Monday, January 26, 2015


28 NE 28th Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 6 PM, daily

Disclaimer: Our food and drinks were complimentary, but--as always--all of our opinions are our own.

Tapalaya has been on my TOP FIVE happy hour list since the beginning of this blog. Our original reviews date back to the spring of 2010 and--after almost five years--Tapalaya still pulls ahead of so many other Portland establishments. That's pretty serious. We've been to hundreds of happy hours. So when they contacted us to try out their new menu, we made plans to be in as soon as possible.

While everyone's favorite Cajun & Creole dishes still appear, Chef Anh Luu has added an Asian twist to both the happy hour and dinner menus. No worries, they still offer Po'boys, Mac 'n' Cheese, and Jambalaya...but now they also have a Pork Belly Banh Mi, Boudin Egg Rolls, and a Crawfish Etouffee made with roasted chiles, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. The happy hour menu might look smaller than before, but that's only because so many of the sides are already available at such a discounted rate. And that's just one of the reasons why Tapalaya has always been on my list of favorites.

Although it can add up if you get too carried away, the concept of small plates is usually accompanied by small prices. At Tapalaya, I can easily fill up (whether I make it in before happy hour ends or not) without the worry of a hefty check. My favorite menu items--the ones I have ordered again and again--are all priced at four bucks and under.

With a new menu, however, I knew that I had to try something I hadn't already grown to love. I was a bit limited, though--being both a vegetarian and 38-weeks pregnant--so you'll have to wait for my cobloggers' perspectives to learn more about the fancy cocktails, the steamer clams, and the crawfish.

I did try the Mississippi Caviar ($3) made with black-eyed peas, bell peppers, red onions, and celery. It's dressed in a red wine vinaigrette and is a healthy addition to the meal (especially if you are like me and plan to follow it with Mac 'n' Cheese, Creamy Grits, and a Cornbread Muffin).

The Charred Brussels Sprouts were a favorite all around. Listed as a nightly special, these sprouts are halved, roasted, and topped with honey, chili & lime. It's the kind of recipe that might just change your opinion of the leafy green. I, however, have been a fan for years. It's all in the way you cook them. And next time I cook them, I'll probably be trying my best to recreate this same flavor combination. It was really quite addictive.

Although I had the chance to taste a few of the other plates served (the cornbread is a win every time and I especially enjoyed the texture of the stuffed mushrooms), the only other item I ordered that night was a small dish of the creamy grits. Included as an accompaniment to many other meaty entrees, these grits are available on the sides menu for just three bucks. Made with Bob's Red Mill stone-ground grits and topped with charred green onion butter, this dish is one that I could barely stop eating (and when you're 38-weeks pregnant, you're stomach doesn't have the capacity for overindulgence).

I loved everything about our most recent visit to Tapalaya (well, except the Hurricanes are okay, but the real thing would have really made the meal) but it was the service that was most appreciated. Having witnessed that same genuine service at every table, it was obvious that this place really values their customers. And, based on the makeup of their clientele, it's clear that they value the whole family. (Yes, it's true. I will be focused on happy hours that accept small children from now on.)

With Mardi Gras just around the corner, it's probably a good time to start thinking about making reservations. The live music starts at six and there are still plenty of reservations available on Open Table. In addition to the festivities planned for Fat Tuesday, Tapalaya will be partnering with Breakside Brewery to host the second annual Lundi Gras. The special event includes a multi-course meal paired with five beers specially-curated for the dinner. Tickets are just $55 each and can be purchased through Eventbrite.

And if going out on a weeknight isn't your thing, make plans to stop in for brunch. Available on Fridays (yes, Fridays!), Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 AM until 3 PM, Tapalaya now offers a lengthy brunch menu, including a number of Benedicts and--my favorite--Beignets.

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


Tapalaya on Urbanspoon