It’s not just the theme parks that draw crowds to Orlando – so do the wonderfully varied bars and restaurants. Happy hours abound, but it can be a challenge the find the best ones. Let’s solve that mystery! Here’s a how-to guide for getting the most out of those drink specials each day of the week – and making your happy hours as happy as they can be.
Teak Neighborhood Grill
Nestled between Turkey Lake and Metro West, Teak is a great place to relieve stress after a long work day. Enjoy live music on the patio, trivia nights and an unapologetically local beer selection – yes, this place is proud of its Central Florida home. Standard happy hour is 4pm to 7pm, as well as 12am to 2am, but on Mondays (drumroll, please) happy hour lasts all day long. That means you can order $6 signature cocktails, $3.50 20oz beers and $6 select appetizers at your leisure. No rush. So kick back, dive into a blue crab spinach dip or some pan-roasted mussels and indulge.
With four locations in the Greater Orlando area and a menu that could best be described as “eclectic,” Dexter’s is the City Beautiful’s answer to the question “What if TGI Friday’s was actually a great restaurant?” This local chain has an ever-changing menu and fun weekly specials, but the real magic happens on Tuesday. Happy hour lasts from 3pm to 7pm, at which point you can enjoy $1 off beer, $2 off well drinks, $10 bottles of wine and endless mimosas. So what makes Tuesdays so special? $1 burgers. From 5pm to close. Of course, the simple extras will cost you $.50 and the premium extras like bacon will cost you $1.00. Cheap drinks and even cheaper burgers. You can’t go wrong. Dexter’s always offers other modern meals on their menu, as well. If a burger isn’t calling your name, try the pressed duck sandwich or their Korean fried chicken.
The middle of the work week is the perfect time to keep your food in the middle of the table – for sharing, tapas style! Santiago’s Bodega is a charming spot in Downtown Orlando, just east of Lake Ivanhoe. Though it gets its name from the protagonist in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, this restaurant feels more like a Mediterranean bar than a Cuban paladar. The juxtaposition is hardly a flaw, however. Reclaimed wood tables, stained glass doors and quirky floor inlays all come together to create the perfect atmosphere that hosts a staple happy hour for locals. Happy hour lasts from 4pm to 6pm, then reemerges at 11pm to 2am. Specials include half off wines by the glass and $3 sangria and beer, but the stars here are the $5 select tapas, which can include shrimp and chorizo skewers, zesty patatas bravas and bright, briny yellowfin tuna ceviche.
Hands down, Orlando’s best brasserie (and arguably best happy hour) is Dovecote. Located in the heart of downtown, on the ground floor of the Bank of America building, this establishment is a gastronomic juggernaut. Don’t let that intimidate you, though. A step inside and you’re swallowed by playful splashes of color dancing up the left wall. To your right is a sprawling bar, half ice-covered oyster station, half library of liqueurs and spirits. Dovecote begs you to have fun and to explore. Happy hour is 2:30pm to 6pm, Monday through Friday. Specials include $3 beers, featuring a saison brewed by Cask & Larder, $6 specialty cocktails on tap, like a root beer and absinthe fizz, as well as some stellar small bites. Dovecote’s oyster service competes with some of the most celebrated shellfish temples on the West Coast (i.e. Swan Oyster Depot) and during happy hour, you can enjoy a half dozen for $10. The $2 chicken liver paté is another brilliant highlight. Once you’re done slurping down beer and oysters, you’re within walking distance from SAK Comedy Lab, which provides hilarious weekly improv shows on Thursday nights.
The Hammered Lamb
Perched right on the edge of Lake Ivanhoe is The Hammered Lamb. This no-frills bar provides a small, noble menu of food offerings (nearly half of which feature lamb) like lamb gyros, lamb flatbread and the mouthwatering “Hammered Cuban,” which features both slow-roasted leg of lamb and pork, between bread. It’s a sandwich to behold. Happy hour runs from 4pm to 7pm and again from 11pm to 2am. Specials include $2.25 domestic beers, $3.25 call liquor and $4 select wines by the glass. Happy hour at The Hammered Lamb is a highlight on Fridays thanks to their neighbor, Tim’s Wine Market. Tim’s hosts a weekly Friday Night Wine Down from 3pm to 6:30pm, during which time you can stop by and try between 3 to 5 featured wines, free of charge. It’s the perfect way to work up an appetite and a small buzz, then hop right over to The Hammered Lamb to finish the job off.
Saturdays are meant for relaxing, casual affairs. There’s no better place to unwind than at Bosphorous. With three locations in the greater Orlando area, Bosphorous is well known for being a beacon of quality amongst locals. The bread service here is some of the most fun you’ll have anywhere. Their hollow bread, Lavas, is a meager $4.50, a steal for the amount you receive. It can also be paired with a head-spinning array of dips that include hummus, tabbouleh, babaganoush, haydari and cacik, just to name a few. The wine list is a surprise, as well. Several by-the-glass offerings actually hail from locations in the Middle East. They’re difficult wines to find, even in specialty shops. Happy hour here is simple: 4pm to 7pm. Everyday. Half off all drinks. Obviously, happy hour at Bosphorous can be enjoyed any day of the week, but a Saturday afternoon, especially at their Winter Park location on Park Avenue, is always a treat.
Stereotypical Chain Ale Houses (Or Wherever Your Friends Are)
You know the ones. Sports bars, beer halls and town taverns that have “Orlando” emblazoned on their storefronts to give them a local appearance. One cannot be blamed for turning their nose up at such establishments. The beer is light and domestic, the service is not spectacular and the décor looks as though someone sitting far from the Sunshine State said “Florida must look like this!” Happy hours vary by the day. Surely $2 dollar well drink, $4 doubles and $3.95 23oz beer pours are among the best deals in town, but that alone is not a viable argument to visit these restaurants, nor is their food anything to write home about. What does make a difference? The people that drink here. A happy hour is only as good as the people you share it with. Orlando is a city built by and for the service industry and, if you’re a local, you probably have service industry friends who drink at these ale houses. Join them. It’s a Sunday. Wherever you go for happy hour in Orlando, whether it’s a haute cuisine icon or a hole in the wall, be sure to share it. That’s what makes a happy hour great.
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