Afternoon Delight is not just a bad song anymore.
by Jeffrey Mitchell
Happy Hour – a concept that has its origins rooted in Prohibition. Often, socialites would meet at a speakeasy for a few cocktails prior to going out on the town for dinner and a show or the like. Dram shop laws and increased concern over DWI liability led to a decline in popular end to the workday during the 1980’s. The military, where the term “Happy Hour” was born, reversed course in 1984 - banning Happy Hour at clubs on bases.
However, to Albuquerque residents, it would seem that the Happy Hour is enjoying a Renaissance not seen this side of Italy since the days of Da Vinci. Drink specials, free food, special menus – I thought I would give you a breakdown of some of my favorite places to grab an early (nee’ gratis) dinner, and a refreshing adult beverage or two.
As a resident of the West Side of Albuquerque, I can vouch that the Cottonwood Mall area offers an abundant smorgasbord that makes you hearken for a Vegas buffet. Here is a breakdown:
Lone Star Steakhouse (4-7 M-F, and all day Sunday as I recall) – $2.50 Long Island Iced Teas and Margaritas, $2 Bud Lights, and $3 Shiner Bocks and Widmer Hefeweizen. However, the real reason we go – quarter potato skins and quarter Buffalo wings (it would seem “Texas Hot” is an oxymoron, but well worth ordering it).
Garduno’s (4-6 M-F) – Typical of all their locations in Albuquerque, they offer $1.75 draft domestics (Bud Light and Coors Light), $2 Tecates, and $4.95 margaritas. Decent specials, but they also have a mini-buffet with chips and salsa, usually some veggies, and a couple hot items (enchiladas, burritos, etc.). Also available on the patio.
Tony Roma’s (3-6 M-F) – Arriving as part of the renaissance, they are new to the game (within the last month), and, have some room to improve. They offer the typical drink specials ($2.50 Bud Lights, and $3 Fat Tires, if I recall). They also offer a complimentary buffet of “hot” menu items, but the one time I went, it was not very hot, and it was wings (always good with me), and some pasta thing. While they are not going to be grand champions, I will not rule them out for Rookie of the Year just yet.
TGI Friday’s (3-7, & 10-cl, M-F) – Perhaps the biggest benefactor of the Happy Hour renaissance. Before we had kids, my wife and I would meet at Fridays, enjoying drink and food specials, eating a meal worth of appetizers, and enjoying a pair of Fat Tires each. Total would be $20, including the generous tip. Sadly, rising costs had forced Fridays to downsize portions and raise food prices. Throw in the fact it was the only restaurant on the west side with a smoking section, and you had the Roger Clemens of Happy Hours – holding on just a little too long. Well, don’t give up yet. Friday’s has returned to the forefront. The Governor’s no-smoking legislation has cleaned up the smell, and a new Happy Hour has arrived. While the $2 pints are gone, they now offer 22 oz. Beers for $3. Gone are $3 appetizers (that had gotten so puny anyway), and in its place – half price off any appetizer. And, lest we forget, the only late night Happy Hour on the Westside – great for a snack and a drink after a movie or whatever. While it has been a couple years since I have been to the Fridays at Winrock Mall (on the east side), they are both owned by the same franchise, and, used to have the same specials.
Chili’s – Look, I am not going to rip on Chili’s, the place has its merits. However, cheap drinks is not one of them. They just added a Happy Hour, but it was not much - $1 off beers and a discount on appetizers. This is another brand new entrant to the Happy Hour game, and hopefully, it will continue to improve.
While this summary is limited to my playground, the West Side of Albuquerque, I would like to take a second and recognize a couple of my favorite joints in other parts of town.
Zinc Wine Bar (5-7 M-Sat, yes Saturday too!) – Don’t forget you have to go downstairs to the Cellar Bar (a pretty cool hangout – I might note) to enjoy $3 Fat Tires, Homemade Sangria, Mango Mojitos, and Margaritas. Also, for $3 (this is easy, right?) is a daily selection of red or white wine. Also has $5 food specials – eggrolls, buffalo quesadilla, spinach & artichoke dip, bruschetta, and Ahi Tuna.
Savoy (3-6, & 9-10, M-F) – Fresh off the Savoy Special Events email wire (and the inspiration for this review), Savoy has a Happy Hour. What do they have? All Draft Beers $3 (nothing to sneeze out – their drafts are selections like Sierra Nevada, and 1554, All Well Drinks $1 off, $4 House Made Margaritas, Spicy Bloody Mary, or Glass of House Red or House White Wine. They also have $5 food specials - Grilled Half Pound Angus Burger, Prime Rib Pepper Steak Sandwich, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, BBQ Pork Sandwich, Fish Tacos, Prosciutto-Wrapped Baked Goat Cheese, Crispy Calamari. Savoy is a half-hour drive from my house, so I have not been there yet. However, I will have a report soon.