Monday, September 27, 2010

Old Chicago at Mall 205

10300 Southeast Washington Street
Portland, OR 97216
3-6 daily, and 10-midnight

Old Chicago is one of my favorite chain restaurants for Happy Hour, mostly because you can really fill up here for not too much money. I have been here many times in the past after work, but we hadn't ever actually written a review, so it must have been quite a while.

I started with a Bridgeport IPA, on special during Happy Hour. I also ordered the side salad with balsamic. This is one of my favorite side salads because they have slivered almonds sprinkled on top. You get a pretty good portion for a pretty small price, and it is a really good salad.


Next I ordered the personal sized Happy Hour pizza. You get one topping (or you can add more for an additional cost.) Really, if you order the pizza and the salad you are set for dinner. I ended up spending $10.27 before tip, which is not a bad deal for dinner with friends.


The other thing I really like about Old Chicago is one of their desserts. A warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream on top is my absolute favorite dessert of all time, and they have it here. I didn't have room for it this time, but it is something I highly recommend.


Old Chicago is good--not great--and it gets the job done!

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

--E

Old Chicago on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Old Chicago

10300 SW Washington
Happy Hour: Daily, 4 - 6 and 10 - Midnight


I'm not the biggest fan of chain restaurants. I actually refer to them as "homogenized" due to all of the processing that goes on. I've seen the Domino's truck pull into the parking lot just down the street from my house. I know that the majority of the ingredients come straight out of gallon-sized bags. Sure, it makes it easier to do all the prep work in advance, at an outside facility, and truck things to where they need to be. Even the good places--like Grand Central Bakery--have certain locations where the baking takes place, while the rest of the bakery locations are there just to sell. Homogenized places offer a good amount of flavor security. Big Macs taste like Big Macs no matter where you are. It's safe. I still enjoy an occasional Frosty, I do like the salsa at Chevy's, and I've been known to eat dinner (and enjoy the leftovers that come with the giant-sized portions) at Old Chicago...but I do my best to support the local restaurants, especially those that are obviously family-run. I prefer to know that the ingredients came from the area, that the menu was created by the chef, and that the money I spend will stay in Oregon and not make its way back to the corporate world of chains and franchises. With all that said, I also know that most places had to start somewhere.

Old Chicago started in Colorado in the late seventies. They happened to be successful enough to spread through the state and then made their way across the nation. They aren't in every state...but there are a few in Oregon. Most are in the suburbs (quite appropriate, I say) and are equally situated in the West (Beaverton), the East (Gresham), and the South (blocks north of Clackamas)...but one does exist in the city limits. It's near Mall 205 and happens to be a great location when driving back into Portland from school.

We decided to hit up this homogenized pizza place as a large group (invites went out to the whole staff--something that might not go over too well at a smaller, locally-owned restaurant) after school last Friday. I called ahead to make sure that there would be plenty of space. And there was. The bar itself is pretty small, but Old Chicago serves happy hour throughout the entire restaurant, making it a family-friendly event (there were two babies at our table that night).


Old Chicago is known for their long list of beer offerings. They have more than 100 beers at ALL times...and--assuming it's still available--you can join the official club, checking off beers as you go, earning shirts and hats for all that you consume. I, however, am not a beer drinker. So instead I ordered a gin and tonic. My usual, especially at places like this. It's safe, you know.


With such great discounts on food and plenty of options to choose from, one could easily make happy hour an early dinner out. They have salads and pizza, nachos and a hummus plate, and so much more.


I went for a side salad and a personal-sized pizza. It's the perfect match. The side salad at Old Chicago is one of my favorites around. I think it's the sliced almonds that makes it so tasty. The lettuce itself isn't too impressive and there's usually just the one grape tomato...but the carrots, almonds and croutons always make me happy. It's got good crunch. I once even ordered a double-sized salad, making it dinner, since the main course salads on the actual menu are all topped with meat.


