Eat Here Now

Happy Hour at Portland Penny Diner

Vitaly Paley’s casual breakfast and lunch spot rebrands with frybread “tacos” for dinner and cocktails on tap.

By Benjamin Tepler June 16, 2015

Portland Penny Diner's new $8 happy hour Deluxe Burger, loaded with two patties, bacon, american cheese, and special sauce.

Since it opened in 2012, Portland Penny Diner has been the odd duck in Vitaly Paley’s restaurant triad. Is it a soda fountain-deli counter? A reliable lunch spot? Or just a staging ground for Paley’s monthly, Russo-loving DaNet pop-up? Three years later, we still don’t have our answer. Instead, Portland Penny has taken on another identity entirely: a happy hour and dinner destination with frybread, tapped cocktails, and shot pairings.

Paley has been working on his frybread game—what he describes as a cross between Native American, lard-fried dough, and Neapolitan fried pizza—since day one of his Hotel Lucia acquisition. It’s bouffant, barely sweet, and deep-fried, making for a sturdy “taco” base for Paley and Top Chef star, executive chef Doug Adams to play with. Top marks go to the predictable but unabashedly crave-worthy pork belly taco, glazed in sweet soy and jammed with bahn mi pickles and red jalapenos, and the “Hangtown Fry,” a creation busting at the seams with juicy fried oysters, scrambled eggs, bacon, and spicy remoulade. At $6 a pop (during Happy Hour), these gut-busters are a killer deal. The juicy, $8 “Deluxe Burger,” loaded with two patties, bacon, and pickles, isn’t a bad option either.

The newly rebranded bar stakes its claim to “the city’s largest selection of cocktails on tap”—and let’s face it, you’re going to need a drink to wash down what’s essentially a pork belly doughnut on steroids. New(ish) bartender Tony Gurdian batches eight, pre-mixed, slightly tweaked classics, like an Old Fashioned with brandy, or a Between the Sheets with gin instead of white rum, each for $5 at happy hour. But the real fun starts with the new “short orders”: shot pairings, like Pisco with a sweet and spicy skewer of grilled pineapple dusted with smoked paprika, or cachaça with a tart pickled strawberry.

Whether Portland Penny’s latest evolution will help solidify the restaurant’s name remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure: Paley and Adams are serving up one of the best bang-for-buck happy hours in the city. Get drinking.

Portland Penny Diner
410 SW Broadway
Happy Hour: Mon-Sat, 4-6pm
Dinner: Mon-Thurs, 4-11pm; Fri-Sat, 4pm-12am

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