Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Swift & Union

8103 N Denver Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6, weekdays
swiftandunion.com

It's been more than two months since my last blog post. (This sounds a bit like a confession, which I suppose--in a way--it is.) As it turns out, blogging while teaching and being a mother to a very small child is REALLY HARD. No, it's not actually any more difficult to do than before. It's just difficult to find the time. I'm busy. We are all busy. But that doesn't mean we are done with this blog. We're just taking a bit of a break. Expect more time between posts for a while. You'll probably hear from us during the holidays, Spring Break, and again in the summer. And when the babies are older, we'll be back up to our normal blogging speed.

Those same babies (remember, there are three bloggers and two bloggin' babies) have also led us to a whole new category of happy hour. We need crayons, space to play, patient servers, and a changing table in every bathroom. And we need minors to be allowed during happy hour (which is not always the case and rarely advertised on an establishment's website). But we knew that the happy hour at Swift & Union would welcome our small children because they are a spinoff of the very family-friendly Tabor Tavern. (Minors must be seated by seven and off the premises by 8 PM at both locations.)


Swift & Union is new to the Kenton neighborhood and offers happy hour weekdays between four and six. The menu is somewhat seasonal, offers just enough variety, and includes items big enough to call dinner. Prices on the food menu range from 2 to 6 dollars and the discounts on drinks include more than just beer and wine. There's a $5 rotating cocktail (and the rest of the specialty cocktails aren't that much more, anyway).


Dining with a very small someone (who is just learning to feed herself), I opted for mostly finger foods. The pretzel was a perfect fit and only three dollars. I could have used a little more salt (that's just me) but the mustard made up for any lacking qualities. It's definitely more than just your everyday whole grain mustard.


The watermelon spears were perfect for the warm days last month but have since been replaced with a more seasonally appropriate item. They'll probably be back, someday.


And although there are plenty of vegetarian options available on the regular food menu, the happy hour menu didn't have much else to offer--other than the house salad, of course. A mix of simple greens and a few sliced radishes, a sprinkling of pepitas, and a cumin lime vinaigrette, this salad was worth the price (it's just three dollars during happy hour) but left me wanting more. Next time, I'll be sure to check out the regular menu, too. They've got sides (that are priced just as low as some of the happy hour food offerings) and a number of salads with tofu (or chicken) add-ons available.

Service was great (despite how crowded it became while we were there) and the Union Burger we brought home (for daddy) got two thumbs up. It's not as conveniently located as Tabor Tavern is (for us) but it's definitely a place we will hit, again and again.

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

-b

Swift and Union Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ate-Oh-Ate

2454 East Burnside
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, daily
www.ate-oh-ate.com

The official Happy Hour to do list has gotten to be SO long during the past year. And the restaurants on the list have been split into two very different categories: those that welcome teeny tiny humans and those that I'm saving for the next time we've got a babysitter lined up. Blogging is tough with a baby, but it's even harder when you're trying to blog about happy hour. If you've got any family-friendly establishments we should add to the list, please send them our way.


Ate-Oh-Ate is high on the list (every list we searched, in fact) of family-friendly establishments in the Portland area. (I actually first learned of this place from my sixteen year-old nephew. He love love LOVES their spam musubi.) They've got toys and high chairs and all that you need to keep everyone happy, plus Hawaiian shave ice (made with or without rum!). And Happy Hour is available DAILY from 4 to 6 PM.


The Happy Hour menu includes discounts on food and drinks (including a dollar off all of their specialty cocktails). They've also got a long list of items available as sides with prices so low you might consider coming back again and again instead of making that much needed trip to the grocery store. I stuck with the vegetarian options--a plate of spicy edamame and a cup of their vegetable curry--but you'll probably hear from my co-bloggers about their meaty meals eventually.


The edamame was covered with chopped garlic and some sort of red chili paste. There was enough heat to warrant the name of the dish but not so much that I couldn't finish them myself (and I'm a bit of a wimp).



It was the curry, though, that made the most impact on my tastebuds. Japanese curry is one of my favorites. For happy hour, it's just a small cup of the curry...but you can add steamed rice and chicken or pork cutlets for just a few dollars more when ordering off of the regular dinner menu.



