orlando's happiest hours

your guide to the happy hours of orlando.

Happy Hour Review: Firebirds, Mills/50

After a ridiculously long hiatus, I am back with a happy hour at a restaurant new to the Mills/50 area: Firebirds.

I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to SD cards for cameras: upload pictures immediately. That way, when your husband unexpectedly looses the SD card with five or six happy hours on it, it’s no big deal. Then, when our dog suddenly jumps on our brand new Macbook, and almost immediately after, our camera suddenly stops turning on for no apparent reason soon thereafter, at least I have back up happy hours to last me a few weeks, right? So yes, that is my explanation for being away from not posting for four months. Our camera works again, we have a new SD card, though our computer is still in need of repair. Without further ado, Firebirds in Mills Park.

I’m always excited when a new restaurant that I’ve never heard of opens up in Orlando. Because, let’s be honest: Orlando isn’t exactly known for its originality and uniqueness. (Probably because there is none.) However, instead of opening a Walgreens or CVS in the newly constructed Mills Park, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill arrived, making it the first in the state of Florida. (Yes, it is a chain, though unique to this part of the country.) When I found out they had a pretty legitimate happy hour, I was thrilled. Legitimate to me equals decently priced food and drinks — not just a dollar off of Bud Light, for instance.

Though I will be honest: I was a little hesitant to check this place out because after looking at their nutritional information, I realized why everyone has been raving about this place since it opened. Their food is loaded with trans fat and sodium. In other words — it tastes great, but it is terrible for you. However, after my day at work yesterday, I decided to forgo my trying-not-to-eat-so-much-trans-fat-and-sodium lifestyle and go for it. After all, I usually split the appetizer (aka, small) portions anyway, so how bad could it be? (Whatever it takes to rationalize consuming so many calories, right?!)

We sat at the outdoor bar, now that it is finally getting decent outside. There was a nice breeze and it has a roof, so it’s not overly sunny, though still outdoors. I’ve been on a kick recently where I’ve enjoyed gin and cucumber drinks, so when I saw this “Cucumber Gimlet” on the happy hour menu for five dollars (half-priced — this drink is usually $10), I jumped at the chance. Hendrick’s gin, fresh squeezed lime juice, cilantro and cucumber. Just right.

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Next, we ordered off the happy hour menu, which had a small selection of appetizers at a discounted price. We started with the pretzels and beer cheese made with Sam Adams (to me, beer is awful but beer cheese is amazing, go figure). The pretzels were soft, salty, and the beer cheese was amazing. However, I could have done without the scallions on top.

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My friend who was with me wanted to try to Ahi Tuna Tar-Tar stack, so we ordered that as well. We got the stacked version, which had the ahi tuna on top of diced avocados, cucumbers, and a soy sauce. It was okay, but not the best ahi I’ve tasted.

DSC_0186If anyone knows me, they know that cheeseburgers are quite possibly my favorite food ever. If I didn’t care about my health or weight, I’d eat cheeseburgers all day every day. When I see cheeseburger sliders on the menu at a happy hour, I usually order them. However, they’re also terrible for me (trans fatty too) and the individual buns they come on don’t help either, so I figured I’d deviate a little and order the “crispy hand spun chicken tenders” with honey mustard.

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It was definitely a nice change from my usual cheeseburger sliders. They lived up to the “crispy” in their name, and they were lightly breaded at that. (Not mostly bread and little chicken, like some chicken tenders are). The honey mustard was also an equal mix of honey and spicy mustard, which tasted great. Basically, pretty awesome for a chicken tender.

Overall, this was a good happy hour spot. For the price, the food was decent and the drinks were good. And I was able to get my Hendrick’s for five bucks, which never happens. So the next time I don’t care about my trans fat/sodium intake, I’ll be returning. (Hopefully not soon for the sake of my waistline!)

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
1582 N. Mills Ave.
Orlando, FL 32803 / (407) 581-9861
http://www.firebirdsrestaurants.com/fb/locations/orlando-fl
American

When? Monday-Friday
What Time? 4:00pm – 6:30pm
Drink Specials? Firebar signature martinis, margaritas, and cocktails are $5, select wines $5, well drinks $4, $2 off draft beers
Food Specials? “Bar Bites” menu for a discounted price ($3 off)
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? Yes (in the “Firebar”)
Outside? Yes.

