Your Essential OC Happy Hour Guide

Where to go for the best deals and drinks

Hmm. The happy hours feature on our food blog is called “Drunk After Work,” and the print headline of this list of OC’s most alluring weekday watering holes is “Intoxicating.” So, a moment for a word of caution: Please be safe, everybody. And after you’ve installed the OC Weekly Happy Hours applicationon your smart phone—which will lead you to these and many, many other fine eating and drinking establishments—please also find yourself an app that calls you a cab or a sober friend or stops you from drunk-dialing your ex. Or all of the above.

Got that? Okay. Now, let’s drink.

Agora Churrascaria
Agora pours a refreshing caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil. It starts at $10 and is not discounted during happy hour, but who cares? You need this. Concocted from muddled lime, crunchy sugar and cachaça, it’s the most dangerous limeade you’ll sip. There are discounts on the food but only at the bar. Highlights are the chicken drumsticks and Brazilian sausages (both $4)—plus, there’s the free banana and chewy cheesy bread balls. Still peckish? A single trip to the salad/sides buffet line ($9) is the best deal of all. (EG) 1830 Main St., Irvine, (949) 222-9910; www.agorachurrascaria.com. Daily 3-7 p.m.

Auld Dubliner
Jason Levesque/Stuntkid
Auld Dubliner
Lazy Dog Cafe
Jason Levesque/Stuntkid
Lazy Dog Cafe
Tokyo Table
Jason Levesque/Stuntkid
Tokyo Table
Zov's
Jason Levesque/Stuntkid
Zov's

Location Info

Map

Agora Churrascaria

1830 Main St.
Irvine, CA 92614

Category: Restaurant > Brazilian

Region: Irvine

AnQi Gourmet Bistro by Crustacean

3333 S. Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: Costa Mesa

Anthill Pub

4200 Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Irvine

Asian Tapas

6380 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92620

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Irvine

Auld Dubliner

2497 Park Ave.
Tustin, CA 92782

Category: Restaurant > Bar Food

Region: Tustin

The Balcony Grill and Bar

2710 Alton Parkway, Ste. 215
Irvine, CA 92606

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Irvine

Bar Louie Tavern & Grill

321 W. Katella, #212
Anaheim, CA 92804

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Anaheim

Bluewater Grill

630 Lido Park Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Newport Beach

Bootlegger's Brewery

130 S. Highland Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Breweries and Wineries

Region: Fullerton

The Cannery

3010 Lafayette Road
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Newport Beach

Casa Inka

8610 Warner Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Category: Restaurant > Peruvian

Region: Fountain Valley

The Cellar

305 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Category: Restaurant > Fine Dining

Region: Fullerton

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AnQi
The $4-to-$6 apps here, though tasty and immaculately prepared, are teeny-tiny. The chorizo corn dogs are gone in one bite. The mussels are buttery but slight. And the pork-belly-stuffed steamed bao is fattier than Kate Moss, but not by much. What did you expect from a place that caters to the couture crowd? The martini on special is called Bubblegum, but get the hefeweizen instead. It comes with a head made from a dollop of lemon foam the consistency of styling mousse. For a gut-filler, try the truffle-and-salt-dusted potato wedges. (EG) 3333 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 557-5679; www.anqibistro.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-7:30 p.m.

 

Anthill Pub
Some schools discourage drinking; others ban it. And then there’s UC Irvine, whose Anthill Pub in the Student Center bans drinking crappy beer. The no-swill policy means there is no hipster PBR or watery Bud anything. The ever-changing list of local and distant American craft beers, from Lagunitas to Dogfish Head, goes on sale every afternoon: $1 off single servings (tulip glasses or pints, depending on the beer) and $3 off pitchers. A full menu of sandwiches, including a very credible bratwurst, and fried snacks such as sweet potato fries are available at the adjacent counter. Had a place like this existed at every school, Natty Light would no longer exist. (DL) C-215 Student Center at UC Irvine, 4200 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 824-3050; sites.google.com/site/anthillpub. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

 

Asian Tapas
The specials, hearty appetizers—which, yes, can be called tapas for lack of a better term—mostly hail from Northern China. Everything goes extremely well with $2-to-$3 beers. Wontons swim in a lip-tingling chili oil. The popcorn chicken—greaseless and dusted with a caking of red-pepper dust—shames those produced at boba shops. The ruddy matchsticks of chewy beef and tofu make you sweat just looking at them; you’re going to need more Tsingtao for this one. (EG) 6380 Irvine Blvd., Irvine, (949) 651-8999; www.asian-tapas.com. Mon.-Fri., 5-6:30 p.m.

