Sacramento Happy Hour: Early start at The Izakaya and the strong pours at Mercantile Saloon
Let’s face it: Tater tots and chicken wings won’t always hit the spot after a long — or short — day in the office. Sometimes happy hour needs a little variety, be it a kooky drink special, foreign cuisine or a different vibe.
Try out these nine restaurants and bars for a change of pace from the fries and pints that dot so many restaurant’s afternoon menus. All run a different sort of happy hour than what’s commonly found around Sacramento — with some of the best deals in town.
The Izakaya (2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 5651 Freeport Blvd.)
The skinny: Hearty ramen bowls and eight-piece sushi rolls are just $5 during The Izakaya’s happy hour, and hot sake and draft Japanese beers run $2.50 each. A popular lunch spot for cops coming from the neighboring Sacramento Police Department headquarters, this South Land Park restaurant is geared more toward people with free time for a bite in the afternoon than the traditional 9-to-5 worker.
Kasbah Lounge (5-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 2115 J St.)
The skinny: Kasbah Lounge’s happy hour menu features eight small plates for $4.50 or less, including tabbouleh, harissa chili wings and falafel with citrus tahini and Lebanese yogurt. Hookah runs $10 per bowl, which can serve three people. Pace yourself on the $4 pints or $14.50 pitchers of sangria and you might stick around long enough to see the belly dancers gyrating Thursday through Saturday.
Mercantile Saloon (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every day, 1928 L St.)
The skinny: Who needs to pregame a night out when your mixed drink is 75 percent liquor? Well cocktails poured with a heavy hand at this Lavender Heights gay bar cost just $2 or $4 for a double, while beers run as low as $2.25 or $7.25 for a pitcher. Though drink specials and free play on the billiards table start in the morning, the back patio’s bar doesn’t open until 6 p.m. One downside to their happy hour at “The Merc”: The only food is $1 snacks from a vending machine near the inside bar.
Macau Cafe (2:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 4406 Del Rio Rd.)
The skinny: 17 different dishes are just $4.99 during Macau Cafe’s “Tea Time,” including pan-fried turnip cake, noodle-rich soups and three types of congee (Asian rice porridge). Though the South Land Park restaurant offers no alcoholic specials, tea, coffee and a red bean drink are $1.50 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The Diplomat (3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Sunday, 1117 11th St.)
The skinny: The Diplomat replaced longtime Capitol watering hole Chops this spring and has been trying to carve out its niche as the go-to spot for policy wonks with refined palates ever since. Look past the $40 foie gras with espresso-Hennessy XO reduction, though, and you’ll see $1 no-minimum oysters and Champagne as low as $7 per glass. Come September, The Diplomat plans to revive a happy hour deal from last month: whole Maine lobsters for just $10.
Taqueria Maya’s: (3-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 2700 Broadway)
The skinny: The Maya family’s new full-scale restaurant is flashy; the taqueria is simple — and home to one of Sacramento’s best happy hour deals. Street tacos are just $1.50 apiece from 3 to 6 p.m., and select Mexican draft beers are half off their normal $4 price.
The Porch Restaurant & Bar (3-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 3-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-7 p.m. Sunday, 1815 K St.)
The skinny: At a relaxed Southern eatery where dinner entrees run $16-$26, happy hour bites like $3 fried hominy, $4 elote (Mexican street corn) and $5 andouille sausage served with Creole mustard and slaw on a French roll are a bona fide steal. Classic cocktails like Sazeracs and Old-Fashioneds from The Porch’s wall of more than 100 whiskeys cost $6 during happy hour, roughly half their normal price.
Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine (4-6 p.m. plus 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 3135 Folsom Blvd.)
The skinny: Looking to mix upscale Japanese food with absurdly cheap beer? Kru is your place. $3 hand rolls, $5 deep-fried squid tentacles and a $13 chili-soy salmon bowl are among the dishes that can be washed down by pitchers of Sapporo ($6), Asahi ($9) and rotating local beers ($10). The late-night “Ngo Reservations” menu — a nod to celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s former show and Kru founder Billy Ngo — changes frequently but often has similar drink deals to the main happy hour.
Kupros Craft House (3 p.m.-midnight Monday, 3-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 p.m.-midnight Sunday, 1217 21st St.)
The skinny: Rotating appetizers currently include shisito peppers and steak skewers, but the new American restaurant’s star player is its Craft Can Roulette. Customers pay $4 for the bartender to randomly pick a can from a selection of 13 craft beers. Alone, it lets the drinker try something they might not otherwise order; in a group, it’s an opportunity to mix and match based on people’s preferences. For those not feeling so adventurous, Kupros also offers $4 wine and well drinks as well as $1 off draft beers during happy hour.