 

Happy Hour Review: Yard House, I-Drive

All of the new restaurants popping up on International Drive in the new “I-Drive 360” area are an exciting development in Orlando’s restaurant scene. While the restaurants are all, in fact, “chain” restaurants, it is still nice to see something new arrive in an area that isn’t exactly known for its originality.

I visited Yard House once when I was in south Florida a few years ago, but only had a drink on the patio. So when I saw that Orlando was getting a Yard House on I-Drive, and that they have a happy hour, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the happy hour as soon as possible. If you’re beer drinker, Yard House has quite possibly the largest selection of taps I’ve ever seen.

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In case the happy hour is only at the bar, I usually sit at the bar to play it safe. The bar is in the middle of the restaurant and has ample room to choose from with lots of televisions surrounding it making it a great place for sports viewing during the season.

The happy hour menu is printed in the back of the regular menu with pretty much every drink discounted in some way (some are better than others) and most of the appetizers are half-priced. Quite the selection for a chain restaurant, that’s for sure.

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Since I’ve really gotten into embracing my inner hipster, I’ve been gravitating toward “crafted cocktails” whenever I can. They are typically made with fresh squeezed juices and bitters which is right up my alley. I’m not a fan of sugary, pre-made mixes so the fresh squeezed juices are just what I need. If I’m remembering right, these drinks were all $2 off thankfully. They’re a little bit more pricey to start, but with the $2 off they were about seven or eight bucks.

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I decided on the “Bittersweet” cocktail which was Hendrick’s gin, lillet blanc, aperol, and aromatic bitters garnished with an orange peel. Just what I like to drink!

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Though these deviled eggs are not included in the happy hour, we ordered them anyway. They were topped with a spicy tomato salsa and were fantastic.

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Next we ordered the spinach dip to snack on for a bit until we were ready to eat a little more (it was the afternoon when we arrived). The spinach dip tasted okay and came with a crispy pita-chip type of bread on the side, which was a different twist on the usual pita or sourdough loaf that is typically served with spinach dip.

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Now, there was one thing that was really intriguing us on the happy hour menu. There were two sushi rolls on the half-priced appetizer selection, and we were perplexed at the idea. Yard House isn’t exactly known as a sushi restaurant, but could this be a good choice anyway? We flagged down the bartender who told us though he himself is not a sushi eater, customers have raved about this sushi and have told him “it is the best sushi they’ve ever had.”

Well. That sure did sell it to us, so we ordered it. And out it came, about the width of a grapefruit, maybe a little bigger, and about an inch high.

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At first, we were a little confused and just stared at it, unsure of how to eat it. The bartender claimed that we could use chopsticks to pull slices off (kind of like a pizza) and it would stay together. So we tried that, and it didn’t stay together. And once we busted it open, we realized we had just ordered a $5 pile of overcooked rice.

There is a thin layer of cream cheese on top of the rice, followed by a sprinkling of cucumbers, a decent coating of roe, a small amount of crab, and half of an avocado with a little ginger on top. The “seaweed” is the stringy-looking strips stuck on the side. Soy sauce and oil coat the plate, along with a few dollops of a tomato sauce.

In a word, not good. The bartender could see it on our faces and he took it back and asked for the cooks to make another one for us. The manager brought out the new one about five minutes later and we tasted it, and though the rice tasted better, the same problem still remained: this was a pile of rice.

Thankfully, when we got the bill, the “sushi” dish was not on it (which was totally the manager’s call and a good one, at that) and I decided to order some real food to compensate my hunger: sliders.

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Too bad after eating one of them, I decided I was done, because we were definitely not going to pass up dessert. Though there are no desserts on the happy hour menu, we decided to share the “fresh baked brownie” which takes 15 minutes to cook, but is well worth it. It’s topped with vanilla ice cream (and apparently you can choose a flavor, which I wasn’t aware of until after it had come out) and sprinkled with powdered sugar and a mint leaf. A-mazing.

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Really, the bottom line is this: Yard House has a great beer selection, excellent priced happy hour, and a killer brownie dessert. However, they don’t have good sushi, so if you are a sushi-eater, don’t order the sushi from Yard House. You’ll be disappointed if you do.