Auld Dubliner
Irish food gets a lot of flak, but it wouldn’t if people saw the half-off appetizers at Auld Dubliner. The ones that mash up the Asian and the Mexican with the Celtic taste best. The corned-beef tacos alone are ready for their own Twittering truck. The bangers get stuffed into flowery, deep-fried wontons. Even the fries are paired with an Indian curry. Okay, fine, that’s also how fries are done in Ireland. The obligatory foamy pint of Guinness isn’t discounted for happy hour, but the crisp Magner Irish Cider is only $3. (EG)2497 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 259-1562; www.aulddubliner.com. Mon.-Sat., 3-6 p.m.

Balcony Bar and Grill
Here, happy hour lasts all day and night from Sunday through Thursday. The lychee martinis will be as potent as they are evocative of the fruit, discounted to $4.95 when it’s not Friday or Saturday. The nigoritini has the raw, cloudy murkiness of unfiltered sake. No discounts are offered on the food, but most appetizers tick well below the $6 mark. The spicy, deep-fried wings and a crispy tempura nest of gobo go down heavy—the better to stem the effects of anything that ends in -tini. (EG) 2710 Alton Pkwy., Ste. 215, Irvine, (949) 387-0888; www.thebalconygrill.com.Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

 

Bar Louie
While Bar Louie doesn’t have much in the way of drink discounts during happy hour (an occasional special on domestic, mass-produced beer or a couple of bucks off a cocktail), they do offer 50 percent off all small plates on the menu, meaning that savvy tourists can have a cheap dinner. Sliders of a Kobe hot dog for Junior and seared tuna or baked goat cheese and four or five cocktails for Mom and Dad make it easy to have an early meal. (DL) At Anaheim GardenWalk, 321 W. Katella, Anaheim, (714) 495-4170; www.barlouieamerica.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

 

Bluewater Grill
An arena-style bar is the centerpiece of Bluewater Grill, the kind you’ve seen on Cheers. Come during a game night, and you’ll see just as many interesting characters. Though not a sports bar, there’s still a special kind of camaraderie that forms among the after-work revelers when the Lakers, Ducks or Angels are playing. And when they do, all eyes will be glued to the many LCDs in rapt attention, interrupted only by swigs of beer or strong margaritas or bites of the appetizers ($4-$6), especially the peppy, wasabi-laced oyster shooters. (EG) 630 Lido Park Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 675-FISH;www.bluewatergrill.com. Mon.-Fri., 3:30-6:30 p.m. 2409 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 258-3474; www.bluewatergrill.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3:30- 6:30 p.m. & 9-10 p.m.; Fri. 3:30-6:30 p.m.

 

Bootlegger’s Brewery
Fine, so it isn’t technically a happy hour, but the tasting room at this Thursday-to-Saturday-only brewery in an unlovely part of Fullerton features 12 to 15 house-made beers at rock-bottom prices. The left side of the beer menu remains more or less constant, including an excellent rye IPA and a very good chipotle-coffee stout; the right side of the menu houses the experimental batches, such as wine-barrel-aged lambics and sour beers. Drink the beer from Mason jars ($2.50-$3.50 per half-pint; $4-$6 per pint). This is also one of the best places to get in on the upscale-food-truck fad; a truck parks at the brewery each day it’s open. (DL) 401 S. Richman, Fullerton, (714) 871-2337; www.bootleggersbrewery.com. Thurs.-Fri., 4-9 p.m.; Sat., 2-9 p.m.

The Cannery
For those lucky enough to live on the Balboa Peninsula, it’s easy to get here. For the rest of us, parking is a bitch. The reward for the inconvenience? Serene views of Duffy boats purring up and down the harbor and the raucous bar scene inside. Plus, free clam chowder! The rest of the bargains come from the sushi bar. The sushi rice can be a bit gummy; the soft shell crab, overbattered. Nothing that $2.50 draft beer and more free clam chowder can’t fix! (EG) 3010 Lafayette Rd., Newport Beach, (949) 566-0060; www.cannerynewport.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-6:30 p.m.

