Two summers ago Fireside Red was my go-to for happy hour. With one of the largest decks in town and views of the Old Mill and the Deschutes River, my colleagues and I would frequently close shop a bit early to score one of the tables on the deck.
Fireside Red closed last Spring and another restaurant, Riverside Grill opened in its place shortly after. It never enticed me last summer for whatever reason and it, too, closed over the winter. So I was excited to catch wind that the newly opened restaurant in the space, NW Urban Grill, had been getting high marks around town.
A native Oregonian, Executive Chef Timothy Nelson has worked all over the globe including the Caribbean, Europe and East Africa. These influences are nicely translated into NW Urban Grill's menu, an eclectic mix of flavors, with tapas and small plates ($6-$13) heavily featured alongside soup ($7), salads ($7-$12), pizzas ($8-$12) and a short list of entrees ($15-$25). Jerk spices and seafood fritters evoke the Caribbean. Pommes Frites and Risotto Balls suggest Europe. Baba Ghanoush perhaps reflects the Arab influences in East Africa. And the gamey meats, wild mushrooms and local fruits round the menu off with a Pacific Northwest flair.
The result is a menu that couldn't be more perfectly crafted for summer. The specialty cocktails follow suit. On a recent hot summer night I cooled down with a Desert Hound ($8): a tasty concoction of fresh grapefruit, gin or vodka and bitters. It's like a Greyhound, but the bitters gave it a more subtle flavor. The Marionberry Margarita and K's Special Deckside (iced coffee, chocolate liquor, Kahlua and cream) were also tempting.
My four girlfriends and I decided to order several items and share, in the spirit of the menu. The Sautéed Morel Mushroom Bruschetta with Boursin Cheese melted in our mouths and was the hit of the night. Crispy Home Cut Pommes Frites were accompanied by a marvelous aioli sauce made from roasted garlic, herbs and whole grain mustard. The Shiraz poached pear complimented the flavors of the Crater Lake bleu cheese, shallots and hazelnut dressing of the Baby Arugula salad.
For something a bit more filling, we ordered a Spicy Grilled Chicken Thai pizza and the Butternut Squash Ravioli entrée. The pizza had a peanut sauce with bean sprouts and Asian vegetables and would be the perfect choice if you were looking for something substantial without breaking the bank ($10). The small plates are what their name implies so be generous when ordering them. The Ravioli was the only disappointment of the evening. The Cider Madeira Jus overwhelmed the dish, snuffing out any taste of the squash.
Though there was no room for dessert, I have it in my mental list of date nights with my husband to come back for dessert and a night cap in the coming weeks. The Bananas Foster, with dark rum, brown sugar and banana liquor caramelized over vanilla ice cream still beckons.
NW Urban Grill is a bit tricky to find if you've never been there. It's tucked back at the end of NW Wall Street, to the left of the Mill A building known for its distinct barn red-and-white exterior and tall clock tower.
A generous happy hour (3 - 6 pm) offers discounts on drinks, small plates and tapas. I'd highly recommend you hit it up if you're on a budget. New to the deck are a pergola and a lounge area with cushioned seats and small tables. And though I selfishly hate to divulge a gem like this, I'll let you in on a little secret... they take reservations for the deck.
NW Urban Grill
803 SW Industrial Way
Happy Hour 3-6 Daily