Review: Mellow Mushroom (Pearl District)

Mellow Mushroom
1411 NW Flanders Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-224-9019
Hours: Su-Th: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; F, Sa: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Website | Menu | Twitter | Facebook
Lunch Money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been meaning to write this review FOREVER…or maybe it just seems that way since Portland’s Mellow Mushroom has been open since October 2011, and it’s become the one of my regular pizza destinations in the Pearl District.

I really like the mellow-groovy vibe of the place. It’s sort of a ‘60s-hippie-meets-Portland-hipster attitude. I’ve been to MM for lunch, happy hour and dinner, and I’ve never been disappointed. Great service, friendly bartenders and, of course, lots of yummy, cheesy options to pick from!

Fair warning: The portions are large. Even the smallest pizza size can probably feed two people at lunchtime, especially if you’re starting with a salad or an appetizer. Likewise for their sandwiches and calzones. Come REALLY hungry, share or expect to have leftovers to take home.

On my visits I’ve typically stuck with the pizza menu (well…and the appetizer, beer and wine menus, too).

During lunch hours (usually from open to 2 p.m.) you can order pizza by the slice. You start with a basic cheese slice and can choose the toppings of your choice. I like this because it means your slice is made-to-order, fresh and hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp all day.

While you can go with a build-your-own pizza (with tons of topping options), the specialty pizzas are probably my main draw to MM. Sure, there are your standard combo pies (the Hawaiian, the Mighty Meaty, the Mega Veggie types), but they also have some very creative options. The Caesar is actually topped with a Caesar salad. The Red Skin Potato Pie is like a deluxe baked potato on crust.

Speaking of the crust, the pizza crust at MM is pretty close to what I would call perfection. I’m not into deep-dish or anything too doughy, so the crunchy, crispy, yet still soft and chewy, crust is delightful. (Proof: I almost never eat the outer edge of my pizza crust, but MM’s is so good I devour the entire slice!)

MM is also well known for their massive beer selection—they offer more than 100 options! Seriously, I think any beer aficionado would be more than satisfied here. Of course, if the enormous beer menu is a wee overwhelming, just ask your server…they know their stuff. Definitely don’t be shy to ask for recommendations.

Some of my personal favorite things about MM are the appetizers, which are commonly discounted during happy hour.

The cheese bread is almost too good to be true—and huge! It’s a loaf of French bread smothered in cheese and served with a pot of marinara to dip in. Ermahgerd!!! So good.

My friends and I have also tried the fresh baked pretzels, which our server warned us would take a little longer than the typical app, but—let me tell ya—they’re well worth the wait. There are sweet or savory flavors to choose from (I personally love the garlic butter and Parmesan).

Overall, MM is a funky-fun place to grab a pizza and a brewski (especially in the pricey oasis that is the Pearl District). It’s great for groups and families, and on nice days there are a few outside tables—perfect for summertime people-watching!

PROS:
– Good pizza with excellent crust
– HUGE beer selection
– Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available
– Some outside seating in good weather
– Awesome cheesy bread!

CONS:
– They only offer pizza by the slice at lunchtime
– No delivery service…yet
– As always, the parking situation in the Pearl District sucks (but the streetcar is close-by)

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Review: Mac! Mac & Cheesery (NoPo)


Mac! Mac & Cheesery
3936 N. Mississippi Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97227
Map It!
Ph: 503-200-5787
Hours: Sunday-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri/Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Website | Menu | Facebook | Twitter
Lunch Money: $$
Rating: ★★★★☆

How many times have I attempted to try Tasty n Sons in NoPo? Three. How many times has the line been too long for my famished belly to wait for a table? Three.

Usually this is met with an annoying shrug and slog back to the car in the rain to seek out a less exciting lunchtime eatery…but this time was different.

This time I was prepared with an equally enticing eatery in mind as a backup plan. Mac! Mac & Cheesery has actually been on my “must eat there” list since they opened back in September of 2011, especially knowing one of my best friends (who was with me for lunch) is a self-confessed mac ‘n cheese addict.

Walking in, I immediately noticed the place was very clean and airy. The walls are lined with retro lunchboxes, which is a very cool, unique decorative touch.

