Tag Archives: austin happy hour

Papi Tino’s Makes Me Happy :)

26 Mar

After my bike tour with Austin Eats Food Tours a few weeks ago, I’ve had a new appreciation for East Austin.  One great gem I recently discovered is Papi Tino’s on East 6th.  The atmosphere of a place is very important to me and Papi Tino’s absolutely delivers on this.  The restaurant, which serves fresh Mexican cuisine, is located in this adorable old house that, if the walls could talk, I am certain would have some stories to tell.  The rustic home still feels like a home, with its wooden walls stripped of many layers of paint and wallpaper, vintage fixtures in the bathroom and the space still divided into separate rooms – you almost feel as if the residents just stepped out for a moment and allowed you to stay a while, relax and make yourself at home.  There is ample outdoor seating in the front yard underneath beautiful shade trees and seating in the backyard as well.

Along with the great atmosphere also comes great food.  The menu is simple and elegant, not the typical East Austin Mexican dive (which can be great as well, by the way).  My husband and I had the guacamole to start, which was fresh and delicious.  For the main course, I ordered the Camarones a la Diabla – five or six large shrimp covered with a spicy peanut salsa on top of diced mango and avocado and garnished with baby kale, which was a nice combination of spicy and sweet.  Really good.  My husband ordered what I consider the gold standard for Mexican food – chicken enchiladas with suiza sauce.  The creamy green sauce was one of the best I’ve ever had – after he was finished eating, I scooped up the rest of the sauce with chips!

I also enjoyed their house margarita – not too sweet and very refreshing. Happy hour only runs on Saturdays from 4 to 6pm, but I imagine it is a fun one, especially on a beautiful day.  I really liked Papi Tino’s – the food was wonderful and the ambience was fantastic.  I don’t think I can get back soon enough.

Papi Tino's on Urbanspoon

Hugo is the Place To Go

5 Feb

It’s a beautiful, clear evening in Austin, Texas – warm enough to enjoy the outdoors (gotta love Texas winters).  The perfect environment for, you guessed it – happy hour!  I felt the calling of a margarita in my near future, so I gathered up a group of friends and we headed over to Hugos Restaurant Y Tequila Bar, located on Lamar Blvd, just south of the river.

Hugos has several things going for it.  First is the easy parking available in the parking garage next door – and it’s free.  Second is the large outdoor deck – just what we needed to take advantage of this awesome weather.  And third, but definitely the most important item on this list  – great margaritas.  Happy hour runs 4 to 7 pm Monday – Friday and includes $4 select appetizers, $2 Dos XX, $3.50 well drinks and $4 margaritas.  Not only were the ritas great, they were cheap too!

puts the "happy" in happy hour (photo by Melissa Skorpil)

I also had my fill of a couple of appetizers.  First up was the Tres Queso-dillas – your standard quesadilla that was quite tasty, but nothing unusual.  The second appetizer I tried was the mini empanada slider – and these were delicious.  Crispy pastries filled with pork, topped with a little pico and a wonderfully sweet yet tangy mango mustard sauce.  The house margaritas, I prefer mine on the rocks, were a little tangy, not too sweet and perfectly refreshing.  If you are a tequila connoisseur, then this place is right up your alley because Hugos has a very extensive list of the agave concoction to choose from.

empanada sliders (photo by Melissa Skorpil)

I  think what can really make or break a place is the wait staff and I found the wait staff at Hugos to be excellent.  Our poor waiter had the packed outdoor patio all to himself at first and he really had to hustle to keep all of us happy – which he did.  Soon others came to help out and they were all on top of things – our glasses were never empty for long!  Want to know another thing, other than ritas, that makes me smile?  Cute puppies!  And Hugos has those as well, since they allow dogs on the patio.  So bring your pups, your appetite and your thirst for a good time, because Hugos delivers on all of the above.