Yard House
8367 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819 / (407) 351-8220
https://www.yardhouse.com/FL/orlando-restaurant/
American

When? Monday-Friday / Sunday-Wednesday
What Time? 3:00pm – 6:00pm / 10:00pm – close
Drink Specials? Discounted beers, well and speciality drinks, house martinis are $6.50, $2 off wine
Food Specials? A select number of appetizers are half-priced.
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? No.
Outside? Yes.

 

Happy Hour Review: Santiago’s Bodega, Mills-50

Can we please talk about how much I adore Santiago’s Bodega? It is, hands down, my second favorite restaurant in Orlando. (Number one will be revealed at a later date, so stay tuned.) The ambiance is just what I love: candle-lit tables, tufted upholstered booth backs in the lounge area, tapas, and now happy hour seven days a week, two times during the day. Perfection, Santiago’s Bodega.

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It may or may not be embarrassing to admit that I am almost a regular at Santiago’s Bodega. The staff knows me; some of them will walk past me and wave while saying, “Nice to see you again!” Whoops. I guess I frequent this joint a little too much, but I just can’t resist it.

When I arrived a little after four during a torrential downpour one afternoon, I ordered a glass of sangria which is on the happy hour for three dollars a glass. This sangria definitely gets my stamp of approval because it is made with more than just sugar, sprite, and wine. This is the authentic recipe with brandy and fruit along with the wine. Why this picture is blurry, I’m not entirely sure. I guess I was just too excited to start drinking it and couldn’t hold the camera still? I digress.

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The menu for the happy hour at Santiago’s Bodega changes daily. They have a select few “made for happy hour” dishes that are not offered on the regular menu, so the server has to share them and describe them to guests. Usually, there’s some sort of red meat and some sort of seafood dish, and a few others. They are five dollars each at a bargain price. Half-priced wines by the glass, premium well drinks, and draft beer are also available on the happy hour.

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One of the happy hour offerings I had never heard mentioned before were these edamame pot stickers. I’m usually not a fan of pot stickers, but these turned out to be exactly what I wish all pot stickers could be: fried and filled with an edamame puree. On the side was a sweet soy sauce for dipping. I liked them better than I thought I would.

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Next, we ordered the crab cakes which we had both had before at the happy hour, so we knew that they don’t disappoint. They’re a little small, but three come on a plate, so it’s really not bad for five bucks. There is a lemon to squeeze on top (a great accompaniment) along with some “cream fraiche” topped with chives to spread over the top.

DSC_0227The next dish we ordered is not on the discounted happy hour menu, but is on the regular menu and is rather pricey ($12), but is worth every dime. Yes, this is flaming cheese that is lit on fire when brought out to your table.

DSC_0228Once the fire goes out, what you have is a brandy-and-olive-oil-soaked cheese with grilled pita bread on the side, along with the most gigantic capers you’ll ever see. If you’re not used to the taste of brandy, you may be turned off at the first bite of this cheese, but once you acquire the taste, it is absolutely amazing. Trust me when I say you will not be disappointed.

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My friend who accompanied me to this happy hour raves about the steak skewers that we’ve ordered before, so we ordered them again. They come with a slightly teriyaki-type glaze and a few sesame seeds for a little extra crunch. These skewers are always cooked perfectly with just the right amount of red/pink on the inside of the steak so it melts in your mouth.

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Lastly, before heading next door for happy hour at the Matador, we figured we would order one last non-happy hour dish and that was the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. It is just that — flourless — and sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with local honey, and topped with fresh blueberries. This is rich, dense, and perfect for a chocolate lover like myself. (and sans-whipped cream, as usual.) Flourless chocolate cake may be my new favorite dessert.

DSC_0232To conclude: Santiago’s Bodega has great food (the second best in Orlando according to me), two happy hours, a weekend brunch (for a hefty $35 a person though drinks are bottomless), authentic sangria, and a killer flourless chocolate dessert. GO. NOW.

Santiago’s Bodega
802 Virginia Dr.
Orlando, FL 32803 / (407) 412-6979
http://www.santiagosbodega.com/orlando/
Mediterrean/Tapas

When? Every day
What Time? 4:00pm – 6:00pm / 11:00pm – 2:00am
Drink Specials? Wine by the glass, sangria, premium well drinks, and domestic beers are half off
Food Specials? A select “special” menu is available for $5 each, though it changes daily.
Weekly Specials? Saturday and Sunday brunch 10:00am – 2:30pm for $35/person
Bar Only? No.
Outside? Yes.

