Walking into the Ringside bar is like walking into an episode of The Man Show. Thick-necked men in suits sip tumblers of bourbon. Boxing gloves dangle from the ceiling, sports hero autographs hang from the wall alongside comments like, 'I loved the steak.' There is a plethora of dark wood, burnt red booth cushions, and cigar smoke. The waiters wear tuxedo dress, and there is a separate man to make your drink, take your order, and fill your water. It is a foreign land, and one you might initially feel uncomfortable in, unless you're a portfolio manager or politician. But, as is always the case in Portland, you can't get away with anything too highbrow. You can't make enough money excluding the majority (in Portland, it's the young, broke people), unless you are a tiny Westside boutique.
High-end steak joints like the Portland Steak & Chophouse, and the superior Ringside, have obviously figured this out. And what have they done about it? Provided happy hour specials that might as well be free, luring in the common folk who will, along with their fabulous, heaping, two-dollar Caesar, gladly spend some extra dough on full-priced drinks.
And while I had recently become skeptical of late night happy hours, having had too many gross experiences, the Ringside Happy Hour has successfully turned me around. The food is generously portioned, made with high quality ingredients, expertly prepared, and delicious. And just because the cooks are dealing with the late night, hungry boozing crowd, they don't lower their standards of preparation.
Gems include the oyster shooters. By far the best I've had in town, they are fresh and taste like the ocean. Served in a tangy cocktail sauce with pieces of garlic, the taste of the oyster isn't masked with creamy horseradish, probably because it doesn't need to be and at $2.25 for four (the usual price for one), everyone at the table can skeptically sample. The Fish Bites (Halibut) and Willapa Bay Fried Oysters are both good appetizer dishes and the French Dip is great as a meal. Try Ringside's real deal with the Steak Bites; and for fun, request four orders, not cut into bites. I promise the waiter will think you are hilarious.
The crowning item on the menu, however, is the burger. Having only had the occasional fast food or diner burger over the past several years, I stopped understanding the appeal of the rubbery meat patty--especially when you can't order them medium rare. But the Ringside Burger is phenomenal. Your teeth sink into the meat like it's a piece of birthday cake and the flavor is subtle and best without catsup. It is a burger from heaven that comes with a crisp pickle spear. With one of their fresh and lightly dressed Caesars, you've had an excellent meal.
If you're a fan of the early bird special, or your nana is in town, head over for the Sunday HH--conveniently, 4 to 6:30 pm. If you need a meal before the rock show, the evening happy hour is 9:45 to midnight. It'll be good for your stomach, good for your debit card, and good for all those Republican steak eaters to have to co-exist with you, the bargain savvy.