Well, they’ve definitely got the best view in the city. They also have one heck of a happy hour, with some of the greatest plates for fewer than $4 that you’ll find anywhere, besides maybe a Las Vegas casino buffet. And at the Portland City Grill, you even get everything you order (most of the time).
With glorious and efficient elevation, I was transported to the 30th of Portland’s tallest building. Accompanied by five friends and a wintery chill, I arrived at the dark, cozy and proportionately pretentious City Grill last Sunday to enjoy their infamous happy hour, which lasts all night on Sunday, while gazing down at the magnificent P-town view from on high.
The City Grill offers about 20 dishes of differing quality and consideration at happy hour, but hey, it’s all cheap. You’ll find yourself staring at choices like Grilled Miso Glazed Salmon Chopsticks, Dungeness Crab Wontons, Thai Red Curry Coconut Chicken, Dungeness Crab Cake, Thai Lettuce Wraps, California Rolls and Kung Pao Calamari, all for under 4 bucks. Oh yeah, the shit is cheap, and most of it is good, too.
With my entourage of hungry hippos, I ordered nearly everything they had, so I got a good sense of the menu. My favorites were the Thai Lettuce Wraps with grilled marinated chicken served with butter lettuce, cucumber, scallions, cilantro, mint and shaved garlic vinaigrette. This plate is as deliciously fresh-tasting as it is fun. The chicken arrives in a little bowl so you can create your own wrap with the large, fresh leaves of butter lettuce.
You should also try the Dungeness Crab & Bay Shrimp Bruschetta served on grilled ciabatta with balsamic marinated roma tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and a pesto mornay sauce. These two dishes are where it’s at. Besides the California Rolls, Caesar Salad and Dungeness Crab Cake with key lime reduction and beurre blanc sauce, which are delicious, everything else I tasted was so-so.
Like the Thai Red Curry Coconut Chicken with steamed rice, sweet peanut curry sauce, pineapple and toasted coconut, for example. First of all, this dish looks horrible on the plate. Served with peanut sauce globbing over five pieces of chicken and rice accompanied by two pieces of pineapple, this dish is steaming with an aesthetic reeking of carelessness. It also tastes too sweet and mushy. Oh, and let me tell you about the Kung Pao Calamari, which is tossed with peppers and peanuts in a spicy Kung Pao sauce. From the menu’s description, one wouldn’t assume that the calamari comes in membranous masses of a batter-like material. The calamari that wasn’t stuck inside of these mysterious dough balls was actually quite tasty, but be forewarned, most of the dish consists of these curious clumps. Unfortunately, not everything cheap is tasty, but we knew that already, right?
Our group ordered a whole lot of food, and I used to wait tables so I know how difficult it can sometimes be to remember everything everybody orders. I also know that if somebody doesn’t get something that they order you simply apologize and bring them what you forgot – you don’t accuse the person of not ordering a Thai Lettuce Wrap when they clearly ordered a Thai Lettuce Wrap. It’s just rude. In general, the service at The City Grill is scattered and seemingly unorganized. Different people bring out the food at sporadic intervals. Sadly, my friends got all of their orders before I got any of mine, leaving me lonely and hungry amidst the wafting aromas of orders other than my own.
And so it goes at the City Grill. I would put some stuff in my mouth, but I would definitely spit some stuff out.
Portland City Grill
111 S.W. 5th Ave.
Mon.-Thurs.: 10 a.m.-Mid.
Sun.: 4 p.m.-Close
Mon.-Sat.: 4:30-6:30 p.m.