Downtown P-town, A Food Lover's Dreamland
Credit: Ratanay Radcliffe
Portland, Oregon is one of the nation's great foodie towns. They have it all from a bustling and quality food cart scene, to swanky 30th floor steakhouses where 80 bucks a plate isn't considered outlandish. In between the 2 you have farm to table specialty restaurants, old fashion soda fountains, and organic pizzerias where you can get your pie delivered by bicycle. Now it's easy to eat cheap and good at the food carts and in the smaller restaurants and delis that are prevelant in the downtown area. What if you want to sample some of the higher end fare without a higher end budget though? Well it just so happens that with a little research and good timing, you can eat at some of Portland's most famous and expensive restaurants with a beer and burger budget. This article is going to tell you how to do it, and why it's so worth it to make the effort.
The trick to pulling this off is contained in 2 tasty and thirst quenching words, happy hour. Now many people think of happy hour as the 2 for 1 longneck special from 5 to 7 on Tuesdays at the local neighborhood pub. In Portland however, the higher end restaurants and gastropubs have gotten into the game. The even better news is that the specials are not limited to libations, many are serving small plates, appetizers, and even full meals at a fraction of the cost during their happy hours. By studying when the happy hours take place and planning your route, you can enjoy an evening of sampling at a number of outstanding locations before you run out of time. Here are some samples of what you can expect at a few of the restaurants that participate.
The Driftwood Room
Credit: Dieselboii on flickr
This kidney shaped bar and small restaurant in the lobby of the swanky Hotel Deluxe has that dark, martini bar feel to it. The drinks are amazing and the food follows suite. From 2 - 6:30 and after 9:30, you can get fries with momma's little peppers and pork lardons for 4 bucks. Gourmet macaroni and cheese will set you back 5 dollars, and a plate of their famous sizzling forest mushrooms can be all yours for just 7 dollars. Couple these food specials with one of their handcrafted cocktails for 6 bucks or the pint of the day for just 4.
Jakes Famous Crawfish
Consistently voted one of the top ten seafood restaurants in the nation, a normal dinner plate at Jake's can set you back nearly 50 bucks not including drinks! However, if you sneak in between 3 and 6 pm or after 9 pm you can get deals like the following. Tomato brushchetta with fresh mozzarella and balsamic for 2.95. For 3.95 you can get a bowl of northwest seafood and sausage gumbo. 1 dollar more buys you a plate of garlic steamed mussels with wine and butter or a plate of peel and eat shrimp. All gourmet yummy, and all for less than 6 dollars.
Portland City GrillCredit: Winni3 on flickr
Finally, the creme de la creme of the downtown Portland happy hour scene. The Portland City Grill is a world class steak house on the 30th floor of the tallest building in Portland. It overlooks the Willamette river , Mt. Hood, and all of downtown Portland. An aged ribeye at this top of the town restaurant will run you 48 bucks on the regular menu. Or, between 4 and 7, after 9, and all day Sunday you can score one of these deals. 4.25 to 9.25 will buy you spicy yellowfin tuna rolls, curry fried fish and chips, or a grilled beef tenderloin sandwich with a fig reduction and horseradish bluecheese. Wash it all down with 4.25 microbrew pints or a 5.25 specialty cocktail.
Now, here's how you put it all together. Start about 2:30 pm at the Driftwood room. Order up a plate of the sizzling forest mushrooms and a pair of champagne cocktails for you and your partner. Let the vibe in this place settle in and take you back to 1950's Hollywood and ease yourself into the gourmet mood. Next, around 4:30 or so walk the 3 blocks east and north to Jakes Famous Crawfish, order up a plate of the steaming mussels and 2 local microbrews and enjoy some of the best seafood you can get anywhere. Afterward spend a couple of hours wondering around downtown Portland, visiting Pioneer square, checking out the shops, and walking off the food and booze. Then jump on the max line and ride to the bank tower and the Portland City Grille around 9:30. Grab a window seat, order 2 tenderloin sandwiches, and wash them down with a couple of their wonderful handmade cocktails while checking out all the city lights with a smug smile on your face as you realize you just ate and drank your way through 3 of Portland's finest establishments for a fraction of what it otherwise would have cost. Congratulations, and enjoy!