In my continual quest for the best happy hour deal in Chicago, this week I decided—on the night we were scheduled to get 12 hours of snow—to ward off winter with a little Cajun cookin'.
From the outside, Redfish, which bills itself as a New Orleans-style restaurant, looks like an upscale seafood spot, so I never went in because I'm thrify, and I don't like fish. But when I heard the bar had a drink and food special on Tuesday nights, I decided to make my peace with the sea and check it out.
And as it turns out, it was nothing I expected. The place serves more than just fin-friendly fare, and it's not fancy at all. I liked the bar's down-home, comfy theme, and yet, I couldn't quite get behind the odd smell that washed over you in a stinky wave as you walked in. Just as my friend Emily and I were discussing what it might be, the two girls next to us asked if we smelled vomit. Mystery solved! (Two points ... for Gryffindor!!!)
The manager came by to check it out, seemed confused and left. Did someone's crawfish go down the wrong way? Or had someone, by accident, pulled up a barfstool? We'll never know, because the scent was so strong that we decided to move to the restaurant area, which has brighter lighting and contains even more random Southern-inspired wall decor.
Once a third friend arrived, it took us about 10 minutes to order because the hostess and waitress weren't sure if the happy hour specials extended beyond the bar area; luckily, the waitress checked and said it would, so we ordered up three $4 margaritas.
The size was admirable; the drinks were served in large water-type glasses and were not the worst margaritas I've ever had. But they weren't the best. Overall, I'd say they tasted like a heavy dose of sweet 'n' sour mix with a touch of tequila.
The food followed suit. Happy hour options include $3.99 Southern snacks, like fried green tomatoes (just like the movie, only with slightly less Mary Louise-Parker), a crab artichoke dip, chicken wings and fried chicken bites.
We ordered up fish tacos and potato skins, sans bacon, which we were told was no problem. However, after an unusually long wait for a potato cut in four and some fish wrapped in a tortilla (which, it should be noted, I am not criticizing because that is my kind of cooking), the skins came out coated in bacon and had to be sent back.
Another 20 minutes passed and they returned—without the bacon, but coated in a nebulous pale-pink sauce. Tabasco that had outlived its life expectancy? Moisturizing make-up for the appearance-conscious salmon? Puff paint?
We couldn't find our waitress to ask, so I tried it, and I believe the sauce was some sort of spicy mayo (well, hopefully). Whatever it was, the stuff wasn't very tasty, or something I would normally use to coat cheese and starch (for that, I prefer my mouth, while I rapidly ingest both in large quantities).
And, alas, for our $3.99 happy hour deal, we got just four small skins from a potato that I fear was the runt of its litter. Averaging $1 each, it wasn't exactly the special of the century.
So, instead, we decided to roll down the street to Rossi's, a dark, cavernous dive bar that has a jukebox offering up Bette Midler and the Clash. There weren't any specials, but the beer is cheap. And, really, when there's a woman in her 50s yelling about her vajayjay and a guy who comes over to your table to emotionally insist you toast "to the sky," who needs economical appetizers?
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search for life on the cheap. If you know of the mythic happy hour that she missed, do clue her in.