BEST HAPPY HOUR
If you’re going to plonk down $14 for an ArcLight ticket (although even that seems a bit of a bargain these days, when you factor in reserved seating and the like; Grauman’s Chinese is now peak-priced at $12.50!), it’s nice to be able to find cheap, tasty and filling eats before your movie. Look no farther than Boho, the cozy corner lounge at Sunset and Ivar, with the pretty chandeliers and kitschy décor, which looks like it was swiped from some Midwestern granny’s basement. At Happy Hour during the week, all draft beers (and the selection is superb, with both domestic microbrews and imported varieties), plus the entire pizza menu is 50 percent off. Oinkster guru Andre Guerrero slings some savory pies here, including a surprisingly tasty Korean number served with kimchi and chili sauce. Fontina + kalbi = crazy delicious! Who knew? 6372 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. (323) 465-8500, bohorestaurant.com. Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m.-7 p.m., half-price on all pizzas priced regularly at $10-$14, half-price on all draft beers.
BEST HAPPY HOUR THAT JANE WOULD BE FONDA
Barbarella, the Silver Lake bar that tends to fill up with people who don’t live in Silver Lake (what is L.A.–speak for “bridge and tunnel crowd”? Maybe “310s”?) is actually a welcoming spot at the blue-plate-special hour, when seats are plenty, the TVs show cheesy ’80s videos you can actually hear, and the lovely tuna tartare is half price. Better still, the 10-ounce martinis are only 6 bucks and come in such silly versions as Key Lime Pie and Creamsicle. Try the Cucumber. 609 N. Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. (323) 644-8000, happy hour daily 4-7 p.m.
BEST CHEAPO HAPPY HOUR
Even before last fall’s economic crash and burn, Hurry Curry was recession-ready with its 3-to-6 p.m. happy hour, replete with drinks and a nosh at bargain prices — and a time slot many a wandering, thirsty, unemployed Westsider could embrace. Hell, Hurry Curry’s happy hour practically counts as lunch when you get up at noon. Located in West L.A.’s little Tokyo, Hurry Curry’s strip-mall digs (between the Tomato bank and a crepe shack) are modest and cozy. The menu includes cold or hot sake selections, apple-sake martinis, pomegranate-sake martinis and mellow-and-sweet yet strangely perfumed lychee-sake martinis (Hurry Curry only has a beer-and-wine license), all for three bucks. All items on the appetizer menu are $3 as well. Fried chicken with a spicy mayo sauce, battered calamari, crispy gyoza, soft and salty edamame — they’re all here, real cheap. Go on, unemployed Angeleno, order up five helpings of that sweet, glossy meat, and still have enough left over to throw down a couple Sapporos (also $3). 2131 Sawtelle Blvd., L.A. (310) 473-1640. Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.
BEST OTHER HAPPY HOUR FOR LIP-SMACKING DEALS
Don’t let the fact that Fergie and Josh Duhamel pop in for Laker games make you think the Dakota Lounge has an uppity attitude. The place is unpretentious and feels like the neighborhood bar you wish was in your neighborhood. Owners Alex Fieglein and Sabrina Roark, Hawaii transplants, have had a good thing going with the prime-time club crowd for the past year and recently started offering a happy hour where you can enjoy comfy couches, big-screen TVs and signature drinks at bargain prices. Fieglein touts the signature Onolicious, made with Centario rum and Dr. Pepper, and the Blue Makua, a lip-smacking concoction of UV Blue Raspberry vodka and soda water, both $5. Food here includes renowned sliders, either Hawaiian-style or shrimp (three for $7), homemade potato chips and homemade ranch. Even cooler, this happy hour runs seven days a week. Amazing deals are also offered during NFL games, including $3 omelets and $3 Bloody Marys made from a recipe Fieglein brags about like a proud father. 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 393-8200, dakotalounge.com. Open daily 5-9 p.m.
BEST HIGH-FLYING HAPPY HOUR
Nestled near Los Angeles International Airport is the Proud Bird restaurant, whose banquet rooms and lounge are housed in a sprawling complex with an architectural style that might be called Hacienda Montalban. From the outside, the restaurant resembles a combat aircraft museum — real World War II Mustangs, Messerschmitts and Spitfires spread their wings alongside replica MiGs and Spads from other wars in the parking lot and out in back on long lawns. There are monuments to the Tuskegee Airmen and the Flying Tigers and, for sound effects, there is the constant roar of jets from across the street at LAX. (The restaurant’s meditation tea garden and koi pond in front, while soothing, seem a little out of place here — especially with gas-flame torches belching fire on the nearby walls.) Once past the wall-to-wall galleries of aviation photos and memorabilia inside, you soon find yourself drowning in buckets of well scotch for $3.75 a drink (forget drink umbrellas — these pours require diving boards), or knocking back a Guinness at $4 a pop. Appetizers on the bar menu are cut in half to $5 during this time and, if both the tempura fried shrimp, calamari, and shrimp cocktail have the consistency of Tater Tots, you probably won’t notice after your third cocktail. (Talk about 12 o’Clock High.) 11022 Aviation Blvd., L.A. (310) 670-3093, the proudbird.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.
