Category Archives: happy hour

All Night Long: Monday’s Best Happy Hours

phonto

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being swanky on a budget. Here’s a list of some of my favorite happy hours that last well after the usual 7 o’clock cut-off:

Hillside Farmacy: Enjoy half price east coast oysters, and $5 cava.

East Side Show Room: Fancy cocktails for $5, and discounted snacks (such as pork ribs).

Olive + June: Half off piccoli piatti and wines by the glass.

The W: $6 wines and local spirits, $5 bites, and $4 beers.

Jeffrey’s: Half price bar food, and $2 off drinks.

Peche: $5 cocktails, and half off select menu items.

Eddie V’s: $1 Louisiana oysters, $6 wine and cocktails, and a lot of delicious, discounted food.

Winebelly: Select bottles are half off.

Olivia: 30% off appetizers and bottles. $1 off drinks.

 

Drinks at The Gatsby



Old Sport
The Gatsby is 1920’s flair meets expansive patio, laid-back Austin meets upscale drinks, and “Dirty 6th” meets a great happy hour spot for locals. This new, relatively under the radar joint is nestled just west of 35, and offers an ambiance worthy of F. Scott himself.



McMaster
 We started off with the Old Sport, which was much like an Old Fashioned made with lemon oil and Templeton Rye. The next drink we tried was hands down my favorite drink (ever?) of the evening, The McMaster. It combined grapefruit, green chartreuse, Deep Eddy Ruby Red, and basil. 

My drinking companion was admittedly apprehensive about trying a sweet looking drink, but both of us were pleasantly surprised with the balance of flavors. If you head out to The Gatsby, this is the one I recommend.



Lemon Delight
 As a lover of the classic French 75, the Lemon Delight was truly delightful. One of the most interesting surprises in this cocktail is that they start it off with a habanero rinse. It’s not enough to make the drink spicy, which may be in part because the drink is quite sweet, but I appreciated that like everything else, they took a classic drink and did their own take on it.



Moto Antigua
The irony of it all was that I was out with a Frenchman, and the Moto Antigua was his favorite of them all. He’d never had nor heard of Mezcal, but it swiftly won him over. In fact, he pretty much instantly claimed that drink as his own. Just imagine Vida Mezcal and fresh juices with old fashioned bitters. Mmm…

When you go, try to make it in for happy hour or Whoopee Wednesday which boasts $3 vodka specials, $4 house wines, and $5 martinis. The specials are usually for Deep Eddy drinks, and I love the quality of juice that was used in my Deep Eddy + grapefruit. (It even came with a grapefruit slice!)

Media Tasting at Kenichi

Hamachi with Kung Pao Chili Oil
 You know who’s a big, fat jerk? I am. I enjoyed this beautiful media tasting at Kenichi over a month ago, and just now got around to writing about it. (I promise I live-tweeted the whole thing though.) My crazy life, which includes seeking a new day job right now, may have put blogging on a temporary hold, but no longer! Let’s talk about the amazing food I got to try.
Escolar
 The hamachi was the clear hit of the evening for me. If you make anything even slightly spicy I’ll be turned on by it. The escolar, and delicious pre-meal bites (they even had shishitos!!) were all top-notch. Zero complaints here, and I’m rather picky.
Seared Tuna
 The caramelized onions added a sweet element to the proscuitto-wrapped tuna.
Sea Bass
 I normally love sea bass, but my only hesitation on this was the sauce. I still enjoyed it immensely, but would’ve preferred to have the fish’s flavor shine through more than the sauce.
New York Strip?
Dessert was the perfect wrap-up to a perfect meal, that featured more courses than I have decent photos of. That’s right, there was more!! I loved that the dessert was served like a flight with many different tastes and textures. The ice cream egg in the nest was my favorite, my dining partner loved the chocolate, and the rest of the table went nuts for the cheesecake. There was truly something for everyone, and everything went beautifully – without ever being cloyingly over-the-top sweet. Each course had a sake or wine pairing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better dinner. 
Get thee to Kenichi tout de suite!

