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I'm a relatively recent transplant to San Francisco, fresh out of college, and working my first "real" job. Since I'm mostly being paid in equity, that means I'm broke as all hell. I know, I know my story's not a new one. But, rather than whine about it, my coworkers and I have taken to scouring the city's various happy hours — just because we're poor, doesn't mean we need to be sober, right? Thing is, starting at happy hour quickly leads to us getting kind of hammered really, really fast — leading to absolutely disastrous mornings at work or even worse, ruining our Saturdays. Are there any spots where we can score food deals with our drinks in the hopes of lining our stomachs and making better decisions? A note — we're not above sneaking out of work a little early to make it to happy hour, especially on Fridays.
Happy Hour Hangover
Oh, I know the pain of starting your night with happy hour and ending it way, way too many hours later. Particularly without a good food base to soak up the booze (pro tip: do NOT order dirty martinis. Just don't). Fortunately, there are all kinds of awesome happy hour food deals to be found, particularly if you're willing to get a little off of the downtown/SOMA beaten track. Here are some of my favorites (some of which are mentioned here, but I'm going to mention then again), broken down thematically (just cause):
Oysters, Seafood, & Sushi
Bar Crudo's seafood chowder. photo credit: bittermelon
Everyone loves an oyster happy hour, and there's no shortage of them 'round these parts. But the ultimate, if you ask me, is Bar Crudo's nightly 5-6:30 p.m. deal. You get $1 oysters by the dozen, but you also get their insane, bacon-laced seafood chowder, stupid-good smoked paprika heavy manila clams (super good with toasty grilled bread), and pan seared shishito peppers for $6. And fish tacos, 2 for $10. And because its Bar Crudo, everything is really, really good (there's a beer special for $4 and wine by the glass for $6, lest you think I forgot about the drinking part). Don't be afraid of the early bird hour - just call this dinner and order accordingly.
There's also the reopened Ferry Plaza Seafood, now open (confusingly) in North Beach. Their happy hour just kicked off this week and runs Monday-Friday, 3:30 - 6 p.m. (so... you'll have to leave work real early... or call it late lunch?). The goods include oysters, too — $7 for 6, $12 for 12 — salmon rillettes for $10, prosciutto and grilled fruit for $10, sashimi for $12, and chowder for $4 (New England or Manhattan or... both?!). They have rotating beer, wine, and bubbly specials which is good, because champagne with oysters is always wise.
Also worth mentioning — ICHI Sushi + NI Bar in Bernal. In addition to being a rad spot for sushi and sake, they've got a Monday-Friday, 5:30-6:30 happy hour with $1 oysters and tasty $6 specials like their yuzu chicken wings or pork tonkatsu, plus sake and wine for $6 and Sapporo for $4.
Rounding out the seafood-plus game is Nihon Whisky Lounge, and oft-forgotten gem in the Mission/SOMA near Rainbow Grocery. Yeah, they play annoying loungey music, but their happy hour runs from 5:30 to 7 (!), and includes half off 10+ items on their regular food item including seared salmon belly, 8-piece omakase, wings, sausage, and fried baby octopus that's awesomely called "Mars Attacks." Make sure you sit downstairs — the upstairs restaurant area is not happy hour included.
Pizza & Italian
Aperitivo at Pesce. photo credit: Pesce
Every happy hour eater worth their whiskey knows about Fly Bar's epic pizza happy hour — from 3:30 to 6:30, every single one of their pizzas is half off. Half off! Is it the best pizza in town? No, but it's cheap as hell and way better than whatever greasy slice you'll find yourself housing if you don't eat the happy hour pie (save Golden Boy, of course).
But pizza's just the tip of the iceberg when looking at Italian eating options. See, in Italy, they've got this awesome thing called aperitivo hour, where you get FREE FOOD with your drinks. How civilized is that?! You can take advantage of this brilliant concept at Pesce, from 5:30-7 and then AGAIN from 9-11. Imagine the possibilities! There are drink specials, of course, but also free cicheti (snacks, to you) including bruschetta with smoked salmon, goat cheese-stuffed peppers, and meatballs in marinara.
I also just learned that Locanda is doing something similar Sunday to Thursday from 5:30-6:30. There's going to be a rotating cocktail special for $8, and snacks from $3-$5 with things like kettle chips cacio e pepe, olives, spiced nuts, "Locanda style" corn nuts, and so on. It sounds less substantial than Pesce's, but thanks to that 9-11 window, you could in theory do both!
Over in the Fillmore, Fat Angel is one of my favorite spots for beer, wine, and tasty food. Their Monday to Friday happy hour includes $2 off their delicious flatbread (making it $10 instead of $12), with toppings like grapes, prosciutto and gorgonzola, or sausage and arugula. That's 4-7 p.m., and also includes $1 off their draft wines and beers.
Get all kinds of classy with RN74's happy hour menu — Monday to Friday, from 4-6 p.m., wine, cocktails, and snacks are all $7 (!), and snacks include things like warm pretzels with mustard butter, a brandade beignet, and butter-drenched escargot. If for some strange reason you're weird about eating snails, there's nothing like a couple of stiff tequila drinks to get over the hump.
Amelie in Nob Hill has a small, but respectable happy hour menu, too — $5 mushroom flatbread, and a $20 platter of cheese (3 kinds) meat (5 kinds) and baguette (oh yes). Oh, you can get a "customized" flight of wine for $10, too.
The goods at El Techo. photo credit: El Techo de Lolinda
Pisco Latin Lounge is in a weird part of Market Street, but they've got all a manner of tasty drinks ranging from $3-$6 from 5-7 p.m., Sunday to Friday. Their bar bites menu is technically available all night, but with $3 fish tacos and $4 pork empanaditas (!), who am I to quibble about strictly defined happy hours?
El Techo in the Mission has some tasty bites, too — their happy hour only runs from 4- 6 (Monday to Friday), but includes $5 guacamole, beef empanadas, fried green plantains (with black beans and queso fresco), and fried chicken thigh with habanero salsa (also, $7 margaritas and $18 sangria pitchers).
Bonus: German Food in Oakland!
Beer at Brotzeit Lokal. photo credit: allaboutgeorge
If you're feeling extra ambitious and are up for an East Bay adventure, Brotzeit Lokal in Oakland has a Tuesday-Friday deal rom 3-6 p.m. that includes (more) $1 oysters, $7 beer steamed mussels, and $11 for a burger or a sausage PLUS a drink (and their meats are all kind of delicious).
That said... bummer that you're broke, but maybe you'll be another 25-year-old billionaire before too long. Enjoy these golden days of happy-hour trolling while you can! And when you do make it big, I will happily take you up on your offer to go out for a very fancy and expensive dinner to thank me for my advice (or, you know, happy hour).