HAPPY HOUR IN THE BAR ONLY
Monday - Friday 4-6pm, hours extend on different days
Different specials every weekday
Specials on Saturdays and Sundays
Mon 4-9 pm 50 cent wings
Tue 4-7:30 KPIG Happy Hour – beef tacos
Wed 4-7:30 Hippo Happy Hour – sliders and garlic fries
Thu 4-9 Carnitas tacos
Fri 4-6 Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Skewers
Sat – Drink Specials
Sun – all day
I sometimes listen to the Hippo radio stations at 104.3. On Wednesdays they have the Hippo Happy Hour at Cilantro’s Restaurant in Watsonville. DJs are on hand and they give away prizes. I thought the J&J Happy Hour Buzz should take a road trip to our sister city to the south and investigate.
When we found out our friend and former colleague, Fred, would be visiting from Portland, we decided to plan a reunion and rendezvous with the old Science Library gang at Jose’s Cantina.
I found out as we were driving there, that they have a KPIG Happy Hour on Tuesday nights. Since my husband loves KPIG, and I listen to that station sometimes, that would have been fun, too. Turns out there are a lot of activities going on at Cilantro’s- most of them centered on sports. There is no denying that Jose’s Cantina is a sports bar.
It just so happened that the night we arrived the World Series was also on. Surrounded. Baseball on one screen, basketball on another.
The radio station said Happy Hour was from 5:30 to 7:30, but when we arrived the Happy Hour menu said 4-6 pm. For happy hour the drink specials are $4 wells and well margaritas, $2 Bud, Bud Lite, and Coors Lite draft and $3 Select Import Pints. They also had a drink special for $6 Specialty Mojitos.
The happy hour food menu was $4 quesadilla, chicken or beef taquitos, jalapeno poppers and $5 nachos. Then every night there is a food special – Wednesday night was 3 sliders with garlic fries. Both Jo and I wished we had come on Monday for 50 cent wing night. Tuesday was beef tacos (Steve pointed out it should have be pork since it’s KPIG happy hour), Thursday is Carnitas tacos and Friday is Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Skewers.
It was the most elaborate and confusing happy hour yet. We were ready for a drink so we ordered a pitcher of margaritas ($15) and our friend Steve arrived in time to grab a glass and join us. Fred had a beer. We ordered each of the appetizers and Jo had the sliders. There was still no sign of the DJ, but our waitress, Lisa explained he was giving tickets for the raffle.
By this time Teresa had arrived sporting a stylish Oktoberfest hat from a work event and bearing belated birthday gifts (pumpkin and wine). She ordered the Mojito special. The music started and the DJ – I believe his name was Casey came around. He was all business, trying to fill out raffle tickets, but we gave him a card and told him about the Buzz.
Our waitress, Lisa was busy, but helpful and patient trying to explain the confusing details – happy hour is 4 to 6, but since it’s the Hippo Happy hour from 5;30 to 7:30 the drink specials go on. I’m still not sure I understand. We got our food order in before six and she told us happy hour continued until 7:30 so we were happy.
The Hippo has a raffle every half hour and they had some good prizes. The bar was filled and you could tell this was a regular activity for a lot of the folks. The DJ knew many of them by name. I won the first raffle drawing and got a Hippo t-shirt. With all those great prizes coming up, it was disappointing to be out of the running, especially since I am not a t-shirt person. My husband, Bill is t-shirt guy, though and the shirt looks great on him. A little large for me. Still – I won something, so who am I to complain?
The next prize was for Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets and who should win, but Teresa – who ironically works for a marine facility. Still another winner from our table. I must say they did have some good prizes – Bridge Concert tickets, Moody Blue tickets, tickets to local shows, the Corn Maze and lots of t-shirts. In the next raffle, Steve won a t-shirt. That was three winners from our table!
Then the food arrived. The portions were generous. I liked the poppers, my quesadilla was tasty. Teresa liked her taquitos, though I thought they were a bit on the dry side. We all agreed the garlic fries were good and I’m not a fry girl (or a fly girl – lol). Josephine thought her sliders had too much bun (she’s not a bread gal). The food was all starchy – yes, I know it’s a Mexican place, but it would have been nice to have ceviche or fish taco as a regular happy hour choice.
Still, we all munched and gabbed and caught up with friends we don’t get to see very often. Fred explained to me in detail how basketball players have amazing brain power, that makes nuclear physics, quantum physics and art, music seem like tiny little parts of the brain. We have a video of this discourse, which I hope we can load. It is classic Fred and classic happy hour debate. Not being a sports person, I was reminded to keep a more open mind and that it is all a matter of taste. I believe that is true.
