I'm not sure how long the early bird special has been associated with dining in Florida, but it's certainly become a culinary stereotype. Often associated with average, ho-hum meals at a reasonable price, the traditional early bird special is long overdue for a change.
Recently, a number of restaurants in the Sarasota area started offering happy hour options. On the surface, this might not seem so special, and if the offering is just cheaper drinks, it really isn't.
However, some forward-thinking restaurants are offering enhanced bar bites as part of their happy hour menus. These food offerings are more than just simple bar food; this combination of high-quality small plates and accompanying drinks has created a new category of dining: "high-end happy hour," or might we suggest, the new early bird.
We recently sampled five restaurants offering this new category of dining. Here's what we found:
- Duval’s: Happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. daily | $5 drinks and bar bites
A newly remodeled interior with a small, cozy bar and lounge area makes Duval’s a great little place for a delicious bar bite and drink. The happy hour menu offers $5 drinks and bar bites daily from 3 to 7 p.m. in the bar area and until 6 p.m. in the dining room.
- Louies Modern: Happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. daily | Half-priced bar bites, $5 specialty drinks, premium well drinks, wine and $4 craft beers
Offering a modern social meeting place in downtown Sarasota, Louies Modern's happy hour menu raises the bar. Its range and assortment are great, with half priced bar bites, $5 specialty drinks, premium well drinks, wine and $4 craft beers.
- Made: Happy hour from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday | $6 specialty cocktails, $4 wells and wine and $6 apps
Since its inception, Made has offered a high-end happy hour in its oversized bar area. With $6 specialty cocktails, $4 wells and wine and a large selection of $6 apps, this is the spot to unwind with some real comfort food.
- Roast: Happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday | $5 martinis and wines and $3.50 domestic beers
With one of the nicest outdoor courtyards in town, Roast offers $5 martinis and wines, as well as $3.50 domestic beers to accompany such finely prepared food as beef, pork or grouper sliders, duck fat fries and house-made charcuterie to mention a few options.
- The Table Creekside: Happy hour from 4 to 6:30 p.m. daily | $5 single house liquors, mojitos, wine and tapas
Setting the standard for high-end happy hours, The Table Creekside’s happy hour menu continues to evolve with specials added regularly. With $5 single house liquors, mojitos and wine and a superb tapas menu, The Table offers a generous selection. Served in a brightly lit contemporary bar and lounge area, this is the perfect place to relax and socialize.
With today’s dining trends leaning toward small plates, tastings, sharing and socializing, the high-end happy hour is filling a gap.
An opportunity for diners to sample and restaurants to showcase some of their special menu items is a win-win for all.
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