My mini pizza was topped with pineapple. I could have paid extra for additional toppings, but pineapple pizza has always been one of my favorites. It's small, of course...but there was a good amount of cheese and the crust was perfectly chewy.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets (especially if you want to watch sports on TV)
Value: Meets

-b

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Imbibe--CLOSED

2229 SE Hawthorne Avenue
Happy Hour: Daily, 3:30 - 7 and 9 - 11; ALL DAY Sunday


According to my boyfriend, I HAVE been to Imbibe before. I don't remember the layout of the restaurant. I don't remember the food choices. I don't even remember the colorful ribbon laced around each menu that waits on every tabletop. I do remember walking by it, though. I actually remember walking by quite a few times as I've spent a few nights playing pool with friends at the Hawthorne Hideaway next door. I'm convinced we walked by, checked the window, and ended up sharing a salad and a few slices of pizza at Hot Lips. I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

Hawthorne is covered with restaurants and shops. And if you're willing to walk, you can get to quite a few places without having to deal with parking. On Hawthorne, that's probably everyone's biggest complaint. That, and the narrow streets. Oh, and the fact that there ARE going to be people in every crosswalk as you make your way down the street. Most of the shops seem to be located between 30th and 39th. Restaurants, too. But that doesn't mean you won't have options on either end of the Southeast stretch. There's plenty to choose from.


On Sunday, we chose Imbibe because they are one of those FABULOUS places that offer happy hour prices ALL DAY on Sundays. It's perfect and I really do think that all restaurants should do it. I found great prices on a long list of food choices and enjoyed a tasty drink, too.


Imbibe has one of those tiered menus that my co-blogger absolutely loves. Prices range from $2.95 to $4.95 but most of the veggie options are on the lower end. Drinks aren't discounted but aren't nearly as pricey as some other places around Portland. Mine was just seven dollars and, with all the fresh ingredients, was well worth the price.


I started with the tofu tacos. Yes, I know, tofu tacos. I had never had one until just a couple of weeks ago and now I'm finding them on menus all around town. I've been a vegetarian since I was twelve...but until this last month, I hadn't ever heard of such a thing. Growing up, I would fill my tacos with potatoes to give them a little more substance. And now, I opt for burritos and fajitas instead. These tacos had great flavor but the texture wasn't exactly to my liking. I preferred the crunchy ones I had recently. Crunchy tofu AND crunchy tortillas. These were just too soft. And too chewy.


The stuffed tomatoes were beyond adorable on arrival. The flavor was fantastic. A bit strong to finish them on my own, but still tasty. According to the menu, the two romas were stuffed with chopped kalamatas, artichoke hearts and cheese. I'm guessing it was cream cheese based on the consistency. They were served on a plate that had been drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction. They were a bit salty...but that's always to be expected with kalamata olives.


The macaroni and cheese was probably the most impressive thing at our table. The cheese combination was perfect. There was Parmesan sprinkled on top...but it was the smoked mozzarella that must have brought the flavors so close to perfection. Yum! Capital YUM!


I ordered the Imbibe Rita to go along with the tacos. I figured it was the perfect combo. In the end, it went with everything. They're made fresh with muddled citrus. There are plenty of other options on the menu if you're not into tequila. My boyfriend had the Jenny Mae, a mix of Jameson, ginger ale and fresh ginger. It was so good, I even liked it.

Our server came to apologize once for the wait as they were short one employee. One might not sound like much, but that only left two on the floor. The apology, however, was completely unnecessary. This place is efficient! The food came out fast, as did the bill.

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

-b

Imbibe Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 11, 2010

del Inti - CLOSED

2315 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM, Wednesday through Sunday


Everyone knows that the Alberta District is one of THE places to go to in Portland, especially when you are visiting from out of the area. There are restaurants and shops lining the street from the single digits all the way down to 33rd. I could easily play tourist for a day--window shopping my way down the block and stopping for coffee once or twice--and not make it into every store. And to try each and every restaurant would take months, I'm sure. The transition that this street has gone through over the last dozen years is REMARKABLE. When I moved to Portland in 1997 to go to school (just a few blocks north at Concordia) it was a completely different place. I can actually remember participating in a service learning project where we spent the day cleaning up Alberta. It's hard to believe the change that can take place over such a short period of time.

