By Sarah Bennett and Erika Bolden
When we went looking for all-day happy hours, geographic diversity was a priority. But striking patterns emerged -- namely, the bars most likely to discount booze beyond the typical late-afternoon hours were located mostly in 9-5 work destinations. In fact, from Santa Monica to downtown, all-day happy hours cling to I-10 so devotedly you'd think SigAlert determined the value of a drink. Venture into the Valley and, generally speaking, you'll find establishments serving cocktails and beer whose prices are unaffected by the inflation of the Westside. Often they don't call it happy hour there -- they just call it cheap.
So call all-day happy hour a gimmick if you want. Or call it a desperate attempt to lure office drones away from their work. But we're not complaining. In fact, we offer congratulations to those of you living or working somewhere along the I-10: You've got a really great excuse to start drinking now.
There is no shortage of British and Irish pubs on the Westside, but O'Brien's is unique in offering cheap drinks, every day, nearly all day. Yes, it's decked out in typical expat splendor with mahogany touches, seasoned wooden tabletops and vintage Guinness signs, but we're convinced that the best place to sit at O'Brien's is outside. A no-frills ensemble of shaded patio furniture provides a buffer for observing high-maintenance gymgoers and bronzed beach fanatics hunting discount designer maxi dresses. Watch the game or the people, but do so while you're chasing $3.50 domestic bottles and $5 well drinks, wine by the glass or premium draft beers with a round of chips and guacamole or potato skins. The casual vibe is as refreshing as the ice-cold beer. Happy hour daily, noon-7 p.m. 2941 Main St., Santa Monica; 310-396-4725.
L.A. is home to six of Wokcano's pan-Asian, nightclublike restaurants, but the Long Beach location is the only one lucky enough (or unpopular enough) to have a happy hour that runs until closing four nights a week. As long as you don't mind sitting in the futuristic, Blade Runner-reminiscent lounge, you can enjoy discounts from 3 p.m. until well past midnight. Unlike a lot of all-day happy hours that offer only a handful of items on discount, Wokcano's offers sangria, well drinks and multiple flavored vodkas for $4, $5 sake bombs and a dozen or so sushi bar creations at roughly half-price. With more than enough options to keep things interesting and so-called "lounge nights" Friday and Saturday, when a DJ comes in, this is one all-day happy hour worth the trek to Long Beach. Happy hour Sun.-Wed., 3 p.m.-mid.; Thurs.-Sat., 3-7 p.m. Lounge-only happy hour Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.-1:30 a.m. 199 The Promenade North, Long Beach; 562-951-9652.
The website for Yen Sushi and Sake Bar stakes its claim as the place that invented all-day-every-day sushi happy hour. There is no way to verify such assertions, but the happy hour at Yen has at least been around long enough that it's not uncommon to see entire groups of regulars ordering discounted grub and drinks without ever looking at a menu. Located on "the Balcony" (aka the second floor) of a Ralphs shopping center in a gray area between Mid-City and Beverly Hills, Yen is the perfect pit stop when traffic on the 10 seems too formidable or you're just looking to stuff your face and get drunk for less than $20. Small sakes for $1.99 and $1.99 mugs of draft Kirin are just the beginning of Yen's extensive happy hour menu, which also includes sushi, hand rolls and fresh rolls all starting at $2.99 apiece. There's a paltry $7.99 minimum per person if you're ordering off the happy hour menu, but get a Banzai Roll (regular price $9.99) and a beer and you're solid. Happy hour daily, all day. 9618 W. Pico Blvd., #509, Pico-Robertson; 310-278-0691.
An upscale Mediterranean restaurant located among dozens of college-friendly dining options in Westwood might sound like a doomed business plan, but with quality food and drinks plus an "all-day, every day" happy hour menu available in the elegant bar area, Palomino has managed to stay on the corner of Glendon and Lindbrook for more than 15 years. Sit in the comfy leather chairs that surround imported marble tabletops or grab a leather stool at the long, wooden bar and cozy up with $5 basil gimlets and whiskey sours or $4 glasses of Sycamore Lane wine. Perfect for both professional meetings and after-work rendezvous, Palomino's happy hour allows you to be as sophisticated (expertly fried calamari for $10) or primitive ($5 cheese-stuffed sliders) as you choose. Happy hour daily, all day. 10877 Wilshire Blvd., Wstwd.; 310-208-1960.
Too-nice Midwest transplants are our favorite guides for all-day happy hour, and Engine Co. No. 28, located inside a converted historic firehouse in downtown L.A., feels like the most appropriate place in town for that kind of down-home customer service. Wood and brass elements, including a shiny firefighter's pole, were left over from the building's early-1900s heyday and add to the ambience, while from 2:30 p.m. until closing, a menu of $5 food and drinks lures you from the restaurant's pricier white-tablecloth dining. With parking a joke (welcome to the Financial District), it's nice that public transit is nearby (the Seventh Street/Metro Center station is only a block away). The fact that you're taking the subway makes it easy to take advantage of the discounted well drinks, house wines and rotating "bartender's special" -- like an Evan Williams Manhattan -- and still get home safely. Happy hour in the bar area daily, 2:30-10 p.m. 644 S. Figueroa, dwntwn.; 213-624-6996.
