Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yara Lebanese Cuisine

3928 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, Sunday through Thursday
yaralb.com

Not everyone likes happy hour as much as I do. Sure, they love the discounts. They enjoy that they can snack and have a drink or two without spending much cash. But they don't all want it to become dinner...not like I do. For me, happy hour is a chance to go out to eat (sometimes to a super fancy place that I'd usually have to save for a special occasion) on the cheap. But that's hard for some people. The portions are too small, they say. It's not enough to fill me up. I say, they're just not working the menu like they should. I'm usually stuffed after a happy hour outing. (Of course, I often go to two or three in a row...I guess that's a different story.)


Happy Hour at Yara on North Mississippi is one of those places that can become dinner without any question. It's Lebanese food. There's fresh pita and hummus, falafel and tabbouleh. It's the same as you would get if you were there for lunch or dinner, but it's cheaper. That's what makes a happy hour a good happy hour. And the happy hour at Yara Lebanese Cuisine is right on track.


Five days a week, you can get a super discounted meal between 4 and 7 PM. It doesn't matter where you sit, there's no requirement that you purchase beer or wine, it's just cheap. And it's good. We were there recently and ordered the hummus ($4), a spinach pie ($5.50), and a falafel sandwich ($5). On the way out, I even picked up a chicken shawarma sandwich for my husband.


There's no way to get around loving fresh pita (as long as you still consume bread, that is). It's hot (almost too hot to start), it's delicious, and it works wonders at getting the goodness that is hummus from the plate to my mouth. Sure, cucumbers work too...but warm pita is so much better.


I loved the hummus (as I usually do) but wasn't the biggest fan of the other sauces that accompanied our selections. They were just a bit too spicy for me. For those of you with stronger spice tolerance, be sure to give them a try.



The spinach pie--also known as a fatayer--took a little longer than the rest of the meal (which seems to be the case at every Lebanese restaurant) but was worth the wait. Just don't forget that it's on its way...sometimes I get too full before the fatayer makes it to the table and end up taking it to go.


My favorite part of the meal--which was also quite delicious as leftovers--was the falafel sandwich. It wasn't ginormous (which happens at some places) but was enough for me to not finish what I started. The falafel had a good crispiness to it without being overcooked in the middle, the pita was just as fresh as the rest of the pita I had already eaten, and the veggies added just enough freshness to make every bite perfect.

Happy Hour at Yara is an easy sell. It's good and it's super affordable. What's tough about it is that it's on Mississippi Avenue along with SO many other really good happy hour options. Knowing that, I still want to go there right now for another falafel sandwich because when you're in the mood for a specific flavor, that's what you're going to have.

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

-b


Yara Lebanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Interurban

4057 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM, Monday through Friday; 10 - close on Sundays
www.interurbanpdx.com

It's nearly impossible to believe that I could have actually found another new favorite. Or, I suppose it's just like me and milkshakes. There's no real all-time fave. But there is a seasonal favorite, and made-at-home favorite, and a favorite from the fast food joint in my hometown. As long as I can put some kind of extra title on it, it can be another favorite. Same with restaurants. Same with happy hour. It's even the same with cocktails.


My newest favorite made it to the top for two reasons. Sure, the food is good. The cocktails, too. And the prices are quite stellar (which is a big plus when reviewing any new happy hour spot). But this place won me over with their service and their gorgeous patio. I guess I could have been lucky with just the right server...but I know for sure that this is a place I want to be at when the sun is out.


Interurban is located on Mississippi Avenue and offers happy hour from three to six on weekdays. They also do a late night happy hour on Sundays from ten until they close their doors. They have a great menu with a variety of items all reasonably priced. The majority of the items are between three and six bucks, but they do have fries & aioli for $2 or oysters & bubbles for ten. Oh, and there's a dessert item on the happy hour menu (always worth extra credit, in my opinion). It's a warm oatmeal cookie--which means you have to wait for it because it's coming to you fresh from the oven--and it's only three bucks.


