The Place: Brussels Bistro, 222 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach; (949) 376-7955.
The Hours: 4 to 7 p.m. daily
The Deal: Draft Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe Blonde, and house Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, each yours for $4.
The Scene: Save for one row of chairs behind a railing, the restaurant is sunken below street level, with part of it in a kind of open-air pit. Vintage ads for Belgian beers dot the red-brick walls, and the tables have bright, solid-color surfaces, making the place casual-seeming and festive. When we showed up at 5 p.m. on a Friday, there weren't many customers besides a group of geriatric Laguna gallery walkers, but within an hour the Bistro livened up with a mixed-age crowd of both tourists and hungry locals.
The Sauce: The attraction here for drinkers is the selection of beers from Belgium, a remarkable country where monks have served as brew-masters for centuries, righteously shaming most American microbrews. We all know Stella Artois, but Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden are slightly harder to come by in these parts. That's a shame, because they're both delicious: Spicy, complex, sweet, it's worth trying both brands in your quest for a post-work buzz. It's too bad, though, that Brussels Bistro's happy hour deal only applies to those three draft beers. The menu offers more than a dozen other Belgian beers in bottles, many of which are “triples”–that is, extra-alcoholic, extra-fermented and extra tasty. At $8 or $9 a pop, though, most customers would probably need a happy-hour discount to serve as incentive to explore.