Happy Hour Review: Fleming’s, Winter Park

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law said she would take me to a happy hour after I had helped her while she had some car trouble. I was “driving Miss Daisy” as she said, which was no problem at all, and I chose Fleming’s in Winter Park to end our day. We got there around 4:30pm, though I wasn’t aware that they don’t open until 5:00pm. They let us in, but were still setting up for the evening. Once 4:55 hit, the bartender said he was ready for us. The menu is supposed to be a “5 for $6” theme, so there are five cocktails, five wines, and five appetizers — all available for $6 each until 7:00pm.

Fleming’s may be one of the darkest restaurants I’ve ever been to, so please excuse my lack of photos!

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I decided to go against my usual wine order and get a cocktail, so I chose the “Farmer’s Skinny Daughter” though not skinny. (I hate “skinny” flavors with manufactured sugar so I’d rather just take the calories if it means I can have real sugar instead of fake.) It was a muddled strawberry martini basically. Pretty sweet, but it wasn’t bad for $6! It was made with Hangar vodka.

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My mother-in-law and I decided to split two appetizers: the calamari (the pictures I took turned out too dark to share) and then we shared a bacon cheeseburger minus the large pretzel bun. We said we were going to split the burger, and we had planned on cutting it ourselves, but when they brought it out, they had already divided it equally for us on separate plates. Pretty nice, right? One of the bartenders told us that a lot of people come to the happy hour at Fleming’s just so they can get the burger, which is available only at the bar. Apparently it’s a popular choice, and I can see why — it’s a great burger, even without the giant bun (which I’m sure would make it better, but I can’t decide if it’s worth the calories).

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The bar was almost full with happy hour goers not long after 5:00pm. I, err — my mother-in-law and I– were the youngest people in there by at least 30 years, but that’s to be expected in Winter Park, right? (A common theme I’m seeing) Fleming’s is a top-of-the-line, white linen table cloth, extremely professional and personable service kind of place. You know, the type that you pull up to the restaurant and you have to valet your Honda Civic, and sitting next to you is a Rolls Royce? Yeah, that’s Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. Dark and romantic on the inside, private tables, quiet conversations, and great food. The happy hour offers their usually extremely pricey food at a reasonable bargain price.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
933 N Orlando Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789 / (407) 699-9463
http://www.flemingssteakhouse.com/locations/fl/winter-park
Steakhouse/Seafood/Wine Bar

When? Every day
What Time? 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Drink Specials? Wine and cocktails available for $6 each, beer is two for $6
Food Specials? Various appetizers are available for $6 each, along with two entrees from the “bar la carte” menu (also $6)
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? No.

Happy Hour Review: Carmel, Winter Park

A few weeks ago, a couple of “foodie” bloggers from hypeOrlando decided to attend a happy hour for our blogs, all with our own personal spin. Annia from Tiny Taster and Candace from The Sweet Life met me at Carmel in Winter Park, a fairly new Mediterranean wine bar near Winter Park Village.  I got there a little early, and was the only one in the restaurant, so I was able to take some pictures without looking like a crazy member of paparazzi. One of the things I love about Carmel is their iPad ordering system. Every table is given an iPad menu along with a regular paper menu, where you can order things straight from the iPad to your table. Pretty amazing, right?

DSC_0139 The restaurant is equipped with a full bar, high top tables, and a small lounge area. There’s also some outdoor lounge furniture around the entrance. There aren’t many windows inside, but I think it adds to the intimate, romantic vibe in the restaurant.

DSC_0140 After some debate, we decided to take advantage of the happy hour Wednesday special: half-priced bottles of wine! One of us is not a big red wine drinker, so two of us shared the bottle while the other stuck to the chilled, sweeter white wine. (Not naming names!) This wine was a blend from Spain (where I took part of my honeymoon two years ago, so I love all things that come from Spain!) that tasted just like I prefer wines to be: full-bodied, dry, and smokey. The entire bottle was about $15 — not bad when split between two people!

DSC_0143 We also couldn’t decide on food, so we ordered everything on the happy hour menu. Chickpea fries, calamari sticks, a trio of spreads, and a caprese flatbread. We also got the new pork belly — picture is below.

