Consider, for a moment, all of the things the late lamented Sex and the City forced us to rethink: that platitude about size not mattering. The desirability of the Manolo Blahnik for anyone who lives anywhere it ever snows, or for feet expected to walk any farther than to a waiting limo. That breeding is worthy sitcom fodder. That you can consume a river of cosmopolitans night after night and still sport the kind of perky ass that looks cutely sexy in a pair of tighty-whiteys.
We can all agree that no one, male or female, looks cutely sexy in Fruit of the Looms, can't we? And that the sudden popularity of Uggs, albeit during Indian summer and in conjunction with the miniskirt, is arguably minimal progress.
All of which really goes nowhere. Except that we've been mulling over the happy hour, and pondering whether humankind--young, single humankind, anyhow--really can go out night after night, or if everything about Carrie and her impossibly clever friends was a big, fat, glam lie.
We've concluded that you can, in fact, more or less live on the town--largely because the happy hour endures. Indeed in some quarters it flourishes, thanks in no small part to the more ambitious nature of Twin Cities dining in general. Certainly you can still get a half-price Beam-Coke and .10 wings. And you can find an astounding array of creative, filling preparations of the lowly potato. But you can also find outrageous deals on everything from all-you-can-eat sushi to Spanish tapas so inventive they've been featured in the glossy foodie mags, and at prices that allow the more social animals among us to prowl the streets, night after night, without going broke. How long our asses stay perky under such a regimen remains to be seen, but we think we can beat Carrie's six seasons.
25 N. Fourth St.; Minneapolis; 612.338.2255
Has anyone but me noticed the gross inflation of pool table costs during the last decade? Not so long ago, you could walk into pretty much any bar in the country, plunk down two quarters, and shoot a lazy game of eight or nine ball. But somewhere around the mid-'90s--undoubtedly in an act of collusion on the part of saloon owners and pool-table retailers nationwide--the price rapidly escalated: $.75, $1, $1.50! I've contemplated writing letters to various dignitaries in Washington, D.C., demanding an investigation into this price-fixing scheme. Or organizing fellow victims for a "Million Pool Player March" on the Capitol. But I realize that these efforts would be futile. The liquor and pool lobbies are simply too powerful and entrenched. For now I'll be content to shoot pool at City Billiards. That's because on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 3:00 to 8:00 p.m., and on Fridays from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., it's absolutely free. The dozen tables are a little banged up, the felt a little loose, but they're still superior to 90 percent of the bar greens in town. And the booze is almost as cheap during those hours: $2.50 pints (except Guinness, which is $3) and $2.75 well drinks. --Paul Demko
2021 Hennepin Ave.; Minneapolis; 612.870.8183
My favorite newspaper correction in recent memory stemmed from a Star Tribune story about Liquor Lyle's, as the bar is popularly known. The errant article had stated that Lyle's did not have any TV screens. Unfortunately, as the correction duly noted, the redoubtable Uptown watering hole has 11 televisions. It's understandable, however, how the reporter could have made such a mistake: She undoubtedly ended her night of editorial research passed out on the bathroom floor gargling her own vomit. Lyle's, you see, is a very, very dangerous bar. Especially at happy hour. And there are many, many happy hours at Lyle's. Every day, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., every drink in the house--Guinness, Jim Beam, cosmopolitans, whatever--is two for the price of one. Order one, receive two--and don't try to protest otherwise. Then from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., for those who insist on eating actual food, all appetizers are half-price. But the true miracle of Lyle's happy hour is from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. During those hours of peak alcohol consumption, the two-for-one special makes a glorious, terrifying, liver-destroying return. I defy anyone to ride out an entire happy hour shift at Lyle's and drive home legally. --Paul Demko
1333 Nicollet Mall. Minneapolis; 612.339.0540
The sushi bar at Ichiban ("number one" in Japanese) may not be the cheapest happy hour deal in town, but it's still the best bargain out there for lovers of elegantly cut raw fish. From 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., weekdays only, the tab for an hour's seating at the oval-shaped sushi bar is just $23. Ichiban's sushi is consistently some of the freshest around. The spread at the bar (where the food goes circling past on boats floating in a mini-moat) includes a full complement of basic cuts as well as solid renderings of the combination rolls Americans love so much. If you tip the chef--and probably if you don't--he or she will be happy to prepare custom rolls for you, provided the joint's not too busy. Ichiban doesn't feature any after-work drink specials, but if you can't consume enough to make this a remarkably good deal, you have no business cruising happy hour spreads in the first place--you're only getting in the way of professionals. --Steve Perry
417 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.376.7676
The happy hour at the Minneapolis Warehouse District's classiest joint has many amenities, but chief among them is length: The Imperial Room offers specials from 3:30 to 8:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and the bargains begin at 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays. (There are also deals available to "industry" workers on Sunday nights.) But it isn't merely the elastic definition of 60 minutes that makes the Rat Pack-retro confines a must-do. All drinks, excluding wine and top-shelf pours, are half off. Same goes for a healthy portion of the Imperial Room's appetizer list, including the chicken satay and artichoke dip (both normally $8.95), as well as the chicken wings and bruschetta (half off the regular $7.95). But perhaps the most satisfying find is the potato croquettes--two encrusted pancakes of whipped, starchy goodness, laced with a basil-pesto cream sauce. For a measly three bucks, the croquettes offer something more akin to a light entrée than a paltry appetizer, the perfect base to consume vast amounts of good booze priced cheap. Add a Stoli-tonic for a very adult happy meal priced at just $5.50, and you've got your drink on for imbibing well into the evening. --G.R. Anderson Jr.
