Downtown Happy Hours
616 J Street, downtown
The Scene: You’ll see conventioneers, Hotel Solamar guests, and, in springtime, look for baseball fans fresh from the game. Drink: The curiously delicious bacon-infused Manhattan: smooth rye blended with a dash of maple syrup and garnished with a house-made spiced cherry and slice of crisp bacon. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Nibble: Christian Graves’ rendered pork belly that’s seasoned with clove and allspice, and flanked by a vanilla poached pear and house-made kimchi.
Andaz Wine Bar
600 F Street, downtown
The Scene: Blinged-out Carries, Samanthas, and Charlottes flock here for the “Happier Hour” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Drink: With 80 international and domestic wines on tap, it makes sense to sip a product of the vine. During happier hour, select wines by the glass like the Hess Cabernet Sauvignon are half off. Cocktails are $5 both downstairs and on the rooftop. Nibble: Appetizers like the charcuterie plate with cured ham, salami, spicy mustard, and crostini are half off during Happier Hour, but only downstairs.
Katsuya by Starck
600 F Street, downtown
The Scene: It varies wildly during late night social hour from 9 p.m. to close; we saw older hotel guests from the Midwest, athletes, and the girls who’d love to love them. The early happy hour runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Drink: Charger Shaun Phillips—also an investor—created the off-menu SP95. The balanced mix of serrano chile, peach, lime, and tequila tops other spicy cocktails in town, and during social hour, it’s $7, just like other specialty drinks. Well drinks are $5; beer and wine are $6. Nibble: Buttery crispy rice topped with spicy tuna; it goes with any drink on the menu.
1047 Fifth Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter
The Scene: At Hotel Palomar, step through the pivot door and you’ll find salesmen taking a break from pounding the pavement, a group on a team-building scavenger hunt, and a lovelorn girl oversharing with her bestie—try not to be obvious as you eavesdrop. Drink: Lobby bar happy hour offerings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily include $5 drafts, house wines, and sangria, plus Wells Done Well, riffs on classics like a mojito with tangy pomegranate syrup. Only cocktails are discounted during the late happy hour from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Nibble: Chef Simon Dolinky’s succulent and generous beef cheek tacos with snap pea kimchi are the way to go; all small bites are $3 to $6 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Grant Grill
326 Broadway, Gaslamp Quarter
The Scene: The late-night happy hour at 10 p.m. daily draws couples on dates, party people celebrating a birthday, and music lovers looking for live jazz. Drink: Cocktails Sur Lie, Jeff Josenhans’ original bottle-conditioned cocktails that are fermented and aged on yeast for 90 days, are inspired by the way Champagne is made. The mule, a mix of vodka, ginger, and hops, was tangy and aromatic. Nibble: Grant Grill makes the best beef sliders in the 619, but its creamy sea scallops with a potato purée and savory/sweet marshmallow chips are tailor-made for this unique cocktail.