Photo above by Brian Addison.
Happy hours in this day and age are ubiquitous if not outright banal. True happy hours—the kind where you can genuinely score quality grub and drinks at decent prices—have become entangled with crappy ones.
To the chefs and restauranteurs out there, irked that I even mention “crappy happy hours,” fear not; I am not here to encourage you to give away free food or drinks discounted to the point where business viability is lost.
No, no. I know of the complaints toward and exhaustion with making happy hours happen: How dare you mark a dollar off a $10 drink and assume that makes one happy during a particular time of day? What is the point of half-off appetizers when you cut the portion itself in half? WHAT DOES ONE DOLLAR OFF EVEN MEAN?
I get the frustration on both sides of the Happy Hour Menu.
But here’s the thing, if I may appeal to both consumer and chef alike: happy hours can very easily draw regular, loyal patrons to both your establishment and dinner menu if you play your cards right.
And Long Beach, thankfully, often plays its cards right when it comes to the hours which bring gastronomical and financial happiness.
Tantulūm (6272 E Pacific Coast Hwy # J)
Photo by Brian Addison.
I begin with Tantulūm for reasons that go beyond its happy hour menu—mainly the fact that, ironically nestled between the two corporate giants that are Nordstrom Rack and Acapulco, it offers happy hour goers one of the most hidden’n’quiet spaces to kick back, complete with expansive views of the Alamitos harbor and a forgotten island (mansion) hut feel that makes it one of the most unique happy hours you’ll have in the city.
I mean, c’mon, look at that picture.
And the food is actually quite good. You can score six sliders—including two Kobe beef, two —for $15 (or just order a whole Kobe burger for $12). Chicken wraps for $8. $10 flat breads.
And the best part? 22-ounce pours of craft beer for $7.50.
Los Compadres (M-F, 3PM-6PM in the bar at 3229 E Anaheim St. and M-Th, 3PM-9PM and Fri, 3PM-6PM at 1144 Pine Ave.)
Photo courtesy of Los Compadres.
Some—including myself—would argue that the happy hour at Los Compadres is easily one of the best in Long Beach. Casual, approachable, accessible, and outright delicious.
While everything from their spectacular house margaritas to piña coladas to daiquiris and micheladas—like the masterwork pictures to the left—are only $6 and can easily take you from stressed to DGAF, it is the food portion that is truly the bargain.
Everything on the food side of their happy hour is $7. Everything. Queso fundido (chorizo included). Shrimp cocktails. Ceviche. Burritos. Nachos. Their massive quesadillas. Tacos. Sopes. Gorditas.
¡Viva la Mexico!
Cielo (Th-F, 7PM-9PM at 40 S Locust Ave. above the Sky Room; CLOSED M-W)
Photo by Brian Addison.
You read that right: outside of being a rooftop bar perched above almost the entirety of DTLB, Cielo offers the amazing convenience of a 7PM to 9PM happy hour.
Their happy hour is simple with $7 craft drinks made with top-shelf spirits. We’re talking blueberry basil margaritas. Mezcal concoctions that use everything from pink peppercorn to olive oil. Healthy doses of amaro and even one which lists a “bit of trust.”
And true to my list, you might be asking about grub. Well, Cielo has a taco lady—and she does not mess around in the quality and flavor department. In fact, her handmade tortillas hold some of the best lengua and chicharron filling in DTLB while vegetarians will be ecstatic to know that there are multiple options, including a zucchini tacos, mushroom tacos, and potato tacos.
If it’s winter like when this article was first published, bring jackets and sweaters because those wind tunnels can become vicious—but they won’t take away from the spectacular food, incredible libations, and downright awesome tacos.
L’Opera (M-F, 3:30PM-6PM, All Day Sunday at 101 Pine Ave.)
Photo by Brian Addison.
L’Opera is, by many definitions, a Long Beach staple, having introduced the city to fine dining a la Italy since 1990.
And yes, this white cloth-and-crystal establishment has a stellar happy hour that introduces folks to their food—and those folks may very well be those that otherwise can’t afford its regular menu.
I am talking $9 platters of their menu’s staples, from pastas to meats.
