Happy hours used to be strictly for drinkers. Maybe your cheap beer would come with some pretzels. But food is as much a part of happy hour now as booze, as restaurants look to fill those humdrum hours between lunch and dinner.
From well-known to brand-new, here are some of the area's best food and drink happy hours.
Blue Mesa Grill
Fort Worth's most popular happy hour can be summed up in two words: free food. While most happy hours offer discounted food, Blue Mesa offers complimentary, made-to-order quesadillas if you hang in the bar and buy a drink. You'll want a large Blue Margarita, only $4 during these hours of happiness. But mojitos, well drinks, martinis, house wine, and the pretty and pretty intoxicating Sangria Blue Swirl are all $4 a pop too. 4-7:30 pm Monday-Friday, with food available from 4-6:30 pm.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Some restaurants limit their happy hour specials to a handful of drinks and dishes. Blue Sushi goes all out, touting a happy hour menu so extensive, you may as well make dinner out of it. Martinis, more than a dozen, are $6.50, while apps such as shishito peppers and calamari are $6. More than 20 rolls are $5.50. Matter of fact, nothing on the happy hour menu is more than $10. 3-6:30 pm Monday-Saturday, 12-8 pm Sunday.
Cannon Chinese Kitchen
The happy hour menu at this Near Southside Chinese spot may be small, but it features two of the restaurant's musts. No. 1 is the Effen Bob Barker, a concoction of cucumber vodka, mint leaf, and house-made lemonade, for $6. Partner that with No. 2, the excellent Chinese pancakes: savory, doughy pastries sprinkled with sea salt and scallions, for a mere $3. 5-6:30 pm Monday-Friday.
Cork & Pig Tavern
Felipe Armenta's hot new Americana spot in West Seventh, in the old AF+B space, has an early-bird happy hour — a good way to beat the dinner rush too. Excellent cheddar and bacon biscuits go for $3 an order; chips with freshly made guac are $5; and the SoCal Pizza, topped with avocado slices, manchego cheese, and basil, is $9. Drink specials include white and red wine by the glass for $5-$6, draft beers for $5, and canned beers for $4. 3-6 pm Monday-Thursday.
Great Scott is a new family-owned, upscale restaurant in Grapevine whose primary focus is wine and charcuterie. The restaurant's just-launched happy hour features complimentary items from the kitchen's wood-burning oven, including house-made pizzas and flatbreads, Brussels sprouts, and Padrón peppers. Select glasses of wine are $5. 4:30-6 pm Monday-Saturday.
Hoya Korean Kitchen
Most downtown restaurants tout happy hour specials, but this year-old fast-casual Korean spot kicks it up a notch, by discounting food and drinks until 8 pm, weekends included. Korean tacos, in your choice of chicken (spicy or not), pork, or beef, are two for $4. Edamame, dumplings, and egg rolls are all $2. Lotsa cheap drinks too: $2 sake bombs, $4 house wine, $4 large house sake or Japanese beer. 4-8 pm daily.
Beloved Italian restaurant, housed in a charming 1940s cottage near the museum district. It features a shady, tree-lined patio where well-heeled west siders unwind with wine and apps. Try the steamed mussels, bathed in a broth spiked with ginger, and the "Maryland-style" crab cakes, served with lemon aioli and spicy risotto. Wines, ranging from Chardonnay to Merlot, are $5.50 a glass, and if you want to spoil your dinner, all desserts are $4, including a cappuccino ice cream pie. 4:30-6:30 pm Monday-Thursday.
A worthy alternative to Blue Mesa's madhouse happy hours, this quasi-fancy Mexi-chain, which has locations in Arlington, Colleyville, and Fort Worth, has a copycat happy hour freebie offering. Order a drink and receive complimentary quesadillas; queso; or nachos smothered in black beans, sour cream, and just-whipped guac. Margaritas are a buck off, draft beers are $2.50, and bottled Mexican beers are $3.50. In bar area only, 3-7 pm Monday-Friday.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Upscale downtown steakhouse features a happy hour that goes beyond the usual half-price apps. Basically, you can have dinner here for $9. The restaurant's special happy hour food menu includes several entrées, including a prime burger with fries, a tenderloin skewer salad, and a crab BLT with zucchini fries, each for $9, a steal at a restaurant whose entrées start in the double digits. Cosmos, pomegranate martinis, and Manhattans go for $9 too. Available in bar only, 4:30-6:30 pm Monday-Friday.
Shaw's Patio Bar & Grill
Magnolia Avenue burger joint run by the longtime restaurant-biz Shaw family is a safe place from the hipsters who have overrun the area. Shaw's attracts an older clientele, a crowd that likes to soak up the sun on the restaurant's duo of patios. A good time to go: on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when Angus-beef burgers topped with goat cheese, chorizo, and other left-of-center ingredients are half off, and on Wednesdays, when cheffy hot dogs get the same half-off treatment.
Want more great stories like these delivered to your inbox daily? Then sign up for our emails.