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Happy hour/ early bird in SD

I'd like to take my girl out for some great food but money's tight, so I'm looking for a great deal on great food and drinks. My idea of great food involves meat without hormones, produce without pesticide, fresh seasonal ingredients, and, of course, great flavors. I'm open to most any style of cooking if it's well executed. My idea of great drinks includes well made craft beers and wines and cocktails made with fresh juices and quality liquors, I love creative bartenders but I do not like sugary, artificially flavored novelty drinks.
On my list: The Better Half and Laurel.
Any other places with happy hour or early bird specials to try?
We're happy to make dinner out of the appetizer menu, we often do that anyway.
I'd prefer North Park/ Hillcrest or nearby neighborhoods, but I'm willing to travel for something special.

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  1. Whisk-n-ladle has a pretty decent happy hour and fits everything but the neighborhood. I also like farmhouse. Don't think they have a happy hour per se but everything on the menu is under $20. It might be just beer and wine though.

    1. Thee Bungalow used to do an early bird special that was a pretty good value. But that was before the Cohen Group took it over. You might call and see if they're still doing EB or not.

      1. There's an online coupon for Better Half 'Blue Plate Special' soup or salad, choice of entree's and a dessert for $15.00, a real deal. Also, if you find a Community Magazine, there's a coupon for a buy one get one entree for the Linkery, that may be an option.

        6 Replies
        1. re: cstr

          I am just curious what do you mean with "There's an online coupon for Better Half 'Blue Plate Special' soup or salad, choice of entree's and a dessert for $15.00, a real deal" ?

          1. re: honkman

            Went online searching for restaurant coupons, found a coupon for BH $15. special and also Alex's for free fries. Cafe San Diego.com

            1. re: cstr

              You don't need a coupon that's there normal $15 5-7pm special menu they have everyday.

              1. re: honkman

                Oh well, so much for that web site, it's still a deal. I think the OP would like BH.

                1. re: honkman

                  Just went to Better Half the other night. Looks like the chef is the new owner and there are several changes. (They said the website is owned by the original owner and they are unable to make any modifications on it so that is why there is no updated information) The Blue Plate Special has now increased to $20 but does offer a few more choices for entrees. 1st course is still either soup or salad and there were only 2 choices for the dessert one of which was a scoop of ice cream. Corkage is now $15. (They said that people were taking advantage of them with the $5 corkage...probably meaning no one was buying their wine). Some nice touches with their amuse bouche and palate cleansing lemon sorbet cone just before the entree. However, the meal overall was not memorable, service was spotty due to the inexperience of one of the waiters, and little mistakes by other staff such as removal of our forks from the amuse bouche plate which were then set back on the table so we could use the forks again, and not giving us back the food we asked to be boxed (we ate just half of it because it was too salty for our taste, and we thought we would bring it home and fix it a little so as not to waste. Of course this was partly our fault because we didn’t realize that we didn’t have our doggy bag until we got home.) With the 18% mandatory gratuity, this meal would still be over $50 without any extras, and for that price, we are not sure if we would return.

                  1. re: wcrchow

                    Have to agree @ $20., with the limited choices, the deal is dulled. I never bring wine to a place that has a licence but that's just me.

          2. Wine Vault & Bistro has their 5-course tasting menu for $25 tonight. IMO, the best deal in town.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mimosa

              According to an email from Wine Vault today, they have raised the price for the 5-course tasting menu to $30, and the wine pairings are now $20. It's still a good value, but not quite the incredible deal it was before.

            2. Thanks for the tips, the Wine Vault tasting menu sounds like just what I'm looking for, unfortunately I'm not free tonight. I also checked out Community Magazine on line and to my surprise there were coupons for some places I already like or want to try. In the past I haven't had good luck with coupons, but I'll try these, anyone know where I might get a copy of Community Magazine?

              1. On Tuesdays-Thursdays, Bite in Hillcrest is doing a $20.09 prix-fixe menu. They also have happy hour from 5-7 every night with discounted wine by the glass.