We ordered the fries (of course), a quesadilla ($4), the polenta croquettes ($3), and the grilled broccolini ($4) plus a couple of cocktails.


The grilled broccolini had just a hint of heat with their chili flakes. The parmesan cheese was a nice touch and the fact that they were cooked just right made me love that this veggie was available at a discount.


Although ours came with it on the side, the quesadilla is more than just melted cheese and a little pico de gallo. This one comes stuffed with an oh-so-meaty chili and plenty of ooey-gooey cheese. You can order yours with the chili on the side (like we did) or they'll even chop up some of the broccolini as a substitute, if you'd rather.


For just two bucks, I was expecting a much smaller plate of fries. These ones seemed almost endless and came with a good amount of aioli.


I was seconds away from loving the polenta croquettes--seriously LOVING those little balls of fried polenta--until I spotted the teeniest triangle of what looked like processed meat. I checked the happy hour menu--only warning mentioned was concerning raw egg--and then cross referenced the regular menu to find absolutely no mention of meat. When our server came by again, we learned that these near perfect, snack-sized polenta treats were in fact tainted with pepperoni. All of this would have been fine, of course, had there been any mention of it on the menu. This vegetarian, however, does not like to be surprised by the presence of meat. It's not going to keep me from going back, of course...but I thought it best to spread the warning to any other vegetarians out there.


Knowing we were headed to a second location kept me from ordering the berry salad, the black lentil stew, and the Mexicali grilled corn (all priced at just $5 on the regular dinner menu). This, of course, gives me reason to return before too long. You should too...as their patio is one that everyone should see before the rains return.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Exceeds
Ambiance: Exceeds (patio seating)
Value: Meets

-b


Interurban on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dick's Kitchen

704 NW 21st Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6, weekdays
www.dkportland.com


Dick's Kitchen offers happy hour on weekdays between three and six. With locations on both sides of the Willamette and a menu that includes gluten-free, paleo, and vegan options, this place is sure to please the entire table. They are all about real food from responsible resources. Yes, it's a burger-based kind of place. And yes, you'll probably want to order dessert. What's different about Dick's, however, is that you won't walk out feeling full of guilt. You'll be full, but having eaten such a real meal might just leave you inspired to change the way you think about food in the future.



There were a number of vegetarian options on the happy hour menu, but once I saw the veggie Reuben on the regular menu I knew I had to have it. There are only so many veggie Reubens out there and I am determined to find the best one in Portland. At Dick's, they make theirs with Tempeh and add just enough sauerkraut that it doesn't all just spill out the sides of the sandwich. Topped with melted swiss cheese (a vegan substitute it available) and 1000 island dressing, this sandwich is one that I would have again.




Also at the table was the specialty burger (this week's "guest" burger) made with wild boar, the "Elvis" burger (topped with house-made pimento cheese spread), and a plate of sliders. Both the guest burger and the happy hour sliders came with a side, but the regular menu items do not. They are, however, priced accordingly. Other than the guest burger--which is priced at $10.50--all burgers and sandwiches are listed between four and nine dollars. Sides are three bucks--even less if you're adding on to a meal--and include "not-fries" and other healthy veggie options. The infamous "not-fries" are air-baked after being lightly tossed in a hi-oleic safflower oil, are available as either regular "not-fries" or yam "not-fries" and can be upgraded to include a fancy dipping sauce for just fifty cents extra.


Happy Hour prices are even less, with most items priced between $3.50 and $7. Draft beers are a dollar off or you can get a glass of wine for just five bucks.


Not included on that discounted menu, however, is dessert. After seeing it on the cover of Portland Monthly, I knew I wanted to try the Paleo Parfait. It's just so pretty. The parfait is made with cashew "cream" and topped with a raspberry compote and crunchy "cookie" crumbles. I enjoyed both the flavor combination and the crumbles but will probably opt for the adult milkshake next time (just because I can).


