I’m drinking with a hot guy. And his hot wife. My mother is forcing leftover ravioli on them at a nice restaurant that doesn’t serve ravioli. I would be mortified, but I’m too busy luxuriating. The evening is warm and supple on Poppy Den’s veranda, and I didn’t pay for this glass of J. Rogét Brut. It’s not my birthday. It’s happy hour.
Mom and I are already on our second stop of a happy-hour crawl through Tivoli Village, and it’s not even 6. Other people have real jobs, and I suppose it’s not their fault. What is their fault? Heading home to crack a Michelob when they could be at Brio sipping white peach sangria on the patio—not the one with the opera music and fancy linens, the one with the genius menu of $5 drinks and $3.95 snacks. That’s how the old girl and I began this Thursday night, with sunlight catching the ice in my mojito and beef carpaccio going way beyond four-dollars delicious. The ravioli with Romano crust and cilantro pesto were just as tasty, which is why the leftovers ended up at Poppy Den.
Shamelessly, Mr. Hot gets into the Styrofoam box, probably in retaliation because he’s not a lady, and therefore isn’t enjoying crisp, nose-tickling, ripe-fruity champagne on the house. Despite knowing them for about three minutes, Mom asks how the Hots fell in love. They regale us over Poppy Den’s lovely salad of sesame-dusted, olive oil-drizzled watermelon cubes wearing cute little hats of goat cheese and candied wasabi. The bite is like Tivoli, so easy to enjoy that you wonder why the hell you don’t do this every night.
It’s time to crawl, but to where? Japanese mainstay Kabuki’s reverse happy hour won’t kick in until 9 p.m., but it’s worth the wait for $1.95 sake or Sapporo and $3.50 wines by the glass. The View, inside Tivoli’s airy Market LV, tempts with $2 draft wines and Stella Artois for $3. But Cantina Laredo is next door to Poppy Den, and the perfume of fresh tortilla chips cannot (and should not) be resisted.
We take a booth inside. Eric Gallardo materializes tableside with chips right out of the fryer. Cantina has daily specials and happy-hour deals, so Thursday means $4 Casa Ritas for ladies all night and $3 minis for everyone in the bar’s happy window. Fresh lemon and lime juices, Cointreau and Sauza’s smooth Giro Silver Tequila could not be a better foil for the guacamole Eric makes before our eyes. Mom is so overwhelmed with his performance that she goes in for a hug. We taste his creation, and she hugs him again. The Hots and I agree this is legit two-hug guac. Loaded on the half-price ahi tacos, it’s true love.
Happy hour doesn’t apply, but there’s no way we’re leaving without trying Cantina’s Mango Mint Gingerita ($11.50), with Milagro Silver, mint leaves, mango purée and a float of ginger beer. You might see the word “mango” and think “foofy,” but this margarita is a modern, balanced take on a classic.
As a concept, happy hour is a classic, too. You find it at sports bars and dive bars, here at this Summerlin über-complex and at the Cosmopolitan’s Comme Ça, where Island Creek oysters will melt your face for $1.50 apiece. Even when I’m not in the mood for cheap eats and cocktails it’s nice knowing they’re out there, a sure thing in this unsure world.
The Hots are glowing over memories of their totally spontaneous engagement. The look on Mom’s face is just as wistful, but it’s about the crawl. “We had everything,” she sighs more than says. I hate to ever admit she’s right, but that’s exactly what I’m thinking.
Tivoli Village Happy Hour
Deal: $1.95 house sake or Sapporo, $3.50 chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon, $4.95 sake sangria.
When: Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. Reverse happy hour Monday-Thursday, 9 p.m.-close; Sunday, 8 p.m.-close.
Place: The View Cheese Shoppe
Deal: $2 wines and $3 Stella Artois, both on draft.
When: Daily, 5-8 p.m.
Place: The View Wine Bar & Kitchen
Deal: $2 Bloody Marys, bellinis and mimosas.
When: Daily, 1-3 p.m.
Deal: $5 wines, martinis and other cocktails; $3.95 appetizers.
When: Monday-Friday, 3-6:30 p.m. Reverse happy hour Monday-Thursday, 9 p.m.-close.
Place: Cantina Laredo
Deal: $2 domestic beers, $3 Casita Ritas and imported beers, $4 well drinks and house wines; half-price Platillos del Bar and Taqueria menus.
When: Monday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Reverse happy hour Monday-Friday 9 p.m.-close.
Daily Specials: Sunday, $2 mimosas, Bloody Marys and Bloody Marias; Monday, $5 margaritas; Tuesday, $2 Tecate; Wednesday, half-price wine; Thursday, $4 Casa Ritas for ladies.
Place: Poppy Den
Deal: Free champagne and champagne cocktails for ladies.
When: Daily, 5-6:30 p.m.