There are no velvet-rope nightclubs in South Pasadena, no gelled-up promoters, no bottle-service babes. Instead, there is the Barkley — restaurant, bar, concert venue, town hall and de facto retirement home. The Barkley serves just about all needs, from Dodger games to jazz combos to corny menu puns (“Pasta la vista, baby!”), but it functions best from 4 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Friday, as a happy hour hangout. The drink deals are incredible — $3 beers and stiff wells, $4.50 martinis, $5 wine — but even better are the free appetizers, which rotate nightly. They're standards like wings, mozzarella sticks and zucchini fries, but they are done exceedingly well, all prepared in-house. As you polish off your quesadilla and a second martini, happy hour melts like warm caramel into the smooth sax of the band warming up in the corner. Before you know it you'll find yourself oozing onto the dance floor, tangoing the night away with the queen of Countryside Acres.
Credit: Ben Mesirow