures, but in real life, for sure--and they are tasty. They were served with a dipping sauce that suited them well but wasn't at all necessary. The root vegetable was packed with enough flavor on its own that the accompaniment wasn't required. I loved every bite and have since attempted to recreate them at home.


Although we didn't go in planning to eat an all beet meal, that's exactly what we did. We saw the soup of the day being delivered to a table across the way and HAD to have it. Beet chips and beet soup. It makes sense. I have been on a beet kick for the past year or two.


As it turns out, the veggie burger is also made with beets...and a lot of other perfectly matched ingredients. I've had it twice now. The first must have been mixed with golden beets. The second--not pictured--was nearly as red as the soup. As is the case with most house-made veggie patties, the flavors and textures weren't a perfect match from the first beet burger experience to the second. I liked them both, but the first held up a little better than the second. That isn't going to keep me from trying a third. I loved every bite.


They've got a pretty fantastic wine menu--especially if you are willing to purchase a bottle--but, for happy hour, it made the most sense to take advantage of the well-priced house cocktails. Most are just seven dollars and made with the highest quality ingredients. Narrowing it down to just one was nearly impossible to do alone, but our server--who was a hoot--helped with the decision-making process. Having been back to try more from the menu, I know now that no matter what I had picked on that first visit, I would have been pleased.

With summer break starting in just two weeks, I know that I will be back next to try their brunch. It's available Tuesday through Friday starting at 9 and on the weekend at 8.

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

Songbird on Urbanspoon