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Where to Eat Right Now

Where to eat in Austin right now: 5 hot new happy hours for summer

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aRoma pizza Austin
aRoma's happy hour features 50 percent off the entire pizza menu.  Courtesy of aRoma/Facebook
LaV restaurant east austin
laV's Mezze menu is available Tuesday through Saturday from 5 6:30 pm.  Alison Narro
El Sapo Austin
El Sapo's happy hour focuses on discounted booze and snacks.  Courtesy of El Sapo/Facebook
aRoma pizza Austin
LaV restaurant east austin
El Sapo Austin

Great happy hours are an Austin tradition. The casual nature of Austin living and dining certainly fits the concept, and for years a number of the city’s favorite perennials — from Z’Tejas to the Four Seasons — have offered great values for post-work happy hours and friendly gatherings.

While we still frequent some long-running happy hours (especially Mark Sayre’s robust wine-filled one at TRIO), the list below focuses on new — or newly revamped — happy hours in both fine dining and casual establishments. The offerings and selections vary wildly, but all stand out as worthy of a visit or two this summer.
 
aRoma
This new Italian eatery on South Lamar is helmed by Chef Jason Garcia, a San Antonio restaurant veteran who has worked with some of that city’s top chefs, including Andrew Weissman, Bruce Auden and Mark Bohanan. The restaurant is adjacent to the Broken Spoke, so if you’d like to load up on carbs and Negronis before two-stepping, we can tell you from experience that the atmosphere and service are on point.

aRoma’s new early-evening happy hour offers 50 percent off the entire pizza menu, including the Radicchio (radicchio, fontina, leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and mozzarella) and Il Maiale Interno (tomato, mozzarella, pancetta, prosciutto, sausage, capocollo). Pizza prices during happy hour are an outstanding $5 - $9; wine, beer and cocktails are all $1 off. For an ideal pairing, Garcia recommends an order of the calamari pie and a glass of Ruffino Rosatella Rosé ($8).
 
What to try: Your favorite pizza paired with a cocktail named after a Broken Spoke mainstay (there’s a Chapparral and a Dale Watson Shandy)
When to go: Weekdays from 4 - 7 pm
 
Trace
One doesn’t often associate the W with “bargain,” but Trace’s new weekday happy hour offers a wide selection of snacks and drink options. Among the best deals of the dozen food offerings are a brisket taco ($3), coconut curry mussel plate ($7), pork belly slider ($3) and mini goat Merguez sandwich with locally sourced goat and harissa aioli ($3). Texas craft beers are on deck for $4, 20 wines by the glass are priced from $6 - $9 and eight cocktails are available for $7 each. When choosing food, keep in mind that Chef Lawrence Kocurek has extensive charcuterie experience, so meaty items are usually a great bet.
 
What to try: The meat-focused $3 selections, charcuterie for 2 ($15), and the Brothers Quarrel cocktail (Buffalo Trace, St. Germain, ginger, pineapple, scotch)
When to go: Monday through Friday from 5 - 7 pm; a separate (more limited) weekend happy hour is available on Saturday and Sunday from 3 - 5 pm
 
laV
East Seventh’s posh newcomer now hosts an early evening Mediterranean-inspired Mezze menu with a number of new items designed to share over a cocktail or glass of wine. The debut selections include lamb kebabs with pickled zucchini ($5); beet, watermelon and feta salad ($6) and salt cod and chickpea fritters ($7). Chef Allison Jenkins has a knack for making simple ingredients shine in unexpected ways, so don’t skip the simpler items like pickled eggs ($1.50) and pita with baba ganoush.
 
Sommelier Darren Scott suggests pairing a red with your appetizers. "One common thread that runs throughout our Mezze menu is the use of exotic spices to add flavor to the dishes. With anything spicy, whether it's shishito peppers, cumin, harissa or piquillo, I love Cabernet Franc for its herbal, green notes, and our Chinon from Domaine Groisbois in the Loire Valley ($13/glass) adds a great deal of dimension to these dishes without overwhelming the palate." A menu of $8 cocktails is also available, including an East Indies Sour (Angostura Bitters, Orgeat, Batavia Arrak, Strega) and a Carte Blanche (Gin, Cocchi Americano, Amaro Nonino).
 
What to try: Wine! Head sommelier Vilma Mazaite offers $7 by-the-glass selections during the happy hour, so grab a few snacks and ask for the right wine pairing
When to go: Tuesday through Saturday from 5 - 6:30 pm
 
Jeffrey’s
While the traditional happy hour at the “old” Jeffrey’s was an Austin tradition, many haven’t ventured into the new bar area after Larry McGuire’s opulent reboot. New happy hour items include a pan seared dry-aged bar steak ($14 during happy hour), a dry-aged prime wagyu burger ($12) and a smoked King salmon and caviar blini ($9). The new selection also has several salads: a classic iceberg wedge; a warm spinach, amaranth and arugula salad; and a heirloom squash and little gem salad all priced at $7. A soufflé, a soup and a cheese plate round out the lengthy bar menu.

Beverage Director June Rodil recommends the Charles Bove Rosé bubbles and the Château Senejac Bordeaux from her by-the-glass list (each is $2 off during happy hour), noting that the Bordeaux matches well with the bar steak as a "classic combination." She also suggests ordering a tartare with the bubbles.
 
What to try: It's hard to argue with the value component of the bar steak and foie gras dishes here; we’re also big fans of the Brotherly Love and Hibiki Highball cocktails
When to go: Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 - 6:30 pm; all evening Sunday and Monday
 
El Sapo
This Manor Road burger shop from the team behind El Chile takes a more casual approach to happy hour than the other entrants on the list — the discounts focus on booze and snacks, but the selection is plentiful. While you can’t get a half-price burger, you can order spicy wings ($5), chile con queso fires ($4.50), onion rings ($2.50) and rajas con queso ($4.50). The drink selection is really what makes this casual happy hour: select canned beers are $2, bottled beers are $3, craft drafts are $4 and house margaritas are $5. You can also order the $6 Happy Mercado, a dangerous pairing of an Indio beer and a shot of El Jimador reposado tequila. Proceed with caution. 
 
What to try: This is an El Chile offshoot, so rajas con queso, guacamole and margaritas are all safe plays here; the burgers aren’t discounted, but a savvy group could order one and quarter it for a de facto appetizer
When to go: Daily from 3 - 7 pm
 

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