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:2.5]

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: Hawaiian Time (Pearl District)

Hawaiian Time
505 NW 14th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
Map It!
503-459-4040 ‎
Hours: Sun-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m./F-Sat 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Facebook Page | Menu (PDF) | Lunch Money: $$
[rating:4.5]

Aloha my lovely Stumptown Lunch brahs! Are you ready to grind into some epic “plate lunch” awesomeness?

Plate Lunch: A combo menu item that is a traditional part of Hawaiian cuisine. While some options will vary, the standard plate lunch consists of a main entrée, two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

We’d been hearing about the Hawaiian Time location in the Pearl District almost constantly since we arrived back in PDX last month. This is mainly because our best bud, Matt W., is a regular and he’s constantly bragging about having just eaten there on the way over to Stumptown Lunch HQs. (BTW, yeah, thanks for NOT bringing us some all those times, Matt!)

So, after a recent visit to Powell’s, we decided to hoof it a few blocks to try some of the Polynesian meat treats for ourselves.

The verdict is in: What the heck were we waiting for?!?!

To say it was good would be an understatement. To say it was delicious would still be an understatement. To say that we could eat at Hawaiian Time every single day would be absolutely accurate. Seriously. It’s that good!

Walking into the former-gas-station-turned-tiny-restaurant-joint, we were surprised by how simple and straightforward the menu was. Meat, more meat, side of meat, marinated meat, grilled meat, seasoned meat…oh, and steamed rice and that notorious mac salad. Yes, there are one or two vegetarian options, but serious veggie-only types won’t have much to pick from here.

If you are going for one of the plate lunches you’ll have three sizes to choose from. The regular size has one generous portion of your choice of meat, two scoops of rice and a scoop of mac salad. The smaller “dakine” portion contains a little less meat (but not by much) and one scoop each of rice and mac salad. If you are really hungry (and I mean REALLY hungry) there’s the “alii” portion, which includes a whopping 11.5 ounces of meat, three scoops of rice and two scoops of mac salad. Best be off-the-Richter hungry, son! Continue reading Review: Hawaiian Time (Pearl District)

Review: Kauai Island Grill

kauaiislandgrill_1.gif

Kauai Island Grill
811 NW Murray Boulevard
Portland, OR
503-643-4820
Map It!
[rating:3.5]

kauaiislandgrill_2.gif  kauaiislandgrill_3.gif

A little bit of Hawaii is the perfect pick-me-up during a rainy Stumptown lunch hour; so, today I trekked to the Westside to sample some tasty teriyaki treats. But Kauai Island Grill’s menu goes way beyond teriyaki, they offer traditional Hawaiian fare–where else can you find SPAM on a menu?

The restaurant itself is pretty much a hole in the wall, and you’ll want to get it to go because seating is minimal (by minimal, I mean there are just two small tables and a counter with stools). But looking beyond the seating dilemma, this place is charming and seems to be a family-run joint with a following of regulars who are happy to spend the wait for takeout chatting with the women behind the counter. The wall is covered with family photos, kitschy Hawaiian pictures and even a couple of autographed photos (hello, Peter Jacobsen!). Continue reading Review: Kauai Island Grill