224 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
Lou & Mickey’s
If you can handle conventioneer types, this place has the best terrazza in town. It feels like a cross between a Chicago fish ’n’ steak joint and a Paris brasserie. Best of all, for ten bucks, during HH you get a decent local beer ($4) and a totally luscious burger ($6). Not mean little sliders, but the full-on “Lou & Mickey’s bar burger.” Want rare? They’ll cook rare. Also: grilled artichoke ($4), fish and chips ($6), “steamed Mediterranean mussels” ($4), Moscow Mule, $8. Priceless: watching the passing parade of lower Gaslamp from your ringside seat. 4–6pm, Monday-Friday.
2469 Broadway, Golden Hill
Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate
Come for the borscht. Come for the eggplant roll. Come for Marko’s stories and terrible jokes. But Marko, who’s the owner of this Georgian-Russian joint, really does have a good deal going, with mini dishes costing $3 each. A strong Russian beer costs $5. You sit in a narrow one-row patio, facing across Broadway, while old crones’ faces look up at you from the tables they’re painted on. Go for dishes like pelmeni (Russian wontons) and pirozkhi (little stuffed pies). All $3. Mostly though, Sobaka is about the company of Marko and his eclectic clientele. 4–6pm daily.
800 Seacoast Avenue, Imperial Beach
Sea180 Coastal Tavern
Nobody believed Sea180 would actually ever happen for IB, but here it is, a luxury restaurant with a major plus for HH patrons: You’re not restricted to the bar. Anyone can sit out on the Pier View Terrace, catch whales spouting or green flashes at sunset. Favorite foods: brussels sprouts loaded with chunks of crispy ham ($5), a decent mac ’n’ cheese with brie, fontina, and parmesan plus black truffle ($7), and Kobe T.J. hot dog with bacon and kimchee ($7). Local beers, house wines, and cocktails like the mixed melon-infused Svedka vodka cosmo all go for $5. 2:30–5pm daily.
Omni Hotel, 675 L Street, Downtown San Diego
McCormick & Schmick’s Omni Hotel
First off, USA Today named these guys’ happy hour as the best in the nation. Second, they treat you like a full-paying customer. You get heavy silver flatware and big black linen napkins, even though you’re only paying $3.99 for their signature HH dish, the cheeseburger with fries. It’s big, it’s juicy, it’s a meal. And you just feel classy, listening to all the businessmen’s deal-talk swirling round. Also good: BBQ pork sliders ($3.99), black mussels ($4.99) and blackened chicken quesadilla ($5.99). Bud Light draft $3.50, craft draft beers $4.50; well spirits $4; house wines, $6; 4–6:30pm M-F.
550 Marina Parkway, Chula Vista
The Galley at the Marina
“South Bay’s Best Happy Hour,” says the menu. And it might be right. The Galley’s $6.99 cheeseburger is a half-pounder, and includes fries. Potato skins ($4.99) are plentiful. And maybe the best deal: two fish tacos with black beans and salsa for $3.99. Drink prices? Three bucks gets you anything from a well drink to a glass of wine to a pint of Bud. Plus, check two “all you can eat” specials from five to nine on Monday (spaghetti) and Thursday (fish and chips) nights. This plus deck dining and a view over the marina. 3–6pm, Monday–Saturday.
1309 Orange Avenue, Coronado
This new place is already legend for having $120 steaks (the 50-ounce Tomahawk rib chop), but their HH won’t break the bank. All apps are half price. Two Brooklyn bacon steaks go for $5.50; a lobster dip’s $9.50; steak tartar and quail egg run $9, and scallops are $8. Beers are five bucks, cocktails are $10. So, yes, it’ll add up, but worth it to sit up on the balcony looking over Crown City, surrounded by business people from the mainland and admirals from the island. 4:30–6:30pm daily.
1301 Market Street, East Village
This pop-up social center appeared overnight like a bunch of mushrooms at Park and Market — basically a collection of containers, concert spaces, and tables and benches. It has two food-and-grog outlets with HH. S&M (Sausage & Meat) drops $2 on its beers, but not on its food. The Quartyard Bar sells modest food dishes for half off during HH. That means panini and salads for around $3.50, and beer and cocktails for $2 off. Look out for real quart-size steins of beer. Even without any HH, this phenomenon is a beautiful addition to life in the city. 3:30–6pm Monday–Friday.
551 J Street, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
This is the new Greek kid on the block. So expect Greek tacos on Taco Tuesdays. (Try the $2 gyro taco or the $2 Greek sausage taco). But the real deals are with the happy-hour meze, the half-price hot and cold apps. Baba ghanoush (grilled eggplant) goes for $3.50 instead of $7. Souvlakia with chicken will be $3, the gyro plate will be $10. Above all, the saganaki, pan-seared Kasseri cheese that comes flaming to your table, burning Metaxa brandy, costs $7.50. It’s worth it just for the spectacle. Mythos beers $3, call drinks $6. 4–6pm, Monday–Friday.