BEST ELEGANT HAPPY HOUR
Hundreds of teacup candles hang ablaze on brick, setting the mood at Wilshire Restaurant, a dark, romantic haunt, designed by Thomas Schoos of Koi, TAO and Citizen Smith (to name a few). Sure, the new happy hour may not be as packed as its previous $1 martini nights, which ended in August, but for $7 a pop, cocktails are just as delicious, the clientele is just as chic, and you have that much more room to spread your wings in the swanky bar or extravagant patio. Happy hours can get rowdy with the wrong crowd or right bartender, but if you’re looking for a place to lounge, warm by a shimmering fire, and actually hear what your bartender is saying, this is the place to hang your hat. Wash your drinks down with scrumptious appetizers and entrées — as the restaurant prides itself on hand-picking the freshest, seasonal ingredients from local farmers markets. Winos can look forward to Monday nights, which is half-price wine night, and on Thursdays stay up late for a second happy hour from 10 p.m. until midnight, ending just before you turn into a werewolf. 2454 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 586-1707. Mon.-Sat., 5-7 p.m., Thurs., 10 p.m.-mid.
BEST EASTERN-EUROPEAN HAPPY HOUR
Much of the food of Eastern Europe is, to put it plainly, peasant food. But that, I assure you, is not an insult. Slow-cooked meats, heavy starches and earthy vegetables all go great together but go even better with beer and liquor. But if you feel odd eating European working-class food in Santa Monica, where higher rent means higher food prices, look no farther than happy hour at Warszawa. The restaurant, which specializes in Polish cuisine, has been around since the late ’70s. The interior is upscale: You might order items like beef tartare with a glass of wine. But Wednesday through Friday from 6 to 9 p.m,, the relaxed and spacious back patio offers inexpensive drinks and appetizers. There, you can eat down-home foods like pierogi (the Polish equivalent of ravioli, filled with mushrooms, cabbage or potatoes) and brightly colored borscht, paired with drinks like Bison Grass Vodka (a smooth, herb-flavored liquor known to warm you up rather quickly), or big bottles of refreshing Polish beers. All in all, it’s a great opportunity to drink and eat like a peasant without the inconvenient trappings of a serflike existence. 1414 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 393-8831, warszawarestaurant.com.
BEST LONG HAPPY HOUR
The Westwood Bank building in the heart of Westwood Village has seen more image changes than Madonna since the actual bank closed decades ago. It was a retail space for most of the ’80s and ’90s before being transformed for restaurant tenants, and the previous occupant was Eurochow, which didn’t seem to fare well. Yamato, the current incarnation, is nothing terribly innovative with regard to Japanese fusion cuisine — the sushi and appetizers are pretty good, if not inspiring. Yet the important thing to remember about Yamato is that its happy hour lasts for hours. Specifically, all drinks and nibbles are half price until 10 p.m., seven days a week. That’s a hell of a nifty penny-saver to have in your back pocket for those nights when you just can’t break free of the office before seven, or if you want to grab a quick respite before a late movie. There are still a few movie theaters left in Westwood at this point, right? 1099 Westwood Blvd., Wstwd. (310) 208-0100. Open daily 5-10 p.m.
BEST HAPPY HOUR WITH DUCK-FAT POPCORN
If you beg for it, it will come: a questionable lesson, proven effective at Barbrix. The Silver Lake wine bar/restaurant is bringing back happy hour on not just one but three nights every week, after an “overwhelming response” to the first happy-hour event. From 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, glasses of already reasonably priced beers and wines will be half-off at the bar. And chef Don Dickman’s duck fat–popped fennel-pollen popcorn will be available for $1. Happy hour, indeed. 2442 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. (323) 662-2442. Mon.-Wed., 6-7 p.m.
BEST CLASSIC MARGARITA
Ten years ago, the first sip of any restaurant margarita around these parts that ditched the grocery store sour mix was reason enough to raise your glass for a toast. With the newfound mixology hype, the trick now is finding an affordable fresh lime-juice margarita. Saddle up to the bar at Ortega 120 and you’ll find all the requisite fancy restaurant combos like pomegranate-ginger and chile-mango. Skip those and go straight for the house margarita. It’s a 16-ounce pour that could double as two cocktails, or at least a generous one and a half, for $8. During the weeknight happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., you’ll shave $1.50 off the margarita price and $5 off the $30 pitcher — conveniently about right for the tip. 1814 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Redondo Beach. (310) 792-4120, ortega120.com.