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Happy hour lasts from 4 to 8 p.m. every single day, and the deals are manifold: Draft and bottled beer and well drinks are $5; house margaritas, Mexico ginger mules, and call drinks are $6; 24-ounce draft beers, "Cadillac margaritas," wine, and sangria are $7. Capably executed bar snacks like chicharrones, chile con queso, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and barbecue carnitas sliders are also on happy-hour offer, all for $7 or less, which makes Chevys probably the Bay Area's cheapest waterside dinner — though probably not its lowest in sodium.
You will ask your waitress what she recommends and she'll say a margarita, obviously; her personal favorite is an off-menu mix of the strawberry and mango flavors. And you will say "What the hell, sure!" It'll taste like an island. Happy hour comes with free unlimited chips and salsa, and as soon as you finish a bowl, new ones will appear, seamlessly and still warm from the fryer.
To your left, cars will snake slowly along the frontage road, painfully ignorant of just how close they are to a cold drink and a big deck and free unlimited chips. To your right, a big family will tuck into a special-occasion dinner, laughing. Straight out ahead, the bay and sky and the trees of the Emeryville marina, and past that Mount Tamalpais, will look like a watercolor painting.
And then the sun will start to set, pink and purple and orange streaking across blue sky, and the family will finish up and go home happy, leftovers in hand, and the little lights strung all around will come on and bathe the deck in warm light, and your waitress will come by and ask if you want another. You will, of course. 1890 Powell St., Emeryville; 510-635-8210; Chevys.com. (E.C.)
Late-Night Sushi and Drinks For Two
In Oakland, where spots for late-night munchies are few and far between, Kansai has long been a beacon. The Temescal sushi joint is big enough to accommodate large parties and is open til 2 a.m. You can watch basketball games there during NBA season, and the restaurant is usually filled with the lively chatter of families and friends sharing nigiri and tall bottles of Sapporo.
Kansai has one of Oakland's most affordable and well-timed happy hours for night owls and early birds alike: Monday through Thursday from 3–6 p.m. and 10 p.m. 'til close, and Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. 'til close. And on Sundays, it's all day — so you can eat sushi for the low during regular lunch or dinner hours.
Kansai's menu is vast and generous, with discounts on appetizers, specialty rolls, udon, and entrees. And, of course, booze. On my recent visit for an early Sunday dinner, I was seated almost instantly even though the restaurant was bustling with customers.
I recently converted from vegan to pescatarian, and Kansai had long been one of my go-tos for veggie-friendly cuisine. The zebra roll with steamed spinach and lightly pickled shitakes, a happy hour item, is a solid option for those who don't eat seafood. As are the edamame, crispy vegetable tempura, and heaping bowl of vegetarian udon — all on happy hour menu, as well.
On my first visit as a non-vegan, I was eager to try the spider roll — basically a deluxe California roll with deep-fried soft-shell crab, drizzled with a tangy, salty-sweet unagi sauce and sprinkled with crunchy tobiko caviar. The five-piece roll was decadent and very filling. And the tempura roll, with shrimp, fresh avocado, and cucumber, was even better, with the shrimp battered lightly enough to give it maximum flavor. The rolls came with miso soup, a side salad with creamy ginger dressing, and a bowl of edamame.
I paired my sushi selections with a small sake bomb, which consisted of a bottle of Hite, a crisp, light Korean beer, and carafe of hot sake (it was too early for the large sake bomb, which is also on the happy hour menu).
My dinner companion and I left tipsy and full with leftovers in tow — and had only spent about $30 on four rolls and an immodest amount of alcohol. Kansai might not be the spot for top-shelf seafood, but with its efficient service, generous portions, and cheap booze, it's definitely the move for late-night eats. 4345 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-658-7273. (N.V.)
Staycation in a Glass
They say that tiki is making a comeback, but for some people it never left.
Those people are fans of Trader Vic's, an iconic tiki bar and restaurant that was started in the Bay Area in 1934. The Bay is in a period of rapid change — several regional institutions have closed their doors while new-fangled tiki bars are opening up — but Trader Vic's remains the same. Once the place to be seen back in the Eighties and Nineties, it is now a bastion of Bay nostalgia and tiki kitsch quietly nestled in the Emeryville marina.
Trader Vic's is far from the beaten path of downtown watering holes, but it's worth the trip. Stepping inside Trader Vic's is like stepping back in time and into an island mirage: bamboo walls, taxidermy reptiles, and breezy beach music. As the original local tiki hangout, this is the place that set the bar to which all other tiki spots aspire.