1417 University Avenue, Hillcrest
Use of marinades distinguish the Edomae style of sushi this spot is known for, and Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30–7pm you may experience select examples at reduced prices. Start with the $10 yellowtail sashimi with truffle oil, and for style points order the $8 poki salad — negi-marinated ahi served in a margarita glass topped by seaweed and fried leeks. Belly up to the sushi bar, order a $3 pint of Sapporo or $4 large sake, and marvel as you watch the sushi chef build masterful dishes at this underrated restaurant that serves some of the most exotic fish in town.
7863 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
A Coastal Italian theme doesn’t go to waste at this stylish new La Jolla restaurant and ocean view bar. A smattering of Italian-brewed craft beers go for $7 from 3–6pm daily, along with select cocktails and wines by the glass. If 7 bucks sounds steep for a happy hour pint, remind yourself these imported brews cannot be found on tap elsewhere in town, including Birra Del Borgo’s Perle Ai Porci, a saline oyster stout brewed with oyster shells and bacon that must be tasted to be believed. Eleven-dollar wood-fired pizzas made from imported ingredients complete a joyful Mediterranean afternoon.
1654 India Street, Little Italy
Ironside Fish & Oyster
Known for its piranha skull wall, mermaid statues, and ocean liner steam room motifs, Ironside really cements its reputation with a raw bar. For an excuse to eat oysters on the cheap in such gussied surroundings, hit the bar from 3–6pm weekdays, when Ironside Selects go for a buck a shuck. These Puget Sound oysters have been cultivated specifically for this restaurant, which buys every last one to serve here with a shallot and champagne vinegar mignonette. Load up on selects, delve into some of the other oyster offerings, and wash ’em down with a 25-percent-off glass of sparkling wine.
723 Felspar Street, Pacific Beach
Spend your evenings with an ocean view and some swank at this Tower 23 hotel lounge. Each weekday from 4–7 the bar offers $4 draft beers and well drinks, with select wines at $5 a glass. Step out of the Crystal Pier surf to soak up a sunset; save 3 bucks on small plates including mussels and ceviche; and hang out with stylish girls wearing summery jumpsuits. Try it on a Monday for $7 specialty cocktails including a killer house Negroni. Three hours of valet validation anytime add to its worth as a place for grown-ups to drink in PB.
4020 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills
Patio on Goldfinch
If you haven’t sipped tequila at this verdant Mission Hills bar and restaurant, your tequila game is suffering. I do mean sip, because this place stocks a nice sampling of drinkable and affordable complements to the delicious house sangrita, including Fortaleza, Clase Azul, and Tequila Ocho. Some of the latter has been oak-barrel aged on site, giving it a nuanced “extra añejo” flavor akin to scotch. If you question what constitutes affordable, take $4 off your tequila from 3–6pm daily with happy hour specials including $4 drafts, select half-price cocktails and wine, and several reduced price small plates.
934 N. Coast Highway 101, Leucadia
Solterra Winery & Kitchen
This urban winery gives North County beach denizens a tony wine and tapas happy hour from 3–5:30pm daily, till 10pm on Monday — which gets lively for a Monday. All vintages are made on site using grapes from in or around Sonoma, with wines by the glass running between 4 and 7 dollars, including the chance to try an occasional varietal that’s only served by the bottle during regular hours. You’ll save a few bucks on select tapas, but to drink wine of this quality at this price — that’s reason enough to take the afternoon off and spend it here.
110 N. Magnolia, El Cajon
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
URBN St Brewing
The URBN brand has been expanding its reach throughout the county, and lately expanded its beer- and pizza-friendly happy hour east to its brewpub. From 3–6pm Monday through Friday, pints of any made-in-house beer are a dollar off, with $2 off tasting flights in case you want to see what they’re all about. But your best bet is to settle on one beer, order a pitcher, and earn a free pepperoni pizza for your thirst. And if you get the late-night munchies in El Cajon, Friday and Saturday they bring this happiness back from 10 to midnight.