Page 4 of 5
This very brightly lit bar and dining hall, what with its towering ceilings but unremarkable vibe, is nevertheless a sort of comfort-food haven for many Alamedans. (As a side note, you can get a plate brimming with classic combination-platter fare for just nine bucks.) But this story is about the happy-hour deals, and Otaez delivers. Those flying-saucer margaritas are just $5 during the happy time, and only $18 for a pitcher. The drinks err on the sweet and boozy side — but they go straight to the gulliver. Classic street tacos are only a buck during the happy hour, as well. And other botanas, or snacks, vary from $3.95 for nachos to $12.95 for costillas asadas, or grilled short ribs.
Basically, Otaez is the place to be if you're stuck on the west side of the island and want to get good heat going on margaritas so large they can be difficult to keep steady in your hand. Happy hour is 3–6 p.m., Mon.–Fri. 1619 Webster St., Alameda. OtaezRestaurant.com. (N.M.)
No Basic Well Drinks
Ben & Nick's Bar & Grill
There's always room at this bar during happy hour, where the bartenders listen if you want to tell them about your long day, or leave you alone if you want to silently commune with your alcohol.
Ben & Nick's in bourgie Rockridge in fact boasts a surprisingly great happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Draft beers and wine are $1 off, beer pitchers are discounted, starters are also $1 off, and house cocktails are $2 off.
The starters are all solid versions of typical pub fare and include truffled deviled eggs with bacon, loaded nachos, buffalo wings, and fries (in regular, garlic, cheese, curly, and chili-cheese varieties). There's also an ever-changing draft beer list to go along with the fried food, including lots of local options.
The discounted house cocktails aren't just run-of-the-mill well drinks. The Hemingway Daiquri (with rum, luxardo, grapefruit juice and lime) is tart and well rounded, and the Long Goodbye (with gin, genitian liqueur, and spiced grapefruit syrup, on the rocks) is just the drink you need when you're compelled to start up before five o'clock.
If there's a sporting event on that day or night, it'll be on the TVs above the bar, but only a handful of people are ever really paying attention (except during Warriors playoff games). If you want to sit with a friend and celebrate good news with a few cocktails and a bushel of French fries, this is a spot. 5612 College Ave., Oakland; 510-923-0327. (J.G.)
This happy hour feels like a bit of a secret. No signs in the bar advertise it, and there's nothing on Dogwood's website. But, we promise, it exists: From 4–6 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, and all night on Monday, you can get $5 wells, drafts, and wine. And this is the best time to experience Dogwood. By 7 p.m., the bar is often four dudes deep.
During those late-afternoon/early-evening hours, you can easily get the attention of the bartenders, and you have your choice of seating. Bring your drinks to one of the tiny tables in the back and read a book, or bond with a buddy as you look out the big window onto Telegraph.
Dogwood features a short food menu, but everything is a winner. And it's famous for grilled cheese sandwiches that make the whole bar smell like warm butter. These sandwiches all start with mozzarella and cheddar on levain bread, and there's a variety of add-ons, including truffle oil, tomato jam, and bacon chutney.
But the meat-and-cheese plate is even better. It's made up of rotating selections of salumi and cheese, with generous dollops of mustard and honey, salty marcona almonds, and crisp pickled vegetables.
If you want to splurge on one of the cocktails from the regular menu after you get a $5 bargain drink, they make a great Sazerac, and their Bees Knees is just the drink for a gin lover. The mostly late-twenties crowd streams in after work, when the noise level in the bar rises correspondingly, so save your serious conversations for the pre-six o'clock hours. 1644 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510-444-6669; BarDogwood.com. (J.G.)
Ten More (Just in Case)
Come for the classic tiki experience and well-mixed, appreciably boozy tropical drinks; stay for dinner, or a close enough approximation. From 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, and all damn day Mondays, Forbidden Island offers snacks such as crab Rangoon, coconut shrimp, and waffle fries, all for $5. A selection of well drinks is $7, and drafts beers are $4. 1304 Lincoln Ave, Alameda; 510-749-0332; ForbiddenIslandAlameda.com. (E.C.)
This cozy, upscale, Japanese-American diner doesn't seem at first glance like the kind of place where you should be able to get a High Life ($2) and an order of spicy-salty-crispy-perfect miso chicken wings ($5) for less than the price of some Starbucks drinks. But we're not questioning it. Happy hours runs 3–5 p.m. daily. 1915 San Pablo Ave., Oakland; 510-788-6217; HopscotchOakland.com. (E.C.)
A few pro tips for what I'm told is a classic Fruitvale-neighborhood spot. 1) Happy hour is from 2–6 p.m. on weekdays, which means half-off all appetizers (think less than $5 nachos) and $3.50 Modelos. Basically, it's a late lunch. 2) There's a breakfast special every damn weekday, too, with all menu items, from chilaquiles to American-style plates, under $6. 1001 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland. 510-533-7194. GuadalajaraOakland.com. (N.M.)