Happy Hour

Sake Cafe

2830 Magazine St.

Happy Hour: 3:00 – 6:00 P.M. Daily

When one thinks of New Orleans cuisine, sushi isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. When the mood strikes, it’s good to know there’s a place to satisfy this particular craving. Located on Magazine street near Washington, the Sake Cafe instantly wins points by providing ample free parking on either side of the restaurant. With the plethora of restaurants and bars lining the street, the convenience of easy parking cannot be overstated.

Full disclosure: We have been here many times, and we arrived armed with our patience, as it does sometimes take a while to get served. We were seated immediately by a friendly and cordial hostess. Within minutes, we met Robert, who introduced himself as our server for the evening. As far as ambience goes, the lighting always tends to be on the pleasingly dim side. Musically, it’s usually a miss with techno, dance sort of pop music that is often too loud. We were surprisingly pleased this time with the understated jazz. There is plenty of seating with an open floor plan, huge sushi bar, and clean, modern decor.

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Interior – looking into the bar area.

As always, we begin with beverages. The special is two for one drinks. Listed on the menu are twelve specialty cocktails,  six draft beer options, three house wine selections, hot or cold sake, and two frozen drinks. We landed on the specialty cocktails, even though we were somewhat reluctant, as the menu did not specify what vodka was being used. We were impressed with the creative mixers and fresh ingredients. We  both enjoyed the Lemon Drop (Citron Vodka, Cointreau, and fresh lemon in a sugar-rimmed glass). Sweet, sour, and boozy for $3.00 – amazing.

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Partially-consumed Lemon Drop.

Food options include the standard Asian small plates, such as edamame and gyoza for $3.00 each, and chicken spring rolls for $4.00. There are eight varieties of sushi or sashimi for $3.50 per order (two pieces per order), and seven selections of rolls for $3.50 as well.

We ordered one each of avocado, California, snow crab, and crawfish rolls, as well as one order of tuna sushi. Robert was professional as we rushed our order to beat the 6:00 P.M. deadline for happy hour. There were five sushi chefs on at the time, so our food arrived relatively fast. It was fresh, delicious, and presented beautifully. We were especially impressed with the crawfish roll – a local take on a Japanese specialty. It was spicy, creamy, and unique.

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Dinner for two.

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Tuna and crawfish roll with wasabi and ginger.

As we started our meal, Robert was attentive in reminding us that we had a free drink coming. The timing was perfect.

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Soy sauce remnants.

Another happy hour score. A complete meal for happy hour prices: four drinks, four rolls, and two pieces of sushi for just over 30 dollars. Sake Cafe is our go-to restaurant for those late afternoon sushi cravings.

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A bargain by anyone’s standards.

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Arana Taqueria y Cantina

3242 Magazine St.

Happy Hour:  3:00 – 7:00 P.M.  Monday through Friday.

We’ve always been fond of Mexican food; it’s filling, comforting, and of course, cheap. We have frequented this establishment many times prior to starting this blog. We were thrilled to learn that Kitty, one of our favorite New Orleans bartenders, now works here, although she was not on staff the night we were there for this review. If you are fortunate enough to stop by while she is working, she will make the experience even more enjoyable. It’s obvious by now how important customer service is to us, and she always goes above and beyond.

Nestled amongst many beautiful restaurants and bars on Magazine Street, we were drawn in by the chalkboard sign outside that advertised half price tacos and all drinks. Once inside, we immediately shuttered at the loud salsa music, but stayed for the decor and intoxicating smells of Mexican food. The giant spider with the Day of the Dead mask on the wall certainly added to the authenticity. Tin star lights hanging from the ceiling set a dark, yet comfortable tone.

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Looking out on Magazine St.

