One does not just walk into Old Town Pasadena Happy Hour Week! Dissection must be made; careful analysis of each and every one of the twenty participating restaurants' happy hour menus. Charts were draw. Lists were made. Itineraries were key! I take Happy Hour very seriously.
Opportunity to have the first Happy Hour Hop came with my friend Melissa's birthday celebration on Friday, March 9th, which coincided with the Pasadena Art Night. The plan was simple: Arrive to Old Town early enough to hit up two of the carefully selected restaurants, enjoy some art, and hit up one more happy hour spot. I drew up a list for Melissa the birthday girl/observant vegetarian to choose from, selecting only the restaurants that offered a variety of vegetarian items. With absolutely no influence whatsoever from myself and my own, humble opinions, Melissa just happened to select: Cafe Santorini Vertical Wine Bar Sushi Roku
To make sure we got the most out of our time, I made sure we went from the restaurant with the least HH time (Cafe Santorini) to the greatest (Sushi Roku). That way we wouldn't feel rushed or avoid missing it altogether. Here is what we ordered from our first stop, Cafe Santorini.
Many restaurants have a rule about happy hour only being applicable in a designated area - a bar, lounge or patio - and though Cafe Santorini does have this rule they were not keen to strictly enforce it on us as their bar was full and they did not want to put us through the awkwardness of having to ask a number of female patrons to move their damn purses and open up some seats (ladies). A restaurant like Cafe Santorini can be either very California casual, business casual or fancy pants, depending on the context, company and setting of your outing. However, I probably would advise against children younger than five. Bonus points for a fixed Happy Hour menu - all food is $5.00. All of the menus on the Cafe Santorini website seem to be up to date, and yes a Happy Hour menu is included. Their cuisine is Mediterranean with a beautiful blend of Italian and Greek.
Parmesan Garlic Flatbread (complimentary)
This was delicious and a very welcome change from the standard bread.
Red Sangria ($5)
All four of us ordered a round of red sangria. It was boozy, fruity and delicious. I would order this again in a heartbeat.
Garlic, Parsley & Feta French Fries
Steffie ordered these. I only had a couple but they were very good.
"Tiger prawns in a creamy curry sauce." Mary took a chance with that description and was delightfully surprised to find that these prawns were not only not drowning in sauce but plump, succulent and cooked to perfection. Bonus fresh greens and tomatoes.
Zucchini & Feta Croquettes
One of the most generous portions for happy hour, the croquettes are liberally seasoned with fresh dill and lemon, giving these a zingy depth that Melissa really enjoyed.
Mini Flat Bread with Soujouk Sausage
"With onions, goat cheese and fresh mint." A harmonious and once again, a pretty generous portion, combination which Steffie proclaimed as very tasty.
So. I ordered clams because (a) they're magically delicious and (b) these clams did not come in a nasty chorizo sauce that seems to be the trend all over the blessed earth. This is what was put before me:
Pretty sweet, especially that portion size, am I right? Except that it wasn't mine and once my friends received their orders mine was taken away, saying it was the wrong clam dish. Mistakes happen. This is what I was eventually given:
Preserved Lemon and Saffron Clams
That was roughly about 10-13 clams, with no less than three of them void of any actual clam meat. I made a polite remark to our waiter about it - saying it may be beneficial to give the chef a heads up to make sure the clams don't fall out and thus have a customer miss out on their already small portion. Mind, I'm not a jerk when I give feedback like this - in fact, I am acutely aware of my tone and the words I use so that I don't come off as a mega-bitch. "Well, did you look around in the sauce? They sometimes fall out." Of course I did. I didn't say that but, "Yes. It's just lemons." Our waiter kind of deflated, gave a sneer and said, "So, what, you just want another one?" No, that is not what I was asking for. I explained I was just giving feedback and a new order was not necessary. His agitation was making me agitated and nervous. "You should just get another order. I'll get you another order, okay?" Okay, fine. He insisted. So my friends finished up their selections and we sipped what was left of our sangria and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Four empty goblets and fifteen-twenty minutes later I asked for the check. Our waiter look flabbergasted. "You mean, you don't want your clams?" I was taken aback, unsure whether to be annoyed or embarrassed. If the clams were right at the pass ready to be handed to me, I would have gladly accepted them and tipped extra for the effort he made. He made no mention and I just wanted to get the hell out of there before more awkwardness ensued.
Steffie concluded that the first screw up was theirs to reap and I should have been left the first order of clams because they sat in front of me for a good 5-10 minutes before being taken away. They probably would have had I began to dig in right away, but silly, polite me decided to patiently wait for my friends to receive their orders.
Was the happy hour a good deal? Yes, I'd say so. I am actually more in favor of everything (or food) being one fixed price. It makes budgeting as well as figuring out the bill a lot easier. We got some good bang for our buck with Steffie and Melissa's orders, while Mary and mine were more quality over quantity, which I'm ultimately okay with. The $5 sangria was just right too.
Did Happy Hour entice me to return? Despite the snafu with the waiter, absolutely! Their menu is chock full of good eats and just by sampling the happy hour fare alone I feel confident it would be worth my money.
Cafe Santorini 64 West Union Street Pasadena, CA 91103 website