Where happy hour deals are concerned, San Diego restaurants and bars really know how to bring it. But, deciding where to go can sometimes cut into your deeply discounted eating and drinking time, and that’s simply unacceptable. To help narrow down the multitude of options, we’re presenting 10 choices for happy hour that slay the competition in their respective neighborhoods:
Karl Strauss Brewing Company (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 3-6pm, Monday-Friday
What you’re getting: Appetizers and a drink (most likely beer)
Happy hour at Karl Strauss is definitely a joyous time. Drafts, wells, wines, and flights will set you back a mere $4, while savory apps tailor made to pair with beer (like beer pretzels, boneless wings, and spicy hummus with flatbread) are $5 a pop. Two hours of free parking at the underground garage on the corner of Prospect St and Herschel Ave (with validation) firmly seals the deal. High five, Karl. High five.
Davanti Enoteca (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 4 -6pm daily
What you’re getting: Davanti burger and whatever you like to drink
Davanti Enoteca might not immediately spring to mind when you’re craving a happy hour deal, but that’s probably because you’re not aware of the bacon jam-, confit tomato-, arugula-, aioli-, and GRIDDLED CHEESE CURD-topped burger that can be yours (with shoestring fries) for $10 during happy hour ($5 off the regular price). Add a boozy drink of your choice, like draft beer, house wine, wells, sangria, or a martini (priced between $5 and $7) and you’re good to go.
Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 4-5pm daily; 10pm-midnight, Friday & Saturday
What you’re getting: Craft drafts and "truffled" fries
If you haven’t tried the truffle fries at Leroy’s, you might want to take a few calming breaths before digging in. They’re thin-cut, super crispy, and come topped with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and just a touch of truffle oil. What really takes them over the top is the side of garlic aioli that’s so magically delicious, you’ll need to triple (or even quadruple)-dip each and every fry. Wash them down with $5 craft drafts from Leroy’s respectable tap list.
Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 4:30-6pm, Monday-Friday
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger sliders, a bowl of fries, and the daily draft or house wine by the glass
You’ve got to give it up for a restaurant that understands what its customers really want. In this case, it’s a $6 bowl of truffled French fries. Not a skimpy side -- a bowl. Like the fries at Leroy’s in Coronado, they’re dusted with Parmesan and served with aioli for dipping. Don’t stop there! They’ve also got mini cheeseburger sliders for $3.75. The best bang for your buck, drink-wise, is the daily draft or house wine, priced at $5.50.
Gaslamp & University Heights Café 21 (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 3-6pm daily
What you’re getting: Tapas and sangria
Café 21’s happy hour menu is so solid, it wins in two different 'hoods. Every day, you can dig into 21 different tapas, priced at $4 each at the University Heights location (and $5 at the Gaslamp location). Some sure-fire hits include the four-cheese fondue with sliced pear and crostini for dipping, the spinach & cheese crepe, and flourless chocolate cake. Yes, cake! For happy hour! Drink specials include $3 brews and a selection of house-made sangrias, available in a flight, goblet, or pitcher.
Stella Public House (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 5-7pm, Monday-Friday
What you’re getting: Small plates and beer or wine
This fine new addition to the East Village overlooks what will soon be a new park. During happy hour, small plates (like wild mushroom mac & cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts with salami, and lamb meatballs swimming in a rich tomato sauce) are $8. Add a $4 draft or $5 glass of house wine and you’re set.
The Smoking Goat (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 5-6pm, Tuesday-Friday
What you’re getting: French comfort food and a discount beverage
Happy hour is literally an hour long at The Smoking Goat, so make sure to steak out a seat early. Though drink options are somewhat limited (two wines and three brews on draft), they’re carefully chosen and super cheap ($4 for beer, $5 for wine). That being said, the REAL reason to visit The Goat during happy hour is the shortlist of tasty $6 apps, like macaroni & cheese, French onion soup, and yes... goat meatballs. BONUS: the restaurant is helmed by a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, NOT a chain-smoking buck, despite what the name might suggest.
Draft (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 4-6pm and 9pm-close, Monday-Friday
What you’re getting: Local drafts and shared plates
Draft doesn’t do happy hour specials on food, but its $4 deal on local drafts (from Stone, Saint Archer, Modern Times, and Coronado Brewing), along with $5 wells and $4 wines, is worth it when you take the killer ocean views, prime people-watching, and two MASSIVE projection screens into consideration. If you’re looking for budget-friendly bites, get one of the are apps priced under $10, including sorta-healthy options like curried cauliflower and definitely not healthy Belgian cheese fries with Chimay Mornay sauce, a sunny side-up egg, and plenty of onion aioli. Food portions are generous, so there’s no way you’re leaving hungry.
South Beach Bar & Grille (address and info)
When happy hour goes down: 3-6pm, Monday-Friday (plus other daily specials)
What you’re getting: Cheap tacos and a Mai Tai
Craving tacos? This beachfront taco shop is where you want to be for 13 different tacos priced at $2.75 apiece (all varieties except lobster) and a full complement of cheap drinks, ranging from shots to mimosas (the laid-back, beach-y vibe lends itself to a Mai Tai or a margarita).