Hugos Restaurant Y Tequila Bar on Urbanspoon

Park your backside at Parkside

15 Jan

One of the reasons why I wanted to write this blog was to discover the culinary gems in my own city and to rediscover my own favorite restaurants by eating and enjoying food mindfully, so that I am again reminded of why I love that particular place. This week I found a culinary gem that I am definitely adding to my faves list – Parkside.  This restaurant  has been in operation for while and why it took me so long to check out, I have no idea!  But I am so glad I did.  My friend and photographer, Melissa Skorpil, grabbed her camera and joined me for a truly tasty happy hour.

Parkside is located downtown on the corner of 6th and San Jacinto.   The place is divided into two separate spaces – the bar area and the dining room.  We chose to sit on the bar side, which also has a long row of tables along one wall.  I found this room to be quite beautiful.  The windows along the front allowed in such nice late afternoon light.  The space is very urban, with brick walls, exposed ductwork and a stainless steel bar counter  – I felt like I was in New York.  We arrived as soon as the place opened at 5, but by 6 pm the bar side was completely full.  Even with this many people, the noise level was not high, so it was easy to carry on a conversation.  Big plus.

Happy hour at Parkside runs daily, from 5 to 7 pm, and includes half off their bar menu, half price beer and cocktails.  They have some good beer choices, though all are in the bottle, no drafts.  After ordering a Rye Ale from Real Ale, we turned to the bar menu.  Oh the choices!  The food sounded divine and we didn’t hesitate to dig right in.

Amazing ceviche

We first ordered the risotto fritters – crispy brown balls filled with creamy risotto and covered with paper-thin parmesan cheese shavings, with sofrito (tomato salsa puree) for dipping.  A great choice for you vegetarians out there.  Next up was the ceviche.  Ceviche is one of my favorite foods and, if done well, is pure heaven to me.  And this was done well.  It’s a basic recipe with bits of salmon, tomato, onion, avocado and herbs and it tasted so fresh, with just a hint of tartness. Yum.

Even more amazing grilled cheese

We also ordered the petite grilled cheese.  I have one word for this dish – adorable.  The cuteness factor alone is enough to order this item – four tiny round sandwiches consisting of buttery bread grilled until slightly crispy and filled with the most divine melted cheese I have ever tasted – Taleggio cheese to be exact.  Tiny pieces of smoked onion and roasted red pepper are held on top by a wooded skewer pierced through each sandwich.  The dish is garnished with wispy green dill and a swipe of homemade ketchup.  This was by far the best grilled cheese we had ever tasted.

Another reason to go to Parkside for happy hour?  The price.  Most of the items on the bar menu range from $5.50 to $11 – and half off during happy hour is a fantastic deal!  I found the quality of the food to be superb and the presentation creative.  The chef/owner of Parkside, Shawn Cirkiel, also opened up a pizzeria next door called Backspace, which I can only imagine is fantastic as well (but of course I will need to check this out for myself).  His next project that I am anticipating with glee is Olive & June, an Italian restaurant set to open this March in the space once occupied by El Arbol.

My recommendation?  Get your hungry little self to Parkside as soon as possible, bring your friends and enjoy some fantastic food at a great price.  Another culinary gem just got added to my list – what great restaurant have you discovered lately?

Parkside on Urbanspoon

Spend your pesos at El Alma Cafe

11 Dec

El Alma Cafe

A friend of mine suggested I check out El Alma Cafe, a Mexican restaurant on Barton Springs Rd that opened this summer, replacing what was El Chile.  My husband and I  arrived around 7 pm on a Friday and the place was hopping.  It is not very big,  you are able to scan the entire restaurant from the front entrance and the tables are placed closely together.   But this arrangement gives a feeling of intimacy and coziness and I like it.  I absolutely love the colorful artwork on the walls and the lighting that illuminates the room makes the place sparkle.