Dinner at Corzaon



Enchiladas Suizas

 Corazon at Castle Hill is a place that I live relatively close to, but have unwittingly avoided for quite some time. The large sign outside their door begging for potential patrons to try their happy hour, and even the Groupon deals I’ve seen them advertise weren’t enough to bring me in. One slightly rainy day, I decided to venture in.  What I found inside greatly resembled an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.

Guacamole
 The place was mostly empty, save for one or two tables of elderly couples. Upon first entering the few chairs available at the bar dead in front of the door. I almost always like to sit at bars, and this was one bar I felt was set a little too close to the entrance. We started with guacamole and the queso fundido. It was an accident that I started with the guacamole (I requested a side order, received the large appetizer portion). The queso fundido was just watery, sub-par queso with nothing else done to it, and a stack of mixed tortillas. The salsa that came before was smokey, almost vinegary. It was one of few salsas I’ve declined to practically drink.

Tuna Tartare

We put all of our order in at once, and I’m wondering why they declined to inform me that the tuna tartare would have come with the side of guacamole I requested. Could’ve saved me a few bucks, and also made me reconsider ordering the tuna tartare as my main course in the first place. It was tuna covered with guacamole. I never thought I’d say this, but at this point I was so sick of tasting avocados I thought I’d never want to see another. Tuna tartare should normally be light, relatively unadulterated, and taste like tuna. This was a sad additional order of guacamole, that had a few chunks of fish beneath. Perhaps the fish didn’t taste so fresh, and this was a tactic to cover it up? I couldn’t taste it, so I can only assume.

Adventure Time! (You may not get that reference.)
My partner did enjoy the chicken enchiladas, so I suppose it wasn’t all a loss. We both admitted that they looked more like Little Debbie Zebra Cakes and less like something appetizing, but in the end he said they, “tasted much better than they looked.” Admittedly, the drinks were relatively inexpensive.

It should come as no surprise to you that my overall stance is that I don’t really like Corazon. Their menu had everything from duck breast to Mexican food to a cheese and fruit plate on the menu. It was very unfocused, and I suppose with so many different styles and options, they couldn’t really master any one type of food. I still respect their happy hour drink prices, and hope that the menu gets a revamp soon.





Happy Hour at Olive & June


Torta Napoletana
Olive & June offers half-off antipasti and cocktails from 5-6:30. Its location near 34th Street means you don’t have to stress about parking; the complimentary valet means parking is a snap.

Farm Egg
 The farm egg was one of my favorite dishes. It had enough butter to make Paula Dean go “Whoa!” and it tasted too good for me to worry about the calories. The mushrooms added a nice earthiness. This is something not to be missed.

Aperol Spritz
Negroni. Obviously.
 The cocktails were well made, but some were on the smaller side. Trust me, I sampled just about every cocktail they had. (I was doing it for science!)

White Anchovy Crostini
 The crostinis are just $2.25 each, and we really enjoyed the anchovy ones. A lot of the dishes under Piccoli Piatti section had impossible to understand Italian names. My dining partner, that I brought out for her birthday, had previously lived in Florence. Even she had trouble deciphering what some of the plate names meant. It made it a little awkward when talking to the server. “Can you tell me what one means? And that one… I also would like to know what the heck this item is…”

Torta Napoletana
I almost forgot to mention the torta! Also delicious. I think I was more excited about the garnishes than the dish itself. I love olives.

Overall, I like Olive & June. It has the most perfect of perfect patios, and the food really is good. We only had an antipasti plate and a crostini each, but we were full. Despite items being 50% off, I still wound up spending over $50. Maybe I shouldn’t have had all those cocktails?



