3085 University Avenue, North Park
Show up at North Park's URBN pizza restaurant on a Friday night after 7 and here's what you'll see: beautiful well-dressed people stacked at the bar, waiting to be served by beautiful people, and creating the sort of be-seen environment typically reserved for places that don't order pepperoni in bulk. It's a spot that takes reservations and needs to, despite a high capacity and relatively quick turnaround. Given that it's on the short list for best pizza in what TripAdvisor.com swears is the best pizza town in the world, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. But I usually am, when the bill arrives, because I'm just old school enough to think of pizza and beer as a cheap dinner option. Not so at URBN.
Unless you take advantage of the happy hour. Between 4 and 6pm, purchasing a pitcher of beer or a bottle of wine nets you a free pizza. On your own, it's the sort of thing that might bring your night to an early and sloppy end. Bring another person, and you both get enough to eat and drink for about 20 bucks plus tax and tip, the way the pizza gods intended. Granted, you need to eat at a time of day favored by retirees. On the other hand, you won't have to wait for a table, and you can still dress up if you like.
Of course, with any happy hour deal, you've got to temper your expectations. I took a gander at URBN's tap list and immediately started dreaming how nicely a pitcher of Sculpin IPA was going to go down. But here's the caveat: only select beers apply. This night it was a couple of New Belgium selections and a Manzanita Peppermint Stout. I'm a big fan of Manzanita beers, but pairing a peppermint aftertaste with my sausage and pepper pie? I'd rather settle for some Fat Tire (oh, the concessions we make to eat on a budget).
The happy hour scene doesn't seem too far removed from a typical slow evening at URBN. There are some guys meeting up after work, some nascent couples on a first or second date, a game no one's watching on TV. The largest fan I've ever seen turns slowly overhead while chatter echoes off the high ceilings. Even in the early evening a few larger parties have started gathering to celebrate somebody's birthday. It feels lively without having to be raucous, with enough indie rock mixed in through the house speakers to up the coolness quotient.
It feels kind of the same way after the dinner rush as well, but you'll pay more for it. You can take it upon yourself to decide whether the people watching gets better the more people are willing to drop a little extra coin. For those of use willing to hike up our trousers and show up for early specials with the blue-hairs, a deal like this makes URBN all the more accessible, and appreciated.