Although I knew the place’s specialty was mac ‘n cheese, I have to admit I was still a bit overwhelmed by the number of options! There are 16 versions of mac ‘n cheese on the menu as well as a daily special or two. Wowza!

Because you order at the register before you sit down, you might want to grab a menu and take a look first (there’s also the menu on a chalkboard on the wall as you walk in). This was actually the hardest decision of my entire day! There were almost too many tasty things to pick from! The Caprese (mozzarella, basil and tomatoes), the Green Eggs and Ham (ham, spinach and a fried egg) and the Cordon Bleu (roasted chicken, Swiss and prosciutto) were on my short list, but then the hostess told us the specials….

POUTINE mac ‘n cheese?! Yes, please!! (Who can resist poutine? Not this Lunch Lady, that’s for sure.)

I’m pretty sure my lunch pal was equally overwhelmed by the number of mac ‘n cheese options, but he ultimately decided on the Cheeseburger version (ground beef, onions, bacon, Cheddar and topped with BBQ chips).

The two macs and two sodas rang up to be $21 before tip. Not bad at all.

We were given a number for our table and our drinks and headed upstairs to find a seat. We were happily surprised to see that the TV upstairs was tuned to the Timbers match and a few tables were occupied with legit Timers fans. I’m sure it helps that Mac! Mac & Cheesery offers a full bar!

The wait for our food was not long and our mac ‘n cheeses arrived on oversized, deep-dish plates. My eyes were as big as saucers when I saw the amount of mac ‘n cheese sitting before me. Seriously huge portions!

The first thing we both noticed was the massive amount of cheese. Mac! Mac & Cheesery must go through many, many pounds of the gooey stuff on a daily basis because calling it “cheesy” might even be an understatement.

Both macs were delicious. I loved the fried cheese curds atop my Poutine mac and the chips on the Cheeseburger mac added a tasty crunch to each bite.

Needless to say, and despite the enormous portions, both plates were practically licked clean!

Along with the mac ‘n cheese, the menu offers an array of sandwiches, salads and soups. There are plenty of veggie options and even a vegan mac and gluten-free pasta alternative.

Overall, Mac! Mac and Cheesery was fun and fantastic place to grab a hearty, quick and inexpensive lunch. Indeed, I keep thinking about the different types of mac ‘n cheese I want to try when I go back (I just wish they had a sampler option so I could try more than one at a time)!

PROS:
– Cheese
– Yummy comfort food in hearty portions
– Outside seating on warm days (great for people watching on Mississippi)
– TVs for sporting events
– Full bar and daily HH

CONS:
– Parking is always a hassle near Mississippi
– This is NOT diet food
– Wish there were a sampler option

Mac! Mac & Cheesery on Urbanspoon

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

Review: Hamburger Mary’s (Old Town)


Hamburger Mary’s
19 NW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
Map It!
Ph: 503-688-1200
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Menu
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★☆
 
My recent visit to Portland’s “new” Hamburger Mary’s was on a whim. I was meeting up with a friend and we hadn’t devised a lunch destination in advance. As we headed toward our planned meet up spot, he text suggested Mary’s.  I immediately agreed.

I had yet to visit the new version of this venerable eatery…and I hadn’t been to any other Hamburger Mary’s since the original Portland location closed in the ‘90s. Now the “new” Mary’s has been open for a full year…totally time for a visit!

The self-proclaimed “gayest” restaurant in town certainly has an expansive menu, but what else could you want from an establishment called Hamburger Mary’s other than a big, juicy hamburger? And the hamburger menu alone is fat with options. There are standard burgers and specialty burgers, but then you get to pick your meat (or meatless) patty options—they offer everything from vegan to black bean to buffalo to Kobe beef.

I went with the simple Mary Burger with cheddar cheese and tater tots on the side. My lunch buddy went with the Spicy Mary, which comes piled high with jalapenos, spicy Mojo sauce and blackening seasoning, and chose a side of fries.

I wasn’t truly prepared for the size of the burgers that soon landed on our table. Huge. Massive, in fact. I liked that each burger came with a extra large steak knife because a.) the heaping burgers are stuffed with toppings and b.) unless you are super-duper hungry, you’re probably going to have leftovers for later.

