Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bollywood Theater

3010 SE Division & 2039 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour Wishlist

Bollywood Theater does not offer happy hour. There are no discounts if you show up for an early dinner. But the prices are low all of the time. And getting there before the normal dinner hour means avoiding a long line. That's savings in its own.

I'm not sure what took me so long to make it to Bollywood Theater. (Maybe because they don't offer an official happy hour?) When I finally did, however, I was so impressed that I went back for more within days. Two days, I think. Maybe three. It's just that good.

The menu at Bollywood Theatre is long and includes street food, small plates, Thali meals, and sides. The most expensive item--seafood, of course--is just $16.50. The majority of the plates are between six and eight bucks. During our first visit, we had the Pav Bhaji ($6.50), a Kati Roll ($8.50), and the Trio of Chutneys ($2.50). Since then, I've learned that both the Vada Pav ($3.25) and the Beets ($6) are a must with every visit.

Although I am still working to try every single vegetarian option on their menu, I am most impressed with the Kati Roll. Available with chicken, paneer cheese or beef, the Kati Roll is big enough to make into a meal but also easy enough to share if you want a little more variety. The flatbread is grilled perfectly and the extras--both pickled onion and green chutney--add flavor and crunch that work so well with the main ingredients.

Pav Bhaji--also known on the menu as "bread and vegetables"--is a small plate of potatoes, veggies, tomatoes and spices that have been cooked long enough to allow the flavors to work together and really make a statement. Served with buttered rolls that have been grilled just long enough to give them the structure they need to carry the veggies from plate to mouth (because the spoon is just for show), this simple dish is one that will leave a lasting impression.

The Trio of Chutneys is served with plenty of Pappadums and varies in flavor from sweet to spicy. You're likely to love one (if not all three) as a snack prior to the rest of your meal being ready or as an added accompaniment to the other plates.

There are a number of drinks available on the menu--including a Pimm's Cup, Gin and Tonic, Kabhi Kabhie (made with bacardi, campari, pineapple juice, a little biters and some fresh lime juice)--but I love their ginger lime soda so much that I've ordered it every time.

Like so many Portland establishments, this one requires you to order and pay before finding a seat AND help out in the end by bussing your own table. It might not be your favorite style of service, but it's not too difficult to navigate if you go in knowing what to expect.

Food: Exceeds
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (I especially love the bathroom decor at the Division location.)
Value: Meets


Bollywood Theater on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gold Dust Meridian

3267 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Happy Hour: 2 - 8 PM, daily

Happy Hour outside of Portland typically means a dollar off this, discounted fried straight-from-the-freezer foods, or maybe a free handful of salted bar nuts. In Portland, you can find real food--maybe not the same as the regular dinner menu and definitely served as a smaller portion--but real food, nonetheless. And at certain places you can even find enough offerings on the menu to fill up on veggies. (Not just garlic fries or a plate of mixed greens, but real veggies.)

At Gold Dust Meridian, their menu is SO long and so varied that it will please any patron, especially those who prefer a more balanced approach to snacking. It's a tiered menu--with prices starting at four dollars--and they've got everything from Deviled Eggs to Ceviche to Lemongrass Clams. All that AND happy hour runs from 2 until 8 PM every single day.

We were there on an afternoon that called for patio seating (almost a daily occurrence, lately) and enjoyed their Stuffed Mushrooms ($4), Garlic Green Beans ($5), and the Classic Mac ($5). Although the menu had changed since the last time I had been in, I was happy to see that the Garlic Green Beans were still available. They are delicious--a bit salty, but delicious--and a must if you are in for happy hour or not (they're on the regular menu, too).

The Garlic Green Beans are big enough to share (but good enough that you'll want a second plate). They are sautéed with a sweet gralicky soy sauce that will likely leave you licking the plate. (Maybe you aren't the type of person to make such a scene, but I'm certain you'll at least make some attempt to get more of that goodness into your mouth even after the beans have vanished.) It's just that good.

Stuffed Mushrooms are so often stuffed with crab (or some other meat I can't eat) that I rarely have them outside of my own kitchen. At Gold Dust Meridian, the stuffing is made of ricotta and breadcrumbs and whatever seasonings it takes to make them so delicious and that's it. No crab. No lobster. No seafood of any kind. They are served just five to a plate, which means--even at four dollars--there's a bit added to the price for the amount of work that goes into stuffing each one of those little mushroom caps.

Five bucks is just the base price for the Classic Mac. You can upgrade it for a dollar more to have added bacon, broccolini, or tomato. Obviously, I paid that higher price. The broccolini was good, as was the mac and cheese with its mix of aged cheddar, smoked gouda, and mozzarella, but the crumbs--which appeared to be smashed cheez-its or something of the sort--were just a bit too overpowering for me. Don't get me wrong. I still enjoyed the mac and cheese. And I LOVE cheez-its (enough to never ever buy them for fear of finishing the entire box on the way home from the grocery store). But the ratio of crumbs to creamy cheesy goodness was just not up to par.

Thankfully, I was able to wash down those crumbs with a tall glass of their Strawberry Blade. Made with Superfly Vodka, Strawberry Nectar, Lemonade, and Soda, this was a perfect summertime patio sipper. It was so good that I sipped my way through a second.