Alberta Street is, of course, known for its Last Thursday tradition...but the art is ALWAYS accessible. There are plenty of galleries to walk through and there is also the Alberta Rose Theater. We had tickets to a taping of Live Wire! Radio last night (you should definitely get tickets, too...the season just started) and wanted to enjoy a nice dinner beforehand. Dinner, at a discounted price, during happy hour. And just a few blocks from the theater I found one of my new favorites. The cocktails are a little pricey but the food is fantastic. I know I'll be back for happy hour, but I'm also dying to try their dinner menu. As my co-blogger says, happy hour is an affordable way to try out a new place. That's why the food should be equally as good...just a little bit smaller. It's tempting that way, and we'll be more likely to return.

This new favorite of mine is called del Inti and the atmosphere alone will make you want to come back. It's beyond comfortable and the colors and decor are radiant. There were five of us sitting out on the patio on one of--what I assume to be--the last nice nights of the summer. They have an enclosed dining space but also an open patio with a fire pit close to the bar. We started with drinks and then worked our way through the entire bar menu. Almost entirely, that is.


Everything on the bar menu is discounted by one dollar between the hours of four and seven. It doesn't sound like a huge discount, but considering the quality of the ingredients and the care involved in preparation, I'd say that it's listed at the right value. Most food items are priced between one and six dollars with the exception of the ceviches which range from seven to nine. The cocktails are still a bit spendy, but the same discount applies to beer and wine giving you the option for a far less expensive beverage.


I first ordered a cocktail with a strong passionfruit base. I was a little concerned (after trying Stoli passionfruit vodka last Spring) and asked far too many questions of our server. He was patient with me, answered all of my questions, and--in the end--I enjoyed its refreshing flavors. It was tropical, yes, but not in the least bit artificial.

With five of us at the table, we were able to try most everything on the menu. In fact, we continued ordering more items later into the meal, forcing our server to return with additional plates repeatedly. His friendly demeanor was awfully impressive. I wasn't able to taste everything and can't say much about those items containing meat, but thought it best to include all of the pictures. The colors are vibrant and the texture of the food stands out, making it almost enough for you to know just how good the food really was.


The Papa Rellano is a fried potato croquette filled with queso fresco and raisins. It was the first to make it to the table and impressed all five of us with its presentation.


The hangar steak sandwich was larger than anticipated and enjoyed by all who tasted it.


The empanada today was stuffed with hangar steak. They take a little longer to cook but are apparently worth the wait. I hope that next time we are at del Inti there will be a vegetarian option as well.


Padron peppers drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper seem awfully simple but come packed with flavor.


And the Anticuchos, which are skewered and grilled. The choices listed on the menu include chicken with a sweet aji panca sauce or beef heart served with ocopa sauce and salsa criolla.


I ordered two items--both priced at five dollars--from the happy hour food menu. The first to arrive at the table was the Ensalada de Quinoa. Topped with frisee, the quinoa was mixed with olives, cucumber, green onion, corn, and green beans, and was formed into a perfect cylinder for an impressive presentation. There was a light vinaigrette that added just a hint of garlic but the majority of the flavors came from the fresh ingredients.


To accompany the salad, I ordered a bowl of the gazpacho. It was made of cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and peppers and included basil, garlic and cilantro. The flavors melded well with one another and the texture was at its best. The soup was topped with a toasted crostini that had a spread of goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.


Of all the other plates at the table, it was the Tequenos that I liked the most. In fact, after only getting one of the six from the first plate, I suggested that we order a second. They are wonton wrappers, filled with queso fresco and fried to a golden brown. They are served with an avocado dipping sauce but don't really need any extra flavors to make them the perfect treat.


