Once the sole refuge of sports bars and low-brow eateries, top shelf restaurants are now drawing crowds with deep discounts on many of their regular menu items (usually in petite form) from the hours of 3-6p.m. with hopes that you’ll stick around for dinner, or at least some top shelf booze.
And it seems to be working.
Though there are hundreds of great happy hours from Cloverdale to Petaluma, not all are created equal. Here are some favorites with a combination of great food, drinks and crowds that will make your post-work hours happier — at least for an hour or so.
Haute Happy Hours: Upscale restaurants where you’ll find well-heeled movers and shakers enjoying a martini or three.
Stark’s Steak and Seafood
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 ($1.75), prime rib banh mi, $5; potato skin fondue, sweet chili chicken wings and truffle fries for $3.95 and a quarter-pound burger with caramelized onions and truffle aioli for a thrifty $5. Plus a $2.50 Beefeater martini, Lost Coast Blonde Ale ($2.75) selected wines, $5 margaritas on Monday and Tuesday, along with several other old school cocktails for $5 and $6. Monday through Saturday 3-6pm. 521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 546-5100.
The Starks’ other restaurants also feature some impressive happy hours, including Bravas Bar de Tapas’ “Locals’ 420 Hour” with gin and tonics, sangria, beer, goat cheese tostadas, duck meatball bocadillos, Spanish flatbread and cider braised chorizo and shishito peppers all for the mind-bending price of (you guessed it), $4.20. 420 Center St., Healdsburg, 433-7700.
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 bro-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. On Saturday it’s Pizza and Pinot from 6-9p.m. with $10 pizzas and a featured $10 pinot of the month. Sunday you can build your own burger and fries for $10. Front Room Happy Hour; 4-6p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; 5:30 to 6:30p.m. Wednesday and from 3-6pm Friday through Sunday. 4330 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa, 527-7687.
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 5-6p.m., 42 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma, 778-9900.
Barndiva Studio Bar
We won’t lie, this isn’t a cheapo happy hour. This is a Wine Country experience. But sipping cocktails and bistro bites inside this eclectic gallery of performance and visual art is a must-do in Healdsburg. Chef Ryan Fancher’s restaurant vision has been adapted to a more casual bistro model with small plates of charcuterie and other apps, Barndiva has opened up the beautifully curated space to sip craft cocktails and be one of the beautiful people. Open from 3p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, 237 Center St., Healdsburg.
Hipsters and the Tinder Tribe: Young professionals on the prowl scooter, Uber and bicycle to these trendy spots.
Mole braised short rib tacos, Korean buffalo wings and Sangria at one of Sonoma’s hippest new eateries. Plus, we hear they’ve finally got some outdoor patio space. Happy hour Monday through Thursday from 5-6:30p.m.,. 9 East Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 931-6926.
Chef Shane McAnelly uses his happy hour menu to playfully explore cuisines and dishes that might not make it to his regular menu. Currently he’s stoked on Fillipino cuisine and his 4:30-6:30p.m. menu includes rock shrimp and avocado lumpia, chicken adobo, tamarind braised pork ($6). The theme extends to inspired drinks like Paquiao Plum Punch (with Batavia Arrack, an historic sugar-based spirit), Singapore Sling, plus beer and wine. They’ll be visiting Spain, next, so stay tuned. 29 North St., Healdsburg, 473-8030.
Sit and watch the world—or at least Healdsburg—go by at this open-air eatery inside the H2Hotel. Miyagi oysters, fermented chili glazed chicken wings, grilled chorizo skewers ($5), crafty cocktails like the Blind Tigers (St. George Absinthe, Benedictine, Aperol, lemon, yuzu, hibiscus, $6), wines ($6) and Death & Taxes, Proving Ground IPA ($4). Monday through Thursday, 5-6p.m., 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 433-7222.
We love the laid back, inclusive vibe of this combo coffeehouse and pub. Sip on pour-overs and cold-brewed coffee from SF’s Ritual Roasters (the owner are coffee fanatics), local microbrews and ciders that change frequently, along with wine and tea. Their TWO happy hours are from 4-6p.m. and 8-10p.m. daily with $1 off beer and cider on tap (and also wine by the glass). 555 Healdsburg Ave., Santa Rosa,
Sheana Davis’ cozy gourmet shop and bistro has one of the chillest happy hours we know of, with beer or wine, local cheese and crostini and chef-made tapenade for $10. 3-6p.m. Tuesday through Friday. 122 W. Napa St, Sonoma, 935-7960.
This popular Happy Hour on the Hill is a mix of old-timers and youngsters who both appreciate a bargain. And a shrimp cocktail. There’s nothing fancy here, but the view is spectacular, and you can get a Bud Light, fried calamari and mozzarella sticks or a pizza for a song. From 3:30-6p.m. grab some retro-cool eats including the aforementioned shrimp cocktail, spaghetti and meatball, fried zucchini and even a straight up hot dog start at $2 and top out at $5. Bud, Coors, PBR and wine are $2. 3901 Montgomery Dr., Santa Rosa, 528-7755.
BroHour: Favorites of the beer and spirits crowd for whom happy hour is just a warm-up
Folks in Petaluma give a hefty thumbs up to this relative newcomer downtown. They’ve doubled their happy hour on Friday and Saturday (4-6p.m. and 9-10p.m.). The menu is extensive, with filet mignon skewers, pork belly banh mi, salt and pepper calamari, citrus cured salmon, mac and cheese, tacos and the ultimate beer food, onion dip and chips. All are $6 and under. Drinks include the George Clooney margarita, whisky punch, rye martini, wine and beer from $2.50 to $7.
La Rosa Tequileria
Welcome to Sonoma County’s favorite margaritaville. Tequila-drinks and approachable Mexican fare make this an easy choice for kicking back with a few friends from 4-6p.m. daily. House margaritas and shots, $5; well cocktails and microbrews ($4). Cheese nachos, quesadillas, hot dogs, ahi tostada and other mini bites for $3-$5. 500 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 523-3663.
Belly Left Coast Kitchen
When isn’t it happy hour at this downtown Santa Rosa restaurant? They’ve got food and drink specials from 3-6p.m. Monday through Friday, with your best bet being Taco Tuesday from 2p.m to close with solid tacos and an impressive collection of craft brews. The rock star vibe and beer-centric drink list makes for plenty of fist-bumping fun. 523 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, (707) 526-5757.
Not just nachos, but “Really Good Nachos”, along with tacos, sliders and margaritas from 4-6p.m. Monday through Friday. 101 E. Napa St., Sonoma, (707) 935-3500.
Did we miss one of your favorites?