By SUSAN ERICSON
Though it’s ubiquitous in Red Bank, happy hour – that late-afternoon, discounted bar-tab menu option – should not be taken for granted. Many states, according to the National Center for State Courts, prohibit or limit what has become a traditional time of day to meet with friends and acquaintances in New Jersey.
Although most bars and restaurants offer special deals to lure customers, you might be surprised at how differently those two or three hours are interpreted. PieHole breaks down what can be considered an early bird special for the economically minded while others might call it a snack before dinner.
The bar at Birravino on Riverside Avenue offers a happy hour menu Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. that includes half-price house wine, beer, and some cocktails. The beer is a big mug of house-brewed Vesuvio, a traditional IPA. The wine, a ZioBaffa Rosso 2012 Toscana, is organic, and at half-price, only $5 per glass.
Attention to culinary detail is also a consideration at Birravino. From among the half-price appetizers we chose the mussels, served in a big bowl with a roasted garlic-infused tomato sauce, and the suppli al telefono – rice balls full of flavor and texture. Both dishes were Tuscan inspired recipes that we’d order again even at full price. Appetizer portions with a glass of wine or mug of beer were plenty for an early, light dinner.
Although the doors at Teak, with its light, bright, Asian-inspired motif on Monmouth Street, open at 4 p.m. for happy hour, regular customers don’t start rolling in for another hour, perhaps because that’s when the kitchen opens. The happy hour menu offers discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and all appetizers are $7. Lasting three hours, that’s plenty of time to fill up on sticky chicken wings, sushi and pork buns.
Similar to Teak and Birravino, Robinson’s Ale House on Broad Street lists all appetizers at half-price from 4 to 7 p.m. The bargain drinks are as expected: wine by the glass, beer choices and house liquor cocktails. Surprisingly smooth, the house brand New Amsterdam vodka martini at $5 was icy cold and refreshing.
Across the street, Gotham, with its dark Batman-themed atmosphere, has happy hour every day of the week from 4 to 7, but does not have a discounted food menu.
An upscale restaurant with both water and fire features, Char Steak House, also on Broad, offers drinks at half price from 4:00 PM till 6:00 PM Monday through Friday with their standard menu options at full price.
Other restaurants and bars in Red Bank also offer happy hour specials on beverages and food, some changing on a daily basis and some based on a theme, so if you belly up to the bar between the hours of 4 and 7 you might ask your server if there’s a happy hour discount.
Drinking responsibly is key to enjoying any happy hour. If you find that driving is not an option and a designated driver is not with you, call for a cab or Uber. Any hostess or bartender should also be prepared to help you find a cab if you need it.