Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade

We're always looking for a reason to celebrate at TableTalkPortland, and Special Correspondent April was kind enough to have a birthday this week, so we hooped it up in style with a Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade.

April had one simple birthday wish: to hit a few favorite watering holes and then eat Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings at Pok Pok. So we devised a plan:

1. We West Siders would ride our bikes across the Hawthorne Bridge and all over the admittedly more exciting food scene-endowed East Side, taking advantage of as many happy hours as we could.
2. We would get Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (spicy version) at Pok Pok.
3. We would Go Back West.

First, we had to rescue my two bikes from the garage of my old apartment building in the Pearl. I was embarrassed to tell Brycey, the concierge, that I'd left then in there for, oh, a year-and-a-half, so we had to loiter around the automatic garage doors until someone drove out and then we ran in and grabbed them. Unfortunately, it turns out that after a year-and-a-half of abandonment, a bike's tires become flat. Who knew?! We set out on foot, pushing the filthy dirty bikes towards Bike Gallery on SW 10th St. Seriously, these bikes were so dirty, April had to stop and wash her hands at the first Benson bubbler we came to. Pansy!

All this exertion made us hungry, so we had to stop halfway to the bike shop for a bratwurst at the Altengartz German Brand Bratwurst food truck on SW 10th & SW Alder. Jameson Wittkopf greeted us warmly and in no time, we had a steaming bratwurst in hand, complete with grilled onions and Altengartz's signature kase cheese sauce. Jameson was even kind enough to come out and take our picture!

It was just the thing to fortify us for our next challenge: pumping up the bike tires. The kind (and awfully good looking) folks at Bike Gallery warmly invited us to use their pumps. We thought they were great, even though we're pretty sure they were laughing a little at us because a) we'd clearly not pumped up a bike tire in approximately a zillion years and b)we weren't wearing Serious Biker Wear (no spandex) and c)it was starting to rain outside and we'd obviously not prepared in the least for the elements.

We headed east across the Hawthorne Bridge, then cut under I-5 and over to the Bakery Bar, to sample a few of the Bakery Bar's peerless Lemon Rosemary, Earl Grey, and Pecan Sandies shortbread cookies. When SC April and I used to toil/suffer together in the cube farm down the way, we'd take a slightly longer than allowed lunch on Fridays and sneak down to the Bakery Bar for ham 'n Brie sandwiches and soup and shortbread cookies. Sometimes these babies were the one thing that got us through the week. They hold a very special place in our hearts. And stomachs. True to its name, the Bakery Bar has a happy hour, with $3 beer and $5 wine from 4 pm to 6 pm Wed-Fri, and 12-5 Saturdays.

We stopped in our tracks at Bicycling Hub, surveying the bike outfits with some dismay as we realized we were very underdressed for our Birthday Bike Brigade. Then I saw my dream guy. We made a nice couple, but he turned out to be fake. Really fake. And I don't mean to be shallow, but he totally needed a nose job.


Onward to Doug Fir, which has a fantastic happy hour daily from 3 pm to 6 pm: all bar food items are slashed to $3! En route, we discovered I had a squeaky wheel and a weakness for riding on the sidewalk (far less honking at my wobbly snail's pace that way), so we popped into Citybikes bike coop, where a nice man offered to clean my squeaky wheel with alcohol and reassured us that if it's safer, you can ride on the sidewalk, except downtown. Good to know, thanks Citybikes!

Perched at the Doug Fir bar, we ordered the "Fritz Fingers"--spindly claw-like breaded and fried chicken strips served with house ranch, and the Salmon Chowder--thick and creamy, with potatoes, zucchini, onion, red pepper, and celery. We also ordered two glasses of the House White Wine ($4). 

We plunked down by the Doug Fir fire pit with slightly leaden bellies, then decided we had to carry on or risk falling asleep midway through our Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade. We slowly got back on our bikes and pedaled towards SE Clinton, where we popped into The Press Club, which has a $1-off wine, beer, spirits, crepes and sandwiches happy hour (4-6 pm T-Fri). We chose the absolutely fantastic "Tobias Wolff" crepe--shallots, mushrooms, and mozzarella. The slightly crunchy, aromatic shallots perfectly complemented the tender sauteed mushrooms and melted mozzarella. We toasted April's birthday with two glasses of the House White--a crisp 2004 Deinhard German Pinot Grigio, which came as a surprise to me, as I always though Pinot Grigio's were exclusively Italian. No. They are German too!  

We looked up from a long chat about exactly why things never would have worked out between me and bike boy (emotionally unavailable, wearing too much jewelry, shaves his legs, is plastic...literally, etc), to find out that we had exactly 15 minutes to make it to the Victory Bar on SE Division for their Happy Hour! We've never pedaled so fast. We arrived just in time to order the divine $5 housemade spaetzle (only at Happy Hour! Pedal faster!), which Chef Eric brought to the table with good cheer and a side of apple compote for dipping.

