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Bites Nearby: The Happy Hour Extravaganza - Part Two!

Hey, it beats joining a bowling league.

Writer Kelly Burgess took readers on a . Here is the second part of that adventure.

Day 3: Cranberry/Mars and cultural confusion

It was Day 3 of our Happy Hour Extravaganza! I was dropping off some marching band-related paperwork to a fellow volunteer, and I told her about my happy hour adventures.

"That is so cool," she said. "My husband and I have been looking for different things to do now that the kids are older, so we joined a bowling league. Happy hours sound like much more fun!"

It was, but it also was a little difficult to do this every night, four nights in a row, for those of us who have passed the happy-hour-quick-recovery age by a couple of decades. But here we were at happy hour No. 5…

, which has "happiest hours" specials from 4 to 6 p.m. at the bar only. The bartender did not tell us that it was happy hour, but when we asked about it she told us what the specials were: $1.25 domestic drafts, $2.50 micro and import drafts and $1 off all bottles, mixed drinks and wine. There also is free pizza, set on a sideboard.

Domenico's has no other happy hour food specials, but everything looked so good and the rest of the bar patrons were ordering delicious-looking food off the menu. My husband was starved, so he ordered mussels to go with the free pizza. Both were awesome.

We had a wine and a beer and enjoyed the very efficient and friendly bartender who seemed to know everyone there, à la Cheers. The place was packed the entire time we were there, and I could see why. If I lived closer and didn't have all these kids, I'd probably eat at the bar every day, and when I walked in the waitress would yell: Kelly!

Hmm. Maybe it's just as well I don't have time to hang out at a bar every afternoon.

Then it was off to , which was another great choice, except, again, we had to ask about happy hour, even though they have an extensive happy hour . It's 5 to 7 p.m. daily and features inexpensive specialty drinks, wines, sake and beers.

For munchies, they have $4 sushi, dim sum and a whole list of appetizers. We had the edamame, chicken teriyaki and crispy tuna sushi. We didn't do too badly for two people who had just eaten pizza and mussels.  Our stomachs weren't sure what culture we were dining on. Jimmy Wan's happy hour appetizers are almost a meal in themselves.

As for drinks, I tried the Skinny Memphis, which was very refreshing and didn't taste too alcohol-y. My husband had a Japanese beer, one that I've had elsewhere and really like.

This is another place we will be revisiting for dinner one of these days. 

Again, we were stuffed from two dinner-sized happy hours and relaxed from two drinks each, and we could definitely have quit and been perfectly happy, but no! We still had one day to go.

Day 4: Richland and perfect endings

By this time we were getting into the swing of this happy hour thing, except for the five pounds we'd both put on and the fact that we were knocking off early every day and knew we'd have to both work until midnight every day the next week to make up for it.

My husband was so into it that he added a restaurant to our planned final two: Emiliano's in Richland Plaza.

My husband loves Emiliano's, and someone had told him about happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Emiliano's features half-priced appetizers but only simple dips and quesadillas. It doesn't include the most interesting appetizer, Queso Fundido, which is a shame as it is fundido indeed-o.

We made do, ordering a spinach quesadilla, which I'd never had before and liked so well I immediately started trying to figure out how they'd made it. I also had a half-priced margarita, but again, it came without salt even though I specifically asked for salt.

What is it with these salt-less margaritas? Salt should be the default serving; they shouldn't even ask. From now on, I vow, if my margarita has no salt I'm sending it back!

I digress. My husband had a beer, because he's boring and spent most of Emiliano's happy hour on his cell phone yelling at some poor guy who didn't have his presentation ready. I think he scared the waitress. So maybe adding this one wasn't the greatest idea he ever had. That wasn't Emiliano's fault of course, except for the salt. 

It got better from there as Steve turned off his phone and we hopped over to Atria's down the street. We've been in Atria's many times but never for happy hour. It's from 5 to 7 p.m. in the bar and features $2 selected 15 oz. drafts, $4 house wines, $4 Captain and Coke and $5 martinis.

I had a martini, which, I have to be honest here, wasn’t very good. It didn't matter because I was feeling a little pickled from all my happy hours all week and didn't want it anyway, but it made me wonder: What separates a good martini from a bad one? I don't know, but Atria's just aren't that great, even when it's not happy hour.

The $5 tavern bites menu more than made up for it. We had the mini burgers, which are just one of half a dozen offerings, and they were delicious. I would go back there for happy hour, and I know I'll go back there for dinner because they're in my neighborhood and I do like the food and atmosphere. Others must agree; it was pretty crowded when we left.

Last but definitely not least we visited the Cala Lily Café, where we have also eaten many times. The "Happy Hour & 1/2" is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and is notable because the restaurant serves not only a $5 happy hour appetizer menu but a full happy hour meal menu as well. It includes an entrée, salad or soup, side dish and bread and butter for $15.

We have had that before but could not on our Happy Hour Extravaganza as we'd already eaten twice. We sat at the bar and stuck to wines for $4 and an order of stuffed peppers. Cala Lily also has $2 domestic beers and $5 specialty martinis, but only sweet martinis.

We never sat in the bar before, and it was a very nice experience. It was packed, with people waiting for tables or just eating and drinking there, and the bartender was friendly and highly efficient. 

And just like that, at 7 p.m. on a Thursday, our Happy Hour Extravaganza was over. We couldn't do Friday because we had to pick up our children from the airport after a happy week with their grandpa.

It was a fun experience and definitely better than joining a bowling league. The best part was discovering some new restaurants that we're going to go back to and try for dinner, namely , Jimmy Wan's and Domenico's.  

Happy hour doesn’t seem to be much of a big deal in the North Hills. Only two places told us they had happy hour -- Dive Bar and Atria's. Some places didn't even seem to realize that they advertise a happy hour or have happy hour specials.

Although, that might be because the North Hills is made up of people like me -- from 4 to 7 p.m. we are still working and parenting and volunteering and doing whatever else it is we do to keep things going.

It makes it tough to get to happy hour, but now that I know they exist and how to get happy hour deals, I might be able to sneak out for one now and then.  It's a cheap, quick meal in settings that tend to feel very neighborhood-ly.

There's nothing happier than that. 

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