Both the Mai Tai (which is just six bucks during happy hour) and the Suffering Bastard--made with gin, light rum, lime, ginger beer, and bitters--are limited to two per person. Assuming that they were both super sweet (and probably stupidly strong), I ordered the Chinese Sombrero Margarita. The few sips of the Chi Chi were my favorite, though, and will be my first choice next time I am there.


Service is good and everyone seems to know what they are doing, but you will have to order at the bar and bus your table. It is Portland, after all.

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

-b

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tomato Brothers

200 Bridge Street
Clarkston, Washington
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, daily

It's official. I've lived in Portland for as long as I lived in Idaho. Eighteen years here, eighteen years there. I guess you can call me an Idagonian. Or maybe an Orehoan. No, not that. Either way, it's time to review one of my favorite restaurants from home. (It's technically in Washington, but only a few hundred yards from the border. Lewiston and Clarkston are side by side--if you didn't already know--and are separated only by the Snake River.) And this place is THE place I force my family to go to whenever I come to visit. (Well, one of two places...but the other one doesn't offer happy hour.)

Tomato Bros. has been around for a very long time. I must have been in junior high (maybe high school) when they first opened. They are one of many super successful and very well-known restaurants owned by the Happy Day Restaurant Corporation. Starting with one little fast food franchise in the late sixties, this corporation now owns five family-style sit-down restaurants and a few fast food spots--including what many consider to be the absolute BEST Taco Times in existence.


Outside of Portland, Happy Hour can sometimes be a bit of a disappointment. For some, Happy Hour is just one hour (which is NEVER long enough). There are places that don't even offer a discounted food menu. I've even learned that there are cities (states, I suppose) in which happy hour--or discounts on drinks, rather--is against the law. But Tomato Brothers has Happy Hour dialed in. It's got everything you need to call a Happy Hour top notch (except maybe discounted desserts...).



Happy Hour at Tomato Bros. is available daily from four to six. It's offered in the Tomato Lounge, but that doesn't mean you can't bring the whole family. They've sectioned the bar into an over 21 area and a family-friendly zone. (The tables in back are super tall, though...which for some people might cause an issue.) They've got discounts on food and drinks--including a $5 carafe of their house-made Sangria (yum!). We ordered a number of items, but I couldn't leave without having at least a few bites of my favorite dish--their baked spaghetti.


The hummus plate came with an abundance of toasted parmesan flatbread and a few veggie slices, plus some Kalamata olives. It's a HUGE platter--something you'll definitely want to share--and if there's any flatbread left over, we suggest saving it to accompany any leftover marinara you might come across.



I was more than impressed with the presentation of the Caprese Stack. Sure, it's a simple salad (and one that we have at home when it's too hot to cook and the garden overflows with tomatoes) but it's always fun to see how different restaurants put it together. The stack is great...but kabobs are fun, too.



With its mandarin jalapeno chutney and perfect grill marks (read: not too greasy), I was drawn to the quesadilla. Good thing I pulled the menu open to read its description before taking the first bite. It's a chicken quesadilla. Oops! I wasn't in charge of ordering this one. My parents sure enjoyed it, though...even my mom, who tends to avoid spicy stuff.



The favorite of the evening (besides the Sangria, of course) was the fried ravioli. The menu calls them toasted, but we all know that they were fried. That's what makes them so good. They've got just enough crunch and still ooze with cheese at first bite. It's a perfect little plate for a table of two (or three) but for the six of us, we could have used another order.



Service at Tomato Bros. is always pretty stellar, even in the lounge. They take good care of their employees there, who in turn take really good care of the customers. It's a Happy Day thing. They are pretty strict about some things--they limit the number of earrings you can wear and your nail polish has to be an approved color--but they offer quarterly bonuses for good grades (if you're still in high school), tuition reimbursement (for college students), and there's serious potential to move-up (if restaurant management is something you're interested in). They expect you to have a good attitude--which makes sense--and that makes dining in a Happy Day Restaurant a great experience.

