Continuing with my wrap-up of the best Happy Hours in town, this week focuses on the 626 and 323 area codes. There is an overabundance of great Happy Hours in Pasadena, South Pas, Eagle Rock and Highland Park. Here is an incomplete list:
Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N. Raymond Avenue
Tues. to Sat. 4-7 p.m.; all day Sunday
Climb the iron-filigreed stairs topped by a glass domed ceiling reminiscent of Prague to a renovated ballet studio where the ambience is warm and the vibe sophisticated. Fine wines from around the world ($6-$8) go well with a discerning appetizer menu ($5-$10) by chef Laurent Quenioux. Not cheap but a great place to rub elbows with the bourgeoisie.
Reason to come: Gorgeous atmosphere, truffled macaroni & cheese and South African Chardonnay.
Kings Row Gastropub
20 E. Colorado Blvd
Daily 4-7 p.m.; all day Tuesday
The bar stools hold many young, good-lookers but for drinks with friends, head to the tables on the party light-strewn back patio. An inspired craft cocktail and beer menu fit the fun mood.
Reason to come: Al fresco dining, IPA beer-battered fish & chips ($6), and a Dark & Stormy (like a Moscow Mule but with rum) ($7).
625 E. Colorado Blvd.
Mon. to Fri. 4-6:30 p.m.
Watch the pizzas slide into the fiery oven from your perch at the bar. They're known more for their pies than their cocktails but I can vouch for the quality of their Negronis ($5). They stop Happy Hour early but just in time to catch a 7 p.m. show at the nearby Laemmle.
Reason to come: Best mini-Margherita pizza in town ($5.)
BJ's Restaurant & Brewery
234 E. Colorado
Mon. to Fri. 3-7 p.m. and Sun. to Thurs. 10 p.m.-close
I don't recommend all the food (some tastes previously frozen) and the drinks can be weak. But this new BJ's is housed in the gorgeous old Southwest Savings and Loan with painted ceilings and dramatic chandeliers. And you've got to love any place that has a late night Happy Hour too.
Reason to come: Atmosphere and $4 beer.
Bodega Wine Bar
260 E. Colorado (in the Paseo)
Daily 5-7p.m. and Sun. to Thurs. 10 p.m. to close
An upscale, female-skewed outdoor wine bar with a pleasant breeze and affable service. The food has a Mediterranean bent and the wines are categorized by heft (light to full-bodied). Three dollars are pared off the price of any wine, normally $7-$10 per glass.
Reason to come: Relaxing vibe, fruity Malbec and hummus with warm pita ($5).
492 S. Lake
Mon. to Sat. 4:30-8 p.m. (until closing on Mondays)
Is it indoors or outdoors? The tent makes it hard to tell but delightful to experience. In any case, this lounge is a hotspot for locals, especially on the monthly Legendary Drag Queen Bingo nights. Martinis ($7) are as big as bathtubs and during Happy Hour, which goes later than most, the entire food menu is 30% off.
Reason to come: Big drinks and fried green tomatoes with basil cream cheese filling ($8).
808 Fair Oaks Ave.
Mon. - Fri. 3-6 p.m.
This Happy Hour is the best bargain of the bunch. For less than $20, two people can feel full and tipsy while watching the sun set over South Pasadena. The martini ($4) is smaller than above, but mightier. The fried pickles are killer ($2), the delicious mini pulled pork sandwich comes with fries ($3) and the 1/3 rack of ribs ($5) is just the right size for a reasonable person. Beware: you can sit only at the bar, the counter or the patio. Choose the patio.
Reason to come: Fried pickles and nice people.
1886 Bar at The Raymond
1250 S. Fair Oaks, Pasadena
Mon. to Fri. 5-7 p.m.
Technically not in South Pas but very close, 1886 is my counterpoint to the bargain basement Gus's. This is where you take a date. This is where the mixologists take their time making the artisan "cocktail of the night" ($7). This is where you might get Prince Edward Island mussels or lamb neck in chermoula, or short ribs with Peruvian aji amarillo. It's not cheap but it's $2 cheaper than normal.
Reason to come: Victorian charm and great cocktails.
EAGLE ROCK / HIGHLAND PARK
1833 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
Daily 2-6 p.m.
You've got to love a place that shakes a Manhattan, pours the glass to the rim, then gives you what's left in the shaker (a lot). It's like being in Vito Corleone's basement at Colombo's, an Italian restaurant with red booths and a long bar with hauntingly beautiful girly paintings. The drink prices are low anyway but you get $1 off at Happy Hour.
Reason to come: Manhattans and cheese bread ($2.95).
5018 York Blvd., Highland Park
Mon. to Fri. 3-7 p.m.
Just over the hill from Eagle Rock, this brick and vintage lightbulb gastropub is worth the drive when you're looking for a hip bar with good beer, wine and cocktails made from fresh ingredients. The drinks are reduced in price but there are no food deals at Happy Hour. Still the appetizer menu features fresh and unique items worth sampling.
Reason to come: Shrimp bruschetta ($12), Beckman Sauvignon Blanc ($6) and uber-coolness.