5008 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
**Opens at 4 p.m.
Dark, candlelit and romantic, Sapphire Hotel is both a terrific place for a date or gathering with friends for happy hour. It’s an especially nice place to duck into on one of those long, rainy Stumptown winter afternoons, when you have some free time and you’re looking for a hearty snack and a good drink.
Tucked away on the east end of SE Hawthorne, Sapphire isn’t open for lunch (they SO should be!), but the happy hour is worth taking a late lunch and calling it an early workday. Happy hour runs everyday of the week from 4 to 6 p.m., and then picks up again from 10 p.m. to midnight (Sunday thru Thursday).
First off, the waitstaff is beyond excellent! From the moment you step through the red velvet draped entry, they are there with water and menus, and are quick to offer up the daily drink and food specials. If there is a free table, just grab a seat, even if you are still waiting for your friends!
The tables are close together, but extremely cozy. Even though you might be seated elbow-bumping distance from the table next to you, it never feels overly crowded or loud (but if you choose to sit on the bench side of the table, try to grab one of the many pillows for a little lumbar support).
Steeped in risqué history (this place used to be a brothel!), Sapphire is now a very popular happy hour and dinner destination. The food is really, really good. The menu is creative, and the food arrives fresh and almost to good-looking to eat. But dive right in and let your taste buds celebrate. The chefs they have back there in the kitchen are certainly doing something right!
Sapphire offers a full menu from 4 p.m. to midnight, and they offer select items from the menu at significantly reduced prices during happy hour—including the meze platter (one of my all time Stumptown favorites) for just $5. Happy hour drinks are also a bargain; house wine is $4, well drinks are $3 and PBR tallboys are just a buck! The bartenders also come up with a daily creative concoction, served for $5. If you are just grabbing a drink, go ahead and get the rustic bread with olive oil, it’s a tasty snack and only $2!
I was just at Sapphire last week for happy hour. When I walked in at 4:30 to meet a galpal it was compete dead, but by the time we walked out—feeling happily full and warmed up by our drinks about two hours later—there wasn’t a seat to be found. So, if there is any drawback to Sapphire it’s only that they are small and so popular that it doesn’t take long for the place to fill up, especially as the clock nears 5 p.m.
I splurged on the hearty panzanella salad, which is a huge plate of colorful greens covered in fresh mozzarella, toasted focaccia bread, kalamata olives, mini tomatoes and flavored with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Talk about delicious! It’s $9, but large enough to take half of it home for later.
My other favorites include the aforementioned meze platter, the Sapphire burger, the butternut squash enchiladas, the artichoke dip, the rustic pizza (ask about the seasonal toppings) and the various cheese plates. All are reasonably priced. Someday I will get past just eating my favorites and try the rest of the mouth-watering menu!
Pros: Great happy hour drink and food specials, fresh and creative menu, options for veggies and vegans, unique setting, good for a late lunch date or hanging out with friends for drinks, parking is usually good for a place on Hawthorne, free cab service offered if you get past your limit and need a ride
Cons: Can get really crowded (no reservations), service can be slower when it’s really busy, can be a little hard to find if you haven’t been there before (it’s just past the new crazy streetlight at 50th and Hawthorne), it’s not really a hotel
Link to Sapphire’s menu