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


Gold Dust Meridian on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wine Up on Wiliams

3037 N Williams Ave
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, daily

Wine Up on Williams offers all sorts of discounted specials and events. (And they seem to be constantly changing, so it's good to check their website before you head out.) The current lineup includes daily happy hour, Whiskey Wednesdays, discounts for the ladies on Thursday HERS-days, free wine tasting on Fridays, plus live music on both Friday and Saturday night (with no cover charge). And if you are quick enough, they're running a Living Social coupon that will save you even more cash.

If you don't mind the mystery, a glass of the house red (or white) is just five dollars during happy hour. (If you want something a little bit classier, those wines that are priced above $10 per glass come with a two-dollar discount during happy hour.) Draft beer is also discounted at just $5 per glass. They have six rotating beers on tap (plus a few others available by the bottle at an even better price). And if you've managed to walk into the wine bar with someone who just won't have it, they have a list of classic cocktails that--although they aren't included in the discount--aren't all that pricey considering the quality of the ingredients.

We sampled almost all of their snacks, including the house hazelnuts ($3), mixed olives ($3), and the truffled popcorn ($3), plus one of each of the bruschetta offerings ($1.50 each). It's a perfect spread if you are craving something salty. They do offer some sweet treats, if that's what you're in the mood for. Their bread pudding is said to be one of the best around.

Service was a little slow the day we were in, but it was obvious that there was some sort of special tasting going on behind the scenes. Next time, though, I might pick a bottle from the shelf so that I don't have to wait to order a second glass. (There's a corkage fee if you do, but the prices are still well below what you'd find in a typical restaurant.) And then I might get a second bottle (or even a third) to take home. They've got plenty to offer, that's for sure.

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


WineUP On WIlliams on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 07, 2014

Rae's Lakeview Lounge

1900 NW 27th Avenue
Happy Hour: 2 - 6 PM, daily

There's no lake at Rae's Lakeview Lounge. They are pretty clear about that on their website--like a disclaimer--but I want to know why. What's the story behind a lakeless lakeview restaurant? Is there something more to it or is this simply a conversation starter? A way to get people in the door? I am seriously curious. Please comment away, Rae.

We stopped in on Saturday for some early afternoon grazing. It's not easy finding happy hour in NW on a Saturday, but Rae's offers it...starting at two. They have happy hour daily (bonus points!) from two to six PM with a long list of discounted food items and a dollar off both wine and well drinks. Miller High Life is available by the bottle for a buck and if you are in the mood for a cocktail, they're really not that much more. The most expensive thing I found on the list of mixed drinks was just $8.50. In my opinion, that's fairly reasonable but--for extra bonus points--we'd love to see a discounted "cocktail of the day" make an appearance to Rae's happy hour offerings.

Icy pint-sized cocktails made the most sense on Saturday--as they will again today with temperatures in the upper eighties. Pictured are the Fizzy Lizzy--served by Lizzy, herself--and a Mojito Grande. The Fizzy Lizzy is a mix of cranberry, fresh lemon and lime, raspberry vodka, and soda. It's tart, but super drinkable.

The Mojito was one of the best I've had since my last trip to Mexico. The ingredients fit the norm, so I'm not sure what made it that much better than all the rest. Could have been the organic mint? Maybe it was just the right ratio? Perhaps it was all that muddling action? I guess I will never know. But at only $6.50 each, I'd be happy to try it again (and again) to see if the reasons behind the quality become that much more obvious.

As a part of our smorgasbord of snacks, we ordered the Almonds & Olives ($3), the Black & Tan Hummus ($4.50), some cheese waffles ($4.50), and a house-made black bean Veggie Burger ($5).

The Almonds & Olives were a perfect match of sweet and salt. It was almost too perfect as I kept going back for one more, and then another, and another...alternating between flavors with each bite.

Served with pita chips (not the ones from a bag) and thinly sliced cucumber, the Black & Tan hummus was a great pick for sharing. The cucumber was just a bit too thin for scooping purposes but worked well as a topper when--as etiquette suggests--I used my fork and knife to spread a little dip on each chip. The pita chips were good--and an excellent vessel for both the traditional chickpea hummus and the black bean version--but definitely not good for me.

Also not good for me was the plate of cheese waffles. I, however, could not resist the cheese-smothered waffle fries served with house-made ranch dressing. This is one of those dishes that is okay to order when you are planning to share, but dangerous--seriously, dangerous--if you are working to finish it all alone. They are just too good.

Made with black beans and barley, the house made veggie patty came dressed with spinach, thick slices of tomato, caramelized onions (that was my favorite part), mayo, and a slice of swiss cheese.

Despite the whole missing lake thing, I was super impressed with Rae's Lakeview Lounge. Service was good, the food both cheap and delicious, and the layout of the place is so inviting it makes me want to go back just to hang out. Next time--unless it's for one of their bottomless mimosa brunches--I will definitely make room for the Happy Hour Bread Pudding. I love discounted desserts!

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


Rae's Lakeview Lounge on Urbanspoon