Tuesday, June 17, 2014


1733 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 PM, Monday through Friday

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


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