Top 5 happy hours of 2010

The writing's on the wall.

The writing's on the wall.

The Twin Cities are home to many killer happy hours in a variety of venues. In the Upper Midwest, snazzy joints are just as likely to discount their cocktails in the early evening as your friendly local dive bar. The Hot Dish has been diligently visiting bars on your behalf each week to find the best half-priced vittles, bargain haute drinks, and great deals.

Here are our picks for 2010's best Happy Hours of the Week. They come in all shapes and sizes.

[jump] 1. Ginger Hop

201 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.746.0304

Hours and details: Sunday through Friday, 3-6 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, 10 p.m.-midnight, $3 select beer, including many craft brews, $5 select specialty drinks, $4 sake bombs, and a discounted food menu, including appetizers and burgers.

Here is the lowdown:

The venue: Ginger Hop has a laid-back vibe that will make you forget about that bad day at work the minute you walk in the door--especially with one of the specialty cocktails in hand and a couple plates of appetizers in front of you. The bar's warm, dark wood, accented with contemporary light fixtures, and vibrantly colored walls and art give the place a comfortable, modern feel.

The verdict: Many choices and great values can be found on this happy hour menu. We especially liked the fried pickle--tempura battered and served on a stick--a dish where East definitely meets Northeast. The fresh spring rolls and cream cheese wontons were also lovely and all priced at $3. We were also impressed by the happy hour beer selection, the place where many happy hours fall short. The list was quite strong, including Bells, Deschutes, and Lift Bridge. The cocktail choices were also quite nice, especially the White Cosmo made with vodka, Saint Germaine, and white cranberry juice. Indeed, a nice way to shake off the day, or enjoy a late night--a very gratifying happy hour. --Michelle Leon

Various cocktails at the Hop

Various cocktails at the Hop

2. La Cucaracha Mexican Restaurante

36 South Dale St., St. Paul; 651.221.9682

Hours and details:
7 days a week 3 -6 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10-midnight, $2-$3 beer specials, $3.50 house margaritas and rail drinks, $5 appetizers

Other daily specials:
Monday: $2 off large bullfighters
Tuesday: tequila flights $10 for 3 shots
Wednesday: 1/2 off any bottle of wine
Thursday: $3 for all pints and bottles of beer

Here's what you'll find, and our verdict:

Venue: This is not the place to go if you want a fancy martini or craft cocktail, but it's ideal if you want a simple blended margarita--icy cold, sweet and sour, maybe a pitcher full--or a bracing shot of tequila (they have roughly 50 kinds) or a cerveza with lime. The surroundings are unpretentious, with traditional festive decor. The bartenders are friendly, and owners Nina and Gina are gracious and warm, as they have been since the '70s. This place is down-to-earth and mellow.

Verdict: We really like this happy hour. With a nice selection of $5 apps, including wings, nachos, and ceviche (in season), $3.50 margaritas, and the vintage charm of the Summit Hill neighborhood, this happy hour is refreshingly unfancy and fun. --Michelle Leon

3. Barbette

1600 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.827.5710

Hours and details: Monday-Friday 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday-Thursday 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m. $3 PBRs, $4 domestic tap and house red, white, rose, and bubbly wine. $5 appetizer menu: frites, oysters, pate, cheese plate, and mussels.

Venue: There is a good reason that Barbette is a perennial in the dining scene, and a great place for a date--the atmosphere sparkles and creates comfort. From the colored glass lights, to the crimson painted walls, to the sweet sounds of songbird Cesaria Evora floating through the air, this room is peaceful in the daytime--perfect for conversation--but also shines for an enchanted late evening. We especially like Barbette in the afternoons, having a sip of wine and recharging with a friend.

Verdict: What other happy hour offers specials on oysters, mussels, pate, and bubbly? Even the choice of house red wine was a delight, the mellow L'Epayrie Rouge on this day. This happy hour does not disappoint--lovely on a sunny day, cozy on a winter eve, and just right for everything in between. --Michelle Leon

4. Fuji-Ya

600 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.871.4055

Hours and details:
Tuesday-Thursday 5 p.m.-7 p.m.,10 p.m.-midnight., Sunday 8 p.m.-10 p.m.



Sushi $3.50-$8.00, appetizers $3.00-$6.50, select domestic and imported beer $3.50, sake small $3.50, large $4.50, wine $4.50, select martinis $6.00, Half-price bottles of wine Thursdays 9 to close

Fuji Ya's happy hour is rocking for one major reason: Lots of sushi choices for very little $. My buddy and I indiscriminately ordered anything and everything, including the martini of the day, and spent only $40. Fuji Ya offers several specialty makis, including caterpillar, spider, tempura, and butterfly rolls, as well as three vegetable maki choices for our vegetarian friends, with those pickled radishes and gourds that I find so delicious. Drink specials include $3.50 imported beer, and the daily special martinis--on this day pomegranate--which are a nice complement to the sushi. The swanky-hipster environment, complete with cool tunes and artwork, gives the place a more lively atmosphere than most sushi bars. And if you are lucky, Matt, the wild man drummer from Birthday Suits, might be your sushi chef. The only downer is that they are not open on Mondays, which is sometimes the day most needing a happy hour. --Michelle Leon

5. Liquor Lyle's

2021 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis - 612.870.8183

Happy Hour: Daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-11p.m.

Specials: All drinks 2-4-1, late happy hour has a discounted appetizer menu

What if happy hour lasted 11 hours a day? What if you ordered a drink and, like magic, two were placed in front of you? Dreams do come true; sit your a** down in a red vinyl booth and get ready for the ridiculousness of your table filled with more drinks than you can shake a chicken wing (free from 6 p.m.-7p.m.) at. There is one rule: no more than three drinks can be in front of you at one time, tyrants! And let me offer one more rule: walk or take the bus when partaking of this H. Hour. - -Michelle Leon

L'happy hour

L'happy hour

Honorable Mentions - Moscow on the Hill, Dancing Ganesha, Moto-i and Lush