1203 NW Glisan Street
Portland, OR 97209
HH Hours: 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close M-F; all day on Sundays
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Lunch money: $$$-$$$$
I wanted to love the happy hour at Trader Vicâ€™s, I really, really did. Itâ€™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. Theyâ€™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 donâ€™t think anyone I know has actually mentioned theyâ€™ve tried Trader Vicâ€™s yet.
OK, so hereâ€™s what went down. I arrived and found my partyâ€”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 hadnâ€™t been properly cleaned because one corner of the tabletop was so sticky my sweater kept getting stuck to it. Yuck.
Anyway, because weâ€™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 thatâ€™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 Vicâ€™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 youâ€™d expect from a boring chain place in the â€˜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 wasnâ€™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). â€œMiniâ€ is a good way to describe itâ€¦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 preschoolerâ€™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 Iâ€™ve ever had. It was runny and lacked flavor.
Overall, the only reason I would come back to Trader Vicâ€™s for happy hour is for the Mai Taisâ€”and Iâ€™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!
– 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, â€œattractiveâ€)
– Nice decor
– Live music is a plus
– 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.