DSC_0144 This was my first taste of the chickpea fries, which were much thicker than normal fries and came with a tomato jam and a curry aioli on the side.

DSC_0145 The calamari frites were also much bigger than your usual calamari and also was breaded with a crispy finish. The sauce on the side is described as a “zesty aioli” that was exactly that: zippy and tangy.

DSC_0146 This mini trio of dips is a smaller version of the “mezze platter” full-size appetizer. It includes the roasted red pepper hummus (on the right), the edamame hummus (middle), and naan’s goat cheese spread (left). There are also olives, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts on the plate along with the crispy pita chips. Surprisingly, I think the edamame hummus was my favorite, instead of my usual goat cheese bias.

DSC_0147 These were the seared pork belly skewers, which were a new addition to the menu. It came with a “14 spice dipping sauce,” which sadly was the best thing about the dish. None of us really cared for the pork belly. Too done and too dry.

DSC_0149 We also couldn’t decide on dessert, so we chose to get two of them since there were three of us to share them all. Annia and Candace got the poached pear, which came drizzled with a salted caramel sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. I don’t care for pears, so I took their word for it when they said it was excellent.

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The homemade poundcake topped with strawberries sounded more appealing to me, so we ordered that sans whipped cream that typically comes on top. (Whipped cream is one of the most gross things I have ever tasted and literally will send something back if there is one drop of it on anything that I order, including Starbucks drinks!) This poundcake tasted delicious with a sugary crust and the topping of strawberries was the perfect compliment.

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Carmel Winter Park
140 N. Orlando Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789 / (407) 513-4912
http://www.carmelcafe.com/location/winter-park.aspx
Medditterean/Wine Bar

When? Monday-Friday
What Time? 4:00pm – 7:00pm
Drink Specials? Wine, beer, and featured cocktails
Food Specials? Sharable plates a discounted price.
Weekly Specials? Half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays; $5 martinis on Thursdays
Bar Only? No.
Outside? Yes; lounge area.

 

Happy Hour Review: FishBones, I-Drive

After having an amazing happy hour experience at MoonFish a few weeks ago, we decided to try happy hour at their sister restaurant, FishBones. (Not to be confused with “BoneFish.”) With locations in Orlando and Lake Mary, we chose the one in Orlando located just beyond the intersection of Sand Lake and International Drive.

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The drinks on the happy hour are the same as they are at MoonFish, so I created my own concoction by taking advantage of these $6 Grey Goose cocktails. Muddled cucumbers, Grey Goose, and some tonic water. Pretty refreshing!

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We were sitting at the bar, which was a little dark to start, and there were some color-changing lights on the ceiling that created this weird effect on my pictures, so please excuse the red and blue hues on these pictures! We started with the black and bleu homemade chips, which were homemade potato chips with slices of steak (lots of it, too) and gobs of a bleu cheese sauce, which tasted more like sour cream mixed with a little bleu cheese. The pictures I took of it all had a terrible blue hue to them, so I decided to omit.

Next, we ordered the “dang bang shrimp” which is a twist on the popular “bang bang shrimp” that many restaurants are starting to pick up on which is great because it is truly one of my favorite dishes. It’s essentially just lightly breaded shrimp tossed in a spicy mayo-type sauce and topped with some kind of seed I cannot remember the name. And, this particular dish came with dots of sriracha on the side for an extra kick.

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Sticking with the dang bang shrimp, the next thing we ordered was the sushi version of it: the “dang bang shrimp roll.” The shrimp roll was tempura fried and topped with a sweet teriyaki sauce. For me, the actual dang bang shrimp was better than its sushi version, though this was a relatively big sushi roll (seven pieces) for five bucks.

DSC_0136Lastly, we ordered a single crab cake slider, which tasted like it came on a sweet King’s Hawaiian roll. It was $5 for one slider, which to me was a little pricey considering it was happy hour, though the crab cake itself tasted great. It was topped with a tarter-type sauce and radishes, of which I could have done without, though with some lemon squeezed on it, they tasted fresh and delicious.

DSC_0137Overall, with comparing the two restaurants, I’d say MoonFish offered better-tasting food for their happy hour even though these two restaurants are so similar. The value for what you pay though, at either restaurant, absolutely cannot be beat. There is enough variety of food to definitely eat a dinner out of it, and there is a drink for everyone — wine drinkers, beer drinkers, martini drinkers, and even the fruity-drinkers with the fresh fruit infusion cocktails.

