Good news from the bad economy: Happy hours have exploded across L.A.
No longer does "happy hour" refer only to those few hours after work when bars and lounges serve cheap drinks and mediocre food. Now upscale restaurants manned by celebrity chefs and skilled mixologists, along with premium hotel bars, lounges, bistros, dumpy dives, wine bars, gastropubs, jazz clubs, family eateries, chains, even bakeries are offering happy-hour specials at all hours of the day — anything to get you in the door.
Often, generous discounts can turn a little after-work refreshment into a complete dinner. You can pound down a Redbreast whiskey at Casey's, bite into a seared black-cod tapa crafted at Rivera or savor a smooth glass of Provenza at Bacaro.
Just what makes a great happy hour depends on what you are looking for. The Weekly went in search of the best L.A. has to offer and has come up with 50 favorites, each special for its own reasons. Whether your pleasure is dirt-cheap drinks, free food, gourmet grub, bottomless glasses, after-work respite, 24/7 sports coverage, karaoke, mixology magnificence, après-theater refreshment, live music, pool or games and gimmicks, we've got a happy hour for you.
The joint's been around for 41 years; the building for 94. This is a watering hole, somewhere you go to forget your crap-ass day and cure what ails you. And even though bar impresario Cedd Moses Dublin-fied it, he was smart enough to retain the spirit. It's for boozing, not cruising; crashing, not flashing. It's about whiskey. It's about beer. Life has taken place here, damn it, from the forever-ago knife-scrawled bar stools (who the hell was Wilsey?), to the chalkboard messages written in a drunken haze to the darkened nooks that god-knows-who got knocked up in. Tuesdays through Sundays 3-7 p.m. and Mondays until 11 p.m., you can save two bucks on already cheap cocktails and spirits, one on beer and wine (regularly $5-$7). There's grub too: $2 and $3 off appetizers like rings, wings and fries. But it's not about food, pal. It's about drinkin'. 613 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. (213) 629-2353, bigcaseys.com.
The mission of this unique bar and gastropub for serious oenophiles, beer connoisseurs and adventurous neophytes is the joy of liquid enlightenment. The house experts relish finding the perfect libation to suit your mood. Owner Coly Den Haan changes the happy-hour menu weekly to highlight what's new in her rotating stock of more than 50 wine selections and almost-equal number of beers that you can enjoy for less, every day, 4-7 p.m. One night it might be a wine from Croatia, a high-end variety like Châteauneuf-du-Pape for $10 (rather than $20), or a pint of Port Brewings Hop 15 IPA for $6 instead of $10. Ongoing deals feature global wines starting at $3 (usually $5-$14) and beers at $2 (usually $3-$8). And the spin on gourmet white-trash snacks at $3-$6 (usually $5-$10), like mac 'n' cheese, Tater Tots and a McMustwich, will make you wish you came from a trailer park — or could go back to one. 118 W. Fifth St., L.A. (213) 627-1162, themustbar.com.
It may be in Venice, but you won't find a disheveled beach type here among the well-dressed, artsy patrons with evolved palates that salivate in anticipation of executive chef Shigefumi Tachibe's Mediterranean-Japanese fusions. But it seems that even moneyed hipsters need a break, because nightly from 5 p.m. until close, the bar is sardine-slammed with the young and beautiful, sucking up $9 alcoholic infusions for $3 less, like the Slingchi martini (vodka and lychee juice) and the almost-too-pretty-to-eat $4 and $5 vegetable and sushi rolls. The $2-$13 plates of fresh oysters on the half-shell, truffled pommes frites, lamb albóndigas, Dungeness crab cigars or soy-glazed cod bowl will only make you want to someday invest in a regular-priced dinner here. But you don't have to. You've got happy hour. 111 Navy St., Venice. (310) 396-2279. For other locations, visit thechaya.com.
Upon scaling the long ramp up to this minimalist and stylish Dodd Mitchell–designed building (formerly Cinch restaurant), you might think you're entering a sophisticated retreat. But noooooo! You're in a full-on sports bar, with a major sound system and 50 — count 'em, 50 — flat screens. Mondays through Fridays, 4-7 p.m., the place looks like the set of Grey's Anatomy since it's jam-packed with Saint John's Health Center employees who take a load off with $3 draft beers, $4 well drinks and $5 house wines. It's 30 percent off all appetizers but the main draw is 10 varieties of $1.75 sliders — try pork belly or chili-cheddar — and, some say, the best sweet-potato fries in town. 1519 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 395-4139, theparlor.com.