America's Best Happy Hours
It’s a long workday, filled with meeting after meeting, and you even eat your lunch al desko. When it finally ends, all you want is to kick back, relax, and forget your to-do lists.
You’re in luck: it’s now officially happy hour, corporate America’s cure for the long workday.
It was the U.S. Navy that coined the term “happy hour,” referring to free time when performances (and imbibing) took place. But the act of drinking early in the day really took shape during Prohibition. Since it was illegal for restaurants to serve booze, the logical solution was to throw a few back before dinner.
And aren’t we glad for it?
Today, happy hour is so common that most people pick their after-work destination based on the deals they can score. What better way to unwind after clocking out than by gathering for some low-cost cocktails? But this isn’t the Prohibition Era anymore, and we like to play on the safe side, so we found places that also serve up great food, giving working stiffs—or travelers—the option of soaking up some of the half-priced libations.
It’s no secret that drinking establishments have made a tradition of leaving peanuts and pretzel snacks on the bar. The saltiness keeps folks thirsty and coming back for more (and costlier) pours. But at San Francisco’s Lafitte, a pier-top restaurant overlooking the Bay, that salt comes in a much greasier, tastier form: “flights” of bacon. To boot, the specialty beers will cost you only $3.
Washington, D.C.’s Agora, a chic-yet-inviting spot in Dupont Circle, not only has a traditional early-evening happy hour, but it invites folks to return for a late-night rally. That’s right, a second happy hour. You’d better take advantage of the $4 plates of flatbread and Greek/Turkish spreads to help keep the alcohol in check.
While bargains abound at most happy hours, New Orleans’ Café Adelaide reigns supreme, with its lunchtime martini special. The cost? A mere quarter per tipple. Order a po’boy or you might be calling it an early night…er, afternoon.
So ditch the office and grab your drinking caps. These watering holes will quench your thirst and fill your stomachs—without breaking the bank.
Anchovies & Olives,Seattle
Happy Hour: Sunday–Thursday, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
You’ll have just one hour to take advantage of reduced-price drinks, so get here on time and have your order ready. Choose from $2 Peroni beer and $5 glasses of Prosecco and wine. And order as many $1 Kumomoto oysters to slurp back with your drinks as you want.
Michael’s Genuine, Miami
Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Fresh and locally sourced ingredients are the stars at Michael’s, a glass-walled bistro in Miami’s Design District. Cocktails, wine, and beer are all half off during happy hour, and menu “snacks” are always $5. Munch on crispy hominy and homemade falafel as you nurse your Sombrita (Sombra Mezcal, agave, pineapple and cucumber juices, jalapeño, and ground cardamom).
Ping, Portland, OR
Happy Hour: Tuesday–Saturday, 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Tuesday–Thursday, 9 p.m.-10 p.m.
Happy hour at this Asian-infusion hot spot includes $4 sake, $3 draft beer of the day, and $5 cocktails. Try the Shochu Cocktail (Jinro Shochu, sweet potato vinegar, and soda water) paired with a Vietnamese-style boar skewer, or the ginger-, honey-, and soy-marinated pork with a spicy chili and fish–based isaan dipping sauce.
Agora, Washington, D.C.
Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; daily, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
This Turkish-Greek restaurant in Dupont Circle offers an array of after-work drink specials: Bacardi and Stoli drinks are just $4, while Efes, Mythos, and Peroni beers are $3. Also look for similarly priced late-night specials on rum and vodka cocktails and draft beer. Spare yourself a throbbing head in the morning by indulging in $4 orders of flatbreads with authentic spreads.
Café Adelaide, New Orleans
Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Opened by the owners of the famed Commander’s Palace, this watering hole is a nod to the ’50s and ’60s local cocktail culture. Channel your favorite Mad Men character and swing by for lunch, where the martinis will cost you just a quarter. (That’s not a typo.) Have some sightseeing in mind? Fortify yourself with classic Cajun eats with a twist: try the confit of chicken po’boy or shrimp and grits.
Mermaid Inn, New York City
Happy Hour: Sunday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday–Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
At this beloved seafood spot, now with three locations (Greenwich Village, East Village, and Upper West Side), stiff drinks and oysters are the house specialty. Look up information on the $1–$1.75 bivalves in the restaurant’s Oysterpedia (which also just launched as an iPhone app), while sipping $7 cocktails, like the Hot & Dirty, made with vodka, olive juice, and Tabasco.
5A5 Steak Lounge, San Francisco
Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The intimately lit contemporary front lounge is host to a 90-minute weeknight happy hour with an assortment of $5 food and drinks. The cocktail to order? The French A5, with Ketel One vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and grapefruit juice, topped off with Prosecco and Chambord. The lounge also offers a rotating selection of $2 bites (think seafood ceviche shooters and lobster dumplings).
The Forge, Miami
Happy Hour: Thursday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
This recently renovated 1920s Miami Beach hot spot stands the test of time. Pop in on Thursdays for the $6.50 happy hour featuring specialty cocktails like the Apple Crisp: green apple–infused top-shelf bourbon, lime juice, cinnamon syrup, and ginger beer. Also for $6.50? A trio of appetizers, including crispy corn ravioli and smoked salmon croquettes.
Happy Hour: Daily, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.
Thirsty drinkers enjoy a modern spin on Roaring Twenties décor and pre-Prohibition cocktails (think Pimm’s Cups and Manhattans), some of which go for as little as $6. The bar menu—featuring booze-absorbing goodies like beer-flavored pork rinds and fried mac-and-cheese with black truffle purée—rotates daily.
Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Here, the drinks don’t drop in price, but the food does. Grab yourself a seat in the ultra-mod lounge and savor half-priced goodies from the seasonal Cravings menu, such as fresh calamari “fries” with sweet chili aioli ($5). Quench your thirst with a Kumquat Mule, made with vodka, muddled kumquats, fresh lemon and orange juices, and agave-ginger syrup.
Lafitte, San Francisco
Happy Hour: Daily, 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
While drink specials here are great (Cuba Libres for $6, anyone?), what really has our mouths watering is the food. For just $10, you can enjoy a “flight” of bacon—Zoey’s Apple Smoke, Hobb’s Thick Cut, Golden Gate Meat Artisanal, and Fatted Calf Smoked. Wash all that salt down with a $3 specialty beer, like U.K.’s Fuller’s ale.