The burger verdict? The meat was juicy, the toppings were very fresh and the bun was, like, WOWZA! Seriously, the buns are amazing. Our server told us they are made locally daily and (*cringe*) made of 25 percent butter. So, so, so good. Continue reading Review: Hamburger Mary’s (Old Town)

Review: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (Wood Village)

The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits
22401 NE Glisan Street
Wood Village, OR 97060
Map It!
503-328-8498
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily
Website | Twitter: @TheRock_WFP | Facebook Page | Menu
Lunch money: $$
Rating: ★★★★☆

You could say there’s already an overabundance of pizza places in the Portland area. We’ve got the national chains (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Round Table), we’ve the local chains (Bellagio’s, Hot Lips, Pizza Schmizza, Izzy’s), then there are the one-off specialty pizza shops (Dante’s pizza window, Apizza Scholls, Ken’s Artisan, Firehouse) and now even pizza food carts, so why on Earth would we need another pizza place?

How about a new pizza place with a reasonably priced lunchtime buffet, a fun rock ‘n’ roll theme and interesting urinals in the men’s room? Yeah, that’s right, interesting urinal artwork.

The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits is actually part of a small Washington-based chain and their very first Oregon location opened in Wood Village (that’s near Gresham) in June.

We know, we know. Wood Village? For lunch? Sure, it’s a bit of a trek for most Portlanders—especially if your lunch hour really is a hour—but if you live and/or work in the greater Gresham area, The Rock should be on your list of new places to check out.

The Rock is a classic rock theme restaurant, but the theme part is actually a lot better than you might expect—i.e., it’s not that cheesy. The interior is decked out in faux graffiti, band memorabilia, neon signs and there’s lots of exposed brick and pipes. It’s actually quite strange to walk into the rather nondescript strip mall building into the much more interestingly decorated interior of The Rock. Also, as mentioned, they have some very unique urinals (which an awesome male friend offered to photograph for us).

Initially we were planning to go big and dive into the buffet, but then (after much consideration regarding how food-filled our summer has been) decided to scale back a bit and just get a personal-sized pizza. The pizza menu is a large as you would expect, and they offer several different sauce options including classic tomato, creamy white sauce and garlicky butter.

Specialty pizzas abound at The Rock, each bearing a rock song related name (“Crazy Little Thing,” “Crazy Train,” “California Dreamin’,” and “Revolution” to name a few).

We chose the “Stairway to Heaven” 9-inch pie, which had the garlic butter base topped with mozzarella cheese and then baked. Once out of the massive wood-burning pizza oven, they added fresh arugula, diced tomatoes, prosciutto and Parmesan. Continue reading Review: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (Wood Village)

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: On Deck Sports Bar & Grill


On Deck Sports Bar & Grill
910 NW 14th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209
503-227-7020
Business Hours: M-Th 11 a.m.-11 p.m., F/Sat 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Happy Hour: M-F 3:30-6:30 and 9:30-close, Sat/Sun 9-close
Website
Map It!
Twitter: @ondeckpdx
Rating: ★★★★☆


While the ever popular On Deck Sports Bar and Grill is open daily for lunch, we find ourselves gravitating to the smartly decked out Pearl District hangout for happy hour—especially now that summertime weather is gently breezing in and the cold, rain and wind is headed out (at least we hope).

Whether it’s a sunny day just chillin’ at one of the spacious tables on their sprawling patio or catching an afternoon Major League Baseball game or an international soccer match, the happy hour food and drink specials are even more of an incentive to come out and cheer on your favorite team.

First and foremost, On Deck is about sports—lots of sports. If you’re looking for somewhere to catch “the BIG game” or even some of the more obscure sporting events, On Deck is a great place to gather. There are 25 flat screens all over the bar and a 68” plasma TV, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch all the action.

Monday through Friday On Deck offers happy hour from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., and then again from 9:30 p.m. to close. On Saturday and Sunday happy hour is from 9 p.m. to close. Food prices range from $2 to $5, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Drink specials range from $2.75 domestic pints to $3.50 well drinks to $5 Captain & Cokes. Continue reading HH Review: On Deck Sports Bar & Grill

Review: Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant

Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantina
111 SE Columbia Way
Vancouver, Washington 98661
360-695-1198
Map It!
Rating: ★★★★½

After a morning shopping excursion to Jantzen Beach (found some adorable summertime sandals at Target for $10!), we needed to refuel. It was a sunny Saturday, so why not head over state lines and grab some Mexican food at Who-Song and Larry’s? After all, we hadn’t been to The ‘Couv in like FOREVER!

