Well, it's that time of the year again when we're spooling down from a season of overeating, over drinking and over spending – a trifecta of seemingly good reasons to hunker down and count calories, pennies and resolutions. I read that saving money ranks among the 10 most popular resolutions every year, and often the first thing to get scratched off the spend list is going out. But in a city where dining and drinking is social glue, cutting that completely can get a little lonely. Luckily, San Francisco restaurants and bars have a crush on happy hour, which I find to be a solid compromise between blowing the bank on an expensive dinner and sitting at home with a cup of ramen noodles and a boxed wine chaser (leave that to the college students). And when it comes to saving at restaurants and bars, it's not always about if you go, but when. So set your clock for happy hour and treat your appetite and your pocketbooks right this year. These value-friendly spots invite patrons to eat and drink like royalty – and possibly tick a few other resolutions off their lists.
This neighborhood watering hole far removed from downtown crowds and tourists has a convivial Irish pub atmosphere. One-dollar oysters are very popular during happy hour, as are $4 house wines and draft beers. The menu of filling appetizers ($8 each) includes turkey chili nachos, Irish cheddar potato skins and buffalo chicken wings, to name just a hearty few.
1940 Taraval St., S.F., (415) 731-8900
Happy hour: 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
Whet your travel resolution with a taste of Morocco. Drinks and bites change regularly, but expect to find $4-$5 draft beers like Trumer Pilsner and Mirror Pond Pale; wines like Dark Horse Red or Canyon Road pinot grigio for $5 per glass; and signature cocktails like the Ziryab Manhattan, made with homemade date-infused Dickel Rye, for just $7. Nibbles from ($4-$5 each) include calamari, grilled lamb meatballs and flat bread. Good to know: 80 percent of the menu is gluten-free – if that's also on your resolution list.
528 Divisadero St., S.F., (415) 522-0800
Happy hour: 5 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close Mondays-Thursdays
Tucked away in the chic W Hotel above TRACE restaurant, the sophisticated space features an LED-lit bar and separate imbibing nooks called cabanas. Delectable bites by executive chef Jason Rea include Kennebec Potato Chips with Dill Ranch ($6); Albacore Tuna Tartare with Habanero Crispy Corn Chips ($6); and Ginger Pork Skewers with TRACE rooftop honey and sesame ($8). Wash them down with wines on tap for $8 per glass and $5 draft beers.
181 3rd St., S.F., (415) 777-5300
Happy hour: 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
Happy hour is a scenic, all-day, everyday affair at this waterfront gem, and if you like oysters, you're in luck. Order as many as you want at just $1.05 each. (The nickel is donated to charities that champion the bay and other local causes under the eatery’s Oysters Give Back program.) From 2 to 5 p.m. weekdays, drink specials include featured beers for $5, prosecco for $6 and a Caribbean Sunset cocktail made with Bacardi rum, pomegranate and orange juice for just $7.
399 The Embarcadero, S.F., (415) 284-9922
Happy hour: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
If 2015 is the year to expand your wine palate, then this Russian Hill hotspot is just the place for you. Customized flights, at just $10, offer tastes of three different wines from an expansive list of high quality (yet affordable) elixirs from around the world. A generously sized, $20 happy hour “apero platter” – three cheeses, five cold cuts and a baguette – is perfect for sharing.
1754 Polk St., S.F., (415) 292-6916
Happy hour: 5:30 to 7 p.m. daily
Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food and drink for the last 20 years and has never met a happy hour she didn’t like. She writes at www.kimberleylovato.com