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The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: Turning Happy Hour Into a Meal


Posted on February 21

Jessica Nicosia-Nadler

Fun fried finger foods are still traditional happy hour grub. But these days, happy hour is being redefined, with some menus featuring such fare as grilled chicken skewers, flatbread and hummus, even salads. (Yes, really.) With some careful ordering, it adds up to a meal—not to mention a steal of a deal. Here are four local examples, tested in each case by a pal and me. (In other words, everything serves two.)

 

PAUL MARTIN’S AMERICAN BISTRO
1455 Eureka Road, Roseville
Days and hours: Daily 3–7 p.m.
Greenery: A yummy housemade pesto slaw (which accompanied the chicken wings); and simple Carolina slaw (came with the ribs)
Mains: Fall-off-the-bone-tender St. Louis Style Pork Ribs, in a slightly spicy sauce; a good-size portion of Smoked Chicken & Wings, crisped to perfection; Maple Cider All-Natural Grilled Chicken Skewers with tomato and olive salsa, simply superb ($4 each)
Drinks: Raspberry martini and a glass of Shenandoah Vineyards Zinfandel ($4 each
The verdict: Blow-your-socks-off good, and one of the coolest spots around.
Heads-up: Be prepared to eat among strangers: You’ll likely sit at a long table, elbow to elbow. (We did.)
The tab: $20
http://paulmartinsamericanbistro.com/

 

3 FIRES LOUNGE
1501 L St., Sacramento (at the Marriott)
Days and hours: Monday–Friday 3–7 p.m.
Greenery: A surprisingly substantial Classic Caesar Salad: very fresh, with a lightly creamy dressing and crunchy croutons ($5)
Mains: An assortment of sliders: Hawaiian, “house” with caramelized onion and American cheese, pulled pork and Southwestern chicken (96 cents each); a simple yet satisfying personal pepperoni pizza ($5)
Drinks: House red (Cabernet) and house white (Chardonnay), generously poured ($3.50 each)
The verdict: An enjoyable potpourri in a warm, inviting atmosphere.
Heads-up: Go on Thursday, when sliders are only 96 cents.
The tab: $20.84
http://www.3fireslounge.com/

 

LUCCA RESTAURANT & BAR
1615 J St., Sacramento
Days and hours: Monday–Wednesday and Friday 3–6 p.m., Thursday 3 p.m.–closing, Saturday Noon–6 p.m.
Greenery: Chop salad with feta and lemon oregano vinaigrette, which was large (plenty for two) and super fresh ($3.50)
Mains: Lucky Dog Ranch Beef Meatball, plopped in a comforting puddle of creamy polenta and basil marinara ($3.50); Grilled Steak Skewers (two) with sweet pepper, scallion, harissa ketchup and chimichurri ($6)
Drinks: Pomegranate martini ($4.50), Sudwerk beer ($3)
The verdict: Excellent all around, and plenty filling. Plus, Lucca is lovely.
Heads-up: It’s a bustling bar area, so arrive early if you can. Thursday’s a good choice: Happy hour runs all night.
The tab: $20.50
http://www.luccarestaurant.com/

 

PIATTI RISTORANTE & BAR
571 Pavilions Lane, Sacramento
Days and hours: Daily 3–6 p.m.
Greenery: A pleasant Insalata di Pollo—gem lettuce with small shards of wood-roasted chicken, pine nuts, currants and Gorgonzola in a red-wine vinaigrette ($5)
Mains: A robust Pizza Salsiccia, with fennel sausage, garlic, parsley, crushed tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano ($7); Spiedini, wood-grilled hanger steak skewers and arugula-walnut pesto ($5)
Drinks: Lemon drop and cosmopolitan ($6 each)
The verdict: Pricier than some of the other happy hours. But it’s such a nice place, we’d go back.
Heads-up: If you’re super hungry, the pizza (four varieties) is an especially good choice; we took some home.
The tab: $29
http://www.piatti.com/

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