Well, we weren’t the only ones with the same idea. The parking lot was PACKED. (Note: They share a parking lot with Joe’s Crab Shack.) We circled the parking lot three times before snagging a coveted space.

The restaurant was equally packed, and the hostess said the wait for a table would be at least 20 minutes. So we scooted into the seat-yourself cantina section and plopped our shopped-out selves at a comfy table in the corner.

The service was fast! Within a minute or two our server delivered a basket of tortilla chips and some yummy-zummy salsa and we ordered a round of drinks. Me: margarita on the rocks. He: strawberry lemonade.

As we looked over the menu, we noticed how reasonable the prices were and how large all the plates being delivered to the other tables were!

I chose the grilled chicken and steak skewers served dipping sauces. It also came with a grilled shrimp taco on the side as well as yucca fries, rice and their famous sweet corn cake.

My friend ordered the spinach enchiladas, which came with beans, rice and the sweet corn cake. Continue reading Review: Who-Song and Larry’s Mexican Restaurant

HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Dragonfish Asian Café
909 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
503-243-5991
Map It!
Rating: ★★★★½

It’s rare that I go to sushi places where you order off the menu, as I’m a diehard sushi train fan. But the Sushi Hour at the upscale Dragonfish Asian Café is absolutely worth a visit.

Sushi Hour is their version of happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close daily), and it’s a terrific way to sample the restaurant’s upscale fare without breaking your budget. Located in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel, the restaurant on one side and the lounge, where Sushi Hour is offered, on the other.

The best part of Sushi Hour is that you can enjoy an array of the selected nigiri, sushi rolls and small plates for possibly less than a single entrée over in the restaurant. There is a minimum drink purchase requirement, but the specialty cocktails, beer selections and the sake and wine lists should easily cover that.

On our recent visit, my HH friend and I were pretty hungry and ordered four out of the five sushi roll options, a couple pieces of nigiri, two orders of pot stickers and a plate of the caramel ginger chicken. If that sounds like a lot of food, it was! But the food was so good we ignored our filling bellies and chowed down. Continue reading HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Review: Hot Pot ‘n Sushi

Hot Pot ‘n Sushi
10127 NE Cascade Parkway
Portland, OR 97220
503-284-6075
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I had to take my boyfriend to the airport, so why not stop off for a little sushi on the way, right? We had previously spied Hot Pot ‘n Sushi on a trip to Cascade Station a few weeks prior and decided to test it out.

Hmmmm. What to say about Hot Pot ‘n Sushi? It pretty much sucked.

The sushi was boring and they didn’t offer a large enough selection. I kept waiting for their House roll to roll on by on the track but never saw one. I didn’t even see one California roll. What? I’ve never seen that before. They also pretty much only served sushi rolls, I only witnessed a handful of nigiri dishes and they didn’t look all that appetizing. Continue reading Review: Hot Pot ‘n Sushi

HH Review: Tiger Bar

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Tiger Bar
317 NW Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97209
(503) 222-7297
Map It!
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

HH Review: Henry’s 12 Street Tavern

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Henry’s 12th Street Tavern
10 NW 12th Street
Portland, OR
503-227-5320
* Happy hour runs daily from 3 to 6 pm
Map It!
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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OK, Henry’s has a great happy hour menu, but it’s almost too much trouble finding a seat to even bother going! I can understand the mad rush at Portland City Grill (which is also owned by Pacific Coast Restaurants), but I get so sick and tired of walking that endless circle around the bar at Henry’s looking for a free table or an even less comfortable place at the bar.

Honestly, my friends and I have left without waiting numerous times, because, like PCG, they don’t have any organized way of getting paying customers a table as people leave. Yes, I understand first come, first serve, but this is just chaos without the great view or the ambiance of PCG. Continue reading HH Review: Henry’s 12 Street Tavern