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1. Karl Strauss Brewery & Restaurant1044 Wall St, La Jolla
2. Davanti Enoteca1655 India St, San Diego
3. Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge1015 Orange Ave, San Diego
4. Cafe 21750 5th Ave, San Diego
5. Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant2202 4th Ave, San Diego
6. Stella Public House1429 Island Ave, San Diego
7. The Smoking Goat3408 30th Street, San Diego
8. Draft3105 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego
9. South Beach Bar & Grille5059 Newport Ave, San Diego
Located right near the historic La Valencia Hotel, Karl Strauss La Jolla features a microbrewery with handcrafted special release brews, as well as top-notch pub fare.
This Italian mini-chain -- whose Little Italy location in San Diego is one of a few nationwide -- offers a fine selection of all your marinara-sauced favorites. Curated meats, craft cheese plates, and chicken liver pâté are popular shared options for groups, while Davanti's famed cheese curd-topped patties will thrill anyone looking for a new burger. The restaurant's patio -- lit up with twinkling lights -- is host to a regular evening crowd from happy hour through dinner.
A departure from conventional Coronado island eateries, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge is committed to serving food that changes with the seasons, part of a larger promise to keep things fresh, local, and sustainable. This means that presumably simple plates like buttermilk cornbread will be intensified with bacon bits and blackened jalapeno butter, and scallops will surprise with escorts of truffle-braised cabbage and roasted cauliflower. In addition to seasonal cocktails, Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge serves standard pours like red and white sangria, whose fruity profile brightens the husky, earthy flavors of Leroy’s food.
Extending their reach from 2121 Adams Ave, the twice-as-big, brick walled Gaslamp locale's outfitted with laser-cut metal, classic Turkish designs, and is serving up everything from sandwiches and kabobs to ridiculous, decadent brunch fare. There's a whole section of the drink menu devoted to Bloody Mary and Mimosa variations, giving you ultimate customization opportunities. Be sure to stop by for happy hour when there are 21 tapas to mix and match.
This bar/restaurant combo offers up one of the best happy hours in San Diego, with a $6 bowl of truffled French fries, dusted with Parmesan and served with aioli for dipping. They’ve also got mini cheeseburger sliders for $3.75. The best bang for your buck, drink-wise, is the daily draft or house wine, priced at $5.50.
If a cocktail lounge/coffeehouse had a love child with a wood-fired pizza and craft beer restaurant, this is what you would get. Stella Public House and Halcyon are shacked up together in a 3,000sqft space on Island Ave Downtown, and San Diegans reap the benefits of this twofer establishment. With pizza, booze, beer, and coffee all under one roof, what’s not to love? Hydroponic basil (grown in tomato tins on top of the bar), house-made mozzarella, Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, and a crisp, light crust come together in perfect harmony on Stella’s picture-perfect margherita pie (the benchmark of any great Neapolitan-style pizzeria). But those with a taste for adventure will also enjoy some of executive chef Jade Griego’s more inventive creations. A carefully curated draft list stocked with 33 rotating craft beers and a patio overlooking the neighborhood’s newest park are two major bonuses of getting your fix here.
Executive Chef and owner Fred Piehl’s French-American bistro fare is perfect when you want to enjoy a nice night out with solid food, great service, and a comfortable (not stuffy) atmosphere. Head to restaurant early and you can open your meal with happy hour specials like duck fat truffle fries, goat meatballs, and escargot au gratin before moving on to top-notch entrees like chicken, pork chops, and steak frites -- all priced very reasonably considering the quality of the cuts and expert preparation.
This Pacific Beach spot has approximately 70 beers on tap and over 50 bottles of beer, making Draft a great place to kick back on your way home from the beach. While you're sipping, try some snacks from the menu, which is comprised of sharing plates, like mustard dusted pretzel bites; grilled items, like the bison burger with poblano pepper and cumin mayonnaise; greens, like the seared ahi salad; and sweets, like key lime pie. Draft’s boardwalk patio is a picturesque spot to grab a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner bite with an oceanfront view, but if you want to catch the game, you’ll want to head inside to watch on one of the flat-screens.
Rumor has it that the best fish tacos in San Diego can be found at South Beach Bar and Grille, just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean in Ocean Beach. Mahi tacos are served with cheese, red cabbage, salsa fresca, and white sauce, piled high on a soft flour tortilla (though corn tortillas are available upon request). The fish is so soft and moist it nearly melts in your mouth, and the teriyaki and pineapple marinade lend a tangy taste that will make your lips pucker. For the taco-averse, you can choose from a variety of fried seafood, like lobster, wahoo, shark, calamari, and shrimp, as well as burgers, chicken, and vegetarian options. Enjoy your dish and watch the sun set as you sip on a drink from the bar that offers 22 tequilas and more than 40 beers.