We almost expected the blue door at Marfreless to be locked when we walked up. There was still a hint of daylight outside. Any bar that asks you, with a friendly reminder printed on the menu, to leave on your clothes is strictly a late-night place. And that's what it's been for us until we heard that the bar has a great happy hour.
Not long after 6 o'clock -- the happy hour runs until 8 on weeknights -- we showed up, and the place was, in Marfreless terms, packed. A mixture of old and young women and men lined the bar and sat at tables, quietly chatting and downing the cheap booze. The size of the crowd shocked us.
"Whenever the 'recession' or whatever hit, I said that we needed to do something to get people in the door," the bartender told us. "It's started to grow, by word-of-mouth I guess. It's like this on most nights."
Every happy hour serves a purpose, we suppose. If you're looking for a place to get loaded and hook up, this isn't it. If you need a few rounds on the way home for work, we suggest another bar, because a couple hours of boozing by candle light in a dark bar doesn't get you in that mindset.
But the happy hour at Marfreless does best what has always made the place great. Instead of ending a date with drinks upstairs, however, we suggest starting one on the cheap at the bar downstairs.
The drink specials that Marfreless offers during happy hour surprised us. It's $2 off all cocktails and wines, including the lengthy list of specialty drinks, like the $25 dollar Million Dollar Margarita. Domestic beers are $2. There aren't any specials on food during happy hour, but there are enough cheap "snacks," stuff like sausage bites and cheese plates, that could hold you over until dinner.
We went with a beer and a bourbon for round one, and it cost $6. At the bartender's suggestion, we also had a Pimm's Cup and another drink mixed with Wild Turkey, a honey liqueur and Sprite. We prefer our Wild Turkey neat, but it was an interesting combo.
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After the first round, we decided to venture upstairs to see what goes on up there during the early hours. The couches were empty. But as 8 o'clock rolled around, and happy hour ended, more than one couple had moved up from downstairs as others came in. Before we left, there wasn't an empty spot up top.