Drinks: You go to a Mexican restaurant, there’s a good chance you’ll get a Margarita. The options range from house, to seasonal, as well as their original creations. The seasonal drinks are made with the house made agua fresca, such as Strawberry Cucumber and Spicy Watermelon. Original creations are the Champagne Margarita and the Jalapeno Pineapple Cilantro Margarita. Other drink options include specialty drinks, such as a Mexican Mojito and the Bloody Maria. Tequila Flights are available to try three 1 ounce samples of different tequila, ranging from 18 to 50 dollars. As for those of us (Jay in particular) who lean more toward the pedestrian, the beer selection on tap limited to two standards. The bottled selection is much more extensive, including locals as well as Mexican. Nancy enjoyed the Deconstructed Margarita, which was lime juice, agave nectar and Sauza. Light and refreshing, but lacking the necessary kick in the pants, so her second drink was the house Margarita, which rendered her docile and giggly. Jay had the Negra Modela on draft. When in Rome…sort of. No complaints.

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House Margarita

The menu consists of appetizers, soups, salads, sides, and traditional entrees. Many looked interesting, specifically the fried oyster tostada and ceviche, but we skipped right to the tacos. There are fourteen taco options, including tongue, duck, pork belly, beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian. Jay consumed two Fried Chicken on flour tortillas, and two El Gringos with sour cream. Nancy had one Chicken Tinga, one Chipotle Shrimp, and one Carne Asada. Obviously, our tastes are considerably different. Jay always enjoys the El Gringo with seasoned ground beef, and was excited to see the fried chicken available. He was slightly underwhelmed, as it was essentially a chicken wrap in a tortilla. Nancy was impressed with hers, loving the pickled vegetables and cilantro. The Carne Asada was marinaded perfectly with an abundance of flavor. The only drawback is the soggy corn tortillas, easily amended with finishing the dinner with a fork and knife.

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Jay’s plate.

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Nancy’s plate.

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Clean plate. Done.

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No need to go elsewhere.

Ultimately, this is a Happy Hour Hor win. We were able to get four drinks and seven tacos at a great price. This was dinner. (This was also the place we went to after Delmonico.)

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Superior Seafood

4338 St. Charles Ave

Happy Hour: Monday through Sunday 4:30 – 6:30. Friday and Saturday 10:00 – 11:00 (drinks only).  All Saints and LSU Tigers games (drinks only).

Full disclosure: We frequent this place more than any other in town. Yes, it’s five blocks from the apartment, but more than that, it has so much to offer. The happy hour items are half price on beer and wine, and 50 cent raw oysters. We were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of upcoming happy hour entrees. More on that later…

It doesn’t matter how good the food, drink, or prices are, bad customer service will ruin everything. After a year or so of living in New Orleans, one learns to lower their expectations in this regard. There are places in town who seem to forget they are in the service industry and treat their patrons like war criminals. Fortunately, it’s not a concern here. After a warm and sincere greeting by the hostess, we planted ourselves at the bar. Within thirty seconds, we were then welcomed by Thomas Houston – a manager who was tending bar that night. Like everyone else in this establishment, Thomas has always taken great care of us. Not because we’re regulars; he attends to all customers in a cordial and enthusiastic manner. He moves so fast, it was almost impossible to get a good picture. His spinning and flipping of the cocktail napkins is particularly endearing. Other staff members who contribute to great customer service include Terry, Derek, Chris, Hollis, and Kelly. You will be treated very well here.

Thomas Houston. Manager/Bartender extraordinaire.

Thomas Houston. Manager/Bartender extraordinaire.

Derek. One of many friendly faces behind the bar.

Derek. One of many friendly faces behind the bar.

Time for a drink. This is a seafood restaurant, not a taproom. The beer selection is limited, but does offer the local staples, including NOLA Blonde and Abita Amber, as well a few other quality choices; nothing even remotely resembling swill here. There are plenty of options for the discerning wine enthusiast. Nancy generally leans towards the Pinot Grigio, which apparently complements the oysters quite well. Another feature of happy hour is two for one on frozen drinks, which include Pomegranate Mojitos, Mimosas, and the French 75. Whatever your beverage of choice is, they’ve probably got it covered. If not, they can certainly improvise.

