The Place: Lazy Ox Canteen, 241 S San Pedro Street, Little Tokyo; (213) 626-5299.
The Hours: Weekdays 5-7pm
The Deals: $4 select beer and glasses of red or white wine, sangria; $5 small plates.
The Digs: Located in that one quiet section of Little Tokyo, chef Josef Centeno's global cuisine gastropub, Lazy Ox Canteen, has become the go-to dinner destination for food bloggers, downtown professionals and even theater-goers straying way off the beaten Grand Avenue path. Diners have a choice of eating their meat-focused meals at the bar where they can watch the cooks in the open kitchen, on the patio while taking in the passing condo dwellers and homeless people, or at one of the many banquettes and tall tables in the bustling, narrow dining room. Candles and low-hanging Edison bulbs light the way after the sun goes down. If you're an off-the-menu type, you'll appreciate the huge chalkboard covered with scrawls of specials.
The Verdict: As promising as the "5 @ 5" menu may sound, this isn't the sort of happy hour where you can find satisfaction on the cheap, even if you do polish off several bowls of the complimentary Peruvian-style corn nuts and split the five dishes with friends. The tiny tasting portions of crispy tacos, beef tartare with tarragon aïoli, and pork chicharrón skewers serve as mere snacks. And before you know it, you find yourself contemplating the hand-torn egg pasta and pork frites on the regular menu.
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However if you're only seeking a tidbit to go with a pint of tasty $4 craft beer, the trio of those subtly spicy pork chicharrón skewers will pair nicely with the refreshing North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner. Think a very fancy version of pork rinds and Coors.
Speaking of beer, even though Lazy Ox offers a variety on tap and in the bottle, the Scrimshaw is the only happy hour brew. The only other option for thirsty cheapskates is the house red or the house white, since this isn't a full bar.
So, no, it's not that the food is lacking in inventiveness, quality or other joy-inducing properties, traits the dinner crowd would be more than willing to pay for. But happy hour goers -- being a different, budget-motivated breed -- might be bummed out by how much they got for their $5 and the fact that there is such a limited amount of happy hour drinks.
Overall Grade: C+