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Bites Nearby: The Happy Hour Extravaganza Begins!

Four days. Nine restaurants. Two tired, middle-aged people.

A few months ago my husband and I were on our way home from a graduation party when we decided to stop at a local restaurant for a drink before diving back into life.

As we sat at the bar our entertaining bartender told us we should come back for happy hour during the week -- 5 to 7 p.m., she said.

Well, Steve and I just laughed -- who can go out from 5 to 7? Most of the time, we work until 6 or 6:30, then he has the drive home and I usually have things to deal with at home or meetings I have to attend or the million other things that everyone older than about 25 has to do. I mean, no one our age goes to happy hour any longer.

But then he had a thought: Our children were going to be out of town at the end of August. We couldn't actually take the week off, but why not a mini-vacation? He came up with the idea of getting off work early every day and going to a happy hour. We could revisit our youthful, pre-kid craziness, get cheap prices, and I wouldn't have to cook.

Then I had the bright idea of "Hey! Why don't we do two per day -- and I'll write about it!" Turning fun into work, that's my speciality!

And we were off. It started out bad but ended well. As so much of life does.

Day One: Cranberry and the not-so-happy-hours

has "Happy Hora" from 4:30 to 6:30. The restaurant advertises half-off drafts and wings and specials on margaritas [$3 off]. We ordered at 4:30, and the waitress came back and told us that happy hour didn't start for two minutes. We both looked at our phones and it was 4:32 p.m. OK.

My husband ordered a draft; I ordered a $5 "Sweet Sixteen" margarita. The margarita was tasty, except I asked for salt and didn't get it. We also ordered Southwestern-style wings.

They were very good, but one food special doesn't seem like much for a happy hour. Could they maybe add in some nachos or a quesadilla or something? Other than a few people drinking draft beers, happy hour didn't seem to have much of a draw here. I also looked at the check when I got home and I had been charged full price for the margarita. I should have checked it earlier.

Right next door,"Happier Hour" is from 5 to 7 p.m. but in the bar/lounge/patio only. It was a beautiful evening, so we sat on the patio with two friends who had joined us for our extravaganza. They, too, had to take off early to do this, people older than 30 simply cannot do happy hour.

The specials were $1 off house cocktails, half-off draft or bottled beer and select $6.95 appetizers -- and Houlihan's had a very good selection of all the above.

We told our waitress that we wanted to order the happy hour food/drinks, and she said happy hour was only in the bar. We showed her on the menu where it said bar/lounge/patio, and she was quite surprised.

She also had to keep running back and forth to the bar once we did order to verify the happy hour prices and what was available, even though it was printed clearly on the menu.

Our husbands each ordered a beer, one bottle, one draft, and my friend and I ordered martinis -- mine straight [not on the rocks] and hers a martini with a splash of blue curacao.

Well, that threw our girl. She kept coming back to check on the pronunciation, then had my friend spell it. Then she came back to me to ask if I wanted my martini on the rocks [no, again]. Finally, we got our drinks and, you guessed it, my martini was on the rocks.  I drank it anyway. I don't complain; I write. Also it took so long to get our drinks and food that happy hour was almost over. 

We also ordered buffalo wings [yes, more wings] and chicken nachos. The food was great, and everything else seemed to go well until we got the check. It was a mess. She'd forgotten it was happy hour so she charged us full price for everything and, instead of re-ringing, had done some weird crediting at the bottom of the check.

It was completely baffling, and we tried to tell her that, but it was taking so long for everything that finally we just gave up and paid the darn thing. I did the math later, and it did even out, but what a hassle.

Day Two: Wexford and the bad start with a happy ending

On the website for the Cabana Bar it says the bar is open every day at 4 p.m., and it consistently comes up on lists of "best happy hours." So we got there at 4 p.m., and it was closed. Turns out Cabana Bar does not open until 5 p.m. Happy hour is until 7 p.m. We told a couple of different people that the website was wrong, but it still hasn't been changed.

We went to hang out around Wexford until Cabana Bar opened, and my husband said that it looked as if our happy hour vision was turning into a mirage.

Which was an appropriate analogy for the oasis-in-the-desert atmosphere we found when we did finally get to the Cabana Bar. It's outdoors, next to the Oxford Club Pool, and there are seats at the bar and cozy tables in a tiki bar-like atmosphere. The bar has heaters for cooler nights.

There was no one there but us at 5 p.m., but the very nice bartender said it's crowded beyond belief on weekends. I can believe it; it's a great atmosphere for the younger set.

As for happy hour, the drink specials are good -- $1.50 off drinks -- but there are no food specials. We had a drink and moved on…

…to the Dive Bar and happy hour success at last!

I have written about the for various Patch but have never actually eaten there. That's going to change. Our waitress was friendly and efficient. She immediately told us it was happy hour and pointed us toward the many specials.

They include half-priced appetizers, $2 off specialty drinks and Bud Light drafts, $3 off craft drafts, $3 Pinnacle vodka drinks, $4 wines and martinis, and $6 Belgian bottled beers.

We had a wine, a draft beer and two appetizers, the Buffalo calamari and carnitas egg rolls. Clever and delicious appetizers are always a great find even when they're full price. At half price these were more than a bargain.

I couldn’t stop eating the egg rolls -- a fusion of my two favorite cultural foods, Mexican and Asian -- and my husband was equally wild about the slightly spicy calamari.

We started off sharing then gradually just claimed our favorites and finished them off. The portions were large enough to serve as dinner, and the bill was $15. No wonder the place was packed the whole time we were there. 

We left a large tip, and we'll be back for dinner one of these days.

We were full and happy and completely exhausted and happy houred out, but it was only Day 2, and we had two days to go. We knew we had to soldier on…

Tune in next Friday for Happy Hour - Part 2 on Cranberry Patch.

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