Friday: it’s been sung about around the block by the likes of Rebecca Black and Katy Perry. Ice Cube starred in not one, but three movies about Friday. It’s the day many of us revel in wearing jeans to work, and avid bicyclists take to the streets on the last Friday of the month and push their pedal to the metal.
Friday is also the workweek happy hour desert, devoid of deals on the one day you most want to go out and live it up. Spreadsheets got you down? Did you delete the best and final version of your presentation for your 8AM Monday meeting? Maybe everyone’s favorite receptionist just gave notice that she’s moving to Hawaii, opening up a surf shop with all proceeds going to her dolphin rescue organization headed up by the cast of “Lost.” Don’t wallow in your sorrows; Friday night should be dedicated to good eats and affordable repose.
What: Happy Hour at Amber India Restaurant
Where: 25 Yerba Buena Lane @ Market St (near 4th Street)
When: Monday-Friday, 4-7PM
Transit: F, 5, 6, 8x, 9, 9L, 14, 21, 30, 31, 38, 38L, 45, 71, 71L, Muni Metro, BART
One sanctuary you should add to your list is Amber India Restaurant. Yes, it’s got a full-blown and expensive dinner menu, but skip it. Bypass go, veer a hard right, and enter the lounge, where happy hour extends Monday through Friday from four to seven.
Grab a few cubes–or a banquette (aka the bench/booth thing along the space’s perimeter) if you’re lucky–huddle around a small coffee table, and take in the open and trendy space. Where the restaurant space is dark and formal, the bar offers a high ceiling that looks out on to Yerba Buena Lane. A giant flat screen hangs overhead (featuring MLB the two nights I stopped by) and music from the 70s, 80, 90s, and whatever’s left croon through the conversations all around.
Don’t get too comfy, as someone from the bar will swoop by to doll out menus fairly quickly. Take your time and peruse the special drinks and small bites, but also check out the lounge menu. And when a server appears, grab him or her and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask “What is puri?” Or “Is kulcha like naan?” Even as you begin to slump against your non-existent chair back, don’t feel rushed. Just breathe, try and focus over the Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” and remember that your wallet will appreciate you for sticking to the happy hour/lounge offerings.
On my two official trips to Amber, I tried balls, puffs, breads, and vegetables. Most exceeded my expectations, especially the chole chaat, a dish of garbanzo beans, onions, spices, and a yogurt sauce, and the batata vada, fried spicy potato dumplings. Both of these were part of the $5 appetizer special. The onion chilli kulcha, leavened bread stuff with savory yet sweet red onions, is a steal at $3 (lounge menu), and works well on its own or in combination with other dishes.
The pal puri ($5), tiny puffs filled with a few diced veggies, doesn’t hold its sauces very well. I nailed my very happy neighbors to my right while attempting to toss these delicate little wheat bowls into my mouth. I tried to avoid showering my lap with cumin and mint chutney, but instead I got semi-stank eye from my banquette mates. If you want to get away from breads and balls, try the cauliflower bezule ($8 on the lounge menu) which marries seared cauliflower with a tantalizing array of fresh coconut, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chili.
Being a cocktail girl, I can’t get enough of the Amber Rose ($6). Some genius behind the bar combined gin, muddled raspberries, and pomegranate juice into one hell of a girly drink. While I’m anti-gender stereotypes, this might be where I need to embrace them because this is one maroon, fruity drink served “Sex and the City” style in a martini glass, screaming “Let’s get pedis, girl!” Bring it. My toesies need a good loofah.
Should you have a lower tolerance for all things sugary, try the Elderflower Mimosa ($6) with St. Germain liqueur: it doesn’t overpower. Or grab a beer ($3-4). Well drinks are $5 and happy hour cocktails are $6. Note that Amber institutes a minor Healthy SF surcharge to all food and beverage purchases.
Amber offers a well priced happy hour in a hip yet non-overpowering environment. Kick back a little and enjoy it.