Before we left for the show, I ordered a second drink. This time, I went with the blueberry mojito. Many at the table were eying that option when we first arrived and so I promptly passed the drink around the table when it was delivered. It was a big hit with everyone at the table but my boyfriend who found it to be a bit too minty. I enjoyed the flavors and appreciated the fresh fruit.

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

-b


del Inti on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 06, 2010

Por Que No?

3524 N Mississippi Avenue
Happy Hour: 3 - 6 PM

The menu said it was the mid-day meal. Tacos were discounted by fifty cents and the prices were lowered on most drinks. Regardless of what it said on the menu (and on the door), I say that's happy hour. And when I come across a happy hour, I'm gonna write about it.


I've been to Por Que No? once before. My boyfriend lives just a couple of blocks away. We are lucky, of course, because we can get there without much effort, without the need to park, and we can usually avoid the long lines. And if the line is too long, it's not as if we drove all that way...we just go somewhere else instead. There are plenty of other places nearby. Today we made it when the line was still pretty short. We decided it was worth the ten minute wait. By the time we left, though, it was a different story. The line was out the door and down the sidewalk.


Por Que No? has two locations and they both draw the same amount of attention. I haven't yet been to either place during the typical dinner hour. We seem to have better luck in the late afternoon or pretty late into the evening. I think I'll stick to that, with the exception of making it over for brunch one of these days. I noticed the menu posted today and am quite tempted to try it out.


Since they were discounted, I went with two veggie tacos. And to make it more of a meal I added a side of rice. The rice was topped with Pico de Gallo and made a pretty great accompaniment to my dinner choice. The tacos looked pretty small in the basket but filled me up. They were stuffed (and I mean stuffed--you'll need a fork to pick up what falls out) with all sorts of veggies. There were zucchini slices and peppers, plenty of tomatoes and onions, and some pinto beans, too. I didn't add any extras (as there was hardly room) but might go with a little crema next time to cut down on some of that heat. My boyfriend had two tacos, too. He enjoyed both but was most impressed with the fish taco.



I did plan ahead for the heat with my drink choice. (I admit that I'm a wuss when it comes to heat. I've been out of what I like to call "spice tolerance training" for a few years now.) I had been tempted by the margaritas (they are a great price during happy hour--you can get a full pint glass for just seven bucks) as well as the sangria but decided to go with the Horchata instead. There was a more "advanced" version--spiked with rum--but I wasn't feeling the need for anything extra.

Service isn't anything special at Por Que No? but has never been disappointing. Sure, the wait can be a bit aggravating but you kinda have to know that's what to expect. The employees are all super friendly and take good care of you when you finally make it to the counter. But once you've got your number, you're pretty much set as far as they are concerned. The food will find its way to you eventually and in the end, you'll be busing your own table anyway. It's pretty self-serve that way. And it seems to work.

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

-b


¿Por QuĂ© No? on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Branch Whiskey Bar

2926 NE Alberta Street
Happy Hour: 5 - 7 and 10 - close (11 - close on Friday and Saturday)


Happy Hour does not mean the same thing to everyone. For some it's all about finding the cheapest beer in town or getting a great discount on a usually high-priced cocktail. Others enjoy cheap snacks (you know, the usual pub fare) or even the occasional six-dollar burger (which, for that price has to be covered in cheese and topped with bacon). For myself, I like to find the perfect combination of cheap, cheap, cheap. It's not that I'm cheap. I just like finding the value in things. That's all. I need discounts on food AND drink. And I'm picky (mostly because I'm a vegetarian and need to see a few greens on the menu) which only complicates things. At happy hour this Sunday, I found a whole new take on how things work. Yes, they still had cheap drinks. I enjoyed a nice glass of house red for just five dollars. (And the well drinks were priced at only three.) It was the food discount that didn't quite match up to what I'm used to. It was still a great deal, considering the quality and fantastic flavors...it's just not how things are usually done. At least not at the sixty-some places I've been to in the last year or so.

