What you’d expect at “happy” hour
By Michael Sullivan 01/05/2012
364 S. California St.
The iconic sitcom Cheers used to be one of my favorite shows. I always enjoyed the colorful cast of characters, the essence of bonding and the cast’s mutual appreciation for spirits and laughter. So when I went to try out Aloha Steakhouse’s happy hour, I was ushered back to the good times I used to watch in that old basement bar in Boston — but with much better views and a classier ambiance.
It was a Thursday night when I met up with a few of my companions at Aloha. Luckily, they had gotten there before I did because the place was packed. Maybe it was due to holiday parties, or perhaps the happy hour was as good as I had heard.
As I stated before, it was pretty busy so service was a bit slow — not bad, by any means. Our server was fairly slammed, so the extra TLC we were looking for was being spread among many different tables. When our server made it to our table, I was a little disappointed with the meager beer and wine offerings. Mind you, I am rather picky when it comes to beer, but with only four options — Bud Light, Kona Longboard Lager, Widmer Hefeweizen and Firestone Double Barrel Ale — I simply wasn’t impressed. But in all honestly, who can be picky when the beer is only $2.25 a pint? In some cases, pints at Aloha are cheaper than the equivalent cost of six-packs at the liquor store. Two of my friends got martinis — $4.25 each for Seagram’s vodka — and my other friend and I opted for Firestone. (It’s not an India Pale Ale, but it’ll do.)
For our cheap eats, we ordered the potato skins, chicken satay, spicy popcorn shrimp, sliders, sautéed mushrooms, crab-stuffed mushrooms and spinach dip with jalapeño toast. I know that sounds like a lot of food, but for five people, it was just enough to pacify our appetites until dinner.
When our appetizers came, we ordered another round of drinks and dug in. The potato skins were thick, wedge-cut Idaho potatoes, scooped out and topped with cheddar cheese, crispy bacon and chives. They were nothing more nor less than what is expected of potato skins. The chicken satay dish was four thinly sliced chicken breasts, skewered, barbecued and served with a peanut sauce. The chicken didn’t taste seasoned, rather ordinary in flavor, but no one seemed to mind. Same went for the popcorn shrimp — no one tasted the “spicy,” but all of us take spicy to an extraordinary level. The rather small portion of about a dozen or so shrimp came lightly battered with ketchup and hot wing sauce, which I tend to enjoy more than regular ketchup.
For the mushroom lover at the table, her pan full of button mushrooms sautéed in butter, garlic and various spices, was emptied rather quickly. Though the flavor, again, wasn’t anything to write home about, it sufficed and, at the very least, made her happy. The crab-stuffed mushrooms were my favorite — button mushrooms packed with a moist, real crab meat mixture, served with a butter sauce, diced chives, red peppers and tomatoes. Decadence in every little bite, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. But they were so small and really, so few with so many people to eat them, the guilt receded quickly.
While I didn’t get a chance to try the sliders — two to an order — my companion said they were just what a slider should be, the burger cooked medium, with pickles and a slice of cheese. No secret sauces or even ketchup, but that’s just how he wanted it. The spinach dip was the last up, and it wasn’t the typical dish. Instead of an equal distribution of cream cheese with the spinach, it was more of a challenge to find the cream cheese. But the savory flavor of the sautéed spinach in the dip made up for the lack of creaminess. The jalapeño toast gave the dish just the right amount of pep for us to want to order it again in the future.
Though Aloha has a decent variety of appetizers and the draft beers are extremely cheap, the apparent reason anyone goes to happy hour there is, well, the atmosphere. The authentic beachy So Cal tone makes any local feel right at home. The food is decent enough, and the drinks, though not so many to choose from, were cheap; but the laughter, the banter, the liveliness, put Aloha’s happy hour on the map. (Norm would have fit right in.) But be certain to get there before 5 p.m. — the place fills up fast, so best of luck in nailing down a table.
The VCReporter has recently begun reviewing happy hours throughout Ventura County. If you would like a happy hour to be reviewed for Three Cheers, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or