Last Call

When night falls, so do prices at some of Orange County’s most popular restaurants

Known as “reverse happy hour,” late-night deals are the latest ploy to fill restaurant seats at slower times—and catch customers whose jobs don’t let them get away by 5. And just as attractive as a lower bar tab is the tendency for the crowd to be sparser than during the traditional after-work happy hour. So go ahead, log some overtime, and let all that hard work pay off after the sun goes down. Unless noted, specials available only in the bar.

1. Lazy Dog Café
One of the best things about the late-night bar noshes at this local minichain is that they also are available on the patio. So take the pack outside and chow down on $4 to $6 snacks: crispy zucchini fries dipped in buttermilk ranch dressing; garlicky flatbread spread with walnut pesto; and towering trays of nachos topped with chili con carne. Drink specials include pitchers of tangy red wine sangria for $15. 9 p.m. until closing, Sunday through Thursday; traditional happy hour 3 to 6 weeknights. 13290 Jamboree Road, Irvine, left, and other locations throughout Orange County, lazydogcafe.com.

2. Charlie Palmer
The cool and coiffed cocktail set follows the illuminated Lucite floor panels here to a dimly lit oasis of sophisticated sips. The bar bustles with shoppers munching on snacks that change seasonally, including roasted bone marrow with raisin marmalade for $10, or duck meatballs with parsnips for $9. The party gets started after 10 p.m., when all alcohol is half-off. Settle into a low-slung couch for people-watching with a $7 Lavender Gin Fizz, a frothy concoction of Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, lavender syrup, and egg white, dotted with a sprinkle of orange zest. 10 p.m. until closing; traditional happy hour 4 to 7 p.m. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-352-2525, charliepalmer.com.

3. Haven Gastropub
It may take a little hovering to secure a bar seat at this hipster hangout, but it’s worth the wait. Most of the elevated pub choices on the menu are discounted after 11 p.m. The Haven Burger topped with pickled onions, roasted bell pepper, and St. Agur cheese goes for $8; the mac ’n’ cheese, enriched with black truffles is $6. No drink specials, but your seat comes with another bonus: proximity to bartenders who know their pours. 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily; traditional happy hour 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, 714-221-0680, havengastropub.com.

4. The Winery
High-backed, plush bar chairs and a jazz saxophonist at The Winery’s “Crush Hour” transform bar bites and glasses of wine into a swanky night out. Try the artisanal cheese plate with ripe Tome de Savoie, pistachio-encrusted goat cheese, and brie served with seasonal fruits and toasted walnut bread, or indulge in a bubbly bowl of sun-dried tomato fondue, thickened with goat cheese and scooped up with crusty garlic bread. At $7 each, both you and your wallet will leave full. 9 until closing nightly; traditional happy hour 3:30 to 6:30 weeknights and 4:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday. 2647 Park Ave., Tustin, 714-258-7600, thewineryrestaurant.net.

5. Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ
This casual Bayou-themed hangout takes its barbecue seriously. The bar, known as the Flying Pig Lounge, offers down-home grub, such as a $6 stack of rib tips dripping with signature sauce, and the $3 crispy fried green tomatoes. Wet your whistle with a 22-ounce glass of house-brewed beer for $4, though the $5.25 Back Porch Strawberry Lemonade, a vodka-based summery cocktail, does a better job of dousing the smoky flames. 9 p.m. until closing nightly; traditional happy hour 3 to 7 weeknights. Live blues bands in Brea, Tustin, and Lake Forest. Locations throughout Orange County, lucillesbbq.com.

6. Pizzeria Ortica
Swing by after 8 p.m. for authentic Neapolitan pies—their 300-year-old starter dough comes from Italy—on the cheap. Eight bucks buys one of a selection of four classic, full-size, thin-crust pizzas, baked to charred perfection in the wood-fired oven. The margherita is a safe standby, but the smoked mozzarella on the alla Norma feels more decadent. Pair your choice with a $3 to $5 drink; choose a well cocktail or one of several California-brewed craft beers. 8 p.m. until closing Monday through Saturday; traditional happy hour 3 to 6 weeknights. 650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714-445-4900, pizzeriaortica.com.

7. Morton’s the Steakhouse
Sample the broad-shouldered steakhouse experience on a dime. Start with a $6 platter of four petite iceberg wedge salads, then split a $7 plate of four tender filet mignon sandwiches, slathered with horseradish mayo. No drink specials in Anaheim, but the Champagne cocktail, with Pama, bitters, and a cinnamon-sugar rim, is a worthy splurge at $15. 9 p.m. until closing weeknights; traditional happy hour 4:30 to 6:30 weeknights in both locations, and 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 9 to close Sunday in Santa Ana. 1895 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim, 714-621-0101; 1641 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, 714-444-4834, mortons.com.

8. McCormick & Schmick’s
The rock-bottom bar prices at this restaurant’s “famous” happy hour resume after 9 p.m., and some are so low you’ll do a double take. Menus vary by location, but look for steals such as a $3 half-pound cheeseburger with fries, or the $4 baby clams in herbed broth. Glasses of Smoking Loon’s cabernet or chardonnay—both $6—are menu staples. 9 to 11 weeknights; traditional happy hour 4 to 6:30 weeknights. 2000 Main St., Irvine, 949-756-0505; 2791 N. Main St., Santa Ana, 714-558-1963; mccormickandschmicks.com.

9. Opah
The most impressive order here is the $5.50 tower of sweet potato chips, threaded over an upright skewer and served with a bowl of cool chipotle ranch dressing. All starters are half-price after 9 p.m. on weekends. Several martinis are $6, including the pucker-inducing Blueberry Lemon drop, with blueberry vodka, blueberries, Blue Curacao, triple sec, lemon juice, and sweet-and-sour. 9 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; traditional happy hour 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. 26851 Aliso Creek Road, Aliso Viejo, 949-360-8822; 13122 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 714-508-8055, opahrestaurant.com.

 

By Beth A. Clayton / Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Orange Coast magazine.

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