|Nightlight Lounge Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: 2100 SE Clinton St, Portland Oregon|
|Hours: Everyday 3pm-2:30am,
happy hour 3pm-7pm
|Times Visited: Many|
If you’re going to drink a boozy Shirley Temple with your female friends in the SE Division area and secretly pretend you’re in the younger, Portland version of “Sex and the City”, the Nightlight Lounge is a key place to go. This bar and lounge is best experienced with these friends, or your more casual, realistic equivalents. Sure, you could play fancy at the new Bar Avignon, but there’s actual food on SE Clinton and it’s a fun corner for people watching when sitting outside.
Inside, you can grab a large, chic booth in the main or separate back room, or head outside to the back patio to share one of the many tables for two. The front room has mood lighting, while the back room, where smoking is allowed, is quite dark. The back patio, though, is by far my favorite place to sit. It’s tucked away and you have to walk across the restaurant, through a nook with a pool table to get there. Out front you can sit with your drink and friends and become part of SE 21st and Clinton. Go for happy hour and catch a quieter lounge with drink specials. There are food specials, but only the side of hand-cut Cottage Fries, ($4) and the House and Roasted Beet salads, minus the fancy cheeses, are vegan-friendly.
The best thing I’ve tried is the Vegetable Stir Fry, available with tofu at no extra charge. Score one point for that to begin with. It’s your basic stir fry with fresh mixed vegetables, sliced fried and chewy tofu, a soy-tinged sauce and a smooth round of white jasmine rice topped with sweet chili sauce. It’s certainly something most people can and do make at home, but for $7 it’s still a more than decent restaurant stir fry. Though not as fresh and versatile as at the nearby New Seasons wok bar, the tofu involved is actually fried. The vegetables include broccoli florets, carrots, baby corn, peppers, onion, and cauliflower. It’s a welcome alternative to vegan burgers and something comfortable to eat while sipping a cocktail. It’s cool that the most overtly vegan item on the menu is actually worthwhile to order.
The other vegan-friendly entree, the Falafel Deluxe ($7.50), has a lot going on description wise, but it’s basically a long falafel wrap with a side of crinkle cut potato chips. The wrap includes hearty homemade falafel patties, grilled eggplant, hot sauce, a light tahini and a mix of chopped cucumber, onion, and tomato. As the huge wrap is served cut in half, it’s easily a dish to share with a friend. But it’s not something I’d want to chow down on while drinking a cocktail or two, that’s for sure. There are also vegetarian cactus tacos, but on my most recent visit, the server was not confident that they could be veganized.
Happy hour is 3-7 PM, with drink specials and discounted food. While the House Salad and Cottage Fries are included on the happy hour menu, I’ve always ordered off the regular menu during this time. However, it’s the best time to go. Not only are the drinks cheaper, but there is also less of a busy, chic-chic crowd. It is a keen date spot, but I’d rather sit with friends and consider one of the nightly drink specials ($3.50-5), which are eye catching and well priced, from the Shirley Temple with vodka, Pink Martinis and Lavender Margaritas, you don’t need to dish out $8+ dollars for a pretty sipping.
Though I like the change of pace, the Nightlight Lounge can be a little more-than-casual for my everyday tastes. I swear I’ve seen sequined tank tops on more than one occasion. This reviewer just finds it hard to pass up the neighborhood favorite – and french fry and spicy tofu sauce haven – Dots, keeping that reliable tofu stir fry in mind for another time, lame Carrie Bradshaw references aside.