- Ron Bechtol
It may come as a surprise to learn that happy hour is banned in eight states — likely for daddy-knows-best reasons. It’s surprising that Texas isn’t among them. But pressure on those self-righteous states is bound to increase as restaurant traffic decreases; industry publications are touting a decline, in any case. But with that slump has come a rise in both number and quality of happy hours — anything to put butts in seats. Let this also be a plea for extended hours — at least to 7 p.m.
Grayze is happy to oblige on this point. Its cocktail selection, however, is slight — just two cocktails. (Wine, beer and well drinks are also discounted.) Fortunately, the Spice of Life and La Fuente are both good and charitably priced at $5. Of course I tried both of them.
La Fuente is pitched as the official cocktail of Culinaria Farm, and if you’re a fan of pineapple (plus tequila, cucumber and lime), this one’s for you. It’s especially good as a refreshing, summer knock-back, and it uses premium, Milagro tequila. Sip it as you sit at the bar, musing on the western sun streaming through rum bottles. The Spice of Life relies on numbing Szechuan peppercorns for its punch, and I was at first disappointed: it seemed watery, pallid … until I absently sipped through the largeish straw I would ordinarily ignore. (Straws for an alcoholic drink always seem to me like too much of a reversion to childhood.) Revelation: the Monkey Shoulder’s scotch, ginger liqueur and lemon all seemed more potent at the bottom of the glass, and with time, the flecks of peppercorn settled there, too. Take your time with this one. And continue contemplating sun streaming through rum.
The other part of the new happy hour equation is its selection of bar snacks — sometimes rising (not yet in San Antonio, alas) to Lucullan heights with the likes of serious charcuterie spreads, wagyu pastrami sandwiches and marinated crab claws. Grayze’s offerings stay closer to home with discounts, for example, on its multi-cheese mac, a dish happy hour somehow conveys permission to indulge in. Yes, I ate all of it, all the while wishing for even more of the quick-pickled chiles that crowned the bowl. I did manage to avoid the equally addicting Ma Frites.
But here’s another plea: why not use HH as a laboratory for low-cost, high-creativity snack-size dishes? Grayze’s kitchen, along with others around town, is certainly talented enough to exercise a little more creativity here. Think of the golden hours as an opportunity to trot out experimental plates in the manner of daily specials, but smaller and cheaper. We’d all benefit. I’d have another Spice of Life.
521 E. Grayson St., (210) 481-8776, 4-7pm Mon-Fri.