The Man doesn’t want us to have Happy Hour in Boston—which is fine. We’d prefer blissful hours, anyhow—and several of them, right after work if possible. Drink prices may be an inconvenient truth in these parts, but many restaurants are looking to lure the curious and hungry to their tables with reasonably priced samples of their otherwise haute fare. Here are three contenders for cheap bastards and foodies with munchies alike.

 5-4-3-2-1-0 AT NOIR


Like a countdown for your snack-craving gut, the 5-4-3-2-1-0 concept magically transmorphs Noir’s menu prices to a simple scale: $5 sandwiches, $4 flatbreads, $3 salads, $2 skewers, $1 sweets and free nuts. It’s astoundingly possible to feed a table of friends for the price of one specialty cocktail.

Although the prices are skimpy, the portion sizes are definitely not. Plus, you’re in luck if you enjoy leafy arugula, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which get a lot of mileage on this menu. The house take on the BLT will satisfy the most ravenous eaters with its crusty dome housing delicate layers of Italian bacon, roasted tomatoes, arugula and spicy mayonnaise (the magically transformative twist). The dried-peach-and-prosciutto flatbread, arugula salad and skewer combo were all sort of tasty in a perfunctory way; however, you’d be better off saving room for the ooey-gooey chocolate-chocolate cookie or a DIY fresh strawberry plate resplendent with crème fraîche and brown sugar. And the free sweet-salty offering of a finely curated mix of wasabi peas, nuts, cranberries and golden raisins practically had to be wrestled from our desperately addicted selves.

If you’re looking to optimize your yum-to-dollar ratio, your best bet is to stick to the menu’s extremities, assembling a nibble pastiche of nutty freebies, sweets for a buck, and the cheapest sandwich splurge this side of Professors Row.

 [Noir at the Charles Hotel, One Bennett St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 617.661.8010.]



Maybe it’s the subterranean digs, but Morton’s remains shrouded in mystery to me. Who goes there, exactly? For those who aren’t festooned with an expense account, the Power Hour is a handy chance to rub gabardine elbows while ordering select bar menu items for $4 apiece from the hearteningly down-to-earth barstaff.

After getting over an instinctual wince at the unfortunately named “Mortinis” and the $44 steak platter on the bar menu (yee-haw!), we went to town on the featured bar bites. As a seafood tease available only during the Power Hour (I just love saying that), oysters on the half-shell go for $1.50 a pop, and oversized shrimp (cocktail-style) are $2.50 each. Though the oysters needed a little fork-poking to release them from the shells for unfettered slurpage, the raw bar treats are an inarguable steal, duly redeemed by a side of fresh horseradish. The shrimp, on the other hand, were gone in two brief, flavorless bites. Invest instead in a Heavenly Margarita ($12), whose tarty green sweet mix isn’t terribly cloying.

Of course, this is a steakhouse, so you’ll want some beef. Forget the gummy-creamy crab, spinach, artichoke dip and the goujonettes (fancy for “deep-fried chicken strips”), which strike a frightening likeness to suburban big-box-eatery apps. The four filet mignon sandwiches sport slices of cooked-to-order steak discreetly daubed with mustard-mayo between toasted finger-sized buns—light, bite-sized, medium-rare heaven. And towering like three plump princes, the miniature prime cheeseburgers are almost too cute to eat, but prove satisfyingly juicy, savory and crispy in all the right places.

Watch the dribbles, though; you wouldn’t want to stain that nice suit, right? (Oh, yeah, wear something nice, slob.)

 [Morton’s: The Steakhouse, 699 Boylston St., Boston. 617.266.5858.]



Upon hearing of Brasserie Jo’s “French Kiss Fridays,” I was a bit disappointed to find there was no kissing booth, that sorely missed harbinger of interactive entertainment. However, I suppose the faux tease of tongue hockey is absolved by the real deal: the promise of cheap French food and drink specials at this esteemed brasserie, available the end of every (very) American week. Freedom, indeed.

Although the dining specials aren’t exactly a jaw-dropping bargain (a Gruyère Gougère with foie gras mousse and truffle aioli at $11.95 is pretty damn good, considering the highfalutin ingredients), you can wing a super-cheapo move with the free classic tarte flambée. Replace any dignity you have with full-on abandon for these signature Alsace-style thin-crust pizzas topped with a hearty mélange (see? My French is improving already!) of fromage blanc, onions and bacon. If you’re a vegetarian, you probably could swing a meatless pie—but we’d like to see you try, as your resistance to bacon slowly loses its already weak grip on your pleasure center.

If you’re still hungry (or suffering tarte flambée OD), you could feasibly get more wallet-whoppage with a $14 charcuterie plate (French cheeses, marinated olives and saucisson) to share, or a French 75 cocktail ($11), boasting the effervescently natty combo of Bombay Sapphire, lemon juice and champagne.

Go on, ooh-la-la yourself to pieces, but we dare you to order the “duck rillette served with warm tartines” without giggling, or to request the “chilled scallop brochette with micro-ratatouille and a celeriac remoulade” sans irony. And ultimately, watch your pronunciation—you risk ending up with extra bacon.