16 Places Putting the 'Happy' in Happy Hour
Five great neighborhoods; 16 great deals on drinks and eats in Saint Paul.
Happiness is always in the air here in Minnesota. We're happy when we are taking a peaceful stroll around one of our 15,000 lakes on a 75-degree day. We're happy when we cozy up in coffee shops and dimly lit bars during a gentle snowfall. We're happy when we're out to eat at one of our many delicious and unique local restaurants - however, we're at our happiest at the Happy Hour. We've rounded up five great neighborhoods to wander, chill, shop, and eat and drink on the cheap and 16 notable Saint Paul establishments that put the "Happy' in Happy Hour.
Escape the downtown hustle and bustle with a downtown happy hour. With Rice Park being in the center of an active restaurant zone, take a stroll through the park before hitting your first destination.
Take a page out of Momento Restaurant and Bar's book and be in the moment with their daily Social Hour. On weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., drink specials are live with $4 beers, $5 mocktails, $7 tap cocktails and $8 glasses of wine to wash down discounted appetizers and pizzas.
Kincaid's has always had a sophisticated vibe with food and drinks to match and the happy hour menu is no exception. Organized by price point, food specials start at $4 with items like smoked salmon dip and mushroom bruschetta and drink specials range from $4 to $9. With options in between, it's the perfect downtown happy hour destination.
With the Saint Paul Saints stadium, an artist’s enclave, and super close proximity to the Mississippi river, Lowertown is an ideal place to while away an afternoon. Time it around happy hour and bar hop at a different spot for every vibe:
Dark Horse Bar & Eatery
Billing itself as “a la carte meats, pizza, and whiskey,” I think of Dark Horse Bar & Eatery as the kind of place that almost nobody can disagree with. $5 Bloody Marys from noon to 3p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays sweeten that deal, and what makes it even sweeter? You get to keep the glass.
Barrio Tequila Bar
Barrio Tequila Bar boasts a sleek Mexican vibe with solidly reliable tacos, queso, and guacamole, but it’s the tequila you came for (it’s in the name, after all). From 3p.m. to 6p.m. Tuesday through Friday, get $7 house margaritas and sangrias, and a buck off wine, tap beer, and tacos.
Working-class West 7th Street has steadily given way to a gentrified vibe, with slick condos and eateries mashing up with decades-old mainstays. The result is a uniquely scene-y street for a stroll. Pop into antiques and thrift shops or grab a fancy pastry from Brake Bread or a Lavender Lemon Doughnut from Mojo Monkey. Then, a drink at:
A cute spot for fancy Mexican - think woodfired octopus and grilled prawns. Pajarito is a special-occasion-worthy spot but doesn’t have to be spendy. Check it out from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, when rail drinks and Mexican beers are five bucks; house wine, select premium spirits and snacks are $6. Even wings are suddenly worth their weight in dollar bills and are only $7, served with a delicious Salsa Machta.
Casper & Runyon’s Shamrock’s
When you just want a burger and a beer, Shamrock's is that place. A workhorse of a bar with reliably unpretentious burgers dating from a time when the thought of a pretentious burger would have been laughable, specials abound. Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. get 2-for-1 taps, and Tuesdays, 7:30 to close, $10 domestic pitchers-- finally, an excuse to drink on a Tuesday.
East Saint Paul
Perhaps I’m biased, but my hometown ‘hood has become IMO the most exciting neighborhood in Saint Paul for its ungentrified moxie, diversity, and sense of place. Head to the “East Side,” as locals will only call it (never East Saint Paul) for excellent Mexican, Southeast Asian, and African fare, mashed up with old-school drinker’s bars, Phalen beach, and great international markets of all stripes.
Tongue in Cheek
Since Tongue in Cheek opened, this darling, independent, defies-category “eating, drinking, and cavorting establishment” has featured a $3 “teaser” menu, allowing a one-bite wonder of fine dining proportion. A wee nibbler of a chef-inspired dish is just a cute way to flirt with fine without committing to a big price tag. Think of it as dating that pork belly instead of marrying it. Then, pair it with a mini cocktail flight for twenty bucks and you’re living the high life minus the gut punch to the pocketbook.