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

-b


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

New American

2103 N Killingsworth Street
Happy Hour: TBA
newamericanpdx.com

In between happy hours? What's that all about? Happy Hour at New American used to be a thing. I know. I took a picture of the menu just a few months ago. It was on my "to do" list for such a short period of time and already--ALREADY--they've switched things up. Thankfully, they have plenty of small bites on the menu, they still offer a discounted cocktail of the day (or at least they did that day), and they're planning to revamp the menu and get happy hour back in the mix...eventually.

New American opened in the last year with big plans to change the way take out is done. The owners have kids of their own and wanted more than anything to create a family-friendly establishment that would make getting dinner on the table that much easier. Their online ordering makes that possible. As does the build-your-meal menu, allowing customers to pick and choose from a list of main courses and sides--buying just the amount that is needed. And if you are planning to dine in, the tables are perfect for a party of two or a party of twelve.

We stopped in earlier this week not knowing that happy hour had been put on hold. Sure, we could have hit up another happy hour in the neighborhood (Old Gold is right next door!) but we decided to make the most of it. They've got plenty of good food AND they've added a full bar--with a super fun list of specialty cocktails.




I started with the Killingsworth Kooler. It's a mix of bourbon and fruit juices and is a perfect option on a hot HOT summer day. I also snapped a picture of the Italian Greyhound--with grapefruit juice, Cocchi Americano, vodka, and tarragon--and the Bee's Knees, which is a mix of gin and cava, lemon and honey. They have a number of cocktails mostly premixed and available on tap, too. I'm not sure how much faster it makes getting a drink, but cocktails on tap have become quite the thing lately.

To accompany our chosen cocktails, we ordered a plate of nachos, an essential burger (with bacon, cheddar, and a side of slaw), the kale salad, and a small order of the cheesy polenta.



The burger was a huge hit (and not just because it was HUGE). It really is a mystery how some burgers make it down the hatch without being completely destroyed in the process. Perhaps it was the bacon and cheddar add-ons that made it tower like it did. Either way, it turned out to be a pretty good food choice (despite the mess it made and the fact that the bottom bun soaked through before it had been completely consumed).



Piled high on top of what looked to be house-made tortilla chips, the nachos were smothered with vegan black beans, roasted tomato salsa, sour cream, a sprinkling of queso fresco, and sliced avocado. Next time I'm in, I will definitely consider ordering an extra plate of these "for the table."



Like with every visit, I ordered the kale salad. It's a great mix of kale, raisins (something I usually avoid), and crispy fried onions. The dressing isn't too heavy and the combination of textures (and crunch) make it hard to put down the fork before the plate's empty. The salad was a bit heavy on fried onions this time...but I know that's not usually the case. I will continue to order this salad every time I am there (whether it's to pick up something to go or to dine in) because it's just that good.

And I couldn't not order the cheesy polenta to go with my salad. Creamy polenta is one of my favorites lately (like, for the past five years) and this one is made with melted white cheddar cheese (yum!). I did, however, get to the plate before snapping a picture. Argh! It happens.

There's no way I won't be back to New American in the near future. I've got to track down their official happy hour at some point. And when I do, I'll be sure to tell you just how it rates.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Exceeds
Service: Meets (but you've got to order at the bar)
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Meets

-b

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Beaches Restaurant and Bar

1919 SE Columbia River Drive
Vancouver, WA
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 and 9 - 11, Tuesday through Saturday; 3 - 6 and 9 - 10, Sunday
ALL NIGHT Happy Hour on Mondays from 3 - 10 PM
beachesrestaurantandbar.com

It's not very often that I cross the river into Vancouver. It had probably been years since the last time I was there. I recognize that there are good happy hour establishments on that side, too. But the traffic! Happy Hour typically starts in the early afternoon and so does the traffic headed in that direction. But Beaches offers a family-friendly happy hour and I knew that I needed to check it out...because when you are meeting five mommas and their five babies it's SUPER important to make sure that whatever restaurant you walk into is really really family-friendly.