Happy hour runs Monday – Friday 3 to 7 pm and Saturday – Sunday 3 to 6 pm.  Their drink specials consist of $2 Lone Stars, $3 Sangrias, $4 house margaritas and $5 margarita chilangas, which are a spicy, orange infused frozen margarita (yum).  I was really hungry so I was mostly interested in what they had to offer in terms of food.  The happy hour food deal is half priced appetizers and they have some great choices.  We tried the empanadas – crispy, deep fried, filled with mushroom and cheese and served with salsa and guac.  Very tasty.  We also ate the ceviche clasico, which are pieces of lime marinated black drum fish tossed with tomato, avocado, serrano peppers and red onion and served with thick tostada chips.  I love ceviche  and will order it any chance I get – theirs did not disappoint.

ceviche

empanadas

I was still hungry so decided to order an entree and boy am I glad I did.  Sometimes it pays to ask the waiter what his favorite dish is and he did not steer me wrong.  I love meat but the veggie verde enchiladas were so fantastic that I did not miss meat one bit.  The veggie filling of poblanos, mushroom and spinach was so so flavorful and what really did it for me was the smokey yet sweet blanket of tomatillo sauce.  I think I could drink that stuff!  I consider enchiladas the gold standard for mexican food and these were the best vegetarian enchiladas I have ever had.  Seriously.  They are paired up with white rice and black beans for $10.95 and are worth every penny.

I found the quality of the food and the service of the staff to be excellent at El Alma.  The appetizers, though good, are a little expensive if you aren’t able to take advantage of happy hour prices –  full price is $7.95 to $9.95 and they are small.   The main dishes, however,  are reasonably priced – the enchilada plates are $9.95 to $12.95.  They offer tacos a la carte of all sorts (I bet they are delicious) – $3.25 to $4 per taco.  There are also more expensive plates on the menu, varying from $14.95 to $18.95, but considering the yumminess factor (that’s a real word, right?) of the enchiladas, I bet they are worth it.

My vote – go to El Alma for the food.  Go for the atmosphere.  As far as for happy hour?  If you’re a fan of margaritas, 4 to 5 bucks seems pretty good.  If you like Lone Star beer, which I don’t, then you can’t beat 2 bucks for a beer (are they worth that?).  The appetizers are good but small and if you have an appetite like me, then my guess is you’ll be ordering off the regular menu soon enough – and that is not a bad thing.

El Alma on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour doesn’t get any simplier than this

3 Dec

One evening I decided to stick close to home and called up my good friend Melissa Skorpil, who also lives in my hood, to join me for a happy hour.  We decided to check out Simplicity Wine and Eats, one of the fun establishments on Burnet Rd.  We showed up at 5:30 and the place was pretty empty.  But that soon changed and as the sun went down, the atmosphere went up.  Nostalgic tunes from Depeche Mode were playing overhead, though not too loud so we could actually hold a conversation – what a concept.  Folks started filing in, with a  group of about 15 lively people pushing tables together to create their own party.  Simplicity has a modern and simplistic feel to it, nothing pretentious.  It lacks a little in style compared to other wine bars I’ve been to, but is very comfortable and functional. 

The one thing that I admire about this place and helps it stand out from the crowd is their philosophy of creating an almost zero waste restaurant.  On their website they state that “we compost all of the disposable dishes and utensils (made of renewable corn & bamboo) & we recycle all our wine and beer bottles. Simplicity is a 100+ seat restaurant that only produces 3 bags of landfill trash per week!”  Really??  That is amazing to me because I know of a two person household, well…really a two person, two cat, two dog, two turtle and one gecko  household, who produces about the same amount!  So either they are really eco-friendly or we, um, I mean the other people, are completely wasteful.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say both are probably the case.  But I digress…

The point is that Simplicity is really trying to do their part in helping the environment and I can really get behind that idea.  Their happy hour is Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 7 pm, and offers half off of all starters, $5 wines by the glass, 15% off of all bottles of wine, $2 for all bottles or drafts of beer and $5 pitchers.  We opted for a pitcher of Blue Moon, which is the equivalent of 3 beers for only $5.  That is pretty darn cheap!  We also got a couple of appetizers, the spinach artichoke dip and papas aioli (thick cut potato wedges with garlic aioli dip).  The food here doesn’t have a decadent appearance since it is served in disposable bowls and plates with disposable utensils, but the dip was very fresh tasting and the potatoes were yummy.  The prices are very reasonable and really fantastic during happy hour – our pitcher of beer and two starters cost up a whopping $11!  Seriously.

