The Place: Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen
1962 West Gray St.
The Hours: Monday through Friday 2-6 p.m.
The Deals: Domestic bottles are $2, pints of Bud Light are $2.75, and pints of Ziegenbock are $3. House wines are $3.75 and select wines are $1 more. Wells drinks are $3.50; calls are $4.50.
The Scene: We always assumed, for whatever reason, that Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen is an upscale, if not stuffy, restaurant.
It was a favorite, after all, of a couple high-up Enron execs back in those days, and Ben Stevenson, former artistic director of the Houston Ballet, stops by whenever he's back in town. (He was there today.)
So it's not exactly the type of place we expected to find a laid back happy hour scene.
But Tony Mandola's is just that, and even more shocking was the great happy hour menu.
The drink prices are about the same, if not better, than most bars in town, and the happy hour food menu, with things like shrimp and crabmeat spaghetti, is probably the best we've found.
We tried the cup of red beans and rice ($2.25) that was stocked with pieces of smoked sausage, along with a cup of gumbo ($2.50). Both were excellent.
The bar was packed at about 3 p.m. on Thursday, and the crowd was definitely an older bunch. You won't find people throwing back shots and getting blasted, but considering the happy hour runs from 2-6 p.m., we're pretty sure that's not the target demographic.
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Tony Mandola, who was roaming the bar talking to guests, told us that the happy hour usually fills up with regulars, adding, "They know when to show up."
Mary the bartender, who's worked at the restaurant for 17 of the 21 years it has been opened, told us about couples who come to the bar every Friday night and have since she's worked there.
Drink Here? Absolutely. This was our first trip to Tony Mandola's happy hour, but it's one of our favorites (unless, of course, we're looking for a place to throw back shots and get blasted.)
But this place is perfect for disappearing for an afternoon and having some good food and a couple beers.