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

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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.