Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hindquarter Bar & Grill


Happy Hour Monday–Friday 4:30 – 6:30

Drinks: $4 well drinks and wine by the glass, $1 off other wines by the glass and bottled and draft beers

Food: ½  off bar appetizers – Sweet Potato fries $3.50, Chicken Wings $4.25, BBQ Rib Tips $5, Shrimp Cocktail $4.50, Monterey Bay Calamari $6, Cajun Popcorn Shrimp $5.50, Artichoke Hearts $4.75, “Black and Blue” Ahi  $7.50, Jumbo Prawn Cocktail $6.25, Jalapeno Poppers $3.50, Basket of Onion Rings $3.30, Garlic Cheese Toast $3.00, House Made BBQ Potato Chips $1.75, Pulled Pork Sliders 2/3.50 3/5.00, Appetizer sampler:  $9.50

Julie's Review


The Hindquarter Bar and Grill is located on Soquel Avenue right across from Riverside Lighting.  The Hindquarter is a local landmark has been at this location since 1964.  The current owners Laurie, Mark and Sam took it over about three years ago, but all three had worked at the Hindquarter as employees under the previous owner.
I have eaten dinner here before, but had never sampled their happy hour, so I was looking forward to checking out this local institution.  Happy hour is Monday- Friday from 4:30-6:30.  I always appreciate that extra half hour, since most happy hours end at 6:00 – but appreciate a Saturday or Sunday even more!

I arrived before Josephine and there were several seats at the bar (always a plus for me).  The bar is wood paneled and cozy with photos on the wall.  I sat down next to Jennifer who is a regular at the Hindquarter.  This bar has a loyal following.  We discussed one of the photos on the wall, which was an optical illusion: a sandstone canyon shot or the curves of a woman or something else.  You decide.
Jessica was our bartender.  When I presented her with our card and explained we were reviewing their happy hour, she said that to get the true experience of the Hindquarter Happy Hour we should come back when the owner Mark was there.  He always works happy hour and Jessica had never worked a happy hour before – she was the daytime bartender who was just covering while the owners were at a food conference.  Unfortunately, it is too hard to schedule our happy hour reviews, so we would have to plow through with Jessica doing her best.
Their happy hour includes $4 wells and wines and ½ off of their bar menu appetizers.  Josephine arrived and I ordered a rum and coke and she ordered a glass of wine.  We got down to perusing the appetizer selections, which was quite impressive.
My well drink was tasty and you could tell there was some alcohol in the drink, the way I like it.  Josephine ordered some buffalo wings (wings come in buffalo, thai sweet & spicy or sesame teriyaki).  I ordered the appetizer sampler which came with artichoke hearts, popcorn shrimp, buffalo wings and calamari.  Since Jo had ordered the buffalo wings, I asked for the thai sweet and spicy, instead.  The appetizer plate is $9.50, but I figured that would give me a wide taste of their happy hour fare.

At this point we started talking with our neighbor at the bar, Devin, who is a regular at the Hindquarter and a fellow connoisseur of happy hours it turned out.  He had just ordered an order of the Garlic Cheese Toast which he insisted we try for our review.  Being raised too polite to refuse, we immediately dug in and I have to say the cheese toast was delicious.
Devin has been coming to the Hindquarter for years and knew both the previous owner and the current owners.  He explained why he felt it was one of the best happy hours in town. He insisted that we try additional appetizers to fully appreciate their menu.

The first wave of appetizers arrived. Jo’s chicken wings were spicy and she seemed pleased with them, though she is a buffalo wing connoisseur.  My appetite platter was huge and came with four sauces – one for each of the appetizers.  I appreciated that being a saucy gal.  All of the fried food was tasty – the artichoke heart, the popcorn shrimp and calamari and the sweet wings.  It was a lot of fried food, which I love but I filled up quickly.

Around this time the Black and Blue Ahi tuna and the BBQ rib tips had arrived.  These two were my favorite things that we tasted.  I especially liked the Black and Blue ahi and appreciated a bit of a healthier choice on a happy hour menu.

We ordered another well drink from Jessica, who declined to have her picture taken for the blog.  We had a lively conversation with Devin on happy hours.  He insisted the JJs has some of the best happy hour food and this was already on our list of places to hit.
We ate and drank to our hearts content and I actually ended up taking leftovers to Bill!  When does that happen during a happy hour?
In sum, the Hindquarter is a nice local spot with happy hour until 6:30 weekdays.  There are no fancy drinks on happy hour, but the wells have a kick to them.  The food is good with a wide variety of appetizer choices.  I’d like to come back when Mark is behind the bar and check out the scene again.  Fun, local happy hour!