My suggestions? One should unquestionably go for two dishes if it’s their first time experiencing L’Opera.
Start with their carpaccio—arguably my favorite antipasti dish in general—composed of ultra-thin layers of raw beef tenderloin, drizzled with olive oil and topped with capers, baby arugula, and shaved parmesan.
After that, go for their housemade pasta—and I suggest, without question, their cappellacci di zucca [pictured], a signature L’Opera offering of pasta filled with a creamy blend of butternut squash and ricotta, placed over a generous puddle of spicy marinara, and topped with shaved parmesan, fried sage, and finished off with a drizzle of a brown butter sage sauce.
It’s impeccable. And don’t forget the $3 glass of vino.
Pier 76 (M-F, 3PM-6PM at 95 Pine Ave.)
Photo by Brian Addison
Literally across the intersection from L’Opera sits Chef Chris Krajacic’s casual seafood powerhouse—and the success of Pier 76 shouldn’t be underestimated. After moving from cramped quarters at the Cooper Arms Building at Ocean & Linden to its more spacious home at 1st & Pine, Pier 76 is the place where it is rare to not see it buzzing.
Since then, the man has opened up another location in Cerritos, Tustin, Riverside, and later this month, one in El Segundo.
And with that grand introduction, I utter three words to highlight Pier 76’s happy hour: smoked fish tacos—and at $2.76 a pop, they’re an utter steal.
Krajacic’s massive folded wonder is up there with the great fish tacos in the city because it is so distinctly Pier’s creation: smoked fish—completely different from my other favorite fish taco, El Cheko’s mighty smoked marlin taco—topped with a generous heap of mango salsa.
On top of that, enjoy $4 craft pours, bowls of chowder fries, and über-cheap ceviche.
Roe (Daily from 3PM-6PM at 5374 E 2nd St.)
I am, admittedly, late on the Roe game. I got a ton of flack for not including it on my best restaurants of 2017 list—Chef Art Gonzalez has not one but two restaurants in the city, this one being his muse so to speak, given it took him well over five years to get off the ground—but in all honesty, I hadn’t been so it would have been difficult for me to ethically put it on such a list.
It is now becoming a more common part of my dining out routine—especially their happy hour.
Go for the $2 oysters—some of the best happy hour oysters in the city, if not the best—and the delectable $7 duck fried rice.
Panxa Cocina (3937 E Broadway)
Photo courtesy of Anita Lau.
Long Beach, meet New Mexico.
I segue into Panxa because it is the aforementioned Chef Gonzalez’s first full-fledged cuisine affair with Long Beach since he returned from Santa Fe (working at McKenna’s doesn’t count), where his love of the Hatch chile and southwestern grub—almost entirely devoid in the LA food scene—is so beautifully explored in the linked piece by my friend and comrade Sarah Bennett.
For those not yet ready to throw $20 down on albondigas “con spatzle”—a dish that plays with Gonzalez’s Mexican and German heritage—or $22 for a chicken mole plate, Panxa’s happy hour is an easy way to explore the world of southwestern cuisine and drinks without sweating the bill too much. (Plus, anything is better than the trying-to-be-fine-dining that was Christie’s, the restaurant Panxa replaced.)
My suggestion? Get the creamy poblano fries and the Frito pies—each Californian plays on Southwest food—but make sure to ask for a side of Gonzalez’s spectacular Hatch chile sauce, the most direct homage he pays to New Mexico. (And please, despite the price, order a cocktail—they’re some of the best in town.)
Beer Belly (Mondays & W-F, 5PM to 7PM, and Sundays 3PM to 7PM at 255 Long Beach Blvd.)
Chef Wes Lieberher isn’t lighthearted when it comes to two things: his food and his beer.
Which is why Beer Belly’s “Hoppy” Hour is a steal for both stomachs and palates alike. Sure, you have a full-fledged burger for $8 and a generous portion of the man’s solid wings for $6 but if you really wanna get down on Lieberher’s style, go for the $6 Al Pastor Meatballs [pictured]. There’s a reason they’re one of the city’s best restaurants.
