The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: A User’s Guide to Happy Hour

Posted on September 16, 2009

Spiedini, Antipasti and the Lemoncello Drop at Spataro Restaurant and Bar
Spiedini, Antipasti and the Lemoncello Drop at Spataro Restaurant and Bar Photography by Gabriel Teague

Happy hours offering reduced-price eats and drinks are just about everywhere these days, prompting this Dollar-Wise investigation. Dragging a pal along at every stop—well, maybe not dragging; this wasn’t exactly an odious assignment—I recently checked out five happy hours at some of the area’s top restaurants. The mission: to find out which spots have the tastiest fare, best drinks and biggest bang for the buck.

The Spot: Bistro 33 Midtown 1020 16th St., Sacramento
The Deal: Appetizers and drinks for $3.50 (4–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri.)
Food Talk: Dug the pretty empanadas, filled with chorizo and manchego cheese and bathing in a pool of cilantro-pesto sauce; popcorn shrimp was just OK
Booze Buzz: Good beer and wine selection; gal pal who rarely drinks sucked down two glasses of Columbia Crest Cabernet, swooning all the way
The Tab: $17.50 for two appetizers, two glasses of wine and a microbrew (Full Sail)
Summing It Up: HH menu is a bit heavy on fried finger foods, and there are no froufrou cocktails (only well drinks). But otherwise, it’s all good.

The Spot: Fat’s Asia Bistro & Dim Sum Bar 1500 Eureka Road, Roseville
The Deal: “Martini Hour,” with 13 martini varieties at $5 and ½ off appetizers (3–6 p.m. Mon.–Fri.)
Food Talk: Loved the panko-crusted calamari, but the Mongolian baby back ribs were a bit tough for our tastes
Booze Buzz: Fab martinis; we went bonkers over the Cherry Blossom (with Skyy Infusions Cherry and Absolut Vanilla vodkas), and the Asian Martini, made with Absolut Pears
The Tab: $24.50 for three appetizers and two martinis
Summing It Up: Mouthwatering martinis, fun list of appetizers and plentiful portions make Fat’s a winner despite mixed food reviews. Tip: Try the salt and pepper chicken—others were raving about it.

The Spot: Morton’s The Steakhouse 621 Capitol Mall, Sacramento
The Deal: “Bar bites” for $5, plus reduced-price cocktails, $4 beers and $5 wines (4:30–6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close daily)
Food Talk: Yummy all around, from the melt-in-your-mouth tender petite filet mignon sandwiches to the crab, spinach and artichoke dip, and blue cheese fries
Booze Buzz: Boyfriend was thrilled to find a microbrew (Samuel Adams) on the HH menu; the Morton’s Spritz (Prosecco, Aperol and OJ) was delightfully refreshing
The Tab: $25 for three appetizers, one beer and one cocktail
Summing It Up: If you’ve avoided Morton’s due to sticker shock, HH offers an affordable way in. Portions were so generous that for us, it was dinner.

The Spot: Roxy Restaurant and Bar 2381 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento
The Deal: Appetizers for $1.95–$4.95, $2.50 beers, $3.50 wines and well drinks, $3 cocktail specials (3–6 p.m. daily)
Food Talk: Juicy all-natural beef burger was the bomb and zucchini chips were addicting; buffalo taco was tasty but basic
Booze Buzz: The Clementine and Texsun cocktails were basically screwdrivers and margaritas with fancy names, but we liked ’em
The Tab: $15.40 for three appetizers and two cocktails
Summing It Up: No fireworks, but fresh, simple fare at low prices; the taco was only $2.50. Still, I prefer Roxy’s BYOB (build-your-own-burger) night on Thursdays.

The Spot: Spataro Restaurant and Bar 1415 L St., Sacramento
The Deal: Appetizers and drinks for $3, $4 and $5 (3–6:30 p.m. Mon.–Fri.)
Food Talk: Exquisite, flavorful fare; we oohed and ahhed over the spiedini (skewers of cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella, focaccia cubes and basil) and the antipasti with housemade salami and super-creamy goat cheese
Booze Buzz: The Lemoncello Drop ($5) is heaven in a martini glass, and you can quaff Moretti (Italian beer) for $4 at HH
The Tab: $22 for three appetizers and two cocktails
Summing It Up: Spataro’s deft culinary touch shines in every dish on the HH menu, the bar is cool and the prices can’t be beat. A find.

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