Happy hour can be the most relaxing time of the day. But finding the right place to hang out and power off after eight hours can lead to a maze of pump fakes — times posted incorrectly online, bar food that's an afterthought or overwrought. So when good drink meets good "happetizers," it's a universal ground score.
With more than 10 delicious happy-hour small plates, Sample is the front-runner for noshes from 3:30-7 p.m. Fiery spiced pistachios and walnuts ($3) are full-flavored finger food. Two fat beef sliders ($4) are smartly plated and well cooked; chunky egg salad sliders ($3) are comfortably filling. Helpful bar service rounds out almost four hours of big deals at little prices, so there's no reason not to stay and make a meal of it.
1 N. Morris St.
Feeling the need for a seafaring snack? The Water Grill has this covered. The half-off raw bar from 4-6 p.m. is a steal. Well-portioned and briny mussels for $5 and a pound of nicely steamed snow crab legs ($11) will satiate your end-of-day longing for sand and sun. No wonder the owners are transforming deLux into a raw bar — the formula works.
3411 W. Cary St.
Low-key and unassuming, Garnett's Cafe 4-6 p.m. happy hour is a respite from all things fried. A mayhaw jelly (a Southern fruit that tastes of apricots, apples and peaches) and blue cheese crostino ($3) is a scrumptious, uncommon combo of salty and slightly sweet. Devils on horseback (huge, bacon-wrapped dates, $3) are an even more decadent mix of the same flavor profiles.
2001 Park Ave.
Thought-provoking pairings and ever-changing options are part of the Short Pump happy hours at Lehja. Indian street food such as chickpea cha'at and smaller portions of the dinner menu, such as chicken pakora fritters and spinach naan bread, are recent $5 options from 4-7 p.m. The delightful front-of-house staff talked up a salmon appetizer so perfectly we had to try it, along with a $3 basket of garlic-and-onion naan. From the bar, Indian beers and cocktails offer something different.
11800 W. Broad St.
Nighttime deals are one reason Can Can is constantly packed. Sit at the bar and get daily specials, half-price oysters and shrimp, and $10 burgers from 5-7 p.m. Thumb-size lobster rolls ($4.25) and tiny crab-laced gazpacho shots ($4) are light nibbles that won't encroach on dinner plans. Half-off raw oysters and an easy-on-the-wallet cheese plate are healthy and snacklike fun on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10 p.m.
Can Can Brasserie
3120 W. Cary St.
From 4-7:30 p.m., the "two-app hap" for $10 at F. W. Sullivan's is an excellent mix and match for a group of indecisive eaters. A bountiful array of appetizers and dips could please even the pickiest of the thrifty. A spiced and hearty Buffalo chicken dip stands out, especially paired with a cold draft beer and any sporting function. Seared sesame tuna is figure-friendly and just right for an after-work engagement.
F.W. Sullivan's Fan Bar & Grill
2401 W. Main St.
Editors' note: The print version of this story listed incorrect prices for Water Grill, which have been corrected online.