Summer in the city: it’s hot, cold, foggy, and clear. You layer a tank under a cardigan under a jacket, peeling off each piece as the day magically travels from Canadian cool to sweltering Caribbean hawt. Putting trust in one solo layer and hoping that your bared arms won’t erupt in a gaggle of goosebumps takes guts. So instead, why not put your faith in something more dependable, like a quality happy hour?
When I moved to the city 10 years ago (almost to the day), happy hours were a dime a dozen. And I don’t mean $1 off drink specials or buy three drinks, get a watered down fourth for free. I mean $5 and under drinks, $3 beers, food specials, and–wait for it, wait for it, wait for it–free food. Yes, you heard me right. Way back in the barely digital age, bars and restaurants offered cheese platters, chips and dip, and mini-bites, all while you happily drank, socialized, and relaxed.
With the return of this series, we’ll be searching out said locales, highlighting places that walk the walk of a good happy hour.
My initial, informal criteria: affordable, discounted drinks; food specials or free food; good service; a fun atmosphere; and easy access to public transit. And should I come across some that don’t meet my extremely high expectations, I’ll be upfront and call them out.
Kicking things off, I swung by Social Kitchen & Brewery in the Inner Sunset last Friday. SKB opened last May, and it has quickly become a neighborhood fixture. People hang at the bar and watch the baseball game while sipping a beer, others bring their toddlers, sitting in the partial-booth tables to order dinner (with beer for those only of age, of course). The staff appears friendly without being obtrusive, and all in all, it’s a low-key, yet very “San Francisco” kind of place.
What: Happy Hour at Social Kitchen & Brewery
Where: 1326 9th Avenue @ Irving
When: All day every Monday (4-11PM), 4-7PM Tuesday through Friday
Happy Hour: $1 off craft beers, well drinks $3, house red/white wine $4, house appetizers $3/$4/$5
Public transit: N-Judah, 6, 16x, 43, 44, 66, 71/71L
For happy hour, between my husband and me, we didn’t want to spoil our dinners–we had plans with some friends later that evening and who wants to pull an “Eh, I’m full. Can we just play some Scrabble and hang out on the couch?” But in the name of happy hour investigators everywhere, we pulled up seats at the bar (and the bar has purse/coat hooks–score!) and each ordered a drink and an appetizer.
The Beetlejuice, a dark beer brewed with 20 pounds of house-roasted beets, wasn’t on the menu (for those of us who don’t like the traditional bitterness of beer, this could be a winner with its fruity yet full bodied approach. I’ve had it before and loved it), so I chose to be wild and daring: margarita, here I come! My main squeeze went more traditional with a large Rapscallion, a Belgian-style golden ale. To round our our “wild night”, we ordered two appetizers: the mac and cheese, and the Brussels sprout chips.
And we had a great time! Both appetizers came out quickly. The Brussels sprouts crunched in our mouths, even after squirting them with a little lime juice. And the mac and cheese had a deep cheesiness to it without overshadowing the peas (in my opinion, one of the most overlooked vegetables of all time). Had the rest of the evening’s social calendar been empty, I would have stayed for seconds. And thirds. Our total damage for happy hour: $15.89 with tax and Health SF fee, pre-gratuity.
But those seconds and thirds that I fantasized about we walked over toward 14th and Lincoln must have sent out some serious vibes because after meeting up with our friends, per their suggestion, we pulled a U-ey right back to SKB. Sitting at the stool chairs by the front, we tackled more beer like the Moulin Rouge, which is a Belgian dark ale, and I can attest that the Diet Coke tastes both carbonated and Coke-y. We also shared items off the regular menu, revisiting the mac and cheese and Brussels sprout chips, and licked our fingers clean trying two different types of fries (see the slideshow for images).
Whether it be for happy hour or an informal meetup, Social Kitchen & Brewery embodies the kind of place that I’d happily return to, especially for happy hour. Don’t miss Mondays–happy hour takes on a whole new meaning, lasting day long, from opening around 4PM until close.