These six spots are rewriting happy hour rules coast to coast—here's how to replicate some of their best offerings in the comfort of your own home.
Which would you rather have for happy hour: unidentifiable fried thingamajigs from a napkin-lined basket and a cheap beer, or a slow-roasted carnitas grilled cheese sandwich alongside a crisp glass of 5 p.m. rosé? We thought so. Here you’ll find six leaders of a new happy hour revolution—ambitious bars and restaurants that are rewriting the rules of post-work snacking, together with their most-requested recipes. Cheers!
New York City: Ms. Yoo
Ivy vines drape the steel-framed indoor gazebos at this Lower East Side Korean- American gastropub from chef Esther Choi. Go for a tangy Madame Ae-Ma, some nori popcorn, and an order of honey-soy-sesame chicken wings, and the day’s stress will fade into a sweet haze of contentment. Recipe: Madame Ae-Ma
Who says chicken nuggets have to be boring? For her happy hour “value menu” at Chicago’s Split-Rail, chef Zoe Schor adds zip with minced jalapeño and a little rye whiskey. “Split-Rail is my homage to Midwestern cuisine,” she says. “We grow up eating these dishes that never reach their real potential, so I’ve tried to revisit them and make them incredibly satisfying.” Recipe: Jalapeño and Rye Whiskey Chicken Nuggets
Houston: Better Luck Tomorrow
It’s actually happy hour-and-a-half at this modernist space in Houston Heights, where the food (think grilled corn with miso and chile flakes or addictive charred peppers, below) defies expectations. That’s no surprise given the chef is Justin Yu (F&W Best New Chef 2014), whose Oxheart restaurant garnered national acclaim before he closed it last year. Recipe: Charred Shishito Peppers with Garlic-Herb Oil
From 3 to 6 p.m. every day it’s half off at Tavernetta, the new Denver destination from chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (F&W Best New Chef 2005) and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey, the duo behind Boulder’s acclaimed Frasca. Italian bar snacks such as crisp chickpea cakes and salsa verde offer a perfect start to the evening, especially alongside one of the restaurant’s ultra-refreshing Venetian spritzes. Recipe: Chickpea Fritters with Salsa Verde
Los Angeles: Lunetta
At Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica, chef Raphael Lunetta says, “I don’t even want to use the words ‘happy hour’ anymore—let’s say sunset hour, or felice hour, anything. Because what we’re doing definitely isn’t about sitting in a dark bar in front of a TV eating greasy fried food.” His alternative? This luscious grilled cheese sandwich made with pork shoulder slow-roasted with orange juice, thyme, and bay leaves. Recipe: Carnitas and Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Seattle: Navy Strength
Aqua and orange stools, wooden beams that look like they’ve been salvaged from a ship’s hull, and bespoke tiki drinks are the hallmarks of Chris and Anu Elford’s new Belltown bar. Order a potent 22 Punch and steamed buns filled with fried tofu, hoisin, and shiitakes off chef Jeffrey Vance’s clever menu, and it’s anchors aweigh. Recipe: 22 Punch