Trapped in Manhattan


Specialty Rolls at Jing
I recently got back from a trip to Manhattan, and I thought I’d share some of the deals I found. Admittedly, I was wandering around aimlessly through Hell’s Kitchen back and forth from a fashion trade show, but I actually found some good stuff! For starters, Jing, a Chinese and sushi restaurant in the famous “Restaurant Row” of Hell’s Kitchen. Decent, cheap, but nothing worth going back to (unless you too wind up lost and hungry in that part of the city). It did the trick, and was particularly easy on the wallet.
 Let’s move on to bigger, and better things:


Lentil Soup (surprisingly flavorful!) at Rafaella
On a particularly cold and miserable day, I decided to stop into Rafaella in Chelsea (near Hell’s Kitchen). The signs boasted of “Lunchtime Happy Hour!” and I was sold.
Salad with Smoked Salmon at Rafaella
Lunch specials run Mon-Thurs from 12-4, and feature a fantastic wine list at a discount. I chose a bubbly, knowing that usually the bubbly is exempt from most discounts, but nooooooope! My bubbly was half off too! High-five, Rafaella!


 The staff is French, the guests do not seem to be local, and guess what? THEY HAVE A SCOUTMOB DEAL! I normally wouldn’t have noticed, but I’m an avid Foursquare user and caught wind of the discount. That meant my booze was half off for the happy hour, and my lunch was the same for me having found the deal. Hopefully it’s still going on, if so, take advantage!

My take on the food? It was great for the price that I got.

Tapas at L’Ybane
 I think I died and went to happy hour heaven at least twice in New York. I found deals left and right, which made the business trip feel more like a vacation (at least for a few hours). One of the best deals I found was at L’Ybane. French staff, dim candle-lit tables, and one hell of a “Chef’s Choice” $20 deal later… I’m completely in love. The aforementioned deal, which my table ordered two of, is enough to make everyone full with plates still spilling off the table. Expect a ton of cheese, olive oil, and dolmas. None of these are a bad thing.
Scallop Ceviche at Fish
I was trying to do this thing in chronological order, but I can’t save the best for last. Fish is absolutely my favorite place in Manhattan. They have this deal called “Red, White, & Blue” where you get a glass of red or white wine and six Blue Point oysters for $8. It’s good. Sooooo good.
Red, White, & Blue at Fish
 The oysters and wine were one of the most obscenely beautiful deals I saw in all my time in Manhattan. It was great. I would go back. That ceviche in the other picture? They need to offer something crunchy with it. Who just spoons ceviche?? Is that an Austin thing? I loved it, I just wanted crackers, chips, something…
 The last thing I will mention is Kodama. One of the best, most wallet-friendly sushi places I found near the theatre district. Also? We were the only white people in there. I don’t know how to take that, but considering that most people weren’t speaking English, I have a good feeling that we were onto something good. 




Brunch at Micheladas


Riptide Oysters

I bet that you’ve never had oysters for brunch before. I’m also pretty sure that you don’t think a restaurant near The Austin Convention Center can be different from the many other chains that dot hotel-filled areas.

If the answer is yes to either of those questions, chances are that you haven’t been to Micheladas yet.



Shrimp Taco
The brunch menu is pretty standard for a Texan: migas, biscuits, breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, and more! We were excited to explore the full menu in addition to the brunch specialties. Who knew that you could find Riptide oysters on a downtown menu? Usually, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to get stuck with Gulf oysters (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing) anytime you’re craving the shelled stuff at other local restaurants. 

Dom Estable
My partner, the ultra-carnivore, chose the Dom Estable. It was a filling dish of steak fajita enchiladas, rice, and borracho beans. He claims that he downed a ridiculous amount of mimosas to combat the spiciness of his dish, but I think the fact that mimosas were only $2 each was the real reason. Did I mention that they squeeze their own juice daily? The juice makes a huge difference in mimosas, and the prices on bloodies and beer made great alternatives for when I needed to try something else. We explored the frozen margaritas, which are only $3 during their happy hour, and they were tart!

Patio at Micheladas
 Apart from their sunlit, spacious dining rooms, Micheladas has both a street-level and rooftop patio. Not only does it make it a perfect spot for a large group, you can also bring your four-legged friends along. 

