It's no longer an anomaly: Restaurants, whether they like it or not, have come to realize that if they want to stay competitive in the culinary game, they have to offer cheap eats after the sun goes down. Is this too much to ask? Not at all, as our picks for Top 5 late night happy hours will attest.
5. The Tin Table (left)
Tin Table's salt cod fritters
915 E. Pine St., 320-8458
If you haven't discovered this little gem of a dining room on the second floor of the Oddfellows building, their late night happy hour is the perfect excuse. From11 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday, diners are treated to a menu of $5 cosmos, wine and champagne pours, $3.50 wells and a half-dozen nibbles like fish tacos stuffed with huge chunks of Mahi-Mahi, roasted sweet onions and spicy Napa slaw ($6), orecchiette pasta with arugula ($7) and salt cod fritters with roasted garlic sauce ($4).
1420 12th Ave., 588-8105
Barrio is like a nurturing friend who pours you into a cab after a long night, slipping the fare into your pocket when you least suspect it. Barrio's arms are always wide open, eager to wine and dine you and make sure you have a good time. And just when you think Barrio is going to yell "last call," they offer up a very competitive late night happy hour menu, seven days a week. From 10 p.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, customers can grab generous offerings of $3 tacos (our favorite is the shredded chicken en adobo), taquitos ($6), guacamole made to order ($5) and $5 margaritas, house wines and sangria. Don't leave without having at least one of the smoked salt caramels with ancho chile ($1).
3. Palisade, 2601 West Marina Pl., 285-1000
We're not sure why this place is often overlooked, but we're guessing it's because it's in Magnolia. And it's Palisade. Sure, this waterfront fine-dining destination isn't the first place you think of when you are considering cheap food options, but their happy hour rivals most in the city. Every night in their bar, from 9 p.m. until closing, you're treated to a menu that often elicits the response, "This isn't the happy hour menu, is it?" Yep. It sure is. The menu features half-off items like Kalua pork spring rolls, teriyaki tenderloin strips, Kobe beef sliders on delicious Hawaiian sweet bread, and Peking duck with steamed buns. But the real deal is ordering one of the pupu towers. On our last visit, we paid $11.50 for the Big Island which is basically an assortment of the above: three tiers of Kobe sliders, lemongrass crusted calamari and the pork spring rolls. There's also a $4 cocktail menu consisting of draft beer, house red and white wines, pomegranate and guava margaritas and a cranberry mojito. Oh, and then there's the stunning view, which is free.
2. Il Bistro, 93 Pike St., 682-3049
We swooned as soon as we stepped inside. The soothing, illicit, underground feel of this old school joint immediately puts you at ease. We almost forgot that's what happy hour was for, right? The menu, available Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to midnight and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., is ridiculous. There are specific sections dedicated to crostini ($2.95), pasta ($3.95), seafood ($4.95) and pizza ($8-$10). If you find yourself overwhelemed like we did, you can't lose with the goat cheese crostini, the seared calimari and sausage and pepper pizza, although there is still a ton on that menu we can't wait to go back and try. As for the booze, the red and white wines are a steal at $5 as is the primitivo for $3. Both were surprisingly good, especially after the third glass.
1. Toulouse Petit (left)
Toulouse Petit's tuna tartare
601 Queen Anne Ave. N., 849-3602
The menu says it all: "The Best Happy Hour Menu in the Nation," and we're inclined to believe them. Every day from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., an explosion of New Orleans French Quarter-inspired grub attacks your senses. There were 61 items on the menu the last time we counted. There's even an entire section of late night steaks which, at $15, are by far the most expensive items on the menu. Our favorite happy hour picks are the braised and fried Hempler's bacon ($5), the tuna tartare ($5), the barbecued shrimp and grits ($6), the garlic sausage sliders ($5) and the corn and tasso macque choux ($5). Sadly, there's no alcohol on the happy hour menu, but the place has to make it's money somehow; they aren't doing it by giving away their food every night. The tricky part in all of this is figuring out what you want to order before happy hour runs out.