554 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Dublin Square Irish Pub & Grill
Happy hours: 4–7pm, Monday–Friday; 2–5pm, Saturday; 11am–7pm, Sunday
This pub takes its happy hours seriously. The pub itself is an exact copy of Tynan’s Pub in Kilkenny, Ireland, which dates back to 1702. You get $2 off all drafts and bottles, $4 off all pitchers, and half off all appetizers.
And here’s the thing: There’s nothing “Honey I shrunk the appetizers” about these appetizers. I see dishes like Irish meat pies and potato skins and boxties going out that look enough to fill any beer belly.
Price-wise? They just say “Half off.” At first I’m apprehensive. “Half off?” Half off of what?
So I start out with a “mini beef boxty,” whatever that is. Because it’s only $2.98.
Turns out it’s a potato pancake with sirloin tips and blue cheese. Looks like a big tortilla, with blue cheese squiggled over the top. Sabroso.
Other HH deals include Derry bangers and mash (“Irish sausages, mashed potatoes, baked beans”), usually $14.95, now $7.50. Irish meat pies, $3.50, Guinness beef crostini (beef tips on toasted baguette with blue cheese) $5, and Dublin Square sliders, with choice of cheese or curry mayo, $4.50.
Everyone says this is the best deal. I order them. When they come, they’re huge, for sliders. Totally fill me. The curry mayo splots kill me.
Along with the boxty and a Guinness ($5 after $2 off for happy hour), I’m lighter by about $12, plus tax. For the Gaslamp, that’s incredible. A happy hour that makes you happy.
109 West F Street, Downtown San Diego
Athens Market Taverna
Happy hour: 3:30–6:30pm, Monday–Friday
This is Mary Pappas’s baby. She rules here where judges, plaintiffs, prosecutors, defense attorneys all gather for happy hour after a long day in the courts around here. This is neutral territory by unspoken agreement. Even judges don’t argue when she comes down with a judgment. Hey, cross her and she may elevate the HH prices.
And right now, prices are pretty good, for this silver cutlery and linen tablecloth watering hole.
Of course you’ve got to like Greek food to like this happy hour. If you do, look for $5 HH bargains like spanakopita (filo pockets with spinach, cheese); feta cheese, olives, and pita bread; grape leaves stuffed with ground beef and rice; a gyros sampler; Greek meatballs; and three-dip combo (hummus, satziki, and melitzansalata).
But what sticks out is the feather-light pastry of the spanakopita with the spinach and cheese inside. Goes fine with the really interesting beer called Keo, from Cyprus, $3 (usually $6.)
Last time I was in, on a Friday night around six, the place was turning into a party. Everybody letting off steam, even sober judges.
2550 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor, Bankers Hill
Bertrand at Mr. A’s
Happy Hour: 2:30–6pm, Monday–Friday
Who’d believe it? They let us cent-skimping peasants up to the twelfth floor to taste samples of what Top People eat.
Actually they are pretty friendly up here where the sky’s nearer than the sea, and the planes come in below you on their way to land at Lindbergh.
Sean the savvy bartender says everything on Mr. A’s HH menu is $7. From fries (truffled or sweet potato), to calamari, to tempura mixed veggies with aioli. But looking around, most people seem to go for the sliders. Makes sense. There’s so much more of them. You get three swordfish steak sliders with onion rings, two ahi tuna sliders with capers and lemon sauce, or three Kobe beef sliders with truffle fries.
Drinks are reasonable too. Wines, $6, beers mostly $4. I get me a Stone IPA, and settle for the bar stool facing away from the view. Should have come earlier.
Even so, it’s no prob to turn and catch the ocean turning black, the sky turning purple, and the city turning on its necklace of lights. Gotta admit: with this million-dollar view, the $11.85 I’ve just paid is a heckuva deal.
More from the Happy Hour issue: Not just drinking on the mind | That transcendental space between drinking too early and drinking too much