 

Casa Inka
This place’s half-off appetizers alone prove that no one loves potatoes more than the Peruvians. There’s causa: a chilled mashed potato molded into a cylinder with in-betwen layers of creamed avocado and even-creamier tuna. There are the papa rellenas: huge croquettes filled with ground beef, olives and a hard-boiled egg. And, of course, the papa à la huancaina, the Incan answer to potatoes au gratin. All are perfect with a swig of $2 Cusqueño, a lager as transportive as the thatched-roof motif, the large mural of Machu Picchu and the stuffed llamas that greet you at the door. (EG) 8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, (714) 847-7555; www.casainkarestaurant.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

 

The Cellar
The Green Hour at the Cellar is North County’s only late-night happy hour, and it’s only on Friday nights. Slip into the bar of this hidden restaurant, and revel in 25 percent off your entire drink order. The “green” comes from the absinthe, a specialty of the house, presented in the French style, with water dripped over a burnt sugar cube through a slotted spoon into your absinthe. Eat up before you arrive, though: Absinthe on an empty stomach is a dangerous idea, and there is no bar menu. (DL) 305 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 525-5682; www.cellardining.com. Fri., 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

 

Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s
The lounge, for lack of a better term, is where it’s at, and not just for the fashionable. The crowd consists of everyone from the fat to the short to the plain-T-shirted—this despite the fact that the small-plates menu is not even discounted. The booze, however, is 50 percent off. Try the vino fresco, a delicious mulled concoction of Grey Goose, basil, grapes and lime. (EG) 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 352-2525; www.charliepalmer.com. Daily, 4-7 p.m. & 10 p.m.-midnight.

 

Citrus Cafe
This quiet family eatery is an eggs-and-bacon-with-pancakes kind of place, but recently, it started offering a liberally scheduled happy hour with a $5 “lounge menu” to entice the after-work and dinner crowd. Since it only holds a beer-and-wine license, all its cocktails are soju-based and, as a result, as tame as fruit punch. Nevertheless, the calamari, fried then tossed in a garlic-butter sauce, is extraordinarily refined, as are the sliders, which are hand-formed to the thinness of In-N-Out. (EG) 1481 Edinger Ave., Tustin, (714) 258-2404; www.citruscafe.com. Tues.-Sat., 3 p.m.-9 p.m.

Cucina Alessa
Welcome to the $4 Antipasti Hour! The butternut-squash-stuffed ravioli swims in a lick-your-plate-clean brown-butter sauce and fried sage leaves. The caprese smacks of garden freshness. And the carpaccio of cured filet mignon would normally cost five times as much at Italian joints of this caliber. Wash it down with a $4 Italian margarita. Never heard of it? Trust us: It’s good, strong and cheap. (EG) 520 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 969-2148; www.cucinaalessa.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 9-10 p.m.; Fri., 3-6 p.m. & 9-11 p.m.; Sat., 9-11 p.m.; Sun., 9-10 p.m.

Dave and Buster’s
Yeah, it’s Chuck E. Cheese with liquor, but D&B offers an oasis of a happy hour, with 50 percent off cocktails and beer and wine specials. While the beer-and-wine list is execrable, the bartenders pour good mixed drinks, and the food is a hidden surprise. The chicken nachos may be the best on offer in OC, with a little bit of each topping painstakingly layered on each individual chip, and the queso dip and potato skins are worthy choices as well. (DL) At the Block at Orange, 20 The City Blvd. W., Orange, (714) 769-1515; www.daveandbusters.com. At Irvine Spectrum, 71 Fortune Dr., Irvine, (949) 727-0555;www.daveandbusters.com. Mon.-Fri., 4:30-7 p.m.; Sun.-Thurs., 9-11 p.m.

 

Don the Beachcomber
The crowd here is surprisingly eclectic, from crusty old men in Hawaiian shirts to young women in business suits. Tiki torches, daggers and tall, cold drinks heavy on the rum are the order of the day in the dark Dagger Bar of this landmark restaurant in Surfside, whose happy hour features a 50 percent discount on all drinks and apps. There is a fine list of rhums agricoles, artisanal Caribbean rums. The eats, hilariously still called “pupus,” are a nod to Polynesian kitsch: Try a plate of Spam sushi or Hawaiian nachos with your mai tai. (DL) 16278 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach, (562) 592-1321; www.donthebeachcomber.com. Tues.-Sun., 4-7 p.m.; Mon., 4-10 p.m.