Never before have drinking and dining in Beverly Hills been so affordable and yet still so damn classy. Adjacent to Equinox sports club, Oliver Café and Lounge is a stunning corner eatery with white leather seating and 180-degree views of one of the world's most expensive shopping districts. Get there when the into-the-night "chillout hour" begins at 4 p.m., and you can spend endless time (but not too much money) blending in with the haute bourgeoisie. Sip on a $5 house cocktail (good, stiff choices include the Oliver Bomb, Sunny Cape Cod and the Caprioska), $3 draft beer or $5 house wine while Fabio look-alikes and television screenwriters mill at the bar, paying full price for protein shakes. The $6.50 appetizer menu might lend itself to gorging, but with dim sum and homemade quiche at that price, you can always use the money you save for a membership at the gym next door. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-close; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 9601 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-888-8160.
Sitting perched by a balcony, drink in hand, with a crowd of out-of-towners hustling to conspicuously consume below, may not sound relaxing to everyone, but to us it's heaven. The rooftop bar and lounge at restaurateur Richard Sandoval's Zengo is irresistible not only for its discounted Latin-Asian drinks and small plates but also for its tremendous view of the Third Street Promenade. Sip the $6 Prickly Pear Caipirinha and munch on edamame and house-made meatballs while you take in the spectacle of street performers and tourists from above. Modern decor and low-lit tables make this an inexpensive destination for a casual date night. Want to send weekend guests back home tipsy and well fed? Come hungry on Saturday and Sunday and indulge in the $35 all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch menu. Happy hour Sun.-Thurs., all day (drinks only 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., food also 4-10 p.m.); Fri.-Sat., 4-7 p.m. 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica; 310-899-1000.
3. Drago Centro:
Lauded for its consistent, fresh Italian dishes, Drago Centro is rarely commended for its affordable, all-day happy hour lounge menu. But it should be. Set in a busy business corridor near towering loft apartments, this happy hour is not a divey one but rather an elegant drinking experience for locals or visitors who aren't on a per diem. While most diners head for tables by the window, the place to saddle up is at the bar, with a full view of the airy, modern dining room and the vertical, transparent, walk-in wine cooler -- as artistic as it is functional. A seasonal cocktail menu features standards from $5 to $8 (try the Moscow Mule), glasses of wine from $5 to $8 and a few quality beers at $6 or less. You can enjoy a pair of Kobe sliders for $6 or the popular $4 pizza while congratulating yourself for staying on budget. Plus, their validation gets you free valet parking for your first four hours of drinking (beginning at 5 p.m.). Not bad. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 5-10 p.m. 525 S. Flower St., dwntwn.; 213-228-8998.
2. The Misfit:
The lengthy happy hour at the Misfit, located in the 1920s Clock Tower building off Santa Monica Promenade, allows both locals and those who work in the area to enjoy a cocktail before the tourists and shoppers descend in the evening hours. To best attain your buzz, sit at the white marble bar before a two-story bookshelf and card catalog. Tall, black-and-white-striped curtains amplify the elegance of this bustling bar and restaurant, with subway tiles, coffered ceilings and a painted mural creating a sophisticated mood. You're in good hands and good company ordering a basil gimlet or the signature Misfit cocktail. Half-off well drinks during happy hour are a steal when you realize the well is Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Tito's Handmade Vodka. And $5 for select beer and wine guarantees something to satisfy everyone. Happy hour daily, noon-7 p.m. 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-656-9800.
1. Kitchen 24:
Pretty-in-pink Kitchen 24 treats a diverse crowd of locals to unbeatable happy hour prices almost all day. The diner is more modern than kitschy: A spacious, pink-flecked countertop bar is a great place to work in the afternoon, and sleek booths lining the walls fit six when the crowd thickens around nightfall. Try the Kitchen Pink, made with Hendrick's gin, basil-flavored simple syrup and citrus, or the Jalapeño Margarita, which is intensely spicy from the fresh peppers. Strong and whimsical cocktails are $7, but the place also offers $5 well drinks, $6 wine and $3 Bud, PBR and Tecate. You can't miss with the $5 chicken wings coated in sweet citrus pineapple, which reflect the establishment itself -- sweet and kind of hot. Happy hour Sun.-Thurs., 3-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 3-8 p.m. 8575 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; (424) 777-0959.
Be sure to pick up our new Happy Hour guide, which hits the streets April 18 in our weekly Thursday paper.
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