                1. there was another recent thread about this same topic: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579509

                  may be of further help

                  1. We went to Apertivo in North Park the other night and had a really good experience which made me think of this post. We used to be big fans but noticed on recent visits that the prices had inched upward (likely mirroring their food costs) and the quality seemed to be falling off. Not so this time, I'm happy to report.

                    On their regular menu, mostly small and medium plates meant to share, nothing is over $9, with most items in the $5-7 range. They also have a new happy hour menu that knocks about $1-2 off every item. They also have well-chosen selection of wines and a few beers.

                    It's not haute cuisine, just well-executed comfort food. And for a change, the prices are comforting too.

                    1. Bully's East in Mission Valley has a great Happy Hour, the bar menu is 1/2 price, they have tons of choices and all of them are great.

                      1. I went with my first instinct and visited Laurel for their 'Seven before seven' happy hour - most of the items on their bar menu and a selection of wines by the glass for seven dollars each. The bar was full when we arrived but the hostess offered a table in the front room where the bar menu is also available. It's a very attractive space but my girlfriend and I both thought it a little lacking in warmth - of course that's more a personal preference than a complaint; the restaurant is designed as pretty formal place. Anyway the food was quite nice, we had the 'tacos of the day,' that day braised beef short ribs with avocado, simply but correctly prepared and very enjoyable. Also a bacon and caramelized onion tart that I enjoyed but my companion found too sweet. The mussels were fantastic, plump and juicy in a delicious broth, the best mussels I've had in recent memory. I wish I had thought to ask where they were from. The beer list was a let down for me, I am a big craft beer fan and it's puzzling to me that any decent restaurant would not include at least a few great selections from some of our world renowned local breweries. That said, I did enjoy a Flying Dog porter and then a very good glass of Argentine malbec, while my guest had some variation of a cosmo that she enjoyed and a tasty albarino. All in all avery enjoyable meal, the three appetizers were enough to provide a light dinner for two and with two drinks each our bill was just over fifty dollars before tipping. A nice chance to visit a luxury spot on a budget, which is just what I was looking for.

                        1. Ortega's in Hillcrest has a great daily Happy Hour menu from 3:30-6:30 and 10pm-Midnight. I think it's good quality Mexican fare. Beers and margaritas are from $3-6. The menu has nothing over $5.50. Good chicken, steak, tacos, etc. All come with a side of beans. Their shrimp ceviche is also on the menu. Nice atmosphere in their lounge area, too.

                          1. Anyone have any others to share? Getting out of work early for a few Fridays and we want to check out a few different places. The last we tried was Cowboy star, love that happy hour menu.

                            1. Proper Gastropub Downtown is amazing. Great cocktails and good beer selection. Half off Apps. Parking is a little tough though

                              1. well you have some strict parameters, but if you are willing to do a little research kingofhappyhour. com is a pretty good site to start as you cans search by neighborhood or day of the week (who does not like a Sunday happy hour?) .
                                this place is next for me- the menu looks terrific. http://kingofhappyhour.com/sandiego/b...

                                1. Kind of an old topic, but we tried out Analog on Sunday for my husband's birthday, where they have all-day happy hour on Sunday, 4-7 Tuesday to Saturday . While they definitely lean on the kitsch factor of offering tall boy cans of beer, there is a also a pretty decent selection of specialty cocktails featuring interesting ingredients. 1/2 price drinks, 1/2 price starters, and 1/2 price "lil burgers" (an offering of a variety of different fillings from chicken to pulled pork to actual burgers).

                                  Some standouts of the evening for me were the popcorn brussel sprouts (flash fried with bacon bits and parmesan) for $3 on special, and the 2 pack of lil burgers for $3.50 (I got bacon-wrapped meatloaf and a portabello mushroom). The tatchos are good, too.

                                  Our server hooked us up with some Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2 on the giant tv hanging over our table, and it was a tasty, fun, and inexpensive night. We'll definitely go back.