Chris Ryan
111 SW Ash

Old Town is a bizarre intersection of all things Portland. It houses the historic Shanghai tunnels and staple rock clubs Ash Street and Berbati's, it's an epicenter for the homeless, a hotbed of drug activity, and a hub for public transit, all the while supporting highbrow businesses like the clothing store Lit and mod lounge Tube. Strangely though, for restaurants, it's an area more barren than most.

Because Old Town doesn't proclaim itself as a dining destination, I think restaurants in this area have a difficult time sticking. When Burlingame Pizza went out of business, I mourned its loss, but not until months after it was gone; because that's how long it took me to notice.

And in Burlingame's place comes Voleur, a swanky, classic Old Town eatery with high ceilings, ancient woodwork, and big glass storefront windows. It's a beautiful spot for a date or after-work drinks, with dim lighting, candles flickering, a sweet upstairs balcony, and sturdy tables that invite two or many.

The bartenders at Voleur are casual and friendly and know how to make a deliciously potent Spanish coffee or Old Fashioned. This hospitality is important, because you need an invitation back to secure Voleur in your memory--or rather, an invitation and a great happy hour. Thankfully, Voleur provides both, making it an optimal early evening downtown destination. The restaurant boasts a large happy hour menu available weekdays from 3-6 and all day Sunday.

Order their phenomenal half-pound buffalo burger and hearty house cut fries served with a delicious chipotle aioli and spend only $6. As a healthier option, try the homemade soup of the day--the carrot bisque they served recently was seductively creamy. In addition they offer a fresh, crisp Caesar, a poetic grilled cheese made with tomato and pepperoncini, and a rich Louisiana style mac and cheese--plus quesadillas, chicken skewers, Korean short ribs, and more.

While the happy hour fare and Voleur's selection of sandwiches are impressive, the dinner menu is less appealing. Entrees like filet mignon, double cut pork chops, and chicken fettuccine seem generic, and the Southwestern meatloaf I ordered was crusty, covered in a bland gravy and served with a heavy pile of parmesan mashed potatoes.

Voleur's kitchen is undoubtedly competent, they might just be attempting too much. The broad range of cuisines, from Southwestern to Asian to fusion to American steakhouse give the menu a little bit of a TGI Friday's feel, like they're trying to please all the people all the time. For example, a chicken curry and red cabbage slaw wrap sounds delicious, but does that go on the same menu with a saffron prawn fettuccini, and a spinach, red pepper & feta quesadilla?

Of course all this is food geek nitpicking, and Voleur executes their cuisine with far more love and flourish than any chain. Their draws, though, are still the drinks, the service, and the happy hour. Oh, plus they serve a great late afternoon boozy breakfast starting at 4 pm (?!?), where I'm confident you can avoid the rush.

In the end, Voleur does distinguish itself as a worthwhile destination with plenty of perks--that is, if you can remember it's there.