If you've been reading for long, you know that I often comment on how easily happy hour can become a meal. That usually requires a whole combination of foods, adding to the total bill. Tonight's dinner was in fact dinner. It was straight from the dinner menu and everything. You see, at Branch Whiskey Bar, they offer discounts straight from the menu (not everything applies, mind you) rather than introducing a whole new short list of the typical happy hour favorites. I didn't know what to expect when we walked in, but I enjoyed every bite and will definitely return in the future. I'll go for dinner, of course, but I'll go for dinner between the hours of five and seven.


The place was fairly empty when we walked in and stayed that way the majority of the time that we were there. There were a few tables of regulars. I could tell by how they occupied the servers with all of their talk. I guess I've been known to do the same thing at certain places, too. I suppose that if there weren't regulars, more and more places would be forced to close their doors. And we don't want that, now do we.


We were promptly greeted by our server who was quick to take our drink orders. I had glanced at the list of cocktails, but went with a glass of the house red based on what I was planning to have to eat. I'd love to go back again and try one of the cocktails listed and I'm sure that I can convince my boyfriend to join me as he was nearly tempted by the flight of whiskey available for just eighteen dollars (which may not sound reasonable...but when you look at what you're getting, it totally is). The house red was nothing special but did go well with the pasta dish I selected.


We decided to share a salad (which is something we do quite often, actually). There were two to choose from but it was obvious to me which one we would be having. I've never been a caesar salad kind of girl, even before I knew about the anchovies. The butter lettuce salad was a perfect choice (for me). I really enjoy butter lettuce because it can be so...well, buttery. My boyfriend claimed that it was a little too buttery, though, and referred to it as velour. I suppose with the creamy kalamata olive dressing, it could have acquired a velvety texture...but I'm not so sure that I'd go as far as to say it felt like fabric. I had never had a kalamata dressing before and was impressed by the flavor. The salad was more than just lettuce (which happens at some places, sadly enough) but came topped with quite a few slices of red onion and a number of grape tomatoes (both red and yellow). I enjoyed every bite, especially how farm-stand fresh the vegetables were.


Not everything on the dinner menu is discounted during happy hour, but the one thing that sounded perfectly tasty to me was. I went with the dish of summer vegetables and orecchiette pasta. It was tossed with a shallot and lemon cream sauce and was so wonderfully yummy. The sauce was a little runny but probably just because of the extra juices from the summer vegetables. They were a mix of zucchini and yellow squash, grape tomatoes, red onions, and corn and they reminded me of the vegetables in my parents' garden--so fresh. And it was topped with grated cheese and some fresh parsley. I loved every bite (except for the super hot bite when the plate was first delivered that caused me to burn my tongue--my fault, of course) and will love what's left in the fridge for lunch tomorrow, too.


My boyfriend had the burger which didn't received the two dollar discount but did come with a substantially-sized patty. Seriously, this thing was huge. He ordered it with cheese (for an extra dollar) but didn't go for the bacon (available for an extra two) and seemed quite pleased in the end. The pickle however (which I'm assuming to be house made) was still in the first of the pickling stages. We all know that pickles come from cucumbers, but rarely is it THAT obvious. Hopefully it was just that particular pickle and not the whole batch.

Service was pretty efficient at the place. It wasn't fantastic but it didn't ever take too long. It was fairly laid back considered the fanciness of the food...but it is just a bar after all. Or at least that's what the sign says. I'm not too sure I believe it, though. The food's just too good. I'll be back...but I think I've already said that.

Food: Meets
Drinks: Meets
Service: Meets
Ambiance: Meets
Value: Nearly Meets (it's a great price for a fancy dinner but you have to know that going in or you might be seriously disappointed)

-b




Branch Whiskey Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 03, 2010

Moloko Plus

3967 N. Mississippi Ave
Happy Hour: 4 - 7 PM


Grilled cheese and limeade. Sounds like the perfect summertime meal to me. And it's even better knowing that both are of the grownup variety and a cheap dinnertime fix for only $7.50.