Lisa confirmed it was still happy hour, so I decided to sample their Bloody Mary. Tasty with a rim of salt. Jo moved to beer. The raffle continued, but though Casey put a shout out to the Santa Cruz Happy Hour Buzz, no more prizes were awarded to our table.
I noticed a dj was setting up in the corner. His name is DJ Will B Smooth. He plays music Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night – with no cover charge. They clear the tables out so there is a good sized dance floor. On the weekends he does a video mix, the videos for the songs play on the screens. Sounds like a fun time. Lisa works on Saturday night, so if you come down, tell her J & J sent ya. Will B put on some Michael Jackson, so Jo and I did a little a dancing. It was a fun night reminiscing, laughing, eating and drinking.
So Jose’s Cantina has some good things going for it - a chance to win some pretty good prizes, generous portions and happy hour almost every night of the week. The service was good, even when it is hoppin’ inside. On the down side – it’s hard to keep the hours and specials straight, it’s a long drive to Watsonville and the happy hour food choices could be a bit more varied. I’d definitely go back, if it was just a tad bit closer to home.
Julie’s rating: 3.5 shots
Cilantro’s is a Mexican restaurant located off the main drag in Watsonville. It has a sister restaurant in Santa Cruz called El Palomar. Julie heard about the Hippo Happy Hour (Hippo is one of the local classic rock radio stations 104.3) and just had to go. This is our first review outside of Santa Cruz, but it won’t be our last for sure. Some many happy hours! The bar area for the restaurant is called Jose’s Cantina and happy hour only takes place in the bar area. Luckily it’s a large area with a long bar and a long bar parallel to it for extra seating to watch the large screen TV’s with sports playing. This is definitely a sports bar.
They have large screen TV’s all over the area with different sports playing on all of them. A nice size seating area next to the bar also gives way to a large patio area with heaters and umbrellas. This place can handle a crowd for sure. We quickly spot out an area and claim our seats.
We have special guests with us this evening. My dear friend Fred is visiting from Portland and he was very excited to be part of our outing today. Along with Fred we have our dear friend Steve too and of course Teresa. I enjoy having friends join us on these outings, one because the more the merrier they say and two we get to order more food!!!!!!
So the waitress Lisa comes up and Julie dives in with the questions about happy hour. I started listening and writing down information and it’s starting to get complicated. So much information and so many different things going on. Happy hour M-F 4-6 but different specials every night so some night’s happy hour goes to 9pm and some nights 7:30pm and I missed what goes on Sundays but something does.
Also different drink specials and food specials on different nights so it keeps you guessing. On Wednesday it’s Hippo night so we have the regular happy hour food nachos, quesadillas, taquitos, and jalapeno poppers. $5.00 sliders with fries and $6.00 Mojitos along with raffle prizes given out every half hour or so. The Hippo part of happy hour is 5:30-7:30. So we get a pitcher of margaritas for me, Julie and Steve, Fred goes for beer while Teresa decided on a mojito. As far as food goes, well, we ordered everything I just listed.
Its fun catching up with Fred and Steve. I worked with both of these guys and we get together with Steve at least once a year. They’re both such good, kind people. Fred’s always opinionated and once you get a few in him, he’s darn right quotable. He keeps us laughing. Teresa had her party hat on and we thought it was for us but alas she had her Oktoberfest party at work that day. Next thing I know some guy is asking our names and I’m like, who are you? The DJ I believe from the Hippo taking names for raffle tickets. After he leaves the food arrives.
Everything looks great. The taquitos we get both beef and chicken and I get garlic fries with my sliders. I can’t really rave much about the food though it was good, not great. My sliders were mostly bread but maybe their always that way but the garlic fries were good and very garlicky. The taquitos were a bit dry and the nachos were a little boring. The jalapeno poppers were tasty.
During this the first raffle gets under way and who is the first name they call on, Julie. She ends up with a Hippo t-shirt. A few more names are called and bam Teresa is called. She ends up with 2 tickets to the Monterey Bay aquarium. We are on fire. The DJ mentions our happy hour blog which immediately give them a ½ shot up and it almost seemed that we were getting special treatment but it was not the case. We were just on fire. As were munching away another drawing comes up and bam Steve gets called for another Hippo t-shirt. Steve was the last winner at our table but we did clean up with 3 wins.
So visiting with old friends, having food and drinks, and winning a few prizes to boot made for a very successful happy hour. I must admit though that the highlight was visiting with old friends. Since I’m a big wings fan I will have to come back for their Tuesday wing night and see how that goes.
Jo’s rating: 3.5 shots!