But perhaps Beer Belly’s hidden gem is bartender Sherwood Souzankari, whose talent for blending flavors is more reflective of the entire LA scene than it is Long Beach specific: sometimes challenging, oftentimes rewarding. So if you’re here for Hoppy Hour, my suggestion in the way of libations is to always go for the $8 Dealer’s Choice Cocktail—I assure you Sher won’t let you down.
Lola’s Mexican Cuisine (M-F, 3PM-6PM at both 2030 E 4th St. and 4140 Atlantic Ave.)
Photo courtesy of Lola’s.
There’s something special about a place when, eschewing the discount of existing items, they dedicate a whole menu to the almighty Happy Hour.
This is Lola’s.
They’re entourage of happy hour grub is $6. Wondering what you can get? There’s really nno need to describe but rather just list: handmade sopes trio, tinga tostaditas, Mexican pizza, queso fundido, mole chicken nachos, Mexican elote, guacamole, taquitos, a good ol’ quesadilla, and Lola’s cuetes [pictured].
On that last one, do not mess around: named after the almighty firework, Lola’s cuetes are bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños—which are dangerously addictive. Need another suggestion? The sopes trio is a steal and includes one with Lola’s excellent birria as well as another with carnitas and chicken tinga.
And don’t forget the $4 Modelo pours, $5 margs or palomas or mules, and $8 craft cocktails (get the La Dama).
The Big Catch (All Day M-Th, 150 E Broadway)
Photo by Brian Addison
The Big Catch has always been a bit underrated for me, always overshadowed by the (much farther, much pricier) Boiling Crab. Well, I have four words for you, Garden Grove: all day happy hour.
And I have three more: two-dollar Sapporos.
Tack on some $1.50 oysters and you have yourself the best Creole-centric happy hour in Long Beach. (Sadly, the Crazy Creole Cafe up on Long Beach Blvd.—easily one of my new most underrated joints when I finally decide to update last year’s list—has yet to institute a happy hour.)
They have a lot more. $2 Cajun fries. $6 fried seafood platters. And then meta-happy hours, happy hours within happy hours: afternoon happy hours everyday from 3PM to 7PM that give you $18 crab claws, shrimp, and oysters in one giant cocktail platter and late night happy hours (M-Th, 9PM to 11PM; Fri and Sat, 10PM to 11PM).
Maru Maki (All Day, Every Day at 745 E Broadway)
Photo by Brian Addison.
Surely, some are going to give me shit: “Why are you including a so-so sushi joint?” “This place isn’t that great.”
And, to be honest, there isn’t stellar sushi or Japanese food in Long Beach at all; that isn’t me throwing shade but just pointing out a very blunt reality. (That actually goes for a lotta food. We are getting there but we have a bit to go as well, which is why I encourage others to step out of the city.)
While I am certainly not saying our city is ready for a Sushi Ginza Onodera or n/naka—we are not—I am pretty confident we can something along the quality of Sushi Gen (whose $32 sashimi lunch platter is one of the best plates at that price you’ll get anywhere).
So Maru Maki, in every sense of the word, is a deal.
And here’s how it works: you pay an $8 sitting and after that, almost every roll is $3. Decent—key word: decent—sashimi cuts are also $3, giving you two pieces of either yellowtail, red snapper, ahi or maguro tuna, or salmon. (They’re often sliced on the thick side so don’t expect these pieces to be single-bites.)
Roxanne’s (M-Sun, 3PM to 7PM at 1115 E Wardlow Rd.)
Photo by Brian Addison
Admittedly, my photo is a bit deceptive. Don’t think you’ll be getting one of Roxanne’s stellar tiki drinks—easily the best in the city, if not the region—for some super cheap price.
But you will be able to order them with owner Robert Molina’s distinctly Latin American inspired grub, where his Salvadorian roots come out in appetizers that are on the cheap during happy hour.
I’m talking empanadas—easily some of the best north of PCH—and gouda nachos. I’m talkin’ $1.50 wings (go with the tamarind BBQ—you won’t regret it). And yes, I am talkin’ a pastrami quesadilla that comes with pickles.