Local Eateries Add Chef-Driven Small Plates to the Happiest of Hours

By Claudia Schou   |   October 25, 2022
This dish of short rib sliders and other items from Coast & Olive’s Happy Hour menu are served daily

It’s almost always happy hour somewhere in Santa Barbara. I love the tradition of getting together with friends, work colleagues, and neighbors to ponder a myriad of topics over food and drinks: “How’s the marijuana odor control in Carpinteria coming along?” “Do you think Southern California Edison will move the utility lines underground in Santa Barbara’s high-risk fire neighborhoods (at no cost to residents) like PG&E is doing in Northern California?” “Do we need another pitcher of Sangria, or do we need two?” 

There is nothing like conversing over food and drinks to knit a community together, but these tough economic times have been making it difficult to share a table as often as we ought. Restaurant owners are faced with the same rising costs as the rest of us, but several of them are taking new approaches to inflation-friendly dining. 

At Coast & Olive, general manager and executive chef Chris Mottola creates small plates of the eatery’s best-selling dinner items for happy hour. While the entire menu is available throughout the restaurant this season, guests at the bar often pair small plates – from ahi tuna tartare to oysters bathed in blood orange mignonette – with draft beer for $4 and wines by the glass for $10 at happy hour.

Happy hour is offered at the bar only from 3 to 5 pm daily. 

The small plates on Coast & Olive’s menu range in price from $10 to $12. Among them: tuna tartare with avocado, miso-ginger aioli, and chives with a baked crostini; a vegan salad is served with grapefruit, avocado, honey, and mixed greens; and short rib sliders topped with coleslaw, crispy shallots, and secret sauce on a brioche bun is a top seller. 

Other small plates include tempura cauliflower with garlic aioli, grilled lemon and rosemary salt; white tiger shrimp with spicy cocktail sauce; and crispy brussels sprouts salsa verde, and toasted almonds. 

Coast & Olive is not alone. Bettina, Joe’s Cafe, Alcazar, Flor de Maiz, Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio, and Chuck’s Hawaiian are also offering a taste of their bestselling dishes at softer prices. 

So, we’ve done a quick survey of notable eateries adapting menu items into their Happy Hour specials. Here are the best places to toast some tasty inflation fighters.

Margherita pizza at Bettina (photo by Jeremy Ball)


Happy Hour: 4-5 pm, Mon-Thurs

Ambiance: Cozy and modern neighborhood pizzeria with seasonal and savory chef-driven plates and an intelligent beer, wine, and cocktail list

Standout item: The margherita pizza is made with 100% naturally leavened sourdough and hand-pulled mozzarella made in house daily. The tomato sauce is made with Bianco diNapoli San Marzano tomatoes grown in California. 

Good to know: Get one complimentary margherita pizza (valued at $18) with the purchase of any bottle of wine from the list for dine-in service only. The bottle list starts at about $45. A full dinner menu will also be available. bettinapizzeria.com

Joe’s Cafe

Happy Hour: 2:30-5:30 pm, Mon-Fri

Ambiance: Classic upscale diner with an easy-going, jovial staff

Standout plates: Two white fish tacos ($7.50), smashed angus beef burger topped with grilled onions on a brioche bun ($6 or two for $10), and a spicy fried chicken sandwich for $7.95. 

Good to know: $4 domestic bottled beer; $4.50 draft beer; $6 wine by the glass; and $7 well drinks “with very generous pours,” according to the bartender. You can pair any dish with a blue cheese olive martini or cosmopolitan ($9 each), featuring locally made Hendry’s Vodka. Joescafesb.com

Alcazar Tapas Bar

Happy Hour: 5-7 pm, Tues-Sat

Ambiance: Cozy cafe with a European-feel in the Mesa neighborhood offering a chef-driven menu made from scratch using natural, locally-sourced ingredients

Standout Plates: Bacon-wrapped dates drizzled in wildflower honey and truffle crema chicken tacos with pasilla peppers, pickled onion, and habanero cream sauce, garnished with cilantro. Tapas are $10. 

Good to Know: $9 for wines by the glass, classic sangrias, and classic margaritas alcazartapasbar.com

Flor de Maiz

Happy Hour: 2-5 pm, Mon-Thurs

Ambiance: Latin beachside eatery with views of Stearns Wharf serving Oaxacan delicacies and hand-crafted cocktails

Standout plates: A handmade corn tortilla with pork ribs and amarillito mole sauce, shrimp ceviche with coconut and serrano pepper; and a chimichanga made with shredded chicken, black beans, green rice, cheese, and avocado. 

Good to know: Happy hour is served in the bar only. Plates are $8; specialty cocktails are $9 and $10; house wines are $5; draft and bottled beers are $4. flordemaizsb.com

Chuck’s of Hawaii

Happy Hour: 5-6 pm, Sun-Thurs

Ambiance: Tiki-themed eatery with steaks, seafood, and tasty tropical drinks

Standout plates: Sweet and tangy teriyaki ribeye bites and peppery angus steak bites are delicious and satisfying. The Thai-style chicken skewers are served on a bed of rice. Priced from $9.99 to $11.99, the menu items are slightly smaller portions of regular entrees. 

Good to know: $6.75 well drinks, $8-9 wines by the glass, and $11 Mai Tais chucksofhawaii.com

Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio

Happy Hour: 3-11 pm on Tues-Thurs; 3-5 pm on Fri; “Power Hour” late night happy hour from 9-10 pm on Fri and Sat

Ambiance: Santa Maria-style barbecue served on an outdoor patio with a family-friendly/pet friendly atmosphere

Standout plates: The guajillo honey coated street wings with a squeeze of lime and “off the cob” grilled corn served in a heap of chipotle aioli, parmesan, and chili are lip-smackingly delicious. All snack items on the menu are half off. Prices range from $2.25 for fries to $6 for street wings.

Good to know: $4 house beer, $5 house wines and $10 cocktails  shalhoob.com

Shalhoob’s Cota Street Wings are full portions at half the price

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