Orange County Happy Hour Guide: 8 Restaurants to hit at 5 O’Clock (Episode 1)
Log off that laptop. Transfer all calls to voicemail. Make a quick stop to touch up your lipstick on your way out of the office. Come on – shed that all-business blazer and show some shoulder. It’s the hour for which we all anxiously await: Happy Hour! There’s nothing like an hour (or three) of on-special drinks and food to make the people of Orange County flock. And who doesn’t want to sip and savor in a social setting? Whether you’re searching for a swanky place to rendezvous with your colleagues or a dive bar done right, let LOCALE guide you through the diverse happy hour options So Cal has to offer. After examining our insightful catalogue of the in-crowd’s favorite cocktail haunts, you’ll know just where to go when your friends inquire: “Where should we meet?”
Note: Happy Hour details subject to change without notice. These are our findings as of the Spring/Summer of 2012. Visit the websites below or call the restaurants to confirm current Happy Hour details.
1. The Crosby400 North Broadway Santa Ana, CA 92701 (714) 543-3543 www.thisisthecrosby.com
Designed around creating a hub to connect the owners’ friends with their interest in music and art, Phil Nisco, Marc Yamoaka, Chris Alfaro (all co-owners) and General Manager Dante Parel have made The Crosby home to some of Orange County’s coolest. Opened in April 2008, the Crosby has grown from catering to a late-night music scene powered by a wall of boom boxes (now neatly displayed atop the bar for artsy aesthetic) to hiring French-trained Chef Aron Habiger to feed flocking food critics the more eloquent eats they desired. The combo of concepts proved to be exactly what Orange County ordered. The collaborative concepts continued with the inspiration for their bizarre backdrop and decor. The wall paper, which appears to be a graphic floral print, actually forms skulls. You’ll find columns plastered with band stickers and cartoons projected above the door, and maybe most peculiar of all – their deer head logo, which came from an idea of the boom boxes being held up for all to see with taxidermy. The Crosby offers a dinner experience from which your music alter ego could only dream.
Native Knowledge: Check out the Crosby on the second Tuesday of every month for Dust Collectors Night. The owners play all vinyl all night from their own collections. And keep an eye on the live music schedule – the Crosby is the only venue in Orange County where world-renowned guest musicians like Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus and Free Moral Agents have graced the stage.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Monday – Friday from 5 – 7 pm (Mondays only happy hour runs all night long!). Late Night Menu every night from 11 pm-1:30 am
•$2 off all flatbreads and well drinks
• $3 sweet potato fries
•$1 Pabst Blue Ribbon
• $3 white & red house sangria
HH Obsession: Vegan flatbread ($9) made with a garbanzo bean romesco, marinated mushrooms, herbs and zucchini, topped with white wine parsley pesto and fried garbanzos. Just trust me – it’s delicious, and I’m not vegan either. Community: Underground city lounge vibe – music-driven dudes and tattooed girls with pinup style. Attire: Platforms and bold jewelry and definitely leather. Beats: Live bands and DJs in every genre from Doo-wop to punk to metal and soul.
2. The Cannery3010 Lafayette Road Newport Beach, CA 92663 (949) 566-0060 www.cannerynewport.com
A favorite place to start off the weekend – the Jellyfish Lounge at The Cannery Seafood of the Pacific has been serving Newport Harbor locals for several years and recently received a modern makeover. The Cannery has become the hottest spot on the harbor on Friday nights. A place for Newport’s notables to mingle, network and host celebrations, the Jellyfish Lounge showcases one of the most lively sushi bars in the area. Their vast selection of seafood is flown in fresh daily and each of their “vintage-inspired cocktails” is seasonally created and playfully complemented by a memorable quote or fun fact. With a private room, a fire pit, high-top seating with a glowing backdrop, intimate corner accommodations and a sushi-bar, the Jellyfish Lounge at The Cannery Seafood of the Pacific is the place to see and be seen for every class of cocktail connoisseur.