Simplicity Wine and Eats

photo by Melissa Skorpil

Melissa and I had a great time and we both agreed that Simplicity Wine and Eats is worth coming back to.  Melissa, who is a photographer, brought along her camera and took a shot of me enjoying the beer.  Melissa is a great photographer and she specializes in portraits and food photography-handy for me to have a food photographer as a friend for this blog, eh?  If you’re interested in learning about Melissa’s photography services, view her website, Skorpil Photography.

Until next time, get happy Austin!

Simplicity Wine & Eats on Urbanspoon

Happy Hour at 34th Street Cafe

28 Nov 34th st cafe
34th st cafe

34th Street Cafe

My next stop in my search for a great happy hour is this unassuming place in central Austin called 34th Street Cafe.  Located near the corner of Lamar Blvd and 34th st, the lime green exterior suggests a funky, casual eatery.  But take a step inside and the place exudes a much more elegant and upscale ambience.

Their happy hour is Monday – Friday from 5 to 7 pm and offers half off all appetizers, a dollar off of all their beers and half off all bottles of sparkling wine.  I wasn’t in a beer mood so I enjoyed a glass of wine instead.  But we did partake in the appetizers and they were delicious!

They don’t have a huge selection for appetizers, but what they do have is done very well.   We first ordered the duck confit hash, which consisted of thin slices of duck meat cooked until crispy with cippolini onions, frisee (also called curly endive-those light green, squiggly lettuces that look like they should be at the bottom of the ocean) with a fried egg on top.  This is one of those dishes that I wouldn’t think I would like as much as I did.  The crispness of the meat with the softness of the egg was really tasty.  Normally a $10 appetizer, it’s a really nice treat for 5 bucks at happy hour.

Next up were the sweet potato fries.  These aren’t considered an appetizer, they’re listed as a snack, and therefore are not part of the happy hour special.  But hey-they’re also only 5 bucks and gosh-darnit, we felt like fries!  They were thick, fluffy and very seasoned, a little spicy and a little sweet.  Yum.

Then came the lump crabmeat croquettes, which were three round crab cake balls each poised on top of a spoonful of avocado creme fraiche- which to me is a fancy way to say guacamole.  It was tasty but not fantastic, mostly due to the fact that there was a fair amount of breading lumped in with the lump crabmeat.  I  lived in Maryland for a few years and love crab, so when I see “lump crabmeat” I’m expecting most of the lumps to consist of crab.  But that’s just me.  At happy hour it’s $6, normally $12.

Last on the list was the Tuscan pizza.  The crust was thin, slightly crispy and buttery and it was topped with mushrooms, roasted garlic and mozzarella with mounds of ricotta.  At happy hour it’s $6 and a nice personal size that is also good for sharing.

Another idea I want to mention is their Prix Fixe Dinners they have every Monday and Tuesday from 5 pm to close.  We didn’t partake in this (this time) but it looked like a really good deal.  It’s a three course tasting dinner and included a glass of wine-all for $24 per person!  By “tasting dinner” I am assuming the portions are smaller and since we didn’t order this, I can’t comment on the size of the portions.  But the menu offered that night sounded interesting-tuna tartare was the amuse, which I just learned (like right this second, thanks Google) means small samplings of food served before a meal to whet the appetite and stimulate the palate.  The appetizer was a salt cod and the entrée was a pork loin with black-eyed peas and winter greens.  The wine choices were a French Chardonnay and an Italian Sangiovese.

