Happy hour, when it comes down to it, is really an excuse. An excuse for a pitstop between obligations, an excuse to refresh and regroup, an excuse to grab something tasty for less than it'll cost you in just a few hours. And in many ways, the destination doesn't matter. As long as there are good people, cheap beer and some snacks, you'll be just fine. So we'll save you a complete rundown of Cleveland's hundreds of happy hour options and instead present you with just a few of our favorites that run the gamut from early to late, from food-centric to budget beers, and from east to west in this thirsty city.
Deagan's Kitchen | 14810 Detroit Ave.
Where the damn snacks at? Happy hour beverages, we should know by now, are best enjoyed with something salty and delicious. Bar nuts are called bar nuts for a reason. Sometimes we don't want a giant burger or a pound of fries. Sometimes — almost always, in fact — we just want something small to nibble on whilst we sip on a brew or two. Bless Deagan's for recognizing that. Happy hour (Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.) means discounted drinks at this Lakewood favorite, but it also means nuts with brown sugar, rosemary and cayenne ($3.50), buttermilk fried chicken skins ($3), and spicy olives ($2.50). There are the damn snacks.
Judd's City Tavern | 10323 Madison Ave.
Few places have embraced the concept of reverse happy hour with such immediate fervor and dedication as Judd's, which opened last year in the Cudell neighborhood. It's a new bar with an old feel thanks to 360-degree nostalgia created with vintage signs, gas pumps and assorted memorabilia. And their "prime time" happy hour is built for when most of us actually go out: 8 to 11 p.m., when you can find $1.50 cans of Blatz, Hamm's, Iron City and other tasty treats.
Luca | 2100 Superior Viaduct
Since the summer of 2013, Luca Italian Cuisine has been attracting lovers of fine food and atmosphere to the Superior Viaduct, where magical skyline views combine with gourmet Italian food and wine to create truly memorable nights. Their attention to detail and flavors runs deep into the happy hour menu, served Monday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m., when you'll find eight small plates priced at $6. Among the choices, cavatelli alla Bolognese with slow-roasted wild boar, veal and duck; carpaccio di salmon with thinly sliced raw salmon, capers and lemons; penne alla vodka with Italian fennel sausage; and formaggio ravioli with a champagne cream sauce. Assorted beers are just $3.
Blue Point Grille | 700 West Saint Claire Ave.
This Warehouse District mainstay offers one of downtown's more decadent and rewarding happy hours on Sundays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. Grab six oysters for $8 and pair them with one of Blue Point's $7 cocktail specials.
XYZ the Tavern | 6419 Detroit Ave.
When you're in need of a simple, quick one-two punch of a beer and a slice of pizza, XYZ is there for you. During happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood tavern makes it easy and cheap, with a beer and a slice special for just $5.
Edwins |13101 Shaker Square
By now you're probably familiar with the origins and mission of Edwins, Brandon Chrostowski's Parisian bistro and training facility at Shaker Square that helps ex-cons learn, work and advance in the culinary field. And by now you also probably know that the execution matches the mission here, where the food shines and the service is impeccable. Happy hour (Monday through Saturday, 4 to 6:30 p.m.) at a fine French bistro? Absolutely. Escargots de Bourgogne (Burgundy snails with fennel, garlic and butter) run just $7, truffled cauliflower gratin $8, Kroenenbourg 1664 $4, and so on.
Parallax | 2179 West 11th St.
Zack Bruell's Tremont restaurant is almost 20 years old but feels like it hasn't aged a day. The sleek modern space proves the perfect setting for the chef's Asian-French menu, and the perfect setting for a late-night special. Grab a seat at the bar on Friday or Saturday between 10 p.m. and midnight and score half-price sushi. And if weekdays are more your speed, find half-price bottles of wine on Wednesdays.
Felice Urban Cafe | 12502 Larchmere Blvd.
Set in a charming turn-of-the-century Craftsman-style home, this unique and eclectic eatery has become one of the most beloved spots in Larchmere. Summers bring a patio and carriage house filled with diners, while colder months deliver a beehive of activity in the dining areas inside the house. No matter the time of the year, Felice draws crowds for its wonderful cocktails and Mediterranean-tinged menu, the small plates portion of which is priced between $5 and $7 for its reverse happy hour on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 until close.
Pier W | 12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood
What you might think of exclusively as a special occasion destination is actually also home to one of the best happy hour deals in Cleveland. Prices are slashed on the bar menu from top to bottom, and usually by half. Short rib pierogies? $7. Salmon burger? $7.50. Blue cod sandwich? $7.75. Lobster bisque? $6. It goes on from there, but you've probably already hopped in the car to head there, so we'll move on.
Luxe | 6605 Detroit Ave.
Gordon Square looks a helluva lot different than it did 10 years ago, and Luxe has played a significant role in that transformation. Since it opened in May of 2008, it's delivered big flavors on small plates, drawing a diverse and enthusiastic crowd to the two-room interior and expansive patio, a summertime favorite in the neighborhood. Happy hour (Monday through Friday, 5 to 7 p.m.) brings seven pizza options at $10 apiece, including pork and goat meatballs, tasso pork, and a fresh herb pie. Six small plates ($6 each) include fried Brussels sprouts, salmon rillettes and local heirloom tomatoes. Pair one or more of those with a potent $5.50 cocktail and you've got a recipe for the perfect evening.