Durty Nelly’s
Its whole existence is predicated on its Happy Hour. You come to Durty Nelly’s for the cheap, basic bar food: chicken wings, onion rings, etc. A crowd of Guinness-drinking regulars packs the place, even on weekdays, which is when you need a pub like this the most. Spring a few bucks more for the steamed artichokes or Irish nachos. The latter is more of a punch line than a meal; subbing for tortilla chips are cubed boiled potatoes, and the meat is, of course, corned beef. (EG) 2915 Red Hill Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 957-1951; www.durtynellysoc.com. Drink specials, Mon.-Thurs., 4-7 p.m.; appetizer specials, Mon.-Sat., 4-9 p.m.

 

Henry’s Bar and Grill
The diviest of North County dive bars is hidden from the main drag, not terribly far from Garden Grove’s Historic Main Street, in an industrial zone. Walk in and order a beer ($1 off standard selections) or a well drink, plus a couple of $2 bar snacks, which includes a charmingly misnamed “petite burger.” Additional specials vary by day, but include huge burgers and fries for $5 on Mondays, $1.50 Tecates and tacos on Tuesdays, and $2 PBR on Thursdays. Wednesdays feature free pool and darts, and the jukebox has a mix of rock & roll and country. (DL) 10549 Stanford Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 537-9884; www.henrysbarandgrill.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m.; Fri., 2-7 p.m.

 

JT Schmid’s Restaurant & Brewery
The JT Schmid’s in Anaheim doesn’t do happy hour, but the Tustin branch does. It discounts everything boozey, even its signature beers, and virtually everything on the appetizer list ($3.50 drafts, $6 pitchers, $5 wines, $4.50 well drinks, $6 appetizers). Whet your whistle with a house hefeweizen, a light, cloudy summer brew made even more refreshing by a squeeze of lemon. The wings are laced with a sauce that tastes like barbecue but with a finishing chili kick. The sliders sting with crumbled bleu cheese, and the better-than-average ahi tuna poke rides on crispy wonton discs. Watch whatever is going on at the Honda Center on the TVs. (EG) At the District at Tustin Legacy, 2437 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 258-0333; www.jtschmids.com. Mon.-Fri., 3-6:30 p.m.; Late Nite Happy Hour, Mon.-Thurs., 10-11 p.m.

 

Karl Strauss Brewery & Restaurant
Karl Strauss’ darling waitresses will let you sample as many house microbrews as you want for free until you find one you like (which will run you $3.50). The food is standard bar fare. The nachos are gargantuan, if a little boring. But other plates are pitch-perfect for beer pairings, such as the sausage sampler: two per serving, slit like fish gills, served with a smattering of raisins, a swipe of strong mustard and cole slaw. The sweet-potato fries are dusted in chili-lime powder or smothered in melted Gorgonzola, as if sweet-potato fries need any embellishments. (EG) 901 South Coast Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-2739; www.karlstrauss.com. Daily, 4-6:30 p.m.

 

Kitsch Bar
Kitsch, a low-key option in Costa Mesa, is the place to go for those uncomfortable hours between dinner and the real party. The bar doesn’t open until 8 p.m. No cover, no food, no dancing, no bullshit. Kitsch is about sitting in comfortable armchairs, drinking, listening to music (often deep house) and catching up with friends. Well drinks, beer and wine are half-price; martinis are well-made here, there’s a good selection of higher-end liquors, and the selection of bottled beer isn’t too shabby, either. (DL) 891 Baker St., Costa Mesa, (714) 546-8580; www.kitschbar.com. Daily, 8-10 p.m.

 

k’ya
The only halfway trendy hotel in the Resort District houses two bars, both of which feature happy hour; choose the swish, leather-upholstered interior lounge, adjacent to the street-eats restaurant or the outdoor Palapa Bar, near the pool. This is the destination for slushy frozen drinks, though the well is better quality than most; mixed well drinks are a good option at half-off. A create-your-own $5 burger is a good dinner substitute, but the chicken empanadas are the best thing on the menu. (DL) In the Hotel Ménage, 1221 S. Harbor, Anaheim, (714) 758-0900; kyarestaurant.com. Daily, 4-7 p.m.

