When handed a happy hour menu, there are some of us who skip right past the two-for-one beers and go straight to the best part: the food.
Maybe it’s because we’re always hungry and a glass of house wine isn’t going to tide us over until dinner. Maybe it’s because we have to stay sober for the drive home. Maybe we’re cheapskates who appreciate a good deal at restaurants we couldn’t afford during dinnertime. Maybe we just really love fries.
Whatever the reason, there’s no shame in being a person whose favorite part of happy hour is the part you chew instead of sip. For you, we’ve compiled a list of the best happy hours for food in the Twin Cities. Looking for extraordinary bar fare? Budget-friendly bites that can double as dinner? An amazing order of frites? They’re all here.
And yeah, each of these places has pretty great drinks, too.
Tasty as happy hour food is, menus tend to hit the same familiar beats. Hai Hai stands out for some unique options: Think perfectly fried tofu with a lime leaf sauce or sticky rice garnished with gossamer strands of pork floss. Even the fried wontons are something special, thanks to the addition of chicken liver pâté and the passion fruit-chili sauce on the side. As a bonus, some items can be made vegetarian or vegan by request. 2121 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612-223-8640; haihaimpls.com
The News Room
Maybe we’re partial to a bar with decor that celebrates the printed word, but the News Room also offers a menu of $5 elevated bar fare that you can enjoy on a writer’s paycheck. Our favorite is the margherita flatbread, its immense and oh-so-delicious crispy crust topped with a fresh basil pesto and loaded with shaved Parmesan. Other options include salmon bruschetta, a hummus sampler, and spinach and feta croquettes. 990 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612-343-0073; thenewsroommpls.com
If you’ve ever wanted to saunter into a classy restaurant and order nothing but fries and a cocktail with nary a side eye from the staff, happy hour at Meritage is your happy place. The hand-cut pommes frites are served with a side of béarnaise sauce, a riff on hollandaise typically served with steak—it’s the most elegant order of fries you’ll come across in the Twin Cities. If you’re in the mood for more French cuisine, try the gougères (described on the menu as “adult Cheez-Its”) or the ham and cheese croquettes. 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-222-5670; meritage-stp.com
Combining a good deal with a good cause warms both the heart and the wallet. At Kyatchi, all of the seafood—including the discounted happy hour menu—is selected based on third-party sustainability guidelines. Our favorite happy hour pick is the chirashi, a bowl of sushi rice topped with sashimi and vegetables that’s a steal for $11.50. The sushi combo is also a good bet, with a chef’s choice roll plus three pieces of nigiri, or go classic with the salmon avocado roll. 3758 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis and 308 E. Prince St., St. Paul; 612-236-4429 and 651-340-5796; kyatchi.com
Moscow on the Hill
This beloved Russian eatery serves a hearty happy hour menu that your grandmother would approve of and that also happens to pair pretty damn well with vodka. The pelmeni are delightfully meaty, while the rainbow-hued house-pickled vegetables are a feast for the eyes and palate. Other options include a vinegret salad loaded with root vegetables, pickles, and sauerkraut; pâté with bread; and a mushroom and spinach blintz. Pick one for $4 or create your own appetizer flight of three for $10. 371 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-291-1236; moscowonthehill.com
Icehouse’s menu of happy hour food is more extensive than some restaurants’ dinner offerings, with everything from bar snacks to rib-sticking sandwiches. You can go classic with the smoked chicken wings or opt for a globally influenced hot dog topped with kimchi. There’s plenty of comfort food (the poutine is even made with mushroom gravy so that it’s vegetarian-friendly), as well as the Instagram-worthy Ploughman’s Platter, loaded with smoked meat, fish, and other savories. 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-276-6523; icehousempls.com
In Italy, the aperitivo is a cultural ritual—a time between work and dinner to unwind with friends, sip a drink, and savor some elegantly simple bar snacks. For those of us who want to indulge in this delightful tradition but can’t afford the flight, there’s the happy hour at Terzo. Order some olives, chips with aioli, or arancini. Take advantage of a $1 discount on salumi and cheeses. Then settle in and imagine you’re in Sicily. 2221 W. 50th St., Minneapolis; 612-925-0330; terzompls.com
Augustine’s Bar & Bakery
Happy hour food can get a bit monotonous for those eschewing meat—believe it or not, there is a limit to how many orders of fries you can enjoy. Augustine’s Bar & Bakery offers some thoughtful options for vegetarians beyond “just leave off the meat,” like nachos topped with miso-roasted vegetables. There’s also the Fern Gully flatbread with fiddlehead ferns, oyster mushrooms, asparagus, and arugula. And you can soften the start of the work week with a Monday happy hour that lasts all day. 1668 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-447-3729; augustinesmn.com
For most of us, a meal at Murray’s is reserved for anniversaries, birthdays, or when your rich uncle is in town. But here’s how you can enjoy a fancy steakhouse on a fast food budget: Swing by the bar for the happy hour menu. Our top pick is the steak burger slider that weighs in at a respectable three ounces and rings up at only $4. You can also splurge on the full-sized version for $10 or get a decent crab cake slider for $5. 26 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; 612-339-0909; murraysrestaurant.com