The Place: Daily Grill, 2636 Dupont Drive, Irvine, (949) 474-2223.
The Hours: Daily, 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
The Deal: Domestic beers, $3.50. Specialty beers, $4. Well martinis & spirits, $5.50. Premium spirits, $9. $3.95-$4.95 appetizers.
The Scene: This dependable meat and potatoes chain does a clean and uncomplicated Happy Hour that any businessman can set his watch to. There's always ESPN on the flatscreen above a bar as compact as you see in airports. It's prime real estate after 5 p.m, a noisy, lively line of elbows and glasses with the background sound of the busy restaurant behind you. You are liable to see more than a few suits at the bar from here and afar, usually in town for an early morning meeting. They'll throw back a few drinks here before going back to their hotel to check in with their wives and kids.
The Sauce: The cheapest cocktail to imbibe on is called Havana Rocks, concocted from Bacardi Superior Rum with fresh lemon juice for $5.00. If you opt for anything other than the standard well martini, it'll cost you $9. $9 for the Red Carpet with St. Germain and Belvedere Vodka; $9 for the Marked Manhattan, a drink made of Makers Mark, Sweet Vermouth and a cherry. More drink specials include the inevitable merger of alcohol and caffeine in their Espresso Martini with Godiva Chocolate, Absolut Vanilla and espresso; or the unapologetically feminine L'Orange Cosmo with Grey Goose L'Orange, Cointreau, lime and cranberry. Both also $9.
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The Food: The "Side Kicks" are what you should order, two mini cheeseburgers with the works. The rest of the menu is a predictable list with predictable execution, which is to say, not bad. The spinach artichoke dip, hot wings, fried calamari and popcorn shrimp aren't going to be unlike what you've had before, though the popcorn shrimp are done remarkably well, not overcooked and still wiggling when you bite into them. You can double up the portion size of both the two tempura-battered seafood apps for $1 more. But if you're going to spend $4.95, you should probably just spring for the chicken pot pie. Skip the sesame-seed crusted seared ahi tuna sashimi, which does nothing to advance sashimi or satisfy your hunger.
The Verdict: Predictable food, but decently priced and dependable.
The Grade: B