900 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis; 612.338.0062
In some ways it was too good to be true when Solera opened its graciously wrought double doors to the madding crowds. Twin Citians probably would have flocked to this expansive, arty, and ambitious tapas bar had it cost three times as much. But Solera's prices started out down-to-earth and, more remarkably, have stayed there. And while we were waiting, cynically, for the other shoe to drop, the place went and instituted a happy hour notable for what must be loss-leader prices: $5 for piquillo peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese, $5 for a plate of Spanish cured meats, $6 for pork ribs with paprika sauce, and, perhaps closest to the happy hours most of us grew up on, $7.50 for calamari with smoked paprika alioli. These prices are in effect Monday through Friday from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., along with half-price tap beer and sangria and a $2 discount on cocktails. There's an even more extensive menu for a late-night happy hour (10:00 to close Monday through Thursday and 11:00 to close Friday and Saturday) and most amazing, on Mondays a list of 10 bottles of non-plonk Spanish wine priced under $10. Buen provecho , we say. --Beth Hawkins
175 West Seventh St.; St. Paul; 651.556.1416
Conveniently located in the seven corners area of downtown St. Paul, the Liffey, from the outside, appears to be a shiny, old-fashioned train car run headlong into the bottom floor of a Holiday Inn. On the inside, the classic bar decor includes dark woodwork with glass paneling to separate a busier main section from smaller, more subdued dining areas. Since it's kitty-corner to the Xcel Energy Center, it's an obvious choice for a beer before a Wild game or big concert, but its popularity isn't limited to arena events. It's also great for appetizers with co-workers before hitting Interstate 94 on the way home from work--or, hell, on your way to evening Mass at the St. Paul Cathedral. On weekdays you can enjoy $1.50 off wine, rail drinks, and pints--ranging from Guinness to black and tans--until 6:00 p.m. Appetizers include cute mini-burgers, breaded fried green olives stuffed with Asiago cheese, fries with curry sauce and horseradish sour cream, and, of course, hot wings or onion rings, all just $4.99 from 2:00 p.m. until midnight, Monday through Friday. If you'd fancy a meal with your pint, the Liffey serves up such traditional Irish dishes as fish and chips, curried chicken, and bangers and mash, as well as more American-style salads and sandwiches. If you're not in a hurry, stay for some live Irish music performed generally around eightish on Fridays and Saturdays. --Jessica Armbruster
2519 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis; 612.788.9069
When that pint needs a side of beer-battered somethings, Psycho Suzi's Motor Lodge can provide. You know how you bite into an onion ring and the whole stupid piping-hot onion slides right out and smacks you in the chin, scarring you for life? The onion rings at Psycho Suzi's don't do that. Let that sink in and you'll understand why they're the best in town. You bite and the ring happily obliges. Or ask for a little cheddar on your Trans Am tater tots and you'll get your very own LaBrea tar pit. Upon excavation you'll find that the totasaurs were probably killed when they were smothered with cheese. You can get these appetizers (and tap beer and well drinks) for half price from 3:00 to 6:00 on weekdays. There are also late-night happy hours from 9:00 to close on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, with different specials each day.--Lindsey Thomas
Dara Moskowitz's work won't be seen this week or next. She's busy preparing for this year's issue of the Twin Cities Wine & Dine guide. Look for her return to these pages when it hits the streets October 6.
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