There comes a moment in a drinker’s life when happy hour loses its appeal, when you’d rather pay full price for a well-made cocktail than $5 for a joyless one. That’s where I am. But recently it seems lots of high-end joints are coming to the dark discounted side, offering their fancy, quality drinks and bites at cheap (for them) prices, aka “regular prices for regular folks.” But if you’ve always wanted to check out these fancypants venues, a happy hour is a great intro.
Circa’s 5 O’Clock Whistle: Daily 5 to 6pm
Circa in Manhattan Beach is doing happy hour differently, one that may incite a mad rush: the first 15 people to walk in the door each night will score a card that allows them to choose five items from a card for $20. We’re talking a draft cocktail, a Hoegaarden, glass of red wine, cocktail punch and duck confit taco for $20. It’s an incentive to get people to come one when they first open. But I wonder who can pound all that down within an hour. In any case if you end up being the 16th person through the door, no worries as there will still be $5 punch, beer and wine specials for you during that time.
Spago’s Reverse Happy Hour: Tuesday-Saturday 9 to 11pm
Yup, Wolfgang Puck’s iconic restaurant now has a happy hour but it’s of the late-night variety and only discounts the drinks. But, hey, perfect for fancy after-dinner drinking! The specialty cocktails are $10 while select glasses of wine run from $8 to $14. A new bar menu also debuted just this week. Available during regular dinner hours (6 to 10pm Sunday through Friday and 5:30 to 10:30pm on Saturday) you can pair that up with the happy hour and partake of savories and sweets from$6 to $14. Take your pick of smoked marrow toast, spaghetinni with little neck and razor clams and doughnuts with yuzu glaze and black sesame custard.
Comme Ca’s Hourglass Menu: Daily 5 to 7pm
Chef David Myers’ restaurant has an $18 burger that’s counted as one of the best burgers in L.A.so 1) its happy hour isn’t going to be of the cheap and greasy variety and 2) its “discounted” bar bites and cocktails are going to be fancy. Beverages like Chateau Trocard Bordeaux, Unibroue Fin du Monde and an Aviation are $6 a piece! The bar menu showcases nibbles like oysters, shrimp cocktails, steak tartare, a cheese-charcuterie plate and truffle frites for $9 each.
AOC’s Cocktail Hour: Daily 5 to 7pm
Enjoy Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s award-winning restaurant during its daily happy hour and score $4 beers, $6 glasses of wine and $8 well cocktails. BUT if you feel like splurging, which I always recommend, you can have a specialty cocktail for $10. For nosh they’ve got $5 bacon-wrapped dates, a $10 two-cheese plate and $10 spanish fried chicken, romesco aïoli and chili-cumin butter.
**[UPDATED 8/8/2013] Scarpetta’s $8 Until 8pm: Monday-Saturday 4 to 8pm
In a bid to make its bar a drinking destination, Scarpetta has hired mixologist Rob Floyd (formerly of Bazaar at SLS) to update its cocktail menu AND the bar kicked off a new happy hour. Looking at the happy hour menu, it’s conceivable to do dinner here. My personal favorite is that mascarpone ravioli with mushrooms and parmigiano. Our table of friends ordered three of that dish. And I couldn’t get enough. Get that and the grilled peach and ricotta salata and you’re good to go. For drink specials, the cocktails, which are normally $16, drop down to $8. Check out the nutty Old Fashioned, Noce, with rye, Angostura bitters and pecans. Wine and beer drinkers can sate themselves with the $6 glass of vino and $4 beer.