Native Knowledge: Who says you have to go to LA to see stars? Lead Bartender Joey Oehrlein reports that Green Day’s drummer Tre Cool stops in to say hello whenever he’s in town. Cool has even spent time teaching this tender a thing or two about a good drink. “He once said ‘give me a bottle of tequila, a tumbler of ice, 3 lemons (2 for the juice and 1 for the drink) and tonic water.’ He calls the drink a Cheech, because he golfs with Cheech Marin,” Oehrlein said.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: 7 days a week from 4 pm-6:30 pm
• $2 off cocktails
• $3.50 draft beers
• Half-price sushi menu
• Tuesday nights only: half-price bottles of wine
HH Obsession: The rolls! My fave is the Cannery’s Albacore Roll ($7), because they add spicy tuna and top it with papaya relish to highlight the sweetness and give it a kick.
Community: Young professionals, older business professionals that have been coming to the Cannery for 30-40 years and business travelers.
Attire: Eclectic environment from cocktail dresses to Duffy-boat casual.
Beats: A mixed vibe of rock and radio hits.
3. Red Chair Lounge at the Hyatt Regency21500 Pacific Coast HWY. Huntington Beach, CA 92648 (714) 698-1234 www.huntingtonbeach.hyatt.com
If the Rat Pack designed a swanky hangout in Sonoma, it would look like the Red Chair Lounge. Filled with tones of red from the leather-treated walls and the star of the Red Chair Lounge at center stage – the red chair – this hotel hideaway feels more like a library-meets-a-game-room. A shuffle board brings attention to the space in the foyer upon entering, the Billiard Room houses a vintage pool table, while wooden chess board tables furnish the cozy seating arrangements that lead you there. The artwork throughout by Clifford Bailey contains a jazz theme, which isn’t surprising since The Red Chair Lounge entertains its summer guests with a piano player every weekend. Other standout features include a beautiful outdoor patio with a glowing fire pit and amazing views of the ocean. The Red Chair Lounge’s “Social Hour” is an elegant place to retreat after some surf and sand.
Native Knowledge: For Orange County’s cigar connoisseurs, The Red Chair Lounge also provides a stocked humidor with specialty cigars that can be smoked on the patio.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Sunday – Friday from 5 – 7 pm
• $5 well drinks and house wines
• $4 domestic beers
• Half-price appetizers
HH Obsession: Red Chair Martini ($12) – okay, it’s not actually on the happy hour menu, but this delectable drink is a nobrainer, crafted with a custom strawberry-pineapple infusion, mixed with Cointreau and Chambord and topped with an edible chocolate straw. The California Cheese Plate ($7) served with garlicky crusty bread that’s sweetly tied with a parchment paper bow and garnished with raisins on the vine.
Community: Travelers, local professionals, book clubbers and bikers who come to smoke cigars.
Attire: Collared shirts and pencil skirts.
Beats: An eclectic mainstream mix from REM to Coldplay.
4. Avila’s El Ranchito2515 East Coast HWY Corona del Mar, CA 92625 (949) 644-TACO www.avilaselranchito.com
Free – yes, free – appetizers during happy hour at this 45-year-old, family-owned and operated establishment. The more you drink the more food they’ll bring. Owner Sergio Avila, his wife Marybell and daughters Maribel and Bianca moved from across the street to this larger Corona del Mar location in April 2010 (formerly Oysters). Along with other family members and cousins, the Avila family owns 12 neighborhood restaurants throughout the county. Mother Marybell Avila illuminated the interior of this Avila’s El Ranchito sprawling space with a multitude of colorful lanterns and cowhide-covered barstools, which she had imported from Mexico. More decorative details like the Spanish tiles embedded into the stone and portrait-style paintings embrace a warm family heritage of which the Avila’s are passing on to their employees. Bartenders Adam and Paco don’t hold back on sharing the love in their tequila-based cocktails either. All of the happy hour offerings derive from Avila family recipes. So what are you waiting for? Come join the lively lineage at Avila’s El Ranchito and relish over the best happy hour deals in the county.
Native Knowledge: The bar back is a 1930s piece from the Chicagoan Al Capone era. When the Avila’s discovered the history of the bar, they decided to keep it and focused on bringing out some of its details in order to keep the character and story alive.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Monday – Friday from 3 – 6 pm
• $5 premium beers, tequila shots, house wines and house cocktails
• Complimentary appetizers made to order – choose from mini burritos, quesadillas, tostadas and chicken wings
HH Obsession: The Chile quesadilla – it’s snack-size, cheesy and gooey and spicy.
