This month, a federal judge in Alexandria ruled that a Tyson's Corner restaurateur could proceed with a lawsuit challenging Virginia's restrictive rules on happy hour advertising. For some reason, owners currently can't list the price of drinks.
This could have an impact locally, considering Richmond's drinking scene has blossomed just as much as the dining scene in recent years. Between local breweries, cideries, distilleries and creatively talented bartenders, those working in the booze industry have grown a community that likes a good cocktail, but also appreciates a good deal.
Much like the Walt Disney World drinking game at the internationally-themed Epcot park, unofficially entitled Drink Around the World, many a Richmond neighborhood offers a diverse-enough set of options to facilitate such a tour. So where are the happy hour hot spots and how much are the drinks?
We want to visit familiar neighborhoods to track down deals you may not have otherwise found, while staying within about half a mile and respecting the happy hour time parameters of each destination. This time around, it's all about the Fan.
Let's start on West Main Street where campus crowds start to fizzle out: Postbellum (1323 W. Main St.) I have always found the eats here to be inventive and delicious, incorporating a Southern flair into bar food in an elegant tavern. By virtue of its dedication to working with local suppliers, Postbellum was also the restaurant that introduced me to Sausagecraft.
The happy hour situation seems to be one favored by a young, busy, corporate crowd, but don't let that deter you. While they may take over the bar and network inside, you can head upstairs to the deck, which has become the real draw of this place, especially now that it's warmed up outside. Happy hour here is Mondays - Fridays 3 to 6 p.m. If the weather is nice and it's not too hot, expect to arrive before 5 p.m. to secure your spot. Virginia drafts are half-off, and the featured wine, which could be red or white, costs $5. During happy hour, the signature cocktail Postbellum Punch is $6, and it is delightful and summery: rhum barbancourt, raspberry, peach Grand Marnier and pineapple. Oysters on the half-shell are also on the menu for a dollar apiece, along with kimchi Buffalo wings for $6. I would go for the soft pretzel ($5) — it's the size of a dinner plate and has a golden, buttery crisp outside with a soft challahlike interior. Accompanying dips are a beer mustard and pimento cheese.
Pearl Raw Bar is a few blocks away at 2229 W. Main St. Perhaps you've celebrated a graduation there over a seafood dinner, or maybe it is a favorite of your grandparents. Either way, it's time to revisit. The happy hour secret here is the $3 wine — a choice of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay. Even better, it's served it in the back dining room, which on nice days feels more like a patio because the garage doors facing Rowland Street can completely open. Domestic beers cost $2.50 and all drafts are $2 off Mondays-Fridays, from 3 to 7 p.m. Happy hour snacks are reasonably priced, too, like the creamy Chesapeake crab dip ($4.50), baked in a small ceramic dish and served with a plate of flaky wonton-style chips.
On the corner of the next block, I would pass on Pik Nik at 2301 W. Main St., the re-branded former home of Fan Noodle Bar. While the happy hour menu for both food and drink is fairly extensive, many cocktail ingredients were not available on my visit. Service was leisurely, the interior felt grimy — but maybe that's just its aesthetic. The Shockoe Slip, one of the specialty cocktails that costs $8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., was weak.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out several go-tos and honorable mentions, some of which are off the West Main course.
Secco Wine Bar at 325 N. Robinson St. offers an unplugged happy hour. Get a dollar off wines from 5 to 7 p.m. if you and your companion agree to put your phones in a box on the bar while you sip. The bartenders are friendly and tremendously knowledgeable, so feel free to ask them questions when they're not too busy.
For something a little sweeter, swing by Shindygz at 1903 W. Cary St. on a Wednesday or Thursday evening for drink specials. Desserts are also buy two get one free on Thursdays.
3 Monkeys Bar and Grill at 2525 W. Main St. is a consistently solid option and generously timed — happy hour is 4 to 8 p.m. daily. The cheap cocktails are a tasty steal, like the passion fruit caipirinha ($6).
Not a weeknight drinker? Foo Dog (1537 W. Main St.) holds happy hour on the weekends. Saturdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Sundays noon to 9 p.m. Large projector screens make it ideal for watching a game with a mimosa or bloody in hand. S
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