Driving into town from the Southwest side for happy hour is especially challenging for me, as I always seem to run into traffic. Luckily, Grand Prize Bar's happy hour lasts from 4 to 8 p.m., which means that I can get there a little later and still partake in the drink specials. Two nights ago, it also meant that I could eat a gourmet meal on the cheap if I stayed beyond happy hour, because the guys at Mockingbird Bistro were doing their Tuesday pop-up dinner.
I'd been there before for Grand Prize Bar's infamous Monday Ghetto Dinners, when there was hardly an open seat in the house. But last night everything was easy. I got easy street parking just outside the door, there was ample room at the bar, and I could actually hold an easy conversation with my girlfriend and talk to the bartenders without raising my voice.
"We're more of a late-night bar," one of the bartenders told me when I commented on the easy parking and scanty attendance. "The industry crowd comes in after 11 p.m., and we're usually busiest at around 1 a.m."
This would explain why their happy hour runs until 8 p.m. Specials were as follows: $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, $2 wells, $3 Buffalo Trace, $3 Jager, 50 cents off most beers, and $4 frozen classic cocktails. It was kind of hot and stuffy when I arrived, so I ordered the frozen classic of the day, the Aviator.
With the consistency of a frozen margarita, the Aviator had this different herbal quality to it. I asked the bartender, Claire, what was in it, but just one drink and my mind gets a bit fuzzy. Was it lavender? I'm not sure, but it was aromatic and herbal-y, with an olive greenish tint to it.
I had arrived close to the end of happy hour, so by the time I finished my first drink it was over. Oh, well. Their signature cocktails cost less than $10 outside of happy hour, which isn't bad considering the quality of what you get, so I ordered one of my favorites, The Repair, which has Limoncello, fresh orange, lime, and a liquor that I can't remember either. Like I said, my mind gets fuzzy when I'm drinking.
By 8 p.m., the guys from Mockingbird Bistro were set up and ready to serve in the kitchen, where you go and place your order if you want some food. I ordered everything on the menu for my girlfriend and me: a trio of hummus, truffle Tuscan bean and eggplant caponata dip for $6, a spaghetti with meatball puttanesca sauce for $9, and their grilled cheese of smoked white cheddar on brioche Texas toast, tomato basil bisque, sand truffle fries for $12. I even got an extra side order of truffle fries.
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"It's the best kind of food for when you're drunk," said one regular, who had been there over the weekend when Feast was in the house. So true. I wasn't quite drunk, but the food was hearty, the truffle fries delish, the puttanesca sauce so flavorful that I guzzled everything down within record time.
I ended up leaving around midnight when the crowd started to fill the bar area. While sitting at the bar I met all kinds of people in the industry. I spied Jeramie Robison, the Executive Chef at Cinq, with his girlfriend Michelle, met a sometime bartender, a server from the Hotel Zaza, a server from Strip House downtown, the Chef de Cuisine at Mockingbird Bistro. In the end, my tab for six drinks came out to $45. Not bad, considering the fact that I only had one happy hour special.