Thursday, May 7, 2009

Penny-Wise in PDX:Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happy Hour

By Brooke Preston

With the Oregon unemployment rate rising over 12 percent, it's not exactly high time for extravagant meals out on the town. But in a town as tasty as Portland, it would be a crime to miss out on all the fun just because Uncle Sam cut our allowance.

Luckily, the Pacific Northwest, and particularly Portland, offers a diverse and delectable collection of happy hours. The saving grace of the young, broke and fabulous, happy hours allow us all to indulge our champagne taste on a PBR budget.

50 Plates (333 NW 13th Ave, is no exception. It should come as no surprise that the powers that be at this Pearl District favorite decided to re-vamp the laid-back sophistication of its newest happy hour menu—which debuted last week—by tripling its number of dishes, featuring local ingredients, seasonal treats and even an array of wallet-friendly cocktails.

All-American diners and picnics meet casual elegance at 50 Plates, producing thoughtful, flavorful dishes that reflect our nation's surprisingly substantive and unique culinary traditions. Take for instance the Castroville Artichoke Rolls, an appetizing tribute to the California veggie that marries an artichoke and garlic filling with a bit of goat cheese, crisp fried in rice oil with a summery avocado ranch dip made fresh in-house.

For 9.50, the "Happy Hour Meal" provides a (semi) grown-up version of the childhood classic, featuring chicken nuggets with their choice of house sauces, a cocktail, a cookie and what the menu refers to as "a crappy toy."

Short ribs, Kobe beef sammies, fried green tomato sliders called "The Lousy Hunter" and a long list of filling goodies provide sustenance. A full page of $5 classic cocktails put the happy in happy hour. An additional new collection of mixed drinks and floats usher in spring with color and bright flavors, including a new concoction (yet to be named—put on those thinking caps!) featuring Jim Beam (an American staple that fits the restaurant's theme perfectly), blueberry puree and Navan, a vanilla cognac which serves as a surprisingly apt liaison between such otherwise incongruent flavors. Those with a sweet tooth should instead stick to the grapefruit and vodka fronted 50 Plates punch, or a refreshing float with Kahlua, espresso and homemade (!!!) chocolate ice cream.

50 Plates offers happy hour from 3-6 daily (but is closed on Sundays) as well as 9pm-close Monday-Thursday, and 10pm-close Fridays and Saturdays. Note: The late night happy hours are not posted yet on their website, but staff members confirmed they have commenced! You can view menus, location and the stories behind many of the dishes at

Check back here for more tips on how to experience Portland on the cheap!

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