Laurelwood Public House and Brewery

Last night, in the ramp up to our 2nd Annual Stellaween festivities, we took our daughter and some family members out for dinner. Since the goal was to celebrate Stella's 2nd birthday (which is on the 29th, so we hence call this season Stellaween in honor of both her and the fun holiday she was born so close to), we decided to find a place that would be fun for her.

Unfortunately, Portland no longer has Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour (or Portland Ice Cream, the poseur that took it over). And we've sworn off of Chuck E. Cheese. So pickin's were slim.
My wife's dad suggested Laurelwood, which had also crossed my mind, seeing as they are touted as kid-friendly and a fun place for the whole family.

So we went. Upon arrival at the newest location, situated at 51st and Sandy in Northeast Portland, I was pleased at how clean and nice the space was to be in. I looked for the kid's play area, which I'd heard so much about. I was saddened to see it consisted of a small 4'x4' niche in the restaurant. If there was more for kids to do, I didn't see it.

We sat down and started looking for food, as various members of the family took turns running Stella to the play area. We were thrilled to find that Laurelwood has a happy hour every day, including Sunday, from 3-6 pm and from 9-close. Beers are $2.75/pint. Food's about $3.50 off of the happy hour menu.

We ordered two orders of the garlic fries to start. These are awesome. Fries, which in and of themselves are more or less normal (though none were soggy and all were fresh-cooked and crispy), topped with a bunch of minced garlic, some parsley, and some parmesan. They were simply delicious. I've never had garlic fries so good.

The menu is a bit all over the place, which made it hard for everyone to settle on something. There are menus that offer a nice selection, and then menus that offer too much. Laurelwood's falls in the second category. They'd benefit from finding a theme to work around, to help focus the mind of the diner and also to help complement their ample beer selection better.

I had a ton of trouble choosing. Until it was time to order, I was fixated on the crispy buffalo chicken sandwich. However, at the last minute, I switched to the santa fe burger (I'm a sucker for chiles and pepper jack cheese) with a side of onion rings. Total: $9.95.

The food wasn't fast getting out, but it wasn't too slow. We had a party of 8, and service took about 20 minutes, which is okay given that number of people. Our waitress was very friendly, if not entirely on-the-ball, and at least noticed empty drinks fairly promptly (though, on average, it would take 5 minutes to fill a drink order, though I was literally 8 feet from the bar). In terms of a place to go to enjoy company as well as food, Laurelwood does fit the bill.

I took some time to check out the play area with Stella. It was really a let-down. A few broken toys on a small city-scape carpet (if they'd had Hotwheel cars, we could've pretended to drive them on the roads, but alas they didn't). Toward the back corner of the space, I saw what appeared to be old mess of some sort under the carpet. There was no associated smell or crustiness or anything, but it conveyed a feeling of dinginess that was very unappealing. Stella didn't seem to mind, but at the same time she was obviously not that interested in the offerings for kids.

The food finally came and we all dug in. Stella ordered (via her parents, of course) the kids mac and cheese ala carte for $2.50 (you can get the main dish with fries and a dessert for $4.50), which she seemed to enjoy.

My burger initially looked like a sloppy joe. Though I didn't read the menu as indicating it, it was actually sort of a chili burger. The chiles were not really discernable, nor were any of the seasoning elements I'd homed in on while reviewing the dish on the menu. All in all, it was edible but disappointing. The onion rings were quite good, though, and didn't survive to make into my picture, below. My brother in law got the turkey burger, and he said it was good. My other brother in law got the open-faced meatloaf sandwich, which came with whipped potatoes (I tried them and they were alright, but not special) and green beans (cooked a bit too long, so more chewy than crispy, but seasoned nicely). I didn't get to sample the loaf itself, but he ate it all without any complaint, so it must have been at least decent.

My father-in-law ended up performing an act of grandfatherly exuberance, pulling out his card at the last minute to pay, so I never saw the bill. I think, for 8 people with drinks and the appetizers, we ended up around $100, which really isn't bad.

Laurelwood is touted as highly kid friendly. It's smoke free, generally clean, and noone minds your kid running from the table to the play area. But otherwise I don't see how it differs from most other restaurants. Perhaps other locations are more deserving of the kid-free mantle. The food is okay, but not special. The beer is good, and the plentiful happy hours make it a place to keep in mind, especially on a Sunday afternoon when you want to catch a game on the big screen over an affordable pint. It's a place that you'll never miss if you don't visit it, but also one that I could understand you liking if you're nearby and hungry.

No comments: