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Food & Drink

5 & Dine: How to fill up on happy hour deals in Baltimore

Happy Hour Heaven bar manager Brittney Johnson, right, makes the Ultimate Margarita for taco Tuesday.
Nov. 22, 2022.

When setting out to find the best happy hours in Baltimore, the options were surprisingly sad. Plenty of bars and restaurants take a couple of bucks off drafts or an appetizer, but what about the serious deals that make it worth it to rush out of work at 5 p.m. on the dot? They seem to be disappearing.

“Happy hours are nowhere near where they used to be,” said Dennis Kistner, owner of Mahaffey’s Pub. Baltimore lost happy hour culture when people started working from home more, so there wasn’t a transition time between work and later plans, he said. “Everything changed when the whole world changed.”

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Jonathan Joseph, who owns Happy Hour Heaven, attributes the city’s lack of happy hour to generally lower prices compared with Washington, for example, where drinks often cost $12 or $15. The Baltimore price point is generally too low for most businesses to give significant discounts, he said.

But a few spots still indulge customers with over-the-top happy hours, standing out for the quality of the offerings and the sweetness of the deals.

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Happy Hour Heaven

Happy Hour Heaven’s taco Tuesday features shrimp and tilapia tacos and the Ultimate Margarita.
Nov. 22, 2022.

Walking through Upper Fells Point, passersby could miss Happy Hour Heaven if not for the large OPEN sign slicing neon into the night. Unlike in some of the rowdier parts of the city, don’t expect to find a line or even a trace of music reverberating through the brick building. But step inside and the atmosphere is arresting: hip-hop cranked up but not so loud you can’t hear one another; the booths and stools full; laughing guests toasting, sometimes even over the bar with friendly staff.

This isn’t the kind of bar where you catch up intimately with an old friend; this is where groups of co-workers blow off steam and take advantage of the generous happy hour deals that make the bar live up to its name.

Each night of the week is themed with a different set of happy hour specials, from throwback Thursdays featuring $20 shrimp and lobster pasta to the tune of ‘90s and ‘00s music, to wing Wednesdays with $0.75 wings and $7 rum punch. At a recent taco Tuesday (three tacos for $7 alongside margarita and tequila bargains), sweet chile and cilantro lime sauces punched up chicken, shrimp or tilapia. No, it’s not exactly authentic but rather truly solid bar food, especially when paired with a full-bodied mango margarita (from $6), the freshness of the juice easing the high alcohol content.

And unlike most happy hour destinations, there’s no rush from the office — most days, specials here last until 10 p.m., turning into happy nights. 1901 Gough St.

La Tavola

This Little Italy happy hour is a way to cozy up with the lighter (and more affordable) side of La Tavola’s fare. Served Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. or all day Sunday in the bar area, the happy hour menu is divided into hot, cold and pizza sections. None of these dishes is particularly large, but a pair of diners can be satisfied with wine ($2 off glasses, 15% off bottles), feathery bread and olive oil, and an assortment of small plates.

On what was then the coldest night of the year in Baltimore, a glass of cabernet staved off the chill, befitting of the happy hour snacks like a platter of meaty mixed olives ($6); tomato, basil and garlic on toasted bruschetta points ($7); or mussels in tomato sauce ($9). The delicate Rollini di melanzane ($7.5), the thinnest strips of eggplant hugging pesto and mozzarella, is almost like a bite of lasagna but in a bright, vegetal package. The tartufona pizza ($17) is subtly fragrant with truffle pecorino, wild mushrooms, shaved black truffle and a thin crust straight from the wood-fired oven. 248 Albemarle St.

Mahaffey’s Pub

Mahaffey's Pub in Canton offers 3 Fer specials: three 10-ounce drafts from a slightly pared-down selection for $9.

Although there’s already a Happy Hour Heaven in Baltimore, Mahaffey’s Pub in Canton is a Valhalla for a specific kind of happy hourgoer: the beer drinker who wants to revel in the dozens of ever-rotating beers on special. Wine and cocktail connoisseurs might want to skip ahead, but hopheads can spend many happy hours sampling the “3 Fer” specials: three 10-ounce drafts from a slightly pared-down selection for $9. “Thirty ounces of craft beer for $9 is pretty unheard of,” Kistner said.

The 3 Fers run Monday through Saturday and go all night on Mondays and Tuesdays. Plus, each day has a food and/or spirit deal to accompany the brews — think taco platters and cheesesteaks, both $8.

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Thursday sandwich nights boast burgers, chicken sandwiches and veggie burgers ($8 each), and they’re better than you might think for being mainly prepared behind the bar: not too dry, toasted bun, and accompanied by hand-cut fries using local produce. The 3 Floyds double IPA was a good pairing, the bitterness complementing the saltiness of the fries, the sweet and sour of the ketchup. Simply ordering a pint of this might get a little boring, but the food and other pours turn it into an experience — a fleeting one that will be gone next time Mahaffey’s switches up the choices. 2706 Dillon St.

The Milton Inn

The bar at The Milton Inn

This historic property, reopened last year by Foreman Wolf restaurant group, announced a new happy hour promotion in November. The hours are tight: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, but it’s worth the trip to the 281-year-old fieldstone house in Sparks Glencoe. Sip on $6 Manhattans, martinis and select wines.

But the snacks menu is what puts this happy hour over the edge. Beignets come in either crispy chicken with a pimenton aioli, or shrimp with honeynut squash with saffron aioli. The autumnal motif carries through to butternut squash gnocchi with beech and oyster mushrooms and sage brown butter. The local and aptly named Sweet Jesus oysters are gratinéed with duck bacon, garlic herb butter and brioche breadcrumbs. And somehow, through the magic of happy hour, these French bites by chef and co-owner Christopher Scanga, are only $8 each. 14833 York Road, Sparks Glencoe

Minato Sushi Bar

The lychee cocktail at Minato Sushi Bar is a happy hour special.

The artsy interior of Minato Sushi Bar in Mount Vernon doesn’t betray how good the happy hour value is — it feels more like the sort of swanky place where you could rack up a high bill after a day at the nearby Walters Art Museum. But surrounded by artwork and an aurora borealis-like light fixture, guests can partake in a lengthy menu of specials from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day save Sunday.

And these aren’t minuscule maki coins found at lesser sushi eateries. The happy hour rolls, all hovering around $5, are plump enough to fill up on. The Yellow Diamond in particular is a crispy combination of avocado, a crunch of cucumber, the succulence of a well-cooked shrimp and seasoned rice. It stands up to the fancier special maki rolls from the a la carte menu ($9.95 on happy hour), which are piled with luxe ingredients such as fresh and soft-shell crab, lobster salad, yellowtail tuna and eel.

But a happy hour diner probably won’t miss the full menu, especially with the list of other small plates. Well-formed crab shumai ($4.95) are a nice bite with soy sauce and sesame seeds. The pork or vegetable spring rolls ($5.50 or $4.50) feature a light but golden shell made to be dipped in Minato’s play on a sweet-and-sour sauce, thinner and more subtle than the typical Americanized version.

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Vegetable spring rolls at Minato Sushi Bar are a happy hour special.

The beverage list offers just as many discounts: sake starting at $3.50, a Japanese-forward beer collection from $2.95 and 22 cocktails for only $5.95 each. A few sips of the pama martini alone will have lightweights stumbling out when the clock strikes 7. 1013 N. Charles St.


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