Happy hour is a whole new game. From fish tacos and juicy burgers to kung pao calamari and heirloom tomato pizzas, you can get full-sized plates at some of the Southland's most popular restaurants for about half the regular price or even less.
So why are restaurants willing to take a cut on primetime entrees at happy hour prices? Restaurant consultant Clark Wolf says the food industry's still recovering from a sluggish economy, and they're trying different ways to reach out and hopefully impress a new customer base.
"We know basically that happy hour is kind of like tapas on steroids. It's so American," Wolf said. "To compete, restaurants show you some of their best stuff."
Where to find these deals? Let's bite into the list.
For a half-pound cheeseburger and fries from McCormick and Schmick's, your bill will be $3.95. For $5.95, you can get a larger meal: two crispy fish tacos with jicama slaw and roasted corn salsa. You can take advantage of these happy hour prices from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays at all McCormick and Schmick's locations from Irvine to Beverly Hills.
At the Citrus City Grill in Corona and Orange, you can try out all kinds of gourmet fare, again, without breaking the bank. Their happy hour menu features Chipotle Barbecue Meatballs with mango cole slaw, blackened fish tacos with citrus cabbage or hummus served with pita, pine nuts and olive oil - each for $5.
While the Yard House may be better known for its global beer selection, their happy hour specials will even please die-hard foodies. How much can you save by hitting up one of the 14 local Yard House restaurants at happy hour? A spicy tuna roll normally costs $12.95. Between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the week, it's half the price. The kung pao calamari is slashed to $5.42.
"We're giving you the same product we're giving you any time of the day, but you're getting a better price at it, so you're getting a really great product," said Scott Bystrom, general manager.
You'll get great deals by going to neighborhood restaurants, too, like the Magnolia Lounge on South Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Their happy hour is from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Monday, it's all night long. That means, everything on the menu, like juicy sandwiches or barbecue chicken pizzas, is 30 percent off. And there are cocktail specials, too. But for an even better deal, go for the late-night specials. On Wednesday night after 8 p.m., it's all-you-can eat gruyere and white cheddar mac 'n cheese for $5.
In Long Beach, check out one of Zagat guide's top rated restaurants, Michaels on Naples on East 2nd Street. Dinners can cost up to about $40. If you go to the bar, you'll have the same choices at a fraction of the cost. Deals include crispy risotto with Bolognese sauce or a Panino D'Anatra, a club sandwich made with duck, pancetta and arugula. Both are $9.
With deals like these, eating out can be satisfying to both your palate and your wallet.
We want to hear from you, too! What tips do you have to save real money? Post them on Ric Romero's Facebook page at facebook.com/abc7ric.
Get more information on happy deals at the following restaurants:
- Yard House: www.yardhouse.com/happy-hour
- Michael's on Naples: www.michaelsonnaples.com
- Citrus City Grille: www.citruscitygrille.com
- McCormick & Schmick's: www.mccormickandschmicks.com
- Magnolia Lounge: www.magnoliaonlake.com
- Taco Bell: www.tacobell.com/Happier_Hour
- Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: www.flemingssteakhouse.com
- P.F. Chang's: www.pfchangs.com
- Benihana: www.benihana.com/happy_hour
- BRU HAUS Pub: www.bruhauspub.com
- Mi Tortilla Mexican Grill: www.mitortillamexicangrill.com
- Zoey's Cafe: www.zoeyscafe.com
- PRIME Steakhouse: http://primesteakvc.com
- Salt Creek Grille: www.saltcreekgrille.com
- Border Grill: www.bordergrill.com