Community: Neighborhood families famished after soccer practice and girls from the nearby salons, men in collared shirts and bros at the bar ready for a repasado.
Attire: Comfortable casual – clothe yourself in what you would wear to Mom’s for dinner.
Beats: Radio hits like Ray Lamontagne, the Black Keys and reggae.
5. House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer540 South Coast HWY #200 Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (949) 715-4500 www.houseofbigfish.com
Currently the only sports bar in Laguna Beach, House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer was opened in March 2010 for those looking for reasonably-priced fresh seafood and a place to watch the game. Started by a group of nowgrown guys who were local surf kids and fisherman, this Laguna institution has become happy hour headquarters for seafood lovers and sports fans. The staff wear baseballstyle tees and the space (previously Aegean Café) boasts seven big-screen TVs for viewing while cracking open Alaskan king crab legs. “People who are visiting and staying at the hotels up and down the coast come and try it, and end up coming back four days in a row, because we’re giving them quality product at a really reasonable price . . . and we don’t do anything wimpy here. We’re not a gastro pub or a draft’s choice, and we’re not trying to be anything we’re not. It has a personality of its own, and it’s Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer,” Owner and Chef Craig Connole said. Look for the Hawaiian Ulua Fish in the window as you’re driving down PCH, and you’ll know you’ve reached House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer.
Native Knowledge: You’ll never get an old oyster at the House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer. Connole reports that the bar easily goes through two to three bushels of oysters per day. That’s about 90 pounds of aphrodisiac producing appetizers!
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Monday – Friday from 2:30-6:30 pm
• $1 off all beers
• $5 well drinks, flavored margaritas and wines
• $6 select house martinis
• Food price changes every hour: 2:30 pm all happy hour apps are $2.30, 3:30 pm all happy hour apps are $3.30, etc.
HH Obsession: Start with $1 oysters fresh daily, served on the half shell; then, move through the Salmon Piada ($2.30 – $5.30, depending on what time you get there), an Italian flatbread taco filled with a generous portion of fresh pan roasted salmon, salsa, arugula and creamy garlic sauce.
Community: Travelers, seafood bargain hunters, beach goers, sports fans.
Attire: Come straight from the water in your board shorts and bikinis.
Beats: Choose your own from the TouchTunes interactive jukebox.
6. Anthill Pub & GrilleC-215 Student Center University of California Irvine, CA 92697 (949) 824-3050 www.anthillpub.com
The only on-campus pub educating students to be better beer drinkers, the Anthill Pub and Grille offers 27 craft brews and three ciders (the majority of which are locally made) to its university consumers and beer aficionados. The pub was relocated in September 2007 to its current first-floor space and is operated by students for the students. It is even partially owned by the Associated Grad Students (AGS). “We harbor an environment where people can learn about craft beers, try new ones and enjoy our prices and selection. We sell beer cheaper than some of the breweries,” Assistant Manager and Bartender Kevin Leonard said. Brightened by beer tap art, periodic tables of beer styles, and, of course, light-up beer signage, we found Anthill Pub & Grille packed with people on an early Thursday afternoon, and it wasn’t just because of the beer. Keeping with the sports bar/pub theme, the cooks called out order after order of food over the loud speakers like sportscasters announcing each play.
Native Knowledge: Seasonal premium beers that are higher in price and alcohol content are listed on a secret menu and called Cork Beer. Leonard advises that if you see Cork on the menu, it’s something good. And if you want to pair that craft brew with some grub, order one of the secret menu items like the Stoner Fries for $6.50 or the Stoner Tots for 50 cents more. Both are covered with cheddar cheese, carne asada, guacamole and salsa for a scrumptious Americanmeets- Mexican treat.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Monday – Friday from 4 – 7 pm
• $1 off pints
• $3 off pitchers
• $3 wine
HH Obsession: Purple Haze ($8 per pitcher) – a raspberry wheat beer.
Community: Students, alumni and faculty of the University of California, Irvine and beer enthusiasts.
Attire: Jeans and tees or just roll out of your dorm in your sweats.
