Traditional happy hours are great for people who knock off work at 5 p.m. Know anybody like that? Neither do we. For the rest of us, more and more restaurants across California are adding a second shift of well-priced bites and drinks. It’s a great way to kick back after a 12-hour workday or to continue the conversation that started at a business gathering.
Los Angeles: Drago Centro
The jewel in Celestino Drago’s restaurant crown sits between two downtown office towers and runs happy hour until the 10 p.m. closing, Monday through Saturday, and until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
According to managing partner Matteo Ferdinandi, "We offer it all day and evening because that reflects what an Italian bar is all about-small-item offerings that are designed for different purposes rather than a full dinner." That means $5-$6 specialty cocktails and bites that include $4-$5 pizzas, $5/4 oysters and a massive mushroom calzone for $10.
Sacramento: Tex Wasabi’s
The Sacramento outpost of celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Rock-n-Roll Sushi BBQ restaurant has a logo featuring a cowboy riding a koi. Yes, Tex Wasabi’s can get wild. From 9 p.m. to close on Fridays and Saturdays, their second-shift happy hour features bottled beers and drafts (microbrews) for $2.50, well drinks, margaritas and wine for $4, and snacks including pulled-pork sliders for $5-$6. Says chef Mike Stockton, "There are a lot of people who work in fields like mine, who don’t get out until 9 or 10 o’ clock, and now they can still get all the benefits of a happy hour."
San Diego: Red Pearl Kitchen
This pan-Asian restaurant from Tim and Liza Goodell in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is close to the convention center and many hotels. Its late-night Social Hour runs from 10 p.m. to close, Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends.
Signature cocktails cost only $6, including the eponymous Red Pearl, which features pomegranate vodka, peach schnapps, cranberry and pineapple juices, and a float of Brut Champagne. Look for $4 dim sum offerings like five-spice chicken wings and pork spring rolls.
San Francisco: Pacific Catch
This fish house in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood features happy hour nightly from 10 p.m. to close.
According to general manager Shawn Brady, "We’re near the UCSF hospital, near the university, and we have a lot of people who can’t be here for the four-to-six happy hour." Pacific Catch reels in crowds with $4 draft beers, $4.50 well drinks and bites that costs $4-$6, including Peruvian ceviche.
Palm Springs & Rancho Mirage: Lulu California Bistro & Acqua Pazza
In 2008, when the economy was in a tailspin, Willie Rhine, general manager of Acqua Pazza Bistro, started an all-day happy hour at his Rancho Mirage restaurant. "When our guests were forced to start saving, we knew they still wanted to eat and entertain, so we made it affordable," says Rhine.
The all-day (11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays) specially priced menu includes $8 pizzas, $6 quesadillas and up to half off on margaritas, wine and microbrews.
"It was a huge success," says Rhine, "so we’ve continued the practice." He also launched an all-day happy hour (same hours as Acqua Pazza) at his new bistro, Lulu California, in nearby Palm Springs, offering great deals on menu faves like Kobe beef burgers, chicken wings and a tower of portabella mushrooms, spinach and mashed potatoes.