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

-b

Dick's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fogo de Chão Dinner Review

930 SW 6th Ave.
No Happy Hour Available
http://www.fogodechao.com/

 Disclaimer: We attended the opening for Fogo de Chão and received complimentary food and drinks. However, one of us liked it so much that she hosted her sister's bachelorette party dinner here as well! All of our opinions are our own. 


A while ago we were invited by the lovely ladies at Little Green Pickle to the grand opening of a new Brazilian restaurant called Fogo de Chão. While this is a chain restaurant, it is new to Portland, and it sounded pretty amazing from the description. O and I are both meat eaters, as are our husbands, so we were immediately on board. The way that Fogo de Chão works is that the servers (gauchos) come around with various types of meat, and they slice it off for you right there at the table. There is also a salad bar with lots of delicious sides. It is all you can eat, and the meat just keeps coming and coming and coming. If you want to take a break, you can turn over the disk to the red side to let them know. Sounds fun, right? Well, it really was! O actually described it as the best meal she had ever had. I am getting ahead of myself, though.


We arrived at the opening just in time to see the ribbon-cutting ceremony and to enjoy appetizers and cocktails. Neither of our husbands had ever been with us to any of the events that we have been invited to because of our blog, and they were both really impressed by the VIP treatment we all received. While I know it was opening night so everyone was extra excited and on their game, the service was really, really amazing. We were offered champagne, appetizers, caipirinhas (a signature Brazilian drink), and we could order any drink we wanted--and that was all before we were even seated for dinner.


Another advantage of having our sweet husbands with us was that my husband brought his camera, so I am able to share much better pictures than I usually manage to capture. After enjoying lemon drops made with vanilla vodka, we were led to our seats. After they explained how the restaurant worked, we went to the salad bar to get all of our sides.


The salad bar had so many delicious options, and the presentation was beautiful. I tried a little bit of just about everything, and it was great. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend this place for vegetarians (meat is the main focus, and non-meat eaters might not enjoy having meat surrounding them), I think most vegetarians could be more than satisfied with the options available at the salad bar. We also received some delicious sides. I loved the warm cheese bread and the mashed potatoes.





The best part, though, was the never-ending meat! I believe I tried everything except for the lamb (which the lamb-lovers really liked). My favorites were the beef ancho and the bottom sirloin, but everything I tried was delicious. The gauchos were so friendly, and they let you specify if you wanted a section of meat that was more (or less) rare. They were also very photogenic, and they were happy to pose for pictures!





Even after all of the delicious food, we couldn't resist dessert. I had the signature papaya cream. We also had coffee, which was a perfect way to end the meal.



Whenever we are lucky enough to be invited to complimentary food events, I always find myself asking whether or not I would enjoy myself as much if it wasn't a special event (and I was paying for it). We had such a wonderful time, the food was excellent, and the service was perfection. This was one of the nicest (if not the nicest) events we attended because of the blog. All of us were completely impressed, and O said it was the best meal she had ever had. But we had to wonder if we would have enjoyed it as much if we attended on a regular night and were paying for it ourselves. Luckily, we were able to find out the answer to this question, as O enjoyed herself so much she decided to host her sister's bachelorette party dinner here. She reported back that everyone loved the food, the service was still amazing, and the gauchos made the bride-to-be feel really special.


Overall, I would definitely recommend Fogo de Chão for a special occasion. While it is not cheap (lunch is $29.50 and dinner is $49.50, not including drinks or desserts), it is such a fun experience. If you are the kind of person who enjoys having a meal be a leisurely, relaxing, entertaining event, Fogo de Chão is definitely worth the price. We absolutely loved it!


Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bollywood Theater

3010 SE Division & 2039 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour Wishlist
www.bollywoodtheaterpdx.com



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

-b

Bollywood Theater on Urbanspoon