Happy Hour at Beaches Restaurant & Bar is available twice daily (and ALL day on Mondays). They have a section open to families (because everyone deserves discounts) but they also have a much larger space set aside for adults only (because you don't always want to sip sangria next to a table full of infants). If you're like me and haven't been to Beaches since the late nineties, you also need to know that happy hour is no longer available on the patio overlooking the river (because that would be too good to be true). They've got a full-page food menu with discounts that will make you want to plan dinner out at least twice a week and there's always a super cheap cocktail of the day.


The menu includes some snackables--like the calamari pictured above--but most of the offerings are big enough to make into a meal. And the menu is lengthy enough that you will find something to please everyone at the table (vegetarian and paleo, alike). At our table, we had burgers & fries, the chicken sandwich, steak bites, pizza, salad, and an assortment of margaritas.





Following the advice of a seasoned employee, I opted for the mini Rustic Tuscan Pizza and the Rogue Blue Balsamic Salad. The salad was a mix of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, and julienned apples tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and covered in Rogue blue cheese crumbles and candied hazelnuts. Any salad covered in blue cheese and candied hazelnuts is going to be good, but this one had both the flavor and the texture going for it. The combination--for both--was spot on. I will definitely order this again and again (and maybe try to recreate it at home, too).




The Tuscan Pizza had great toppings as well--it was covered in roasted garlic cloves, a sprinkling of goat cheese, spinach, sliced tomatoes, pesto, and a cheese blend--but the crust was a little dry and masked the bold flavors of the pizza's toppings. It's most likely a ratio issue and might not be as noticeable when ordering the regular-sized version of the same.


Better than any of the food--and maybe even the Mondo Margarita--was the service at Beaches. Everyone there was so friendly--not bubbly-friendly, but super sincere and genuinely friendly--and it was obvious that they were all really dedicated to making you feel welcome (even when you walk in with mob of mommas and all of their teeny tinies). That, alone, will have me coming back for more.

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

-b

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Old Town Brewery

5201 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM and 9 PM - close, daily
www.otbrewing.com

Old Town Pizza has been around forever. (Forever in this case means longer than I can remember. Research shows it opened in the mid-seventies...which is far from forever, but still.) The brewery is much newer. Much, much newer. It opened just a few years back on the corner of MLK and Sumner, just a block north of Alberta. It's a beautiful building with plenty of seating--including a space large enough for private events upstairs and lots of spots out in the sun, too. They've got the same great menu that's available at the original location and service that will keep you coming back for more (because you don't just order at the window like before). And for the past month or so, they've been distributing their award-winning beers all over town. Look for their 22 oz bottles at New Seasons and Belmont Station or call in an order and have a growler delivered--by bike--directly to your front door.

Happy Hour at Old Town Brewery is available twice daily, but only in the bar. They've got plenty of seating in addition to the bar itself, but minors are not allowed. Discounts are available on both food and drinks--well drinks are just $3.50 and all pints are a buck off. We took advantage of the low prices on pizza, balanced things out with some salad, and opted for the fancy cocktails despite their regular price tag.



I ordered and enjoyed every ounce of the Hey, Tina!--grated ginger root served over muddled orange, tequila, and lemonade--but totally loved the few sips I had of the Go-Go Juice. Potentially the most ideal summertime cocktail, the Go-Go Juice starts with muddled cucumber and lime and is mixed with vodka that's been infused with passion-tea. It's then topped with just enough club soda and garnished with a slice of cucumber.



There are four salads available on the happy hour menu--that's nearly half of the food menu--and they are all between four and five dollars. (Plus, you can add chicken to a couple of the options for just a buck more.) I decided on the green salad but probably should have ordered the spinach salad (minus the crispy prosciutto, of course). It looked delicious with its candied pecans, dried cranberries, and generous amount of crumbled feta. The green salad did have plenty of veggie accents and was of a decent size, but looked pretty plain compared to the texture-rich spinach salad.



As for the pizza, you can choose between the original crust or the thin and crispy version. Both come with one topping and you can add one more for just 75 cents. The pizza is definitely meant for an individual (although they look huge in these photos), but with a salad to start it could easily be shared. You can also choose from the meatball sliders, a small order of their spaghetti & meatball (just one, I guess), or the garlic knots. It's a pretty substantial list, overall. And if you don't mind the early start--and you're traveling without kids--it makes for a decently priced dinner.

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

-b

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