Happy Hour: Haute cuisine, faible budget
When in a new town, one of the surest ways to eat well without breaking the bank is to dine at happy hour. Although typically happy “hour” falls between 4 pm and 7 pm, competition and a troubled economy have inspired a surprising number of eateries, including some of the best, to expand the discounts “until 10 pm,” “until closing,” or even “all day.” A little searching for “happy hour” on the internet will usually turn up plenty of choices.
Offerings vary, though, and it often pays to call ahead to double check hours and menus (some happy hours are every day, some Sunday-Thursday, a few one or two days a week). Speaking generally, happy hour choices are limited: the bar menu and selections from the list of dinner appetizers, plus a couple of wines and well drinks — expect to pay half the regular prices or a little more, although occasionally you will run across a place discounting its entire menu, usually at prices similar to the difference between lunch and dinner for the same item. Many locales offer breaks only on alcohol, another reason to call ahead. And, believe it not, there are still a few spots with free food during happy hour, an amenity that was commonplace once upon a time ( see, Free Happy Hour Food in LA, Denver and the Bay Area; Splash Ultra Lounge and Burger Bar and Sissy K’s in Boston; free tapas at Il Moro in West Los Angeles, as long as you order a drink — call ahead: these things change).
Typical sources for happy hour recommendations include foodie social media sites (Urbanspoon; Yelp!); urban guides (Where magazine; Citysearch; Metromix); local periodicals (New York magazine; LA Weekly; Miami New Times; TimeOut); and specialized portals (GoTime; Daily Happy Hours; Happy-Hour.com; and for international links HappyHour.net).
GoTime (“37,889 happy hours nationwide … and counting”) offers a handy mobile app that uses a smartphone’s gps to find the nearest restaurants and bars currently hosting happy hours.