The bottom line: I just had a healthy, delicious shrimp taco with copious amounts of salsa. I am full. I am happy, and I had enough mimosas to work up a nice afternoon buzz. If you like Tex-Mex, then you’ll love Micheladas.





Lunch at Roll On Sushi Diner


Pork Dumplings
We recently ventured just a hair north of our usual “downtown bubble” to grab a late lunch at Roll On Sushi Diner. With quick service, inventive rolls, and a slight obsession with social media (hey! I can relate!) they won us over.



The Hippie

It would have been nice if we had made it in time for happy hour, which is the usual Monday-Friday 5-7 business with a nice lunchtime edition available on Saturday from 11-1. Then we could’ve gotten dumplings and nigiri for under $3, and washed it all down with $1 off beer and wine. Regardless of not having perfect timing, the prices were still completely fair.

The Grouch

My hippie roll tasted as healthy as it was, and that’s not a bad thing. Roll On is pretty famous for their less healthy items, like the Cholesta Roll which involves mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, and green beans. My partner, who has absolutely no qualms about putting things like chicken into sushi, loved “The Grouch.” It was roasted chicken, green chile, jack cheese, onions, arugula, and aioli. He won’t admit it, but I think he secretly loves mayo/aioli, so it was a double-win for him. As soon as this is published, he will be mad at me, but I’m not the one with a jar of remoulade, mayo, and sour cream in my refrigerator YOU DAIRY LOVER!

Seaweed Salad

Roll On has a real 50’s diner feel, hospitable owners, and even a flat screen displaying all the tweets people make about them, which of course is what I was doing while eating because you know, if a tree falls in a forest and no one tweets about it…

Happy Hour at Fino

Anchovy-Stuffed Olives
Fino is a hidden gem nestled in a small shopping center near 30th and Lamar. Their fried olives are legendary, and their happy hour makes the short drive from downtown almost worth it.

Muhammara

The appetizers are reduced by a couple of bucks, and sparkling/rose wines are half off. If cocktails and beer are more your thing, those are going to be about $2 off each. Keep in mind that happy hour is only Monday-Thursday from 4-6. 
The muhammara (above) was an interesting mix of red pepper and walnuts. I’m pretty confident that it also was one of the few vegan options on the menu.

Tortilla Espanola and Potato Chips
The potato chips were served with a house made tomato aioli, and were more than alright. The “tortilla” dish however, was a disappointment.



The smoked salmon dish above doesn’t seem to be on the menu currently, but scouring their menus tonight I see one that look pretty similar (only now it involves vanilla, yogurt, and roe). I’d definitely go for that, because the dish above was my favorite at the table.
Overall, the food at Fino was interesting, but not mind-blowing. It was a great break from typical happy hour appetizer fare, and the location was beautiful. We had good service, and the enormous windows, comfortable patio, and knowledgeable staff were excellent bonuses.



Brunch at Takoba

I know it’s not French, but my partner’s queso fundido  seemed to stretch in the shape of The Eiffel Tower. Did I mention we recently had brunch at Takoba?


Mimosas were $1.50 per glass, and $7 for a pitcher. I saw extra large micheladas for $6, bloody marys for $5, and a string of people stuck with a 20 minute wait to get tables. 

It didn’t bother us, we just killed time at the bar. 



This wasn’t my first time at Takoba. I previously had the ceviche, and was promptly reminded by my partner that I hated it. I figured I’d give it a second chance, perhaps I was just in a bad mood last time around? 

Nope. Still hated it. I can’t quite place why, but it’s not my favorite. The salad was small, but decent for the price.


A lot of the brunch menu focused on eggs, but clearly we preferred exploring the other items.  My partner chose the menudo, which he always gets, and loved it. 

The takeaway? Brunch has cheap mimosas (win!), menudo (carnivorous people’s win!), and less than stellar healthy options (not so much win?). I’d gladly go back, sit on the patio, and enjoy the fall weather with a pitcher or two, while my partner, in his love for their soup, had a bowl or three. 

By the way, we could’ve stopped at the queso fundido. That dish was filling!