The Place: Zov's Bistro, 3915 Portola Pkwy., Irvine, (714) 734-9687; www.zovs.com.
The Hours: Daily, 4-7 p.m.
The Deal: $4 draft beers, $6 well drinks, $7 specialty martinis, $5 bar appetizers.
The Scene: If you've ever lived in an Irvine Company property, the Zov's on Portola Parkway fits in so well into the vernacular of suburbian master-planning, it might as well be on a brochure. There's a outdoor patio, breezy and ivy-laden. This is where you want to be, especially on a summer-y afternoon. The crowd that comes fits the demographic you'd expect, which is to say, young families, people with dogs on leashes, most of them out for an afternoon stroll, their houses or apartment probably nearby and less than a decade old.
The Sauce: Draft beers and well drinks notwithstanding, the martinis are the draw at Zov's. Their signature martini, a pomegrate-puree-sweetened concoction with Skyy vodka, tastes like it should be sipped while cruising on a yacht. Others, are quite literal with the Mediterrean theme of the drinks, like the Belvedere, which has feta-stuffed olives in it. The rest are fruity cocktails utilizing Key lime, pear, lemon (paired with either mint or raspberry) and last but not least, a mandarin cosmo employing Hangar One Mandarin Vodka, triple sec, sweet and sour, and cranberry juice.
The Food: The real reason to come to Zov's during their Happy Hour is for their food. Not only does Zov's put out one of the most eclectic arrays of discounted Happy Hour comestibles, it's the cheapest way to dine at a restaurant some regard as expensive. Some of the $5 offerings twist the standard Happy Hour fare into something lighter and dare I say “healthier”? The “Chips & Salsa” are fried pita points with a refreshing mix of diced cucumber, jalapeño and feta replacing the pico de gallo. The char-flecked grilled mini chicken kebobs cost a fraction of the full meal price for the same skewers. And the herb-and-parmesan rice fritters, a fluffy love child of a falafel and a hush puppy, will blow your mind.
The Verdict: It's conveniently timed so you don't have to rush to make it; it's food doesn't sink like an anvil in your stomach; the martinis are decent, if a bit steep.
The Grade: B+.