3377 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights
The Rabbit Hole
What happens when the hipsters go underground. Ha-ha. It’s really more of a solid but slightly self-conscious neighborhood joint. Normal Heights, everybody! Worth a visit for the trippy lapine art alone: murals, insignias, motifs, what have you. Also the cocktails: the house Paloma features fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, agave nectar, and basil to go with the El Jimador tequila. Happy hour runs 5–7pm and includes $5 local drafts, glasses of wine, and specialty cocktails. Another $5 will get you nachos, hot wings, cheese curds, blistered peppers, salad, et cetera.
804 Market Street, East Village
Do you like Fireball cinnamon whiskey? It’s okay, you don’t have to deny it. It’s fun, just like the rest of this touristy riff on Prohibition-era speakeasies. And when fire engine No. 4 roars by outside with sirens blaring, they ring the bells and offer $4 Fireball shots. Traditional happy hour runs 3–7p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday: $5 wells and calls, house wines, draft specials, and small plates. Mondays 8 p.m. to close, it’s half-off specialty cocktails and bottles of wine. Tuesday all day, it’s $10 for build-your-own nachos plus Dos Equis draft, $2 tacos, $3 Dos Equis, $5 margaritas and tequila shots.
1927 Fourth Avenue, Bankers Hill
Wet Stone Wine Bar & Cafe
A cozy surprise of a place. When you sit down to taste good Riesling from Germany’s Rheingau region, you may find yourself reaching for descriptors like “hints of lychee nut and tropical fruit.” When Wet Stone chef Christian Gomez set out to craft his excellent white sangria, he turned those hints into proclamations by actually adding lychee nut and mango (among other things) to the mix. The result is richer and more interesting than you might expect. Hour runs from 5–7p.m. Tuesday–Saturday, and 4–9p.m. on Sunday. You can get the aforementioned sangria or its red counterpart for $5 a glass or $20 a carafe, plus $3 beers in a bottle and $5 glasses of wine. Pair with one of the $6 plates from the rotating menu.
793 J Street, East Village
I feel at home here. It’s a nice, clean, high-ceilinged Jewish deli, but it’s also a proper bar, which may account for the smattering of Catholic decor (stations of the cross, saint statues, gothic chairs). The Happy hours run from 4–7 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10–midnight daily. During the early run, $5 will get you a basil gin and tonic or whiskey cocktail (the house version of the old fashioned, made with cherry cordial, chocolate bitters, and Kirschwasser), plus half-off local beers. Later on, the same $5 will get you a daquiri, an old fashioned, a Jack Rose (apple brandy, lime, pomegranate), or a gold rush (bourbon, lemon, honey). And of course there’s late-night eats: pastrami fries ($6), pretzel with cheese sauce ($3), belgian waffle ($3), etc.
4673 30th Street, North Park
Air Conditioned Lounge
Proper mid-century modern nightclub, complete with dance floor and DJ booth, sunken lounge and VIP room (reservation only), and MOMA-worthy light fixtures. A sense of orange pervades, except perhaps in the blueberry-rich Berryjito. Happy hour runs 5–9p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7–8p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Draft beers and call spirits such as Stoli, Tanqueray, and Jack Daniel’s are $5, plus $2 off their reliable team of standard and flavored mules. A happy result of standing cheek-by-jowl with Jayne’s Gastropub: the $6 happy-hour food menu includes a Baby Jayne Burger with fries.
326 Broadway, Downtown San Diego
The Grant Grill Lounge
Euro-chic meets Old Boys’ Club. Skip the bar and cozy up on the low leather benches in the wood-paneled parlor. Happy hour runs Sunday–Thursday 4–7p.m. and mostly works the $6 price point: red, white, or sparkling wine, a selection of local brews, and cocktails made with New Amsterdam vodka. This being the Grant, the grapefruit juice in the greyhound is a step above Ocean Spray. (The martini will set you back $9, but the Budweiser is $3 all night long, so it evens out.) Plus, you get $2 off lounge offerings such as the soft pretzel ($5), parmesan fries ($7), and grilled skirt steak ($18).
1015 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge
Leroy’s is a kitchen first and a lounge second; the brick-and-wood, earth-tone aesthetic seemed designed to get you focused on the food. But they haven’t neglected the bar side of things: two social hours — 4–6 p.m. and 10–midnight — offer $5 beers, $5 red or white wine, and $2 off well drinks and specialty cocktails ($10–$12). Among those, the raspberry paloma is a particular standout, combining smoke (the salted rim), sweet (the muddled berries), and spice (jalapeño!) to great effect. Whiskey fans looking for dessert in a glass may consider the pear old fashioned, which tastes just a little bit like pie.