It’s my first summer working in downtown Cleveland, so some friends of mine and I made it our mission to sample downtown restaurants by hitting up their happy hours. We tried a new place each week, exploring some of the city’s best dining for a fraction of the usual cost.
I’m singling out those that stood out to us, but I encourage you to strike out on a happy hour path of your own. Some places were mediocre, but most offered delicious food and drinks at reasonable prices.
Our first stop was Chinato on East 4th Street. I was a fan of Zach Bruell’s restaurants already, but Chinato’s 4:30-6:30 p.m. happy hour still left a lasting impression. I chose a white wine ($5) and shared three appetizers with a friend for $5 each, enough to fill two grumbling stomachs. The gnocchi dish was perfect: light, tender and buttery. A panini served with fries and fennel sausage pizza rounded out our carb trio. Drinks range from $3 for Great Lakes drafts to $5 for featured wine and cocktails.
Bar Louie on West 6th Street surprised us with fabulous $5 select appetizers during the 4-7 p.m. weekday happy hour. We opted for spinach and artichoke dip and the bruschetta pomodoro. The dip, made fresh in the kitchen, is heavier on the green than cream, just how I like it. When I needed advice, our server pointed out her favorite martinis and suggested the best cocktails for my taste. I went with a Pom Peche martini ($5), a light, peach alternative to the bitter original.
Zocalo stood out for mixing drink specials with a prime location. Many restaurants only serve happy hour at the bar, but at Zocalo, you can enjoy it on the patio, where the East 4th street scene is exciting after a day in an office. My sugar-rimmed mangrita (mango margarita) was sweet and tropical, fruity rather than cool. The large bowl of fresh chips never ran out, even though we never stopped munching. For atmosphere and great prices, including $5 margaritas and $5 select appetizers, Zocalo’s 2-7 p.m. happy hour is a hot spot.
The Greenhouse Tavern, across the street, remained a happy hour quest left unfinished. We chose to sit on the rooftop patio, a great summer destination, but that meant we couldn’t order food or enjoy any drink discounts. At the first-floor bar, the 5-7 p.m. happy hour includes reduced prices on menu items and drinks and an exclusive: the moule frites (mussels and fries, $13) are only offered on the happy hour menu.