FishBones
6707 Sand Lake Rd
Orlando, FL 32819 / (407) 352-0135
http://www.talkofthetownrestaurants.com/fishbones_orlando.html
Seafood/Sushi

When? Every day
What Time? 4:30pm – 6:30pm
Drink Specials? Beer, wine, cocktails, martinis ranging from $3-$9
Food Specials? Oysters, sliders, sushi rolls, other appetizers ranging from 50 cents to $7.
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? No.

 

Happy Hour Review: Oceanaire Seafood Room, I-Drive

After battling the extreme heat and crowds at the outlets, one of my friends and I decided to try a new restaurant for happy hour: The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Pointe Orlando. I have always wanted to try this restaurant, but the regular menu is a little pricey, so their happy hour was the perfect solution. There is an extensive food selection for their happy hour that ranges in price from $5-$7.

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The drink selection is also extensive with beer, wine, martinis, and other specialty cocktails. The bottled beer is available for $4, wine is $5 for a glass, specialty drinks such as sangria and a mojito are $6, and the martinis are $7. Compared to the normal drink prices, these are about half off during the happy hour.

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Along with the cheap food choices, let’s be honest: the deciding factor for choosing The Oceanaire Seafood Room was that one of my favorite wines, 14 Hands, was on the happy hour wine list. Sold!

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When it came to deciding what we wanted to order to eat, we had a hard time making a decision. With help from the bartender, we chose to start with the crab cakes, after she told us that the restaurant was evidently “famous for their crab cakes.” After tasting these sliders, I can see why they are famous. The buns I probably could have done without (they tasted slightly stale) but the crab cake itself was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

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Next, we decided on the filet mignon sliders because once again, it’s something that I’d love to order every time, but it’s expensive, so I usually don’t get it. These were okay tasting, because the filet tasted a little overdone. No red or pink inside, and the outside was a little tough and chewy. If they were less cooked, they may have tasted much better.

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Lastly, we ordered the seafood flatbread, which was topped with shrimp, crabmeat, and herbed goat cheese. While it was good, it definitely could have used more goat cheese, which I am noticing is becoming a theme in what I eat lately. It also lacked in the sauce that was on it, making it a little dry. What we weren’t gipped on was the seafood — it was loaded with the shrimp and crab!

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We were the first ones in the restaurant, but as time went on, a few other couples arrived, though this wasn’t a packed happy hour. The place is quiet and relaxed and definitely doesn’t possess that loud, high-energy vibe. Being that the restaurant is in Pointe Orlando on International Drive, the people that were there were not locals. I also wish that Pointe Orlando didn’t charge for parking, otherwise I think a lot more locals would frequent the restaurants there.

The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Dr #1002
Orlando, FL 32819 / (407) 363-4801
http://www.theoceanaire.com/
Seafood

When? Every day
What Time? 5:00pm – 7:00pm & 9:00-close Monday-Thursday / 8:00pm – close Sunday
Drink Specials? Beer, wine, cocktails, martinis ranging from $4-$7
Food Specials? Sharable appetizers and small plates from $5-$7
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? Yes.

Happy Hour Review: MoonFish, Sand Lake/Dr.Phillips

It was a Saturday afternoon and my husband and I had decided to go to the “classy bowling joint” on International Drive, King’s Bowl. We are a little weary of eating at bowling alleys (the food there isn’t bad, but it is rather pricey) so we thought we’d try a happy hour. I pulled out my spreadsheet I keep of all the happy hours in the area, and sure enough, there was MoonFish on “Restaurant Row” with a Saturday afternoon happy hour. Be prepared to be blown away because this is quite possibly the best happy hour I have ever been to — and it was on a Saturday.

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We arrived right at 4:30 (when it starts), and actually had to wait for the shift meeting to end before we could sit down. By the time they let us in (a few minutes), the entire bar/lounge area was literally filled within 30 minutes. We sat at the bar, but there were a few large, high-top tables and some booths in the lounge area to sit at as well, in case you’re visiting with kids who normally probably don’t like to sit at the bar.

