2820 Roosevelt Road, NTC Promenade, Liberty Station
I can’t think of a better way to spend a lazy afternoon than on the gorgeous patio of this chic Italian eatery. Sip Solare’s Blood Orange Daisy, a sophisticated twist on a traditional margarita or a refreshing Off to the Races, gin, Carpano Antica, Fernet Branca, lemon, and prosecco. Try the Polpette, beef and veal meatballs braised in delicious thick tomato sauce or Arancino con ragú di Prosciutto e funghi, saffron arancini stuffed with Parma prosciutto ragú and porcini mushrooms alongside for $5 each. Cocktails and beer are $2 off, well drinks, house wines and tapas are $5. 3–6:30pm Tuesday–Saturday, 4:30–6:30pm Sunday, closed Mondays.
1026 Wall Street, La Jolla
789 W. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
In San Diego, nothing says “Happy Hour!” like tacos and margaritas. Puesto wisely pares its “Perfect” margarita down to the basics, Frida Kahlo tequila, lime, and agave syrup, to better showcase their top-notch tacos. I can’t resist the Drunk’n Pig, layers of cerveza adobo pork, chicharones, and corn-tomatillo salsa, or the Rajas, crisply fried cheese, rajas (oyster mushrooms, corn and poblanos), avocado, and tomatillo fresca. Lamb barbacoa is well worth the $1 upcharge. Margaritas are $5, tacos are $3 (small upcharges for premium fillings). Taco Tuesday features $2 tacos and $3 Dos Equis Lager cans, Wednesday costars half price wine bottles and $6 red or white sangria.
8970 University Center Lane, University City
380 K Street, Downtown San Diego
Fleming’s scores with two daily happy hours. Early, I love the Clover Club, gin, lemon, raspberry syrup, egg white shaken cold and frothy, and the house made burrata plate, creamy cheese, toasted baguette slices, roasted cherry tomatoes and a tangle of nutty arugula. Late, my sweet tooth craves the Chocolate Lava Milkshake, a boozy, frosty version of a molten chocolate cake enhanced by Maker’s Mark, or perhaps the Deconstructed Balvenie S’More. I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t also recommend the juicy bacon cheeseburger, available on both menus. Early: Five cocktails, five wines and five appetizers, $6 each. Late: Eight drinks or wines, eight apps, $9 each. 5–7pm, 8–10pm daily.
4090 Adams Avenue, Kensington
Bleu Boheme features nearly 30 wines on their happy hour menu alone, but don’t let the size of the wine list intimidate you — the servers are happy to offer a taste. Appetizer buckets of mussels, one of eight sauces, slabs of crusty bread, and a glass of Saint Cosme “Little James” Basket Press n/v are wonderful. Charcuterie and pâté plates are also excellent, gnocchi, brussels sprouts, duck bacon in white wine sauce, or the onion tart are rich and delicious. Half price au pichet (quarter- or half-liter) wines, martinis, bottled beer (decent selection); appetizers are $10.95 for generous portions. 5–6pm daily.
2202 Fourth Avenue, Bankers Hill
Bankers Hill Bar and Restaurant
Cocktails made with ultra fresh ingredients reign in this sleek gastropub. The “drink of the day” is a good choice; I had a Carnivale Swizzle, cachaça, absinthe, lime, cane syrup and an Angostura float that hit all the right flavor notes. Strong and balanced, just the right bitter edge. Pair it with a beautifully presented cheese board at $4.50, or, for a mere $3.75, try a tiger shrimp ceviche tostada or a juicy cheeseburger slider and house-made potato chips. The specialty cocktails are $2 off, glasses of house wine or the daily draft are $5.50. 4:30–6pm Monday through Friday.
903 Island Avenue, East Village
Half Door Brewing Company
Just a few weeks open, Half Door Brewing Company’s already making its voice heard in a city with beer attitude to spare. I’m currently partial to the toasty, caramelly Roarks Red Ale and a crunchy, savory Scotch egg on the side. Cocktails lean to Irish whiskey, as befitting a proper Irish pub. The Five Points Manhattan — Poitin Irish Moonshine, sweet vermouth, bitters, Laphroaig rinse is earthy and bracing enough to make your worst day melt away. Beer runs $5–$6, well drinks and well wines are $5, cocktails are $6, food ranges from $5–$9. 4–6pm Monday through Friday.