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Chicago's Best Spots To Get Your 'Happy Hour' Fix

By Staff in Food on Mar 27, 2013 4:20PM

By now you may have noticed we have a different "best of" post this time every Wednesday. It's part of a year-long series running across all the sites in the Gothamist network. But we circled this date with a certain trepidation because of the subject: Best Happy Hours.

The reason is, here in Illinois, the Happy Hour Law lists what an establishment can and cannot do to attract an after-work clientele. Let's look at what they can't do, first.

  • "$5 all you can drink," "$5 unlimited beer from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.," etc., promotions are prohibited.

  • Reducing or fluctuating prices during normal operating hours (from open to close). Prices must be the same for all customers, for all purchases for the whole day.

  • Promotions such as: 8oz. beer is $1.00 and 16oz. beer is $1.25 (double the alcohol means double the price), or Double the shot in your drink for $.25 more are prohibited.
  • There are other restrictions, but you get the idea. Now let's look at what the Happy Hour Law does allow.

  • Selling pitchers (or the equivalent, including but not limited to buckets, carafes or bottles) of alcohol, customarily sold in that manner and delivered to 2 or more persons.

  • Offering free food or entertainment.

  • Including drinks as part of a meal package.
  • Now we're talking. So even though we can't call it a "Happy Hour," that doesn't mean we can't get our drink and nosh on, as long as pubs and restaurants emphasize the "nosh." We can count on no hands the number of people we know who would turn down five-cent wings with a beer.

    Digressing, here are some of our favorite after work food (and drink) specials.

    House-made Sausage and Pickled Fennel Pizza

    After disappearing for a bit, The Florentine brought back one of our favorite happy hours in the city. If you order an alcoholic beverage at the bar Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., you'll get a free pizza. Our favorite pizza has house-made sausage with roasted fennel and radicchio, and other offerings include Brussels sprouts with pancetta, pear with gorgonzola and pancetta and spicy salami and basil. As for drinks, you'll find some Illinois and Indiana beers on tap, wines by the glass, and cocktails, like the new Blood Orange Sgroppino with Prosecco, Celo Via Blood Orange Vanilla Cello and house made blood orange sorbetto. — Amy Cavanaugh
    The Florentine is located at the JW Marriott Hotel, 151 W. Adams Street

    Cantina Laredo has an excellent weekday special. Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., when you eat at the upper level lounge, the entire small plates menu is half-priced. The taco trios and chips & salsa (served warm!) help soak up the persuasively potent house marnagritas--err, margaritas. Aside from the tasty fare, it's a nice spot that's usually less jam-packed than other River North spots. — Rob Christopher
    Cantina Laredo, 508 N State Street, 312-955-0014

    McCormick & Schmick's might have the chain restaurant vibe going on, but they've got killer food specials for happy hour, and drink prices that ain’t that bad either. Prices start at $2.95 for items like bruschetta, with $5.95 being the highest price point. You can get a full size cheeseburger — with fries — for just $3.95. That's dinner right there. Of course there are catches, like that these prices are only valid "with a minimum beverage purchase of $3.95 per person," but with your friends and coworkers, that shouldn't be too hard. They’ve got two locations in Chicago, one in the Gold Coast and one on Wacker, both convenient for the 9-to-5 crowd. — Michelle Meywes
    McCormick & Scmick's has two locations at 1 E. Wacker Drive and 41 E. Chestnut Street.

    Photo credit: Rolour Garcia

    Shaw's Crab House has half-price oysters every day in their oyster bar from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. Their oysters are always fresh and, when you bring a few friends along to share in the cost, that makes me happy for two hours. — Melissa Wiley.
    Shaw's Crab House is located at 21 E. Hubbard Street.

    The vibe, location and menu at Three Aces makes it a favorite of mine. Especially the food: Three Aces is one of the more consistent and underrated restaurants in Chicago, focusing on farm fresh ingredients and simple presentation. Their pizzas are light in consistency, rich in flavor and among the best served on Taylor Street. They're also half-price on Mondays. I recommend the short rib pizza with mushrooms, rosemary, blue cheese, roasted garlic cream sauce, beef jus and (in the warmer months) the Calabrese pizza with salametto calabrese, calabrian chili, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan. — Chuck Sudo
    Three Aces is located at 1321 W. Taylor Street.

    The Beer Bistro and Beer Bistro North are two places to get a quick beer and tasty meal on your way to a Blackhawks or Bulls game, or if you're looking to blow off some steam after work. Among their daily specials are half-price pizzas on Mondays, a $5 burger special on Tuesdays, $5 martinis on Thursdays and 25-cent wings on Sundays. The burger special is our favorite of the bunch. We're talking a half-pound of Angus beef, cooked to order. You can't go wrong with that. — Chuck Sudo
    The Beer Bistro is located at 1061 W. Madison Street. The Beer Bistro North is located at 1415 W. Fullerton Avenue.