The Happy Hour Issue: Fancy for less

Chasing bargains at Sacramento’s most elite bars

Ella Dining Room and Bar’s gin and tonic is famous for good reason—and only $6.50 at happy hour.

Ella Dining Room and Bar’s gin and tonic is famous for good reason—and only $6.50 at happy hour.


We can’t all afford to wine and dine at Sacramento’s most sophisticated, destination-status restaurants. Luckily, there’s happy hour: the democratization of drinking. Read on for where you can don your sleekest outfit while enjoying Sacramento fine dining at a fraction of the normal cost.

Drink, eat, repeat

Ella Dining Room and Bar

It’s hard to argue with the A-frame sign outside Ella, claiming to have the “Best Happy Hour.” From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, the place buzzes with lobbyists and other suits, imbibing Ella’s flagship gin and tonic ($6.50). With housemade rainforest quinine tonic, orange Sucanat and fresh citrus, this cocktail runs you $12.50 outside happy hour. Other seasonal cocktails are similarly discounted, along with special small plates, which rotate every month. Worthy mainstays are the steak tartare ($6.50), bright and mustardy with garlic popovers, and the Caesar salad ($5.50) with fried capers and a runny egg. 1131 K Street,

Elevated bar bites

The Firehouse

For 55 years, the Firehouse didn’t bother with a happy hour. But the prized, historic dining destination added the offering about a year ago. You can’t hang out in the beautiful, ivy-laden patio, but you can still enjoy the chandeliers and general ornateness from the bar. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., pair a martini ($6) or beer ($3) with a dozen oysters ($12) or elevated bar bites, such as truffle fries ($5) or smoked beef sliders ($6). With all of the Firehouse’s recent changes, though, longtime fans of the restaurant will probably want the fish tacos ($8) with cilantro aioli and mango-avocado-cucumber slaw. The former lunch staple is now a happy hour-only attraction. 1112 2nd Street,

Expert cocktails

Grange Restaurant & Bar

Saddle up to the Grange bar between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays for fabulous cocktails that aren’t even offered on the regular menu. They’re simpler creations, usually with only three or four ingredients, but still expertly made and balanced. Consider a boysenberry margarita ($7) or seasonal sangria ($7), or even go the beer ($5) or wine ($6) route. Take in the elegant atmosphere and world-class service while you can, because once 6 p.m. hits, Grange’s cocktails run as high as $17 a pop. 926 J Street,

Classic Italian


With the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, you could easily turn your usual post-work happy hour into dinner at Biba. Simple cocktails run $8, wine slightly less, and the small plates are as classic and classy as the restaurant itself. There’s fried calamari with Calabrian chili ($8); roasted pork loin with tuna, capers and pickled vegetables ($8); and for the vegetarians, crispy eggplant layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella and tomato sauce ($8). 2801 Capitol Avenue,

Streamlined discounts

Hawks Public House

Hawks recently revamped its whole menu, opting for a simpler, streamlined approach. Now, you’re handed the same list of dishes all day. What does that mean for happy hour? On weekdays between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., all food is 20 percent off. And until 6 p.m., there’s a designated list of happy hour cocktails, including a martini, Manhattan and Sazerac, which all go for $7. If you dig the trendy vibe but not so much craft cocktails, you can get Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of bourbon for $7 as well. And, in case you’re one of the many confused about the restaurant’s parking situation: Yes, you can safely leave your vehicle in Sutter Health’s parking lot. 1525 Alhambra Boulevard,