Drunk After Work: SOL Cocina
The Place: SOL Cocina, 251 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach; (949) 675-9800; www.solcocina.com.
The Hours: Daily (including weekends), 3-6 p.m.
The Deal: $3 off wine by the glass, $3 beer, $5 house margaritas and well drinks, $6 shots of blanco tequila, $10 tequila flight. Various specials on happy hour snacks (called antojitos).
The Scene: A wall of windows overlooking busy Balboa Harbor (if you prefer to boat in, you can call the harbormaster and ask for the adjacent slips), with warm tile and a caged firepit indoors. The crowd is eclectic Newport: moneyed people dressed more nicely than expected, beach bums down from nearby Huntington, and folks from hither and yon who've stopped in for a drink.
The Sauce: SOL means tequila; they have a wide-ranging list of tequilas at various ages. A flight involves three blancos picked by the bar (one of them was Corralejo on our visit, Gustavo's old standby). House margaritas are the best bet, with El Jimador tequila (bad for sipping, fine for mixing). Micheladas come in gigantic fishbowls; add some of the chile de árbol sauce provided to each table to wake them up a little.
The Food: Antojitos is Spanish for "little whims"... in other words, snacks. Be aware that the happy hour menu has happy-hour specials on one side and regular antojitos on the other. While Edwin loved the chipotle-piloncillo goat cheese, the panuchos (masa turnovers filled with squash and cheese) were the biggest hit. Tacos are all very good, though calling them "street tacos" is disingenuous when they're served in a nice restaurant.
The Verdict: Newport is awash in happy hours, and Newport is awash in Mexican restaurants, but historically the two haven't gone together in a good way, until now. Service was that perfect OC blend of laid-back and sincere. Come in and kick back, sip your drinks slowly, and actually be happy during happy hour.
The Grade: A.
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