The Happiest Hour

Looking to celebrate the end of the workday? Here are 10 hotspots with bargain drinks, tasty snacks and the right vibe to help you forget the office.

July 21, 2002|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

One person's happy hour may be another person's nightmare. Luckily the Baltimore area has something for everyone who ever wanted to avoid rush hour by having a cheap drink and bargain food. Do you love action and bodies packed in like sardines, or do you just want to talk while you sip a glass of wine? Are you looking for a pig-out free buffet or a delicious tidbit to tide you over? The variations are endless.

We could never tell you about them all, or even all the best ones, but we can give you an idea of just how different happy hours can be. Here are 10 happening ones:

Atlantic

2400 Boston St.

410-675-4565

Happy hours: Monday-Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

The decor inside is chic and sleek, but the place to sit and drink is the patio just off the bar. Selected beers, wines, margaritas, martinis, Bloody Marys and cosmos are $3 each. Among the six food specials are any of the excellent sushi rolls for $3.95 and a work-of-art but small steamed seafood plate for $5.25.

Upside: Drinking by the most beautiful lily pond in the city

Downside: You won't fill up on the food.

Bottom line: The place to go when you want something a little different

Bare Bones Grill & Brewery

9811 York Road, Cockeysville

410-667-9600

9150 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City

410-461-0770

Happy hours: Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

Bare Bones understands moderation in all things, including happy hour. You get 50 cents off rail drinks, beer and wine, and the free food includes a nice spread of cheese and veggie trays and chafing-dish specials.

Upside: A place to relax at the end of the workday

Downside: There may not be enough wild and crazy action for some.

Bottom line: The bar at this microbrewery isn't fancy, but it's dim and comfortable and you can talk even when it's crowded.

Bay Cafe

2809 Boston St.

410-522-3377

Happy hours: Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., Friday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

You can get two-for-one drinks every weekday, but the real bargain is the complimentary buffet on Friday, with food like roast beef for sandwiches, fried chicken and meatballs. If you love a crowded happy-hour scene, head for the Bay Cafe at the end of the work week.

Upside: A great view, live music, lots of company

Downside: Long lines for the food

Bottom line: You won't be able to help meeting people here.

Bill Bateman's Bistro

7800 York Road, Towson

410-296-2737

26 Market Place, Power Plant Live!

410-230-0026

566 Gov. Ritchie Highway, Severna Park

410-315-7960

102 Chartley Drive, Reisterstown

410-526-6200

Happy hours: Monday-Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

This college hangout / family restaurant / sports bar in four locations may have the area's most famous happy-hour food. Sometimes it's free pastas and salad, sometimes hamburgers and hot dogs. The most popular, though, is the $2 steak night, usually Mondays or Tuesdays. And discounted drinks, of course.

Upside: Free food that's often real meals, not snacks, with something different on the menu every night

Downside: Toward the end of the week, it's a zoo. No, wait. Maybe that's the upside.

Bottom line: Long known for its wings, Bill Bateman's is becoming even more famous for its happy-hour spreads.

Ixia

518 N. Charles St.

410-727-1800

Happy hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.; First Thursdays, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Ah, my dear. What charming piercings you have. Would you care to meet me at Ixia for a Bloody Mary made with fresh horseradish and garnished with black and white sesame seeds and a scallion? Try a complimentary fusion tidbit: perhaps un morceau of spring roll or a duck pot-sticker. Aren't they superb?

Upside: Ixia offers a funky, theatrical setting and a dark lounge made for seduction.

Downside: It's too dark -- but the waiter will provide you with a flashlight if you want to look at the menu.

Bottom line: Not your normal happy hour. Drink promotions change periodically.

McFadden's

10 Market Place, Power Plant Live!

410-779-7101

Happy hours: Monday-Friday, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Be sure to leave your business card for a chance to win a corporate happy hour on Thursday or Friday. The winners get in free, their friends pay $5 for all-you-can-drink beer, wine, soda and rail drinks and passed hors d'oeuvres. (Happy hour with drink specials and half-priced appetizers is still available for everyone else.)

Upside: Steamed crabs for $1 apiece if you eat in the bar

Downside: There aren't many seats in the bar.

Bottom line: McFadden's bar food is excellent, so the half-priced appetizers are a deal even without the $1 crabs.

McCormick & Schmick's

711 Eastern Ave., Pier V

410-234-1300

Happy hours: Monday-Friday, 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday, 9:30 p.m.-midnight

Although the restaurant is known for its seafood, insiders pack its handsome bar for the happy-hour menu. You can get a hamburger, Caesar salad, oyster shooters, quesadillas, pizza and more for $1.95 each.

Upside: A fabulous view of the Inner Harbor to go with the good bar food

Downside: A half-pound cheeseburger with fries for $1.95, but only two oysters? At a seafood restaurant? Sigh.

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