Note: Aviary PDX restaurant in Portland, Oregon restaurant is now closed.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (known as Pre-Children), I was once the Happy Hour Queen of my itty bitty urban kingdom. When friends and colleagues wanted to know where to go for the best $5 cocktails, the heartiest menu for less than $3, the most refined happy hours or the trendiest hipster-before-we-called-ourselves-hipsters hipster happy hours -- I was the woman with the answers.
While children have only slightly subdued my character, they have definitely changed my former 20-something social schedule of two or three (okay fine, four or five) nights a week checking out new happy hour spots. Happy hour, after all, occurs during what I like to call Crazy Hour at my house, being right before kiddo bedtime.
I can feel some of you out there nodding in a solemn sisterhood of understanding. I know some of you fellow moms are with me on this.
So when you're an old urban-turned-suburban happy-hour-loving foodie like me, and you get an invitation from the fabulous folks at Little Green Pickle to happy hour at Aviary restaurant, where you'll learn how to make your most favorite cocktail in the whole world, and hangout with some of your fave food & drink bloggers? You say YES without blinking.
Aviary, located at 1733 NE Alberta in Portland, Oregon, is one of those places I have been a handful of times for dinner, but never for happy hour. I can already declare that not only does Aviary barman Russ Hunsinger make the most mind-blowing cocktails in all of Portland, but every single dish I have ever eaten here has been a pleasantly surprising explosion of joy in my mouth.
The collaboration of three chefs -- Sarah Pliner, Katherine Whitehead, and Jasper Shen -- Aviary hosts an interesting menu that reflects the local flavor with what they call a "twist on refined food served in casual style." Trust me when I say: you can order anything off this menu and be pleased. Anything.
Aviary's happy hour menu is a fabulous deal, offering innovative, delicious plates for just $2-6 each. That includes these gorgeous, fresh kusshi oysters for just $2 each.
The trotters and eggs ($5 per plate at happy hour) will delight food lovers who enjoy a complex, harmonious trio of textures in one hearty bite.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Brussel Sprouts Nachos ($5 per plate during happy hour), which was a beautiful plate of innovative layers of goodness: You can also get one of my favorite standbys -- the tempura green beans ($6 per plate at happy hour) to treat guests who may not be as adventurous, to ease them into trusting the food gods behind the counter and understanding the magic powers they possess. The tempura green beans are a dish that is easy to understand but whose refined flavors relay the creativity that moves the Aviary kitchen. Check out the full Aviary happy hour menu online.
Now, let's get down to business: the cocktails. More specifically, how Aviary barman Russ Hunsinger makes my favorite cocktail in the whole world right now: the Brix Layer.
I'm a huge bourbon fan (anything that starts with the letter B, really: bourbon, bacon, Beastie Boys). Buffalo Trace (another "B"!) is one of my fave budget-friendly bourbons, and seems to be the bourbon of choice in some of the best cocktails in town. At Aviary, Hunsinger smooths out the smokiness of bourbon with the Brix Layer. He mixes cubed sugar, cherries, slices of orange to create bitters, Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The end result is a luscious, sweet, complex, rich layered steps to bourbon bliss.
Hunsinger (pictured below, left) is a mix master magician. The cocktails here are as diverse as a group of good girlfriends: each distinctly original, each lovely in its own way.
Before, during, and after Hunsinger took us through the steps of recreating the Brix Layer, we had the opportunity to try out other cocktail offerings in addition to happy hour food. This may have been why my iPhone notes from the cocktail demo are a little cryptic...
One fellow diner ordered the Opera Sidecar. It's an incredible symphony (oh yes, I did just write that) of tart and sweet. Made with Clear Creek pear brandy, tuaca, and house sours (pictured below, left). Another blogger ordered the sinfully sweet One Night in Bangkok. It's made with vodka, kafir leaves, lemongrass, and lime (pictured below, middle cocktail).
While we chatted, drank, and ate the happy hour away, I had the opportunity to admire Aviary's garden adjacent to the back of the restaurant. It's such a beautiful plot of paradise, I had to share a photo.
1733 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211
Monday-Friday 5 - 7pm