The drink specials are a little complicated — yes, Grey Goose drinks are $4, however, that only includes one “mixer” such as orange juice, soda water, or cranberry. A cosmopolitan, for instance, is not included in the Grey Goose happy hour drinks since it technically contains more than one mixer (triple sec, etc). The “Grey Goose Martini” for $9 is your average martini served dirty or straight up, but not with anything else other than the olive juice if you want it dirty. If you like fruity drinks, the “fresh fruit infusions” for $4 appeared to be a hit looking around the bar, though I’m not a fan of sweet and fruity drinks, so the bartender suggested this drink for me, called a “greyhound.” Grey Goose and grapefruit juice, yum? (Unfortunately this picture is probably the most decent one I took; it was really dark in the bar so excuse my dark pictures.)

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To start off, we ordered the “Volcano” roll, which was filled with real king crab (as opposed to imitation “krab”), avocado, cucumber, and topped with spicy seafood. The red dots are sriracha — yum! This roll was really good, and it was freshly made (we saw the sushi chefs at the sushi bar making it) and we were definitely not gipped on the roll consisting of mostly rice, like so many happy hour sushi rolls have been for us. For two cents short of eight bucks, this was a great roll!

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My husband decided to order the oysters since he loves them. As much as I love seafood, I really can’t get over their raw, slimy consistency. However, MoonFish did offer some wood-grilled oysters that were cheese crusted for 90 cents each, of which we ordered three, and I had a bite but still was rather “meh” about them. My husband got some of the raw ones as well, for 60 cents each, and these were some of the biggest oysters I had ever seen (with the shell, almost as big as your hand) and evidently they tasted great. An awesome deal for happy hour oysters.

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Since I have been on a serious sushi kick lately, we ordered the other sushi roll on the menu, the “spicy crunch roll” which was a little fried and topped with tempura flakes. Inside was shrimp and avocado, and on the outside was a smoked salmon. There was also a little teriyaki sauce that gave it a slightly sweet flavor. Again, a decent sized roll that was not mostly rice for two cents shy of $6!

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We also tried one of the “tuna tacos” for $1.75 each, which was a crunchy taco with ahi tuna inside, topped with seaweed salad and some edemame puree. Though I’m not the biggest tuna fan, nor do I care for raw stuff, this taco was pretty dang delicious. And pretty loaded for what it costs. I dug into it so fast I forgot to take a photo!

In the end, after we each had two drinks, plus all of the food, our bill with tax was $41. An unbeatable deal at a great, fresh seafood restaurant on a Saturday afternoon. Could this be deemed the “best happy hour in Orlando” according to me? I’d have to go with yes.

MoonFish
7525 W Sand Lake Rd.
Orlando, FL 32819 / (407) 363-7262
http://www.talkofthetownrestaurants.com/moonfish.html
Seafood/Sushi

When? Monday-Saturday
What Time? 4:30pm – 6:30pm
Drink Specials? Beer, wine, cocktails, Grey Goose cocktails, fruit infused cocktails, ranging from $3-$9
Food Specials? Sushi, sashimi, oysters, appetizers, others from 60 cents to $8.48
Weekly Specials? None.
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? No.

Happy Hour Review: Brio, Winter Park

Last week, I visited one of my “original” happy hour locations, Brio in Winter Park Village. As soon as I sat down, the bartender said that though he recognizes me, it had been a while since he has seen me. (Oops. Too many restaurants with happy hours to cover?) It had been a few months, and sadly, since the last time I visited, I found that they have changed the happy hour a bit — taking away some menu items, adding a few new menu items, and raising some of the prices. Unfortunately, I’d have to say I liked the previous happy hour better. The previous menu items really could not be beat, especially at a restaurant such as Brio. Though the new $4-$6 range isn’t bad either, but I think most would agree that the last $2.95 menu was a much better bargain!

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I started off with a glass of wine, which was a part of their “Wine Thursdays” (also a new add) that includes a handful of wines to choose from for $5 a glass. Surprisingly, my next glass was on the house. Thanks Brio!

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My accomplice that evening got the Sangria Rosa, which is wine along with vodka and muddled pineapples and strawberries and a liqueur. It was a little sweet for me, though it was a popular drink looking around the bar, especially among the women. (Of which, also looking around, I realized that it was mostly women and that they were all at least twice my age. Youngest person again in a bar in Winter Park? Not surprising.)