East Side Bar
A fun, modern take on East Saint Paul’s classic charm, East Side Bar has a bit of whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s Pad Thai, an adult milkshake, or a simple can of Hamm’s (the storied brewery is just down the block). Twice daily happy hour, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m to close, means inventive or simple takes on eats and drinks, whatever your pleasure. Enjoy that happy with rotating trivia nights, “Artist Happy Hours” where you’re invited to chat with the artists who bring in fresh new work for the walls, plus beautiful cocktails like Old Fashioneds or house-infused Jasmine Sweet & Sours for seven bucks.
My personal favorite hang in The Paul, friendly as hell Brunson’s Pub - they never disappoint. With ownership that’s there for all the right reasons, the friendly feel of the place trickles down to the very last detail. Opportunities for happy hour abound: Monday through Thursday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday 2 p.m to 5 p.m.; Sunday through Thursday 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. to midnight. If you can’t find a time to drink during one of these windows, what are you even doing? Discounted appetizers, $5 Jamesons, $3 Hamm’s, lots and lots more.
Also, see “Wine & Whiskey Wednesdays, for, you know: wine (house) and whiskey (select). Five bucks each.
Leafy and posh, yet somehow still casual and friendly, Grand Avenue beckons for a day of leisurely strolling, shopping and stopping-- for a drink. Pop into Golden Fig for super-local foods and gifts; or Cooks of Crocus Hill for top-of-the-line kitchenware and cookbooks. Shop until you drop into happy hour.
For “uncomplicated” Italian, go to Red Rabbit for your red-sauced favorites, pizza, and big sloppy sammies. Happy hour has delightful surprises: A pitcher of Pimm’s for $15, Cucumber G&T’s for five bucks, pizzas for $9 and more.
Salut Bar Americain
Serving the greatest hits of a French Brasserie, Salut Bar Americain keeps the fun in the French Onion Soup. Get Steak Frites, Bouillabaisse, and Champagne without any of it taking itself too seriously. At Happy Hour, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily (that’s weekends, too!) get a host of drink specials including $8 glasses of sparkling rose, plus $3.50 oysters, $7 cheese plates, and more.
Brasa Premium Rotisserie
Brasa Premium Rotisserie is one of the Twin Cities’ top restaurants helmed by top chef Alex Roberts, this long-standing fast-casual spot featuring food from the Southern United States, Caribbean and Mexico is a local's favorite. Happy hour here means one thing: Tacos! From 2p.m. to 5p.m. Monday through Friday, select tacos are $2.50 and $3.50, and both tap beer and wine are two bucks off.
The Lexington is one of those 80-year-old “Grande Dame” restaurants that time forgot. Except that with its re-boot in 2017, you get all the benefits of past and storied glamour, with a chic, updated feel. It’s also one of the best happy hours in town, daily from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., when ice cold house martinis are just five dollars, plus $2 off all glasses of beer, wine, as well as the complete list of hors d'oeuvres.
For an authentic taste of what Minnesota has to offer, head to University Avenue, where almost all of our cuisines are represented: Southeast Asian, East African, Mexican and beyond. Happy hour is an excellent opportunity to take a mini culinary crawl and do it inexpensively.
A local's go-to for a comprehensive list of Mexican favorites, Los Ocampo's small chain of eateries is the real deal. At the University Avenue location, the twice-daily happy hour (3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 8 p.m.-close, 9 p.m.-close on Fridays) plus ALL DAY on Sundays means you have no excuses not to check out $4 rail drinks and draft beers, $5 house margaritas, $1.99 tacos, and lots more.
Black Hart of Saint Paul
Black Hart is Saint Paul’s only classic neighborhood/ soccer/LGBTQ bar, happy hour goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with $4 domestic taps and rails, $5 craft beers, and a buck off every other drink. That said, this is the sort of unpretentious, inclusive place that strives to keep prices low all the time-- all food items are always under the $10 mark including Minnesota’s own bar food favorite Heggie’s Pizza.
The Best Steak House
Not a happy hour per se, but The Best Steak House gets an honorable mention here for its nearly 40 years of serving great steaks at working man’s prices. This Greek family-owned-and-operated stalwart is more than just a restaurant-- it’s a neighborhood institution, and posting yourself up here for a meal at any hour will offer more than a glimpse of our local color. But you came for the meats, and every day offers a special, but I’ll recommend the weekend T-Bone and Shrimp for $19.98. With baked potato, Texas Toast, and a salad, you’re not likely to find a better deal almost anywhere.