Lazy Dog Cafe
Even without our recession, the basic, decidedly un-froufrou food sold at this growing local chain would be appealing. It’s even more affordable at happy hour, which is, by the way, accessible at the patio for those who bring along Fido. The dog-friendly theming continues with beer taps that are fire hydrants, with bones as levers. These beers go well with such munchies as the $5 Mediterranean mini-pizza with a bottom-crisped crust and a roster of toppings, including goat cheese and balsamic-vinegar syrup. Shanghai lettuce tacos are just as tasty and refreshing as the wagging-tongue-in-cheek humor. (EG) 16310 Beach Blvd., Westminster, (714) 500-1140; www.lazydogcafe.com. Mon.-Wed., 3-6 p.m. & 9-10 p.m.; Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 9 p.m.-midnight; Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun, 9-10 p.m. 1623 W. Katella Ave., Orange, (714) 769-7020;www.lazydogcafe.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 9-11 p.m.; Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun., 9-11 p.m. 13290 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 731-9700;www.lazydogcafe.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 9 p.m.- midnight; Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun., 9 p.m.-midnight.

 

Lola Gaspar
Lola Gaspar is part of the Artists Village, one of the only places to do a proper pub crawl in OC. Though only two drinks are on special (margaritas and sangria, both $3), all draft beer is $4, and there’s an expanded range of food available on special, from bleu-cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates to a chile relleno. The “street tacos” are a decent deal during “siesta hour”—otherwise, head down to the taco trucks that line the blocks west of Main and south of First. Food specials end at 5 p.m., and drink specials at 6 p.m., though. (DL) 211 W. Second St., Santa Ana, (714) 972-1172; www.lolagaspar.com. Mon.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 10 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 p.m.-midnight.

Lucille’s Smokehouse
Get here early! The Flying Pig Lounge areas at this Long Beach-based chain are the only place the deals abound, and seats become scarce the closer it gets to 7 p.m. Fried green tomatoes sit on a roasted-red-pepper cream sauce. The bottoms of the cheese and smoked chicken-stuffed potato skins crackle like caramelized sugar. The smoked beef-brisket sliders put Sloppy Joes to shame. And the barbecue rib tips? Well, they look and taste like a Top Chef-plated gourmet dish. Appetizer specials run from $1.95 to $5.95, and drink specials are $3.25 to $6. (EG) 1639 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 990-4944; www.lucillesbbq.com. 23760 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, (949) 581-RIBS;www.lucillesbbq.com. 2550 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 259-1BBQ;www.lucillesbbq.com. 7411 Carson St., Long Beach, (562) 938-RIBS;www.lucillesbbq.com. 4828 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 434-RIBS;www.lucillesbbq.com. Mon.-Fri., 3-7 p.m. & 9 p.m.- close; Sat.-Sun., 3-7 p.m. 

McCormick and Schmick’s
Until very recently, the only deals at this seafood chain’s trio of OC locations were on the food: chicken sliders for $4.95, quesadillas for $3.95, and the famous half-pound cheeseburger and fries for $2.95, but the economy has prompted the chain to put drink specials on the menu. They’re still expensive ($7 martinis, $6 house wine, $5 Sam Adams), but eating and drinking works out to a pretty decent bargain. Hours and specific specials vary by location and season, so check the website before venturing out. (DL) At Anaheim GardenWalk, 321 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-9000; www.mccormickandschmicks.com. 2791 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 558-1963;www.mccormickandschmicks.com. 2000 Main St., Irvine, (949) 756-0505;www.mccormickandschmicks.com. Generally, Mon.-Fri., 3:30-6 p.m.

Memphis At the Santora
The Santa Ana branch of Costa Mesa’s temple to neo-Southern cookery is the polar opposite of its parent: a light, bright corner. Drink specials vary but are listed on a blackboard on the plaza end of the restaurant; beers are run-of-the-mill, so stick with real liquor. The munchies can be sated with a very good meatloaf sandwich (on a baguette); Zuni flatbread with sage pesto, corn and pepper Jack cheese; or well-cooked fried okra—among other choices (all $5). Happy hour is the time to talk to the bartenders, who are happy to introduce you to liquors you may not have tried. (DL) 201 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 564-1064; santora.memphiscafe.com. Tues.-Sat., 3-7 p.m.

Mugs Away Saloon
Bare butts are typically only on display one day a year at this Laguna Niguel dive that hosts the annual “Moon Amtrak” event, the décor is a monument to unapologetic Republican chauvinism (“January 20, 2009: The Start of an Error” reads one bumper sticker), and the crowd is a motley assortment of South County stereotypes, from construction bosses to trust-fund babies, former Capistrano Valley jocks to women in business suits and makeup. In keeping with its Middle America bar theme, domestic drafts (Coors, Miller, Bud) are $3 and well drinks are $4. Service is excellent, with the “Mugs Girls” making sure no one goes thirsty. (DL) 27324 Camino Capistrano, Laguna Niguel, (949) 582-9716; www.myspace.com/mugsawaysaloon. Mon.-Fri., 3-7 p.m.

