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Nice Happy Hour Find at — Gasp! — a Chain

Having recently relocated from the land of cheap, multi-culti eateries (City Heights) to the kingdom of chain restaurants (Eastlake), I feared that my options for I’m-not-cooking-tonight-but-don’t-want-to-spend-a-lot would be limited to Chik-fil-A and Pick Up Stix (neither of which I’ve ever entered).

I am delighted to report, however, that the happy-hour fare and the faux-Italian atmosphere at Macaroni Grill in the Otay Ranch Town Center mall are more than tolerable.

My favorite atmosphere-enhancers are the lights strung overhead in the main dining room (the easier to fantasize al fresco dining on an Italian plaza) and the audio Italian lessons playing on speakers in the bathrooms.

From 5:00 to 7:00 and 9:00 to close every night, happy hour offers $5 pizzas (pepperoni, Italian sausage, or Margherita), $3 house wine, $5 crafted cocktails, and $3 domestic beer.

Image

Mmmm. Pepperoni.

These prices are for in-bar only, and the bar’s not huge. Three two-seater tables, one four-top, three seats at the high bar, and two seats at the low bar. First come, first serve.

Although the restaurant offers no beer on tap, and James the slow-poke, cherub-faced bartender has to use his smartphone to look up drink recipes, I appreciate the fact that he knows I like lime in my Corona ($5.49).

Image

Cherub-faced James.

Tonight, I have the little one in tow. We sit at the low bar. Knicks and Dolphins on the screen over James’s head. James brings my beer and lemonade, crayons, and paper for Mini Me. I go for the pepperoni, which has fresh mozzarella and a nice bite. The fancy-pants macaroni and cheese ($5) turns out not to be Kraft enough for the little one. She eats my pizza instead.

Total bill: $16.70.

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Having recently relocated from the land of cheap, multi-culti eateries (City Heights) to the kingdom of chain restaurants (Eastlake), I feared that my options for I’m-not-cooking-tonight-but-don’t-want-to-spend-a-lot would be limited to Chik-fil-A and Pick Up Stix (neither of which I’ve ever entered).

I am delighted to report, however, that the happy-hour fare and the faux-Italian atmosphere at Macaroni Grill in the Otay Ranch Town Center mall are more than tolerable.

My favorite atmosphere-enhancers are the lights strung overhead in the main dining room (the easier to fantasize al fresco dining on an Italian plaza) and the audio Italian lessons playing on speakers in the bathrooms.

From 5:00 to 7:00 and 9:00 to close every night, happy hour offers $5 pizzas (pepperoni, Italian sausage, or Margherita), $3 house wine, $5 crafted cocktails, and $3 domestic beer.

Image

Mmmm. Pepperoni.

These prices are for in-bar only, and the bar’s not huge. Three two-seater tables, one four-top, three seats at the high bar, and two seats at the low bar. First come, first serve.

Although the restaurant offers no beer on tap, and James the slow-poke, cherub-faced bartender has to use his smartphone to look up drink recipes, I appreciate the fact that he knows I like lime in my Corona ($5.49).

Image

Cherub-faced James.

Tonight, I have the little one in tow. We sit at the low bar. Knicks and Dolphins on the screen over James’s head. James brings my beer and lemonade, crayons, and paper for Mini Me. I go for the pepperoni, which has fresh mozzarella and a nice bite. The fancy-pants macaroni and cheese ($5) turns out not to be Kraft enough for the little one. She eats my pizza instead.

Total bill: $16.70.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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