North County Happy Hours
Vintana Wine + Dine
Vintana Wine + Dine
1205 Auto Park Way, Escondido
The Scene: Cozy up to your date in one of the cabanas, or come single and meet a Lexus driver or your own Dr. McDreamy—Vintana is a Palomar Pomerado Hospital hangout. Drink: Each night brings a different drink special, like half-price wine Tuesdays and Thursdays. The spot boasts a massive selection of vodkas; we like the martini with sparkling wine and Dutch chocolate vodka that’s more complex than sweet. Nibble: During the daily Social Hour, 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., snag seven different apps for $7 each. Our fave pairing was the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo, though chef Deborah Scott’s signature nut-crusted Brie doesn’t disappoint, either.
1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad
The Scene: The restaurant at Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa draws tourists as well as the real housewives of Carlsbad, who like to hold court on the patio by the square fire pit. Drink: You’ll love Chandler’s mysteriously smoky margarita made with mezcal. Select cocktails, wine, and beer are $7 during happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily). Nibble: Happy hour small bites are $4 off, but they’re not that small. Chandler’s serves the biggest seafood tacos in the county, with juicy morsels of lobster and shrimp bathed in a light garlicky butter sauce. Who needs dinner?
The Moonlight Lounge
25 East E Street, Encinitas
The Scene: Head upstairs from Solace restaurant and you’ll find a youngish crowd of surfers, runners, yoginis, and other body-con health nuts. Drink: Pick The Big Apple, a bracing autumnal drink with Campari and Leopold’s apple whiskey—drinks are $1 off during happy hour, weekdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Nibble: Try anything with fall ingredients, or chef Matt Gordon’s signature cheddar biscuits made into sliders.
Living Room Bar
1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
The Scene: L’Auberge Del Mar’s upscale ocean-influenced bar draws cute couples, moneyed men, and a few self-proclaimed cougars on the prowl. Drink: The Tatanka, a potent and gingery fall vodka cocktail with a Polish accent. Hand-crafted cocktails, normally $12, are just $8 from 4:40 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Select glasses of wine are $2 off and two hours of parking are gratis with validation. Nibble: A flatbread topped with grilled veggies and goat cheese or a board loaded with housemade charcuterie or cheese. They’re all half off during L’happy hour.
The Pony Room
5921 Rancho Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe
The Scene: The Mah-Jongg crowd will barely recognize the old watering hole at Rancho Valencia now that it boasts chic equestrian-themed decor, an Enomatic wine dispenser, and a hip young happy hour scene. Drink: Chris Simmons serves up classic sippers like the Old Fashioned and the Martinez, a smooth and bittersweet martini named after the Northern California town. Nibble: During “The Homestretch,” all wood-fired pizzas are half-off from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., while wine and beer on-draft are also half off, 9 p.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday.
5200 Meadows Del Mar, Carmel Valley
The Scene: Inside the Grand Del Mar, everyone’s positively posh—think well-heeled locals, golfers, and wine tourists (the hotel restaurant, Addison, has a legendary wine cellar). Drink: You might need to reserve a hotel room or get a DD, because the menu offers 25 different martinis and specialty cocktails. Nibble: Chef Ernest Lopez’ $9 tapas include duck confit flatbread, nut-crusted lamb chops, and a white shrimp quesadilla. Happy hour is daily from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, enjoy live music from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and a DJ from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.