It's not enough that Portland, Oregon is a major player on the world's dining stage. Apparently, the chefs and restaurant owners there are pretty committed to making sure everyone in the city--including tourists--have an opportunity to indulge in their delicious handiwork. Every weekday, restaurants around town, from unassuming neighborhood joints to highly regarded, award-winning dining destinations, offer their fare for a fraction of the standard menu prices. Locals refer to it as “happy hour,” but that’s hardly factual. More like “ecstatic hours” (with an “s”!) Some spots reprise the after-work specials late-night each night. Others insist on drawing it out for the entire afternoon and evening. Consider, for instance, the hip lounge-like Gold Dust Meridian: from 2PM to 8PM Monday through Saturday and all day Sunday they offer bites like deviled eggs and BBQ meatballs for $5 and crab cakes and calamari for just $6. There are also $4 to $6 drinks. At the Observatory, an airy neighborhood institution, Happy Hour runs daily from 2-6PM then Sunday through Thursday again from 10PM to close. During that time, treats like oregano fry bread are $3, drafts top off at $3.75 and cocktails, which this place is known for, are just $5. In fact, during these designated hours, terrific cocktails and excellent wine and beer are sold throughout the city at prices that make you think they're going out of style.
The city’s top chefs are deep in the game, too. The menu at Nostrana, a top-rated Italian enoteca under the watch of Chef Cathy Whims, a six-time James Beard Award finalist, includes items straight off the dinner menu for a fraction of the price, like the house charcuterie for $5 (vs. $18) and pizza margherita for $7 (vs. $12). At Oven and Shaker (pictured), her more relaxed pizzeria with a strong cocktail focus, people gather for $7-$10 artisanal pizzas and $7 craft cocktails from 2.30PM to 5.30PM during the week and 10PM to close every night.
Fancy burgers, ramen, sushi, Tex-Mex, spaetzle, steak sandwiches, Latin American classics—you can find it all for a song somewhere in the city before or after the dinner rush. Maybe you chalk it up to Pacific Northwestern hospitality or maybe it's just Portlandians’ obsession with getting out and socializing. Either way, it’s a local way of life that’s a traveler’s fantasy.