Oysters. I don’t claim to be an expert on oysters. I dabbled a bit at the Henry Street Taproom in Saratoga Springs, NY. They had raw oysters for a dollar each on Monday nights. It didn’t do much for me. When I moved to New Orleans, I realized what I’d been missing all this time. My first experience with char-grilled oysters resulted in the following proclamation; “Holy shit!” Now, if we go to Superior, we get raw oysters – no exceptions. Raw oysters are an acquired taste, and some prefer char-grilled. I’ve come to appreciate and embrace the purity of the raw. The shuckers are extremely skilled. Who wants to work to get the oyster out of the shell? As an aside, one of them – Jay – is a turtle obsessive. Go figure. Even when the place is busy, you rarely wait more than a few minutes. They come with saltines, ketchup, horseradish, and lemon, with more options available, such as Worcestershire and various brands of hot sauce. We are partial to Crystal, by the way. Whether you load them on a saltine, or suck them off the shell, you’ll be ready for another dozen before you know it. As for the char-grilled, they’re not on the happy hour menu, but do yourself a favor and make room for them anyway. You yourself just might proclaim “Holy shit!” as well.

For now, raw oysters are the only food item on the happy hour menu. That will change in the very near future. As of September 1st, some wonderfully unique and particularly local culinary delights will be available at happy hour prices. Thomas approached us a few weeks ago and told us that they were kicking around some ideas. The first sample of the evening was buffalo oysters. Yes, more oysters. Breaded oysters with buffalo sauce topped with blue cheese. These are just as good as the sound. The next offering was gumbo gravy fries. A local twist on poutine, with shrimp, and no cheese curd. We were enjoying this with local musician Davis Rogan the previous week (Is it too early to name drop?) and witnessed him dipping French bread in this delectable concoction. Brilliant. As if all that weren’t enough, Thomas then presented us with crawfish mac and cheese in a cast iron skillet. Penne pasta with plenty of cheese sauce and a generous amount of crawfish. There was a kick to this, but not overwhelmingly so. With all of these, plus the obligatory oysters, this was enough for the two of us. There would be no cooking for us that evening.

Buffalo oysters. Perfection.

Gumbo gravy fries. So much awesomeness in one bowl.

Gumbo gravy fries. So much awesomeness in one bowl.

Crawfish mac & cheese. Well beyond comfort food.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

As for the atmosphere, nothing says “New Orleans” more than watching the streetcars pass by as you dine. Well, due to the seemingly endless road work on St. Charles, the streetcars aren’t running at this time. Hardly a deal breaker, but it is a nice touch. Personally speaking, the noise level at a restaurant is also crucial. Having to shout to the person seated next to you really kills the mood. If I want loud music, I’ll go down to Frenchman Street. They do a good job of keeping the music at a reasonable level. There is live music on selected nights, however, which is simply a pianist/singer. Some have more a local flavor, other lean towards pop music. This is not the proper venue to expand on my personal taste. Suffice it to say that I prefer those who avoid the trappings of pop. Keep an eye out for Davis Rogan.

So that about covers it. We are clearly fond of this place. Give it a shot. You will not be disappointed. Tell your friends.

St. Charles and Napoleon.

St. Charles and Napoleon.

Introduction

We’re not foodies. Let’s just get that out of the way. We do, however, enjoy great food. Who doesn’t?

New Orleans is world renowned for its restaurants, and deservedly so. The options are limitless. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a seafood restaurant. Cajun, Creole, Mexican; you name it, it’s just around the corner. It’s all too easy to go out and grab a quick bite after a long day of work. The stock line is usually some variation of “I don’t feel like cooking.” As locals know, and tourists soon learn, eating out in New Orleans is not cheap. Fortunately, there is a solution for those who concern themselves with such trivial matters as disposable income – Happy Hour. After a little over a year in New Orleans, we have become, as Nancy put it – happy hour whores.

The purpose of this blog is to document our happy hour experiences at various restaurants throughout the city, commenting on the usual criteria – food, drink, atmosphere, service, and any other intangible elements that impact the experience, i.e. parking and traffic. Try navigating around Uptown these days. Anyway, we’ll leave official rating systems to other sites. The contents of this blog will be loose, informal writing, and stellar photography.

We hope you enjoy this blog, and of course the restaurants we review. Without the great food and culture, New Orleans would just be another city with shockingly dreadful street conditions.

Jay and Nancy

07.13.14.6