Somewhere along the way, the two-martini business lunch became the after-work happy hour. That's probably a good thing other than the fact that evening beer and burger specials now tend to overshadow ice-cold cocktails and elegant eats.
And while there are scores of fine-dining restaurants serving the regular menu at the bar, there are far fewer that have full bar menus with more reasonably priced, fun versions of the food for which they're known.
"It gives the chefs a little more leeway to do more playful things and experiment," says George Schindler, president of Hospitality Restaurants, which employs the approach at its Blue Point Grille, Delmonico's, Cabin Club and Salmon Dave's properties. "It's not only good for our guests, but it also gives our staff more freedom."
For example, stalwart steakhouse Delmonico's plays with the traditional bar steak by serving the 4-ounce Little Christy ($15) filet with shrimp, asparagus, garlic mashers and béarnaise, while white-tablecloth seafood spot Blue Point Grille gets casual with a Lobster & Shrimp Roll ($15).
But maybe what you're getting most in these weeknight excursions is the chance to soak in an atmosphere often reserved for the weekend. "You want a quality beverage," Schindler says, "and you want to sit in a nice place."
We couldn't agree more. Send us over a Bombay martini and a bar menu, please.
2 to try
Ahi Tuna Wonton Shooters ($10): served in edible sesame wonton glasses with avocado and cilantro; Salmon Dave's, 19015 Old Lake Road, Rocky River, 440-331-2739
Lobster Rangoons ($9): with cucumber salad and sweet and sour; Blue Point Grille, 700 W. St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, 216-875-7827