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Now, since the food selection had changed, we decided to order a few things we have not tried at Brio in our previous visits. We started with the hummus plate: crispy, seasoned flatbread pieces along with carrots, red peppers, and cucumbers. The only thing this dish could have used more of was the hummus!

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Next, we ordered the eggplant fries. These were an interesting twist on the usual french fry, which I’m finding is a new trend at many restaurants. Instead of a potato, substitute a vegetable such as a sweet potato, zucchini, or now eggplant. It came with a tomato pomodoro sauce (similar to a marinara) and zippy, tangy horseradish aioli on the side.

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Now, in addition to my being a self-proclaimed “sangria critic”, my other most ordered, and also most critical entree is the cheeseburger. I know it’s childish, but a cheeseburger is probably the one thing I could eat every day and not ever get tired of eating. There are a lot of places that serve burgers in Orlando, and a lot of the places are “gourmet” burger shops, though few of them actually leave me saying, “that was amazing!” and developing a craving for them later. With that said, it’s no surprise that my next ordered dish was the cheeseburger, which I would have to give a place not specializing in burgers a pretty good rating. This is by far one of the best happy hour burgers I’ve tried: it’s a decent size (not huge but also not too small) and has a good tasting bun and an interesting tomato aioli on top of the provolone cheese. For what it costs, it tastes great and also comes with homemade potato chips.

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The happy hour at Brio has raised its prices, but it’s also added more variety for its many patrons. This is the one happy hour I’ve been to that consistently has been full every time I’ve showed up no matter the day of the week or time. Though this last time, having that in mind, I showed up a little before five and was able to get a seat at the bar with no problem, though the bar was full within a few minutes.

Brio
480 N. Orlando Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789 / 407-622-5611
http://www.brioitalian.com/winter_park_village.html
Italian

When? Monday-Friday
What Time? 3:30pm – 6:30pm
Drink Specials? Beer, Wine, and cocktails ranging from $4-$6.
Food Specials? Appetizers available from $4-$6.
Weekly Specials? Wednesdays: Martinis for $5; Thursdays: Wine selection for $5/glass
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? No.

Happy Hour Review: Cask and Larder, Winter Park

Since Cask and Larder opened a few years ago, I have always been a little reluctant to try it. The whole “southern” theme of food is one that is springing up a lot lately (serving “family style” with dishes such as chicken and waffles) and it’s really not my scene considering I’m not from “the south.” However, they had a fabulous-looking brunch and a months ago, I decided to try it. Though the restaurant is pricey (much like their sister restaurant, The Ravenous Pig), the brunch had a variety to offer in terms of food and drinks. When I discovered that they had a happy hour (and on the weekends!), I knew it would be a bargain since the one drink I got at brunch was $12.

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This is one of the few happy hours at a restaurant that is almost entirely focused on drinks. There are variety of cocktails to choose from along with some house-brewed beers and wine. The food, however, is minimal. Oysters are available raw, for $1 per oyster. (And the first time I went, they were already out of the happy hour ones.) There’s also a small “ham biscuit” that is practically bite-sized, though super tasty, available for $2 each.

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The happy hour is available in the bar only, so when I arrived on a Friday around 5:30, it was already packed with young professionals along with the usual “older” Winter Park crowd that frequent the restaurants in the area. I started off with the “Seelbach” drink, which is described as “smooth ambler old scout bourbon, cointreau, sparkling wine, peychaud’s & angostura bitters.” I know I’ve mentioned before that I am usually a wine drinker, but this place is one of my few exceptions where I know that I can order and cocktail and won’t get gipped on the alcohol since the drink is half its normal price. And this drink was just that — definitely not lacking the alcohol.

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If you’re looking for a place for strong afternoon drinks after work, this is your place. However, if you’re looking for a happy hour with enough food for dinner, I wouldn’t recommend it. Though their regular menu is available, just not on the happy hour.

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Cask and Larder
565 W Fairbanks Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789 / (321) 280-4200
http://www.caskandlarder.com
Southern

When? Monday-Saturday / Sunday
What Time? 4:00pm – 6:00pm / 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Drink Specials? $3 house-brewed beers, $6 cocktails and wine
Food Specials? Yes, limited. Raw oysters $1 and ham biscuits for $2 each.
Weekly Specials? No.
Bar Only? Yes.
Outside? A handful of tables are out front.