Late Night Decisions, Decisions …

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Where do you go for Late Night Happy Hour?

This is the tail end of OC Happy Hour Week (it runs through Oct. 31), and dozens of local OC restaurants are offering myriad drink specials between 4 and 7 p.m., which is fine for those looking for cheap drinks after work. But what about us night owls who prefer to enjoy libations and food later in the evening?

A handful of local restaurants do cater to the late-night crowd, but we’re not talking about trendy hot spots or pick-up joints with loud music and sweaty dance floors. There are several places you can go to enjoy a nice glass of wine or exotic cocktail, creative cuisine, and conversation.

“I like Bayside on Thursday nights because the Ron Kobayashi Trio plays jazz until 10:30. They have some decent wines by the glass, but they don’t really have any food or drink specials,” I said to Stasha, when we were debating the best options for late-night dining excursions.

“Then it’s not really a late-night happy hour, is it?” she remarked.

“I suppose not, but…”

“I loved SOL Cocina’s authentic Baja-style dishes. They’re perfect for sharing,” recalled Stasha. “The mission-style interior is warm and inviting, plus their muddled cocktails are among the best I’ve ever had. They have 60 artisan tequilas, and every possible combination of herbs, fruit and juices. Their Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita with muddled cucumber, jalapeno pepper and Agavé nectar is to die for.  You know I’m not much of a tequila drinker, but that was one of the most unique cocktails I’ve ever tried.”

“I liked the Blueberry Acai Margarita with Corralejo Blanco tequila, Veev Acai liquor, blueberries, Agave and fresh lime juice,” I countered. “You can order off the menu until 11 pm, but then their late night menu kicks in, which includes the Cocktel de Mariscos: lightly cooked shrimp, scallops, calamari and octopus with pico de gallo, chile and cucumber in spicy tomato-lime sauce, topped with diced avocado. And SOL is open until 1 am Thursday through Saturday, which makes it the perfect late -night happy hour spot on Coast Highway. ”

“Well said—are you sure you’re not doing their PR?” laughed Stasha.

“There’s also Crow Bar in Corona del Mar,” I said. “They’re open late and they have good food, but I’m not crazy about their wine list, so I usually order a beer.”

“What? I have to disagree with you. I’ve seen their wine list and I think they have a very diverse selection from France, Italy, and Spain, among others. Yes, it’s a gastropub, and they have a fantastic selection of draft beers, but don’t forget in 2008 they were awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.”

“Well, that may be true—“

“I understand, Chris. Everyone knows you love zinfandel and are partial to Paso Robles,” Stasha laughed. “So why compromise? I think Charlie Palmer at South Coast Plaza wins for best late-night happy hour, hands down. They have very impressive wines by the glass, and the décor has such a hip, sophisticated edge. I love the chill vibe.”

“You’re right,” I agreed. “I love the Couchant Cabernet Franc, and I’m pretty sure Charlie Palmer is the only restaurant that carries Couchant by the glass.”

““I love the Chateau Montelena, of course” smiled Stasha. “And the Roasted Bone Marrow, Veal Sweetbreads, Duck Meatballs, Caramelized Chicken Livers –”

“And the Grilled Edamame, ” I interrupted. “You have to have two orders.”

“That’s because they’re addicting!” she defended herself. “But honestly, there’s a reason Riviera awarded it ‘Restaurant and Chef of the Year.’”

“True. But their music used to be too … rambunctious for late night. I’m glad they toned it down. Now, you can have a conversation,” I said. “Too bad they’re not in Newport Beach.”

“So? They’re two minutes from Newport, and everyone I know from Newport goes there.”

“Including us,” I chimed in. “What about Wildfish? How many other restaurants serve their full menu at that time of night?”

“Their Chilean Sea Bass with soy-sherry is amazing. So are the sautéed Jumbo Scallops.”

“I don’t recall any drink specials—although Wildfish is celebrating its fifth anniversary starting Nov. 1. They’re offering $5 Happy Hour drink specials Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all night Sunday and Monday.”

“You sound like you’re reading from a press release.”

“I am, but…”

“Then don’t make it obvious,” she cut in. “Simply say that they have a new Wild Plates menu that includes Grilled Lamb Chops, Lobster Tacos, Bacon-wrapped Giant Shrimp with Goat Cheese, and a chopped salad with Gulf Shrimp and Jonah Crab. And on Sunday, Nov.14 – the official fifth anniversary of Wildfish – guests receive a complimentary glass of champagne or wine and an amuse-bouche from the Wild Plates menu.”

“I guess I know where I’m going to be on Nov. 14,” I said.

“Yeah, but where are we going right now?”



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