But first: The modern "happy hour" at restaurant bars likely has roots in 19th-century New York saloons, when the so-called "free lunch" brought customers in by droves. Buy a drink and get a free bite, was the deal. Stay awhile and buy more drinks, was the hope.
We flashed on that when we ducked into Ruth's @ the Bar for a respite from the holiday-shopping scene. There, we found the "Sizzle, Swizzle & Swirl Happy Hour" menu. It's a bargain-priced list of items served in the bars of both Ruth's Chris steakhouses in our area.
The seven appetizers usually cost $8 to $15 each, but go for $6 across the board from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. For the "sizzle": Prime-beef burger with fries, prime-beef sliders, tenderloin skewers, steak sandwich with fries, New England lobster roll with fries, deep-fried lobster chunks with spicy sauce, and seared ahi tuna.
On our plates, meltingly tender chunks of medium-rare beef were speared on a wooden skewer and dashed with sesame soy sauce. Perfect, but better were the two lobster offerings (pictured). Lightly breaded and fried chunks of succulent lobster were tossed in just-hot-enough cream sauce. For the lobster roll, cold lobster salad was tucked into a slice of toasted and folded bread that had actual bread flavor.
"What I like best about these dishes is they're so satisfying and flavorful you don't need to order more," said my happy-hour pal. Well, actually, yes, we do... But another time.
Wine and beer are on the "swizzle and swirl" part of the menu, but the real attraction is the cool cocktails - cosmo, martini, Manhattan, Moscow mule and a margarita with orange juice added. Each for $6.
Find the "Sizzle-Swizzle" happy-hour menu at Ruth's Chris-Sacramento in the Pavilions center on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Howe Avenue (916-286-2702); and at Ruth's Chris-Roseville in the Galleria center on Galleria Boulevard in Roseville (916-780-6910). More informtion: www.ruthschris.com.