OC Sports Grill
The former Nationals has morphed into a better, happier version of its former self. Huge TVs, plenty of pool tables and great service mean this place is a sea of red on Angels-game days. The full bar is surprisingly well-tended, with a decent selection of beer. Heavy drinkers should consider the 100-fluid-ounce “tapper,” a 5-foot column of cold beer with a tap at the bottom. Stick with the fried bar snacks here: Mozzarella sticks, fries and nachos will serve you well, though the club sandwich is worth a mention, too. (DL) 450 N. State College Blvd., Orange, (714) 935-0300; www.ocsportsgrill.com. Mon.-Fri., 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Opah
The bulk of the customers at this cheapest venue of Marc Cohen’s seafood empire comes for the inexpensive booze and half-price appetizers. But you don’t have to bump shoulders at the overcrowded bar. Any seat in the dark-as-a-den restaurant is a happy-hour seat. Go for the steamed mussels and clams: Served in the vessel they were cooked in, the shellfish swim in a briny broth decorated with julienned scallions. Move on to either the ridiculous tower of sweet-potato chips impaled on a stick or the slightly saner seafood-artichoke dip, which comes with triangles of crispy-soft pita-bread triangles. (EG) At Town Center, 26851 Aliso Creek Rd., Ste. C, Aliso Viejo, (949) 360-8822; www.opahrestaurant.com. At the Marketplace, 13122 Jamboree Rd., Irvine, (714) 508-8055;www.opahrestaurant.com. Sun.-Thurs., 4-6:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 9-11 p.m.

 

Prego
Tucked away in an anonymous corporate park near John Wayne Airport, this Italian restaurant features what may be the best well in OC: a laundry list of known, decent brands rather than the many faces of Bols or Barton. Given that well drinks are $4 during happy hour, this is a good thing, but don’t ignore the house wine or the bottled-beer selection either. If the complimentary grissini (breadsticks) aren’t enough, the eats are also excellent, from calamari steak to pizzas, from gnocchi to a meatball sandwich with salad, all $4. (DL) 18420 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, (949) 553-1333; www.pregoristoranti.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

 

Proof Bar
The would-be dive bar in Santa Ana’s Artists Village is known for its college crowd and loud music at night, but it’s light, airy and uncrowded during the day, with $3 off the well, $2 beer and $1 off everything else. The beer (all bottled) features some local surprises, and the liquor selection is a step up from normal—try Zacapa or Zaya rum. If you get the munchies, you can order $5 appetizers from Memphis at the Santora next door, which will be delivered to the bar for you. (DL) 215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 953-2660; www.proofbar.com. Mon.-Fri., 4-8 p.m.

Ra
The OC outposts of this chain of loud, emphatically un-Japanese sushi-fusion restaurants pack in a huge crowd during happy hour. Drink specials range from $2 pours of hot sake to $4-to-$5 well and speciality (fruity liqueur-based) drinks. The bar is vodka-heavy, which suits the clientele. Most people come for the half-off sushi and appetizers, including the Viva Las Vegas roll (essentially a crab rangoon in sushi form) and the lobster spring rolls. The best part about this is the happy-hour menu is available throughout the restaurant, not just in the bar. (DL) 155 Fifth St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-6390. At the District at Tustin, 2401 Park Ave., Tustin, (714) 566-1700. Mon.-Sat., 3-7 p.m.

 

Taps Fish House & Brewery
Head in to the enormous, sunken bar, the lounge or the outdoor patio, and order an excellent house-brewed beer ($4), a speciality martini ($6) or a glass of wine ($5). The pretzels are a must-order, with a slightly sweet, spicy mustard sauce for dipping. Add some sliders or an order of calamari (all $6), and call it a meal. Taps also has what must be the cheapest growlers in OC, should you wish to indulge at home: $2 for the glass and $10 or so for the fill. (DL) 101 E. Imperial Hwy., Brea, (714) 257-0101; www.tapsbrea.com. Mon.-Fri., 2-7 p.m.; Sat., noon-5 p.m.

