My husband and I love to try new dishes and Happy Hour provides us with the perfect chance. Now we've never been to Spain, but word has it that their tradition of Tapas, or little dishes, is much like our happy hours here in Orange County, California.
The best part of attending these events is that you get to try food that might otherwise be quite a bit more expensive when served in the dining area, plus the atmosphere is quite a bit more relaxed. Sometimes, depending on the restaurants, you even meet some very interesting people and have entertainment. Most require you to eat in the bar and order a drink, but I haven't been to one yet that insisted I have one that is alcohol based.
Our frugal college-aged son was the first to introduce us to one of the best deals in Orange County. Unfortunately, while the restaurant is owned by the same company, they've changed the name and took away one of the best deals in the county! It was Thaifoon's at the Irvine Spectrum. It was the “1,2,3" deal. Appetizers for literally $1, $2, or $3 from 4 until closing! Now the restaurant is called Ling and Louie's. The menu is still a bargain and the patio is the place to be. The prices have raised to being 1/2 price. But there are still plenty of choices. Service can be spotty, so at this place, I wouldn't suggest going on a weekend. Too crowded and the staff is overworked!
Any of the county's Claim Jumper Restaurants have an excellent happy hour menu. If they're not too busy, they will also be happy to grill some of the fried foods. Free popcorn is always around. The best part, from 4-7 they usually have $3 off any appetizer-including the single sized pizzas! If you want, you can order off the regular menu. Just remember, this is a very popular chain, so come early and don't be picky about what table you get-just be glad you're able to get one!
The Beachfire Grill has two locations. One in Ladera Ranch, one by, what else, one of the county's many beaches! My husband loves to order the bacon, cheddar cheeseburger. It comes with fries for $6. If you order the same thing off the dinner menu in the dining room-double the price. I like a few of the salads. The atmosphere is just what you'd expect. The Ladera Ranch unit usually has live entertainment. The artwork is for sale. If you love beach scenes-this place is a treasure.
The Yard House has several restaurants in the county. All have a bustling atmosphere, plenty of choices and are quite loud. But there's plenty on the happy hour menu to chose from-all good. This is a great place to take a large group and share.
Most of the El Toritos, El Torito Grills, Acalpaulco and other Mexican restaurants in Orange County have liberal appetizer/happy hour menus. The most popular: Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays!
If you're hungry and looking for something tasty, different and you're on a budget-make sure you come out and visit Orange County, California!
Carine Nadel is on The Reader's Advisory Panel of Woman's Day magazine and has had numerous articles and recipes published both on various websites and print publications. To read more of her work, log onto: http://www.Carine-whatscooking.blogspot.com