Beats: It’s the bartender’s choice in this pub, playing anything from the Black Keys to Metallica to Muse and Taylor Swift.
7. Kitsch Bar891 Baker Street Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (714) 546-8580 www.kitschbar.com
“Eclectic art, music and people = kitsch” is the adored affirmation prominently displayed on this bar’s DJ booth. General Partner Mike Hannegan describes the vibe as “a cross between a dive bar and a club. It’s dark but intimate.” Purchased by the location’s favorite resident bartenders Dave Nola and Hannegan in 2010, Kitsch Bar has refined its chic hipster style with a moody makeover. It still possesses the sexy red women’s bathroom and the wall-size display case, exhibiting random objects and quirky garage sale treasures from Big Boy Dolls and Mr. Potato Heads to antique fire extinguishers and newspaper clippings from famous days in history, but it has added other elements of fun with a red-carpetready photo booth ($5 for two strips of four pictures each) and logo-etched glass walls. Although they don’t serve food, you can’t beat Kitsch Bar’s chronological choice for happy hour. For those that can’t make it out of the office in time to hit most happy hours and either hope to be home or well on your way before the latenight happy hours hit, Kitsch Bar is the perfect place to lounge and let go from 8 pm-10 pm.
Native Knowledge: Want to be on the Kitsch Bar “It List?” Text message Kitsch Bar at 85346 to receive specials and giveaways that no one else knows about. Regular text specials include simple instructions like “bring this text in for two free drinks.” I think you can handle that.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: 7 – 9 pm, 7 days a week
• $3 well drinks and import beer
• $2 domestic beer
• $4 glasses of wine
• $3 mixed shots
HH Obsession: Triple X Horchata ($3) served with a cinnamon rim and a cinnamon stick garnish is shaken with cinnamon whiskey, Godiva chocolate liqueur and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Yum.
Community: “An all-race, all-age melting pot,” Hannegan admits. The scene is as unique as its namesake.
Attire: Casual club wear. Combine those heels with some Motostyle. Guys – no shorts, no flip flops on Fridays and Saturdays.
Beats: Live DJs playing house, hip hop and indie rock mash-ups.
8. Rock’N Fish422 South Coast HWY. Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (949) 497-3133 www.rocknfishlb.com
More than just fresh fish, Rock’N Fish dispenses the largest selection of artisanal craft beers on tap in Laguna Beach, making it a beer drinker’s beach paradise. With a lively weekend bar scene, this inviting second-floor lounge and restaurant with a view features nautical furnishings and a rock and roll attitude within a refined atmosphere (shown in finishes like the ancient piece of polished Brazilian riverbed, which constructs the bar). Rock’N Fish’s brews are served in matching branded glasses and their plates are piled high with exquisite attention to detail. (It was evident that my plate of shrimp was purposefully stacked.) Amongst the seahorse and anchor murals announcing “Our spirits will lift yours,” another theme is prominent in its food and flare: New Orleans spice and soul. “I love the lighting, the high-back chairs and the brick. Every day when I hit the top stair, I can really see and feel the warmth of it,” Operating Partner Jim Donegan fondly admits. I recommend scouting out this seaside parlor on a weekend when they have live bands.
Native Knowledge: Some of Rock’N Fish’s most notable recipes are those of an old Manhattan Beach restaurant called Hibachi. Built in 1960, the space is now occupied by the original Rock’N Fish location and as an ode to the owners, Rock’N Fish continues to carry on some of their traditions. Try their Navy Grog cocktail – so acclaimed that only two people in each Rock’N Fish location know the secret recipe.
HAPPY HOUR GUIDE
Time: Monday – Friday from 3 – 6 pm. Late night happy hour from 9 pm-close
• $5 premium beers, wines and martinis
• $5 off appetizers
HH Obsession: Freshly battered-to-order Popcorn Shrimp ($7.95) made with 18 enormous Mexican wild shrimp, served with a spicy rémoulade. The Teriyaki Beef Tenderloin Skewers ($10.95) served on a bed of house-made sticky
rice are also a stellar steal.
Community: A plethora of young artists and old locals who sit at the bar every Friday night.
Attire: Stylized and upscale beach wear.
Beats: A playlist with everything from Santogold to “Slow Ride.”