 

320 Main
There’s more to drinking in this town than so-called “Irish” pubs. If you’re hankering for craft mixology, though, go find Jason at the bar at this tiny hideaway close to Pacific Coast Highway. The list of $4 and $5 drink specials (beer, house wine, well drinks, plus one specialty on Tuesdays) will serve you well, especially the cucumber daiquiri. If you’re feeling flush, ask for the hidden menu of drink specials (which, sadly, are not on the happy-hour list). Snack on $4 appetizers such as pesto clams or bruschetta. (DL) 320 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 799-6246; www.320mainsealbeach.com. Tues.-Sat., 3-6 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Throwbacks Sports Bar & Grill
The place to pre-party before a home game for the Halos, Throwbacks has 16 taps, including Alaskan, Fat Tire and Firestone. Or go for the game special: free parking, a hot dog and a beer before the game; a free shuttle ride to and from; and a beer on the way back—all for $10. The beer-and-wine license means all its “cocktails” are built on soju, so stick to beer. Non-game nights feature varying specials, ranging from “empty the keg” nights (Mondays) to Taco Tuesdays with $1 chicken tacos. Go in with patience on a game night, though; it gets slammed! (DL) 1759 Claudina Way, Anaheim, (714) 533-3813; www.throwbackssportsbar.com. Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.

Tokyo Table
It may have abandoned the discounts on the food, but the izakaya-sized small plates were already cheap to begin with. Rice paper wraps the spicy tuna rolls; bacon covers the asparagus speared on sticks; and an ultra-rich mayo-based “dynamite” sauce drowns the wonton chips that make Tokyo Table’s version of nachos. The saketinis are cutely titled, as though they were doe-eyed anime characters. The mango mojito is styled like something out of Club Med—a strange but brisk mix of mulled mint, rum and mango nectar that Bill Murray’s character in Lost In Translation could shill with a clear conscience. (EG) 2710 Alton Pkwy., Irvine, (949) 263-0000; www.tokyotable.com. Sun.-Thurs., 3-6 p.m. & 10 p.m.-midnight.

 

Tustin Brewing Co.
A lengthy, cheap and varied happy hour. Head into the Rapunzel-fantasy entry, and fight for a a seat at the worn bar. Choose to drink the excellent in-house brews ($4) such as the Golden Spike light ale, which is what Budweiser wishes it could be. If none of them calls, go for a selection of other craft brews such as Russian River or the Bruery. Pair your selection with the county’s best onion rings, “armadillo eggs” (jalapeño poppers) or a plate of sausage with in-house bread. (DL) 13011 Newport Blvd., Ste. 100, Tustin, (714) 665-2337; www.tustinbrewery.com. Mon.-Wed., 3-6 p.m. & 10-11 p.m.; Thurs., 3-11 p.m.; Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun., 10-11 p.m.

Wildfish Seafood Grille
There are two bars at Wildfish. You want the one on the patio, where the firepit warms and the breezes cool. Listen to the bartender for suggestions: The rich and meaty lobster bisque can be split for two at no extra charge. Then sear oh-so-tender, slender slices of Wagyu beef on a blazing-hot rock. Fill up on a massive plate of fried calamari wok-tossed with carrots, scallions, cashews and a zingy, vaguely Asian sweet-and-sour sauce. Wash it all down with a perfumy $6 martini made with vodka, cranberry and peach Schnapps. (EG) 1370 Bison Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 720-9925; www.eddiev.com. Tues.-Sat., 4-7 p.m.; Sun.-Mon., 4-11 p.m.

Zov’s
Not only do Zov Karamardian’s bistros have the most conveniently timed happy hours around, but they also have the best arrays of food. Some of the $5 offerings are twists on the standard fare, such as the “Chips & Salsa,” in which fried pita points sub for tortilla chips, and a refreshing mix of diced cucumber, jalapeño and feta replaces the pico de gallo. Others are more distinctive: The herb-and-parmesan rice fritter, a fluffy love child of a falafel and a hush puppy, will blow your mind—if the pomegranate martinis don’t cloud it first. (EG) 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, (714) 838-8855; www.zovs.com. 3915 Portola Pkwy., Irvine, (714) 734-9687;www.zovs.com. 21123 Newport Coast Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 760-9687;www.zovs.com. Daily, 4-7 p.m.

 

A shortened (by four places!) version of this article appeared in print as "Intoxicating: Your essential OC Happy Hour Guide."

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