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Houlihan's

Houlihan's

Happy hour. Nobody seems to know just exactly when the very first one happened. Some say the tradition has its roots in an afternoon wine-sipping ritual dubbed “La Hora Feliz” by the early Conquistadores. Others say the saintly but overwrought padres of the old California missions started it all with a daily libation of fermented cactus squeezings, with which they mellowed shortly after vespers. One man claims to have been present in Boise in 1942 when a noted Idaho tippler named Clarence Happy kicked it all off by knocking back two quarts of straight gin between five and six p.m. on the fateful afternoon of his untimely death. Hence, a memorial service which rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

Obviously, opinion varies as to the murky beginnings of the custom now known to some as “attitude adjustment,” to still others as “post time,” or “cocktail hour,” and tagged by at least one loyal yank from Potato City as “time to die guzzling gin,” a sentimental phrase which translates rather colorfully into Swedish.

But at least one thing is certain. Happy hour here in San Diego is as rich and honored a practice as tea time in Sussex, siestas in Sonora, and batting. Like your Mom, God bless her, and her big, warm, chunky apple pie with the sprinkle of cinnamon, getting a good buzz-on in the San Diego afternoon is here to stay. What follows is a partial list of some likely places to do just that.

  • Stingers
  • 1038 Garnet, Pacific Beach 488-5710 10 a.m. to noon, 5-7 p.m. daily.
  • Doubles $1 (well only); beer and wine stay the same. Hors d’oeuvres “off and on.
  • Lucy’s Tavern
  • 4906 Voltaire, Ocean Beach 226-9185 Noon to 5 p.m. daily.
  • Beer 25 cents a glass; free popcorn; free sandwiches on Sundays. Quite a stop.
  • Aspen Mine Company
  • 5880 El Cajon Boulevard, East San Diego
  • 582-1813
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Well drinks 50 cents, call drinks $1; beer and wine stay the same; pretzels and
  • peanuts. Good oldie tapes on the reel-to-reel system upstairs in the “Garden Disco.” Film shorts in the “Slope Room” for cinemaniacs (don’t look for Duncan Shepherd). Lots of room to wander around and check out different types of action (or inaction). Catch the pigskin ballet on the big screen Monday nights when happy hour is extended.
  • Coo-Coo Club
  • 4383 University, East San Diego 283-8213
  • 5 to 7 p.m. daily.
  • Well drinks drop 15 cents; everything else drops 20 cents except beer, which stays the same.
  • Victoria Station
  • 7919 Mission Center Court, Mission Valley 299-9061
  • 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • “Super-call” drinks (Chivas Regal, Johnny Walker, etc.) $ 1; call drinks (Cutty Sark, Jim Beam, etc.) 85 cents; well drinks 65 cents; domestic beer 65 cents; imported beer 85 cents. Crocks of Kaukauna Klub smoked cheddar cheese and crackers. One of the old, established happy hours. They pour a good drink, the atmosphere is friendly, and the cheese is great.
  • Dirty Dingus Magee’s
  • 309 F Street, downtown 233-3077
  • 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. daily.
  • Drafts 15 cents; pitchers 75 cents. Occasionally Phil will put out a sign announcing 15-cent beers all day. Sadly, Magee’s is slated to be tom down in March. “Mad Dog” 55 cents a glass all the time. Nice folks.
  • Lost Knight
  • 4873 North Harbor Drive, Loma Portal 223-3632
  • 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Well highballs 50 cents; beer and wine stay the same; popcorn and peanuts free.
  • Frenchy Marseilles’
  • 303 Plaza, downtown 234-8204.
  • Five to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, well drinks 75 cents, 50-cent draughts; 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday Cutty 25 cents and 5 to 5:30 p.m. selected liquors (Bacardi drinks, Jim Beam, Smirnoff drinks) 25 cents; 5 to 6 p.m. Friday all well drinks 50 cents. Tortilla chips and hot sauce; premium well. Take your pocket calculator, stopwatch, a calendar, and figure things out for yourself.
  • Iron Maiden Cocktail Lounge
  • 5617 Balboa, Clairemont 279-2033
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Doubles $1 (well only); beer and wine stay the same; hot hors d’oeuvres (meatballs, chicken wings, and small pizzas). Hard to find, but a real good bar. Stand in front of Mervyn’s and walk east. Also nice Monday night football stop.
  • Encanto Inn
  • 6395 Imperial Avenue
  • Encanto 264-9643