I found the quality of the food at 34th Street Cafe to be very good, though there weren’t an extensive array of choices at happy hour prices.  The dishes were thoughtfully prepared and the setting had a certain romance to it.  If you are looking for a joint to get a little rowdy with your buds for a drink after work, this would not be the place.  But if you’re wanting a quieter setting or a relaxing evening with the girls over a glass of wine, this is a good place to be.

34th Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sushi with spurs on

19 Nov

One thing I love about Austin is that you really don’t have to travel too far to get great food.  In the past few years my own neighborhood has really flourished in the bar/restaurant department.  The southernmost part of Burnet Road, now nicknamed “Lo-Burn” (kinda funny name if you ask me),  has several great little local eateries and bars to choose from.    And what does that mean??   That means I don’t have to go far to get my food fix.

The newest place to open up in Lo-Burn is this great spot called Roll On Sushi Diner.  This is not your typical diner though it does have a Texas accent.

Pork dumplings

Pork Dumplings

 Roll On serves up your traditional sushi rolls such as the salmon roll, california roll and spicy tuna roll.  But what really makes this place new and exciting are what I like to call their “Texafied” rolls!  Creative little gems like the Cholesta Roll – chicken fried steak wrapped up like a sushi roll and served up with cream gravy (of course), The Beefy Texan – spicy BBQ mayo covered brisket surrounded by rice, avocado and wasabi cole slaw and one of my favorites, The Grouch – grilled chicken with caramelized onions and green chiles.  And let’s not forget that all important course-dessert!  How about The Elvis,  a roll deep fried and filled with banana, bacon and peanut butter, drizzled in chocolate.  Trust me on this, you will not be disappointed with that one!

Yellowtail nigiri

Yellowtail nigiri

All of the plates are set at a fixed price, ranging from $3.95 to $6.95, which makes this diner  affordable at any time.  But they do have happy hour as well, which makes it really affordable.  This week my hubby, Ross,  and I checked out their happy hour, which runs Monday – Friday from 5 to 7 pm.  We feasted on

The LoBurn

The LoBurn Roll

yellowtail nigiri, pork dumplings  ($2.95 for each plate)  and a delicious roll called The LoBurn – shrimp, unagi, jalapeno and green onions tempura fried (also $2.95).  I also enjoyed a nice glass of pinot noir for 5 bucks (glasses of wine $1 off during HH).   Ross and I had a great meal for under $30-not too shabby for sushi I’d say.  We are definitely going to make Roll On Sushi Diner one of our staples!

Roll On Sushi Diner on Urbanspoon

Who doesn’t love happy hour?

15 Nov

Welcome to Get Happy Austin-a blog dedicated to good eats on the cheap.  Eating out has always been a passion of mine; mostly due to the fact that I really don’t like to cook.  The whole process takes up way too much of my day.   It begins at the grocery store, which in my case entails wandering around with the cart in circles not having a clue what the hell to buy, mainly because I have no idea what I am trying to cook.  The actual cooking is another ordeal, which usually ends with my kitchen looking like a bomb exploded.  Not to mention that the actual meal is not something I would brag about…or want to feed to anyone.  Then there is the clean-up phase which, let’s face it, is not what I want to be spending my precious free time doing on a beautiful evening in this awesome city of ours.

What is the solution to my dilemma?  Going out to eat of course!  Let someone else worry about the groceries, the recipes, the cleaning up.  All I really care about is the eating part.  This town has so many great restaurants with new ones opening up all the time.  But you do have to be careful-eating out can really get pricey.  Believe me, I know.

So I’ve decided to spend my hard-earned dollars more wisely without giving up my passion for great food by taking advantage of happy hour specials at many of the great restaurants around town.  And I will be sharing all these great finds so that you too can eat and drink on the cheap!

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