Located in the mix of fancy retailers, restaurants, and bars on Mississippi Avenue, Moloko plus is a skinny little nook of a place with enough house-infused vodka to monopolize the market...if only people knew. We'd walked by a good dozen times before even considering taking a step inside. In fact, it took all summer exploring the neighborhood to check this place out. But I'm glad we did. This place is worth the return visit.

The bar and the furniture and a good chunk of the decor is white. A dirty, cement-like white, but white nonetheless. They do add a splash of color with three over-sized fish tanks and a series of art which must change on a fairly regular basis.


We walked up to the bar to order our first round of drinks. I was impressed to see fresh-squeezed well drinks on discount (only $4.50) and asked for a suggestion. While I went with a tequila and orange juice, orders were also placed for a couple of hefeweizens, something made with a little house-infused coconut rum, and a mojito. I'm so impressed with those places that load up on fresh fruits and some strong armed bartenders rather than using the typical mixers that store so well and are far more convenient to make. And although I don't usually go for tequila (unless I'm drinking a margarita), I enjoyed it mixed with a little fresh OJ.


There were six of us altogether and we fit perfectly at the couches by the front window. The rest of the seating is pretty limited if you are traveling in a pack, but Moloko does offer plenty of tables for two or four. They also have an enclosed patio out back. It's fairly small and filled up before the rest of the bar during happy hour. I'd suggest you get there early if the sun's still out and you are looking for an outdoor seat.

After a good half-hour of conversation, I decided that we'd better order some snacks. The hummus plate was an obvious choice as we would be sharing, but I also placed an order for two paninis. And I'm glad I did as the first two were quickly devoured and an order was placed for three more, turning this happy hour into dinner.


The hummus plate is listed as being organic and is served with carrots, celery, a good sized pile of olives, and blue corn chips. I especially enjoyed the salted chips with hummus. I so often go for pita bread or even pita chips. This was a nice change with a good crunch. The olives come with a pretty hefty crunch, too, as they were NOT pitted. I bit in with hesitation and warned the rest before any damage could be done.




The grilled paninis were an obvious hit. They were served with a big helping of salt and pepper chips and required lots of napkins. My favorite was the chevre and roasted red pepper tapenade. The cheesy concoction was messy and gooey but could just as easily be eaten with the chips as it could sandwiched between two slices of grilled bread. I also had bites of the grilled cheese, which was a mix of two cheeses and came topped with marinated fennel and an herbed butter. And, for the meat eaters, there were two grilled tuna sandwiches (which had a hint of citrus and was made with their own house-made mustard) and a salami sandwich (also with the house-made mustard and the same marinated fennel onions as the grilled cheese).


Before the night was over (with friends from out of town, this happy hour lasted longer than usual) I also ordered a limeaid. Made with fresh squeezed lime juice (obviously) and vodka, this was a real treat. It was a perfect drink for one of the last nights of summer break. So simple yet so refreshingly tasty. I loved every sip.

Service at Moloko Plus was pretty fantastic, too. There was just the one bartender when we arrived but a few more employees came on as the hours of the night went by. All orders have to be placed at the bar (food, too) but they make it pretty obvious that that's how things are done. It might seem a little too impersonal to some...but it seems pretty efficient to me. And this bartender was definitely efficient. She was quick to take orders and was entertaining to watch as she worked her way through the stack of fresh citrus. It was obvious that she knew her way around their fancy cocktail list and could easily suggest a drink made with one of the thirty (or more) house-infused vodkas on the shelf.

I'll do my best to get to Moloko Plus before happy hour ends (which is pretty easy since it goes 'til seven) but wouldn't mind enjoying one of the fancier drinks now and then. The menu was quite intriguing with plenty of creative mixes. They top out at twelve dollars each but are mostly around eight or nine. A little pricey, yes...but not too bad once you consider exactly what's gone into each drink.

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

-b

Moloko Plus on Urbanspoon