Happy Hour

Happy Hour: Oswego Grill

A confluence of comfort and style

By Chelsea Fitch July 11, 2011

Growing up around these parts has taught me two crucial survival skills: (1) Never expect (or accept) an average meal and (2) not drinking local is a sin against the Portland brewery gods. If I can get through a happy hour with at least one of these skills, I am often still pleased—and such is the case with Oswego Grill, a posh pit stop south of Portland just off I-5 (3-6 pm & 9 pm-close).

Walking in the door, the old-world, dark wood appointments and obsessively polished bar and tables made my jeans and bright yellow top stick out like a tie-dye T-shirt among the business suits, pearls, and sweater sets, but the staff didn’t think twice about this fashion faux pas and seated us promptly with non-phony smiles. (No walking in and plopping down at any table here, even in the bar.)

At first glance the down-home menu was surprising for such a swanky watering hole. With comfort food options and fresh summery drinks, I was definitely put off guard at this oxymoron, they were calling happy hour. My first stab at the menu was the mac & cheese, and at $2.95, it was a steal. The baked dish had a shocking spicy pepper kick yet maintained a creamy, buttery, thick sauce making it more of a "grown-up mac & cheese” that I instantly devoured despite my tendency to want to hold my fork with my pinky extended high in the air.

Pork tenderloin sliders and fries, a sweet deal at $2.95.

My friends went the more seasonal bbq route ordering the Pork Tenderloin Sliders ($2.95, and they come with fries!) and mozzarella wedges ($2.95), which were deftly described by my companions as "a tangy wonderland of summer.” Looking around I saw nothing but joy and gusto on the faces of office drones lustily shoveling down elegantly prepared chicken nachos ($3.95), chicken and cheese quesadillas ($2.95), and fish tacos ($2.95). The menu, a cunning blend of comfort food with a splash of gourmet, definitely fit my “I’m pretending to be a suit and tie but honestly I couldn’t care less” budget.

While the homey food passed my first survival skill, the brew selection fell short. Pints of beer are a $1 off during Happy Hour, but don’t get your hopes up for a wide selection of local tastes. They offer Widmer Hefeweizen and a Ninkasi IPA on rotating tap, but with a hometown handle like Oswego Grill, I would have expected a stronger regional selection.

Where the grill lacks in locals, the cocktails shined forth in the dark, mood-lit bar. The consensus favorites of the afternoon were the Blueberry Drop ($7.50) and the passion fruit mojito ($8), both with made fresh fruit and a judicious layering of lemon. Sadly, the Very Berry Lemonade ($6), a seemingly can’t-miss summer refresher, was sorely lacking in the bright-flavor department. My advice? Stick to the fresh-fruit house-made cocktails for a bracing beverage.

The blueberry drop in a chilled glass, $7.50.

Even though I felt like "Annie Get Your Gun" among financial execs and proper ladies, the Oswego Grill is a great happy hour for when you’re in the mood to spoil yourself with comfort food gussied up with stylish accents. I’m in no danger of becoming a regular—the bill can add up fairly quickly and I’d have to pilfer my grandmother’s broach and a cardigan—but it’s a solid and serviceable happy hour nonetheless.

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