HH Review: Trader Vic’s (The Pearl)

Trader Vic’s
1203 NW Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-467-2277
HH Hours: 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close M-F; all day on Sundays
Website | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch money: $$$-$$$$
Rating: ★★½☆☆

I wanted to love the happy hour at Trader Vic’s, I really, really did. It’s convenient to home and work, I love all things kitschy and the happy hour goes from 3 until 6:30 p.m. on weekdays (as well as from 10p.m. to close on weekdays AND all day on Sundays).

After they opened their reincarnated Portland location last summer, I noticed Trader Vic’s was almost always packed, so I assumed the famous Polynesian-themed eatery would certainly be a treat for the taste buds. Sadly, I was disappointed.

I guess my first clue should have been apparent as soon as I arrived on a Wednesday evening about 5:15 and the place was not busy at all. This seemed so bizarre. They’re located in the Pearl, where popular happy hour spots are notorious for filling up within minutes of opening. They were getting loads of positive press just a few months ago. The restaurant and bar were aesthetically pleasing and there was ambient music playing.

So where were all the HH peeps at?

Then I realized something. I don’t think anyone I know has actually mentioned they’ve tried Trader Vic’s yet.

OK, so here’s what went down. I arrived and found my party—which was easy because it was one of the few tables in the bar area that was occupied at the time. Our server gave me a couple of menus: the happy hour menu, the cocktail menu and the regular bar menu.

Complaint #1: It seemed that our table hadn’t been properly cleaned because one corner of the tabletop was so sticky my sweater kept getting stuck to it. Yuck.

Anyway, because we’ve run the gamut of wintery weather of late in Portland, I was eager to jump right in and order a fun tropical drink. I started with the Rangoon Ruby ($5), which was described to me as something of a vodka/cranberry/grenadine combo. Verdict: Blah. A little too sweet and it tasted like grenadine and nothing else.

One friend ordered the classic Mai Tai, so I sampled a sip. WOW! No wonder that’s Trader Vic’s signature drink! Delish. I quickly switched to a Maui Mai Tai and was completely content.

As for the food at Trader Vic’s happy hour? Well, this was the real problem I had. It was just not very good. It was bland. Average. Meh. More like something you’d expect from a boring chain place in the ‘burbs rather than a well-known restaurant in the Pearl.

One friend ordered the Shanghai Caesar salad ($4) and the pork sliders ($6). We both thought the salad looked good, but he said it wasn’t tasty at all. As for the sliders, he was really disappointed with the flavor and the portion size (just two smallish sliders). I noticed that the sliders reeked of onions.

Another friend opted for the mini tidbit plate ($7). “Mini” is a good way to describe it…there was hardly any food! Just one prawn, one crab Rangoon, a slice of char sui pork and one BBQ sparerib. It was about the size of a preschooler’s snack!

I opted for two skewers of chicken sate ($2 each), and I thought they were a bit rubbery and the peanut dipping sauce was one of the worst I think I’ve ever had. It was runny and lacked flavor.

Overall, the only reason I would come back to Trader Vic’s for happy hour is for the Mai Tais—and I’m disappointed that I feel this way. Totally skip the food. If you want some South Pacific-style fare in the same part of town, walk just TWO blocks west to Hawaiian Time!

PROS:
– The Mai Tais are the (maybe only) reason to come here. $6/$6.50 during HH
– The service was attentive (and, according to a male friend, “attractive”)
– Nice decor
– Live music is a plus

CONS:
– The food was bland
– Not enough food options on the happy hour menu
– Happy hour food portions are too small
– Parking in the Pearl is just ridiculous. Take the streetcar.

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

HH Review: Emanon Cafe

Emanon Cafe
1000 NW 17th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
503-222-6435
Business Hours: M-Sat 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Happy Hour: M-F 3 to 6:30 p.m., Sat 3 p.m. to close
Website | Twitter: @emanoncafe | Facebook Page
Menu | Lunch Money: $$ to $$$
Rating: ★★★½☆

When we tell friends we’re headed to Emanon we often get a confused look, followed by “Where’s Emanon?” or “What’s Emanon?” And, honestly, we kind of like it that way. You see, Emanon is a cozy neighborhood café/bar tucked away on a quiet block on the outskirts of the Pearl District.

But unlike uber-trendy, sometimes-pretentious Pearl restaurants and bars, Emanon is casual and low-key. It’s the perfect place to sit outside on a sunny afternoon and partake in some happy hour-ing. A nice chilled beer or cocktail and a bite from the delightful $4 food menu (currently featuring a dozen options) can take the edge off even the toughest, roughest day.

The $4 dishes are as simple as fries or onion rings and get more substantial with nachos, sliders or crab cakes. During happy hour micro brews are $4.50, well drinks are $3.50, a glass of red or white wine is $4 and a specialty martini is $5.

We’d just finished up a grueling day of shopping at IKEA (on a Saturday, no less), so we were ready to take a seat, soak up some sun and get our grub on! We met up with friends and grabbed a sidewalk table. Our friendly lady server arrived quickly to take our drink order and returned with our adult beverages zippy-fast!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, it was like our own little piece of paradise! Well…as close to it as you can get in an urban NW Portland setting.

After a refreshing round of drinks we were definitely ready for some food. A certain friend (we won’t name the guilty party here) said he wasn’t all that hungry. Of course, as soon as our ultra-cheesy artichoke spinach dip and grilled shrimp dish arrived he suddenly found his appetite again. Continue reading HH Review: Emanon Cafe

HH Review: Tiger Bar

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Tiger Bar
317 NW Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97209
(503) 222-7297
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Rating: ★★★★½

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The first time I visited Tiger Bar also happened to be the night of SantaCon, so I won’t mention all the debauchery that I saw go down there that night. Let’s just say the patrons got to see a lot more drunken Santa skin than they probably wanted to….

That aside, I decided to try the place again—this time for happy hour with friends—and my opinion about the place changed completely. We wandered in and took a seat in one of the large, cozy booths near the back of the bar. Due to my first impression, I was expecting typical greasy bar grub.

But one look at their mouth-watering happy hour menu, and I knew the place was doing something right. During happy hour (4 to 8 p.m. daily), Tiger Bar offers absolutely delicious food at nicely reduced prices—the best deal is the burger/Gardenburger or teriyaki chicken sandwich for only $5 (add $1 for cheese) and they come with my beloved sweet potato fries or a salad! Continue reading HH Review: Tiger Bar

Review: Mercato

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Mercato
904 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR
503-219-9966
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Rating: ★★★★½

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UPDATE: Mercato is now closed.

Wow, I think the Lunch Lady has a new favorite lunch spot in the Pearl. From the big screen TVs behind the counter (when we were there three were displaying the menu and the other was tuned to CNN) to the incredibly friendly waitstaff to the bright and open dining area to the display cases of yummy gelato, paninis, desserts and bottled drink offerings, Mercato is certainly off to a good (and tasty) start! Mercato opened just over a week ago, but they should definitely be on your lunch list.

If there is anything on the downside, it’s the prices. Though the prices are comparable to other Pearl lunch establishments, it’s still on the high side of the StumptownLunch budget. Salads start at $7, paninis go for $9 (including a small mixed greens salad), pizzas start at $10 (these are big, but not really big enough to share if that’s all you’re ordering) and pasta dishes start at $11.  They also offer a wide array of beverages, including espresso, beer and wine. Continue reading Review: Mercato

HH Review: The Sapphire Hotel

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Sapphire Hotel
5008 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
Portland, OR
503-232-6333
**Opens at 4 p.m.
Map It!

Rating: ★★★★★

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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). Continue reading HH Review: The Sapphire Hotel