There is no bad time for happy hour in Pasadena.
Let me revise that.
The only bad time for a happy hour is when you walk into a restaurant two minutes after it has ended.
Happy hours, like meals, are unifying. They fill in life’s gaps, much like my therapist tells me I use self-deprecating humor and food to fill my emotional gaps. In all seriousness, happy hour is a situational goldmine.
Whether for an after-work decompression session with colleagues (in which you can use the end of happy hour as cover for a graceful exit), or it’s just Wednesday and you need some $5 drinks to help forget the previous eight hours. If there is a restaurant that you have longingly clamored to visit but the menu proves over budget, a happy hour menu opens your social horizons.
Of course, happy hour is not merely an excuse to drink. Some happy hour menus drop small plate and appetizer prices so low that you can try everything (been there: by 5:30 my table is a landscape of white ceramic and resembles a carnival game.)
In an effort to check all of the boxes, I have scoured this wonderful city for the essential happy hour spots for every situation.
The “Accessible” Happy Hour
In an act of pure graciousness to foodies, Alexander’s Steakhouse (alexanderssteakhouse.com), arguably one of the city’s finest culinary destinations, has a gracious happy hour that puts their elevated cuisine in reach of foodies whose palates are in a higher bracket than their income. With a sub-$20 wagyu burger ($16) smothered in a coffee bacon jam, cheddar and fries paired with one of their $5 craft beers, or plenty of $10 and below cocktails available during happy hour, you’ve just ordered from a Michelin starred family of restaurant for less than it costs to park in most places. Alexander’s “social hour” is on the shorter side, offered Monday through Friday evenings from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The “Co-Worker Bonding”
Hanging out with co-workers outside of work can be tricky. There is always the awkwardness of separating checks, feeling held hostage if you are stuck in a booth between people you know nothing more about than where their cubicles are. And, of course, with traditional seating it can be difficult to move around and mingle with the office mate with whom you share interests.
Hence, the perfect place to head for happy hour is Congregation Ale House (congregationalehouse.com), at the corner of Del Mar Boulevard and South Raymond Avenue. The stained glass windowed house of beer whose happy hour is referred to as “mass” — has a $2 discount on their pub food and pizzas and $5 drink specials and discounted pours. What makes Congregation the ideal place for co-worker outings is the open floor space and seating so you can easily shift away from the guy who is venting a little too much. The tongue-in-cheek church theme and alcohol lends itself to some potentially controversial conversation which is always entertaining. Most importantly the walk-up ordering system makes it all-but-impossible for anyone to get forgetful when it comes time to separate checks.
The “I’m Here to Eat” Happy Hour
A more recent addition to the Pasadena world, Granville (granville.net), has happy hour hors d’oeuvres and small plates on special and a range of dining areas, including a rooftop bar.
Here, there are all the cocktail specials you could ask for. But what makes Granville’s happy hour the best (besides the cool factor of the rooftop bar) is their food options. All priced lower, their decked out flatbreads are only $7, or you can go the classy route with the smoked salmon spread and rye chips for the same price. Or for less than most fast-food meals, you can take in the chill atmosphere with the happy-hour-priced $5 flourless chocolate cake, a delectable treat whose praises I sang when I first reviewed the place a few months ago.
The “I Need to Forget” Happy Hour
Edwin Mills by Equator (edwinmills.com) holds a special place in my heart. It was the first restaurant I covered for the Pasadena Weekly and got day drunk on their bottomless mimosas, served with a seemingly endless variety of juices. They do not play around when it comes to their drinks, so obviously their happy-hour deals are going to be on another level.
Edwin Mills’ happy hour runs from 4 p.m. until closing time. Specials change daily. On Mondays their alcohol and appetizers are half-off. On Tuesdays you can catch live music starting at 7 p.m. and $3 martinis, mixed drinks and bottled beer.
On thirsty Thursdays, happy hour takes the “It’s five o’clock somewhere” approach and starts at 11 a.m.
111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
270 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
Edwin Mills by Equator
22 Mills Place, Pasadena
Congregation Ale House
300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena