When the going gets tough, the tough start a happy hour.

Once the sole refuge of sports bars and low-brow eateries, Happy Hour has gone mainstream. Looking to draw in diners, higher end restaurants are embracing the idea of offering up deep discounts on food and cocktails between 3 and 6pm, then hoping you’ll stick around for dinner later.

It’s an age-old ploy to get you in the door, but many upscale eateries suffering from continued economic doldrums are getting a much-needed boost from the early evening crowd. Because whether you’re a bargain-hunter looking for a right-priced meal or just an after-worker hanging with friends, these top-notch happy hours are tasty treats for wallet and palate.

Stark’s Steakhouse: There’s no denying that Stark’s is the Grand Pubah when it comes to Santa Rosa’s happy hour scene. Packed to the gills most nights, It’s the perfect storm of top-notch bites well under $5, well crafted drinks and a clubby, steakhouse atmosphere. Rather than trotting out nuked chicken strips and Bud lights, they roll out inspired tapas and sides from their steakhouse menu — tuna tartar taco, meatloaf sliders and truffle fries for $1.50; trio tip banh mi, $2; potato skin fondue, sweet chili chicken wings and buttermilk onion rings for $3.50. Plus a $2 Beefeater martini (Wed/Thurs/Sat), $2.50 Stark’s Pale ale, $4 selected wines, and a couple of $5 cocktails. Chances are you’ll move on to undeniable sippers like the $10 Starkarita, but hey, think of all the money you saved at Happy Hour. Monday through Saturday 3-6pm. 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 546-5100.

New!  Rendez Vous Bistro: Happy Hour is Twice as Nice during the Deju Vu Happy Hour Times Two, a twice daily reason to celebrate. One of the few spots for late night eats, the bar bites menu features truffled pommes fries, a petite tuna tartar, crisp polenta fries, battered lobster borchettes, shimp coctail and chef’s sliders. House champagne is $4, well cocktails $3 and beers on tap for $3. Plus, a nifty specialty cocktail menu with gimlets, mojitos, bourbon drinks, dessert cocktails and margaritas from $7 to $9. Sunday through Thursday 3-6pm and 9-12am; Friday and Saturday, 3-6pm, 10pm to 2am. 614 4th Street, Santa Rosa, 526-7700.

Front Room at John Ash & Co: Sink into a leather seat and nibble on tasty small plates while kicking back well-crafted cocktails. Here, you can steer clear of the Jersey shore crowd, rubbing elbows with the hotel’s chic clientele, politicos and pinstriped professionals. Wednesdays’s “Crush the Rush” includes complimentary appetizers from 5:30-6:30pm along with $2 off all cocktails, $4 wine/beer/weekly cocktail and their tasty happy hour bites menu (many under $5). Friday’s smoked prime rib and Sunday you can build your own burger and fries for $10. 4-6pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; until 6:30pm Wednesday and from 3-6pm Friday through Sunday. 4330 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa, 527-7687.

Jackson’s Bar and Oven: Happy hour stretches from 3-6pm Monday through Friday and on weekends from noon to 6pm with $2 Jacksons Pale Ale, $4 on selected wines, $5 well drinks and their specialty cocktail, orange fennel drops (a new take on the cosmo). Half off buffalo wings and truffle parmesan or chipotle fries. $5 sliders or tacos on weekdays. On the weekend, $6 Bloody Marys. 135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 545-6900.

Jack and Tony’s: Daily from 4-6pm, half off tap & well, plus half off all full-sized appetizers, including dishes like three cheese mac, shrimp ceviche tostada, deviled eggs and chilled oysters on the half-shell. 115 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 523-0492.

Chinois Asian Bistro: This pan-Asian sleeper in Windsor has amazing $5 Asian tapas from 5-6;30pm MOnday through Friday including crispy taro and sweet potato fries with Japanese mayo, Panko prawns, tori prata (Indian bread with curry sauce), spring rolls, lumpia, pork she mai and coconut prawns. Soju cocktails are also just $5 and along with $4 beers.8710 Old Redwood Hwy, Windsor, 838-4667.

Tasting Tuesdays at Willi’s Wine Bar: Not to be confused with Rohnert Park’s Tasty Tuesday food truck lineup, Willi’s Winebar is offering Tasting Tuesdays from 4-5pm. It’s a stellar deal: Top notch local winemakers pour several tastes of their wine and the kitchen whips up small bites from the menu for just $10. Plus, you get first dibs on the coveted outdoor patio. So, there’s that. Reservations are a good idea, since word has gotten out. Upcoming winemakers include Ramey, Benovia and Jus Soli. 4404 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa, 526-3096.

Central Market: An amazing deal from one of Sonoma County’s best chefs, Tony Najiola. But it’s literally an hour, so you can’t dawdle. And chances are you’ll want to stay for dinner. $1 oysters, $5 wines, $3 beers and free pizza at bar Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30pm, Sunday 5-6pm. 42 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma, 778-9900.

Thirsty Thursdays at Vintner’s Square: Ray D’Argenzio’s “urban winery village” is an evolving vision for a one-stop food food and wine experience within the city of Santa Rosa. Already, he’s brought together his own winery, along with premium micro-wineries Sheldon and MJ Lords along with pinot heavy-weight Krutz Family Cellars. On Thursdays from 4 to 8pm, local food trucks like Street Eatz drop by, $5 per glass wines and live music. 1301 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa.

Spoonbar: This ultra luxe hotel bar isn’t the spot for .99 hot wings or light beer, but you will find some tasty pre-dinner deals. Small bites — spicy lamb meatballs, marinated quail eggs, crispy stuffed olives — come four for $12 on Chef Rudy Mihal’s Mediterranean-inspired menu. Top local winemakers’ wines on tap are a great value, as are mixologist Scott Beattie’s haute Mai Tai, Dark ‘n Stormy and Daiqueri by the pitcher. 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 433-7222.

More spots to get your happy hour on…
PizzaVino 707: Happy Hour 4-6pm daily. Bar snacks $3. 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 829-9500.
El Coqui: Half off of appetizers and $3 draft beers Monday through Friday from 3-6pm. 400 Mendocino Avenue Santa Rosa,  542-8868.
Bistro 29: Wednesday and Friday from 5 to 6pm with a special menu and $10 any 750ml bottle of wine. 620 5th Street, Santa Rosa, 546-2929.
Legends Benett Valley: Hang with the swingers at Santa Rosa’s chummy golf course bar and grill. $5 happy hour appetizers (taquitos, sliders, nachos, pizza). Drink specials. 3328 Yulupa Valley Ave., Santa Rosa, 523-4111.

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