Happy Hours I have Known

HILLS NEWSPAPERS: September 3, 2011

Happy hours I have known ….

Someday I’ll write a book about this spectacle we call happy hour. Did it really start in the 1920s as a way for ship-bound sailors to relieve stress? Did it explode onto the civilian scene in the decadent ’60s, as Wikipedia says?

Whatever the history, happy hour has morphed into a marketing miracle for everything from cocktails and appetizers to massages and pet products. Even the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe has a summer Yappy Hour — where dogs (accompanied by their owners) can get liver-flavored libations for $10 in the outdoor cafe.

Since I have a cat that prefers to dine in, I’m more focused on human happy hours. Here are a few of my favorites:

Crogan’s, Montclair — The old village watering hole with tasty wings, quesadillas and popcorn shrimp for half-price from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nurse a $3 wine, and you’ve got dinner and drink for less than 10 bucks.

Monaghan’s, Woodminster — An eclectic mix of folks in a breezy neighborhood sports bar makes this place a winner. Three-dollar wines and other drink specials complement tasty half-price appetizers Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. plus $2 tacos on Taco Tuesday.

Knuckles, Fisherman’s Wharf — Take BART, then a cable car and make getting there half the fun. Knuckles at the Wharf has discounted draft beers and $5 glasses of Canvas wine from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The sesame chicken wings (also $5) will haveyou licking your fingers. They’re also the first restaurant in San Francisco to have iPads in their booths so you can surf the web for nearby attractions — or just check your email.

Scott’s, Jack London Square — Great atmosphere and live piano music make this happy hour sing, along with half-price appetizers and $5 wines. I’ve plugged it before — it’s a favorite waterfront watering hole.

Bistro, Lafayette Park Hotel — The same great food and drinks you get in their popular restaurant, only five bucks at the bar. High-end happy hour wines and their signature margarita are tall orders to beat. Appetizers include mussels in broth (they even bring you a basket of bread) and lightly battered calamari with onions.

P.F. Chang’s, Walnut Creek — It’s across the street from Nordstrom — reason enough for most women. Where else can you get a Pabst Blue Ribbon (poured in a flute) with an order of Crispy Green Beans for $6? It’s a gastronomic delight.

Bocanova, Jack London Square — You never know who you’ll meet at this hip happy hour with eclectic offerings such as fried shishito peppers seasoned with trapani sea salt ($4) and Dungeness crab deviled eggs with chipotle aioli ($1.75 each). Bonus: It runs Monday through Saturday.

Trader Vic’s, Emeryville — One guava mai tai, and you’re swept away to that little grass shack in Hawaii. The recent remodel makes the bar much more inviting — taking advantage of their waterfront location. A splash of rum, a plate of pupus (my favorite is the tuna slider), and your tummy will be hau’oli.

Yogurt Shack, Lafayette — OK, they don’t have libations, but yogurt clearly makes us happy. Yo-shack has two-for-one yogurts on weekday afternoons in winter. It’s fat-free, so you can load up on toppings!

These are my favorites. Let me know what I’m missing and why, and I’ll give your spot a mention in a future column.



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