  • 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Everything drops 5 cents; free popcorn. Interesting stop if you’re in the area. Friendly barmaids; “just like home.”
  • Club Voltaire (Hozey’s)
  • 4745 Voltaire, Ocean Beach
  • 226-9582
  • 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Pitchers $1. Goodies? “Not unless somebody brings something in.” There is no bar in San Diego quite like Hozey’s.
  • Old Ox
  • 881 Camino del Rio south, Mission Valley 291-7823
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Premium $1.35, call $1.25, well $1.15-all doubles. Michelob on tap 50 cents; Souverain wines 75 cents for a ten-ounce glass. Has well-deserved reputation as a great place to get loose and bump into some flesh, or to discuss your doctoral dissertation if you’re “really not into the bar scene.” Gets a little crowded at peak hours, but that’s part of the attraction.
  • Sunshine Company Saloon Ltd.
  • 5028 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach
  • 226-9622
  • 5 to 6 p.m. daily.
  • Sixty-ounce pitchers of Miller or Miller Lite 95 cents; eight-ounce mug 20 cents. Excellent spot to take the edge off after a hard day at the beach. Gorgeous lady bartender; good, semi-wholesome, suntanned, get-down, beer-drinking crowd. Bike rack outside.
  • Caliph’s Cocktail Lounge
  • 3102 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest 298-9495
  • 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • “Big Bucket,” which is any well drink double in a 16-ounce Mai Tai glass $1.25; peanuts and popcorn. Piano bar Wednesday through Saturday. Definitely out of the ordinary.
  • Bratskellar
  • 1250 Prospect, La Jolla 454-4244
  • 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
  • Beer 25 cents; wine 40 cents; well 50 cents; call 75 cents. Good La Jolla watering hole with the famous fireplace, patio, and view from ‘the dining area. Can be fun.
  • Reuben’s
  • 880 Harbor Island Drive, Harbor Island 291-5030
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Doubles $1.25; beer and wine stay the same; cheese and crackers, hot wienies, marinated mushrooms. Pleasantly different.
  • Heartbreak Hotel
  • 4233 El Cajon Boulevard, East San Diego 283-6750
  • 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, last Sunday of the month noon to six p.m.
  • Bottle beer 50 cents; Lowenbrau 60 cents; pitchers $1; wine stays the same. A crippled pigeon stumbles in every day between two and four to get fed. “He’s not a big spender, but he is regular.” Bar features a logbook for bizarre and pathetic stories so the bartender doesn’t have to hear them. Peanuts for sale. “That way, if they throw ’em around, at least I get a quarter out of them.” When you’re ready for a slightly different sort of tavern, hit the Heartbreak.
  • Mandolin Wind
  • 308 University, Hillcrest 297-3017
  • 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • Well drinks, margaritas and bloody marys 75 cents; cold munchies four days a week; hot hors d’oeuvres on Fridays. Good place to meet people who work at the zoo; good bartender named John. Another fine place to seethe at Howard Cosell on Monday nights.
  • Houlihan’s Old Place
  • 5323 Mission Center Road, Mission Valley 297-6370
  • 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • All highballs are doubles for $ 1.40; beer and wine stay the same. Free hors d’oeuvres if you like crab legs, shrimp, barbecued ribs, pates or fresh fruits and vegetables. You can build yourself a nice little dinner here. Currently, Houlihan’s is the happy hour to pop into, and it seems like everyone in the county does. There is often a line waiting to get in on Fridays. Whatever the mystique is, it works very well. Hear old favorites like “Why don’t we go sailing sometime,” “Let’s get together for lunch soon,” and even the ever popular “Come here often?” A lot of junior executive suit-and-tie types, and some very lovely women.

There are dozens more fine bars, bistros, taverns, taprooms, cocktail lounges, and restaurants in town which chip a little change from their drink prices and set out gratis chewables in the late afternoon. Following a real toughie in the salt mine, the harried San Diegan should have little trouble ferreting out an hospitable saloon to get his or her head right, chatter, sip, stand around looking sexy but inscrutable, wind down, or just quietly contemplate sin. One should keep in mind, however, that funny things happen to the body, mind, and central nervous system when three double martinis are sloshed in a hollow stomach. Drive carefully.

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