Onward to Pok Pok! We'd finally made it! If the Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade was our Hajj pilgrimage, we had arrived at Mecca. We were so close to Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, we could almost taste the slightly sweet, exquisitely salty, crispy dark golden brown skin with its flecks of red chile pepper flakes, and we could almost feel our unapologetically sticky fingers accidentally brushing through our already unruly hair.

We put our name in for a table inside the Whiskey Soda Lounge, which adjoins the Pok Pok shack, and discovered that Pok Pok has a very advantageous arrangement with the Matchbox Lounge across the street. Put your name in for a table, tell the host you are going to the Matchbox for a predinner drink, and they will call the bartender when your table is ready! This way you don't have to languish by the Pok Pok Shack, smelling the pork loin skewers marinated in coconut milk and turmeric and the charcoal roasted natural game hen stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, pepper and cilantro and wishing all 400 people ahead of you would JUST GET RAPTURED ALREADY.

I was ecstatic to find that Matchbox Lounge serves up Strongbow, my favorite English cider. Some people, and by some people I mean my English friend Matt, think Strongbow is complete shite, but I love it. And besides, my English friend Sian (Matt's wife) likes Miller Lite, so we're even. April and I could have sat in the booth at Matchbox drinking Strongbow all night, but Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings (have we mentioned we like 'em SPICY) were calling to us, and we listened. Actually it was the Pok Pok hostess calling for us, so we hightailed it back across the street.

Mike, Pok Pok Server Exraordinaire and our pick for Best Server of the Week, gamely brought us an order of Ike's Spicy Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings and one crisp cold Singha beer, no glass, and we fell upon the plate, gnawing the chicken bones like starving wolves, and swigging beer from the bottle as skillfully as Ducks' tailgaters.

We pleaded with Mike to let us order our other Pok Pok favorite, the Khao Man Som Tam, which is ONLY available at the Pok Pok Shack window, and while at first he refused, citing protocol, he finally relented and said he'd "see what he could do," and a moment later, we had our clandestine order on the table. Oh, heaven itself could not possibly be as fine as this sweet tender shredded Carlton Farms pork, with its side of spicy green papaya "Pok Pok" salad!
After we modestly revealed that we'd been biking around to different happy hours and bike shops for the past six hours, Mike invited us and our omnipresent helmets to the back of the restaurant to "see the bikes." Whoa there, Server Mike! We aren't those kind of girls! But as it turned out, Mike was just going with our weird flow, and wanted to show us the plethora of staff bikes lined up in the yard behind the restaurant. And he didn't even complain when we got on his bike and asked him to take our picture. What a guy! Thanks again for everything, Mike, you're a peach! Or, better yet, a Spicy Fish Sauce Chicken Wing!

Our Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade culminated at the Aalto Lounge on SE Belmont, where my beloved new Blackberry Pearl (how did I EVER live without it? you can pull up critical happy hour info on Urban Drinks in seconds!) froze and flatly refused to take our picture of us enjoying a Full Sail Sessions lager and watching the DJ lovingly wipe and polish his records. A quick trip to the corner store yielded Laffy Taffy sticks and birthday cigarettes (we NEVER EVER EVER EVER smoke, SERIOUSLY, I SWEAR on IKE'S FISH SAUCE WINGS, it's an AWFUL FILTHY HABIT, but it was SC April's BIRTHDAY and we don't know what came OVER US!!).

"This is the best birthday ever," Special Correspondent April sighed. Taking heed of the bike safety message contained in The Doors' classic "Roadhouse Blues," we kept our eyes on the road, and our still-sticky Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Chicken Wing-reeking hands upon the wheel (handlebars...whatever) and we rode into the night, fat and very, very Happy.



  1. Best Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade Ever! you know what happened to my birthday cigarettes?

    What? I'm not going to smoke them. I would NEVER do that. That's disgusting! I just thought I could keep them to help me remember the best night of my life!

  2. Funny you should inquire as to the whereabouts of your birthday cigarettes, SC April! When I got home from our epic Happy Hippy Happy Hour Happy Birthday Over-the-Bridge Bike Brigade, I wiki’d cigarettes, and was horrified to learn that they are chock full of nasty horrible chemicals and poisons, like formaldehyde and ground up mothballs and Michelle’s toejam!
    I opened the window and was about to toss them onto the sidewalk for some lucky nicotine-addicted street person to find, when I thought to myself, wait, these cigarettes cost roughly the same price as 16 Laffy Taffy sticks at the Belmont corner market! Why waste something so valuable, when surely you will want to smoke them next year on your birthday!
    So I encased the precious birthday cigarettes in lead and hid them in an Al Franken book so my mother will never, ever find them when she visits. Remind me in October and we’ll break them out for MY birthday!!