Tasty happy hour options in Chicago

July 23, 2010 (CHICAGO) A lot of restaurants are attempting to lure in prospective diners with food and drink specials, then get them to stick around.

ABC7's Hungry Hound recently visited one downtown restaurant where all of the food items during happy hour are just $3.

From 25-cent oysters on Wednesdays at Benny's Chop House to a food menu with absurdly low prices -- provided you buy a drink -- many restaurants are holding "happy hours" to get people in the door. Of course, the name is misleading, as these special discount periods are usually a couple of hours long.

Either way, chefs and GMs are hoping they accomplish one thing: get diners to come back again.

Since when did happy hour cocktails and hors d'oeuvres get super-sized? At Elate, the swanky little restaurant inside the Felix Hotel in River North, downtown workers can blow off a little steam from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. and drop just three bucks for the food, provided they buy a drink.

"We offer five items off of our happy hour menu that...definitely don't lack in the portion size. We're just trying to get people to come in, enjoy the atmosphere. Hopefully, they'll check out our dinner menu, and they'll come back and have a great evening here at the restaurant," said Randal Jacobs, the chef of Elate.

Where most places offer tiny sliders, Jacobs, instead, tops his giant burger with creamed leeks, sandwiching it between sturdy brioche buns. Where lesser chefs offer nachos, Jacobs instead adds salsa verde to pulled pork, roasts it, then serves it with jalapenos, fresh cilantro, queso fresco and tortillas, allowing you to make your own free-form taco.

Barbequed chicken finds its way onto a pizza crust, along with provolone and caramelized onions. Just before serving, it gets a shower of fresh cilantro. The marinated chicken breast sandwich gets a Greek spin: herbed feta and tzatziki provide richness, while cucumbers give it crunch and bite.

Even the seasoned, hand-cut fries make good nibble-worthy snacks. Jacobs says the regular dinner menu is a far cry from the happy hour specials, but he hopes this bit of marketing will at least get prospective customers in the door.

"Hopefully, they come back and they see that, you know, if we are putting out an amazing $3 happy hour menu, what we can do with our other food," Jacobs said.

Just a block away from Elate, Zed 451 also has a happy hour of sorts. Its cravings menu is available for half-price during that same 4:30 to 6:30 window of time.

Elate Restaurant
111 W. Huron St.
4:30 - 6:30 p.m., $3 food items (with purchase of drink)

Also mentioned:

Benny's Chop House
444 N. Wabash Ave
25-cent oysters in Lounge from 5 - 7 p.m. every Wednesday

Zed 451
739 N. Clark St.
Cravings Menu is half-price weekdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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