Bars, restaurants, and lounges in Irvine, Tustin, and Costa Mesa offer something for everyone during their Happy Hours. Enjoy Taiwanese bar food, Asian tapas, and seafood with your drinks in settings as varied as a sports lounge, a Caribbean-themed establishment, and a high-end bistro.
The Balcony Bar & Grill
Every day and every hour (from opening to closing) is Happy Hour at The Balcony Bar & Grill in Irvine, a cocktail lounge and bar that specializes in Taiwanese cuisine. The most economical drink deals can be had on Sundays through Thursdays, with a small hot sake offered for $1.95, a pint of Bud Lite for $2.95, and a selection of import pints, large hot sakes, and well drinks available for $3.95. $4.95 will buy you a mixed drink, including their unusual and delicious Balcony Nigoritini, which is made with apples, mangos, and yogurt. If you stop by with a group of sake-loving friends, consider ordering a pitcher of hot sake for $14.95. The Happy Hour drink pricing on Fridays and Saturdays is decidedly less varied, with Johnny Walker Black and Grey Goose offered for $7.50 on Fridays and Saturdays, respectively, but the DJ at 10 p.m. on Fridays and live music at 10 p.m. on Saturdays make The Balcony a fun place to be. The appetizer and dim sum selections on the establishment’s “Drunk Munchies” list are priced from $2.95 to $8.95; the Magic Calamari ($6.95) is outstanding. A tip: don’t be discouraged by the center’s parking lot, which is often full, as convenient parking is available in the Diamond Jamboree’s parking structure.
The Balcony Grill & Bar (located in the Diamond Jamboree center, on the second level), 2710 Alton Parkway, Unit #215, Irvine, California 92606; (949) 387-0888. Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
The Caribbean-themed Chaparosa Grill in Tustin offers their Happy Hour all week. Domestic beers are $2.75, and imports, including Red Stripe, are $3.75. Well drinks, house Chardonnay, house Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mimosas are $4.50. Four martinis are priced at $6 during Happy Hour. The long appetizer menu includes innovative takes on typical bar food, such as the Asian nachos ($4.50), which are made with Thai marinated chicken and cheese on wonton chips, topped with a wasabi cream; a pork and mango quesadilla ($6.95); and the fried calamari cariba ($6.95), with garlic aioli and sweet chili sauce replacing the usual tartar and cocktail sauces. There are also an array of fresh salads and pizzas ($4 to $6.95) available during Happy Hour, as well as bar favorites such as buffalo wings ($5), and a range of sliders (2 for $5).
Chaparosa Grill (located in The District at Tustin Legacy, in front of the AMC movie theater), 2449 Park Avenue, Tustin, California 92782; (714) 259-9888. Happy Hour takes place from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Recently, more establishments have trended towards offering Happy Hour seven days a week, and the Bluewater Grill in Tustin is no exception. The décor is traditionally styled in dark wood and brass, the service is top-notch, and the seafood is notably fresh. Happy Hour is definitely the time to visit, when the restaurant offers many of their appetizers and small plates from $4 to $6 in the bar, with a purchase of a beverage. The oyster shooters (2 for $4), calamari fritti ($5), salt & pepper shrimp ($5), and mini steamer pot ($6) are outstanding bargains. Bluewater Grill has a very extensive wine by the glass selection which is perfect for Happy Hour. They also mix an outstanding Mojito.
Bluewater Grill (located in The District at Tustin Legacy), 2409 Park Avenue, Tustin, California 92782; (714) 258-3474. Happy Hour specials available from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 p.m. until closing time Monday through Thursday.
Anqi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar
Costa Mesa’s Anqi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar is known for its innovative cuisine served in its striking, stunningly beautiful dining areas. Happy Hour seekers can sample the kitchen’s offerings during the bistro’s “Red Hour”, during which small plates of “Asian tapas” are available for $4 to $6. The tapas include a filet mignon summer roll, a chorizo corn dog coated with a tempura-like batter, and chicken or beef satay served with pickled vegetables (each $6). The salt & pepper fried potatoes with truffle essence are remarkable. All well drinks are half price during the Red Hour, and are served with fries. A wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails – including a delicious bubblegum martini ($7) are also available.
Anqi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar (located in South Coast Plaza, adjacent to Bloomingdale’s), 3333 South Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, California 92626; (714) 557-5679. Anqi’s “Red Hour” is held from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Garf’s Sports Lounge
A longtime fixture on Bristol Street in Costa Mesa, Garf’s Happy Hour specials are hard to beat. Beef tacos and chicken tacos can be purchased for an unbelievable $0.75 on Sundays and Thursdays respectively. Be sure to order calamari rings for only $3.50 on Wednesdays and Fridays. Other Happy Hour appetizers include chicken nuggets, fried shrimp, and mini cheeseburgers served with fries. Sit at the bar and get to know the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders, who can mix any drink you request. If you prefer a beer, they have many bottled varieties to choose from. Stay after Happy Hour when the lounge becomes crowded, and shoot pool or utilize the jukebox. Sporting events are broadcast on the lounge’s televisions, so you’ll never miss a game.Garf’s Sports Lounge, 3046 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, California 92626; (714) 435-4070. Daily Happy Hour deals offered from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.