Julie’s rating: 4 shots!
Jo's Review


The Hindquarter Bar and Grill is a steak house that serves up meat.  My kind of place and it has been around for some time now in Santa Cruz.   It has changed hands many times and for the last year and a half or so is being run by people who use to be staff members. It’s nice to know the staff have a strong passion for the place and want to keep it going. It has been quite some time since I have been here so everything was new to me.  

 They have a nice patio out front and a good size dining area. Of course we are spending our time in the bar which has a fair amount of tables, a nice size bar with some interesting pictures on the walls. One is a picture of a cavern but when you look at it, well you can draw our own conclusion. Everything is wood inside the bar area, rustic looking and inviting. 

So Jessica is behind the bar and we find out this is not her usual work time and we are missing out on one of the owners who is very lively and energetic behind the bar and keeps the place hoping. Jessica was doing a fine job though, getting us set up with our food and spirits. So happy hour is Monday – Friday 4:30-6:30 (like the 6:30 aspect I can party longer).  They have $1 off beers and wines, $4 well drinks and house wine, and ½ off bar appetizers. They have a pretty good selection of items on the menu, but I was only interested in wings. I haven’t had any for quite some time and I was jonesin' for them in a big way.  Julie decided to get the sampler platter that had fried artichoke hearts, calamari, popcorn shrimp and wings. Since I was going with the original Buffalo wings Julie decided on the Thai sweet and spicy ones. While Julie and I are chatting it up the bartender waits patiently for us to make a decision about drinks.  I decide on a glass of the house red while Julie goes for her rum and diet coke.

We were having some lively conversations with some of the other customers, I believe they are regulars always a good sign for a bar and one in particular had quite a bit to say once he found out what we were doing.  His name is Devin. 

Devin has been around this town a long time and as he puts it, “I know all the great places to go in this town, I should be doing this blog”. Devin was indeed a character. He started right in asking questions, “have you been to this place, hand you been that place, they have really good food this place” and so on. From the sounds of it he has indeed been to all the places in town but he has his special few and the Hindquarters one of them. He comes up to us with the garlic cheese toast and offers us some.  “You gotta try this, it’s the best” and he wasn’t kidding, that was some tasty garlic cheesy toast. You better like lots of garlic and cheese but it was well worth it. 

So our food arrives and we dig in.  The Buffalo wings are good, not great but good. The flavor is fine and they are very saucy which I’m not crazy about and a little fatty for wings but not bad.  Julie’s fried platter had its ups and downs. The artichoke hearts and calamari was nothing to write home about, the popcorn shrimp was good, the shrimp was cooked just right.

Devin sees what we have ordered and he’s like “no you gotta try the Black and Blue Ahi Tuna and the BBQ Rib Tips.  Well I was thinking of ordering one of those items anyways, but Devin jumps right in and orders them.  Well that Ahi Tuna was the best. Nice large slices of tuna with a great blackened rub on it and seared just right with lovely pink flesh in the middle and melt in your mouth taste.

I dive into the rib tips and they have a wonderful sauce on them and the ribs are good, could be a little more tender but good flavor and a healthy portion for both of these items. That always puts a smile on my face.
Devin was a trip. He was having a rough day of it and needed some cheering up so I’m glad we were there to lift his spirits. Very friendly, knows a lot about the area and where to go in town for good food and drinks.
So the Hindquarter wasn’t bad. The drink specials are fine, the food is fine, order the right stuff and it’s great and the folks were friendly. It has a relaxed atmosphere to it and seems like a nice place for a group of friends hanging out.

Jo’s rating: 3.5 shots!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jack O'Neill Lounge Aquarius

Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m.  7 days a week

Wine, red and white $5, beer (Coors Light) $4,
Well cocktails - $7 (Skyy, Jim Beam, El Jimador, Bacardi, Famous Grouse, Gordons)
Specialty cocktails: $10

Jack’s Lounge Bites from 4-10 p.m.

Various appetizers ranging from $8 – $13 are 25% off during happy hour

Jack O'Neill Lounge Website
 Julie’s Review

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, Josephine, Michelle and I decided to go see the movie Selma and follow it up with a happy hour review.  The movie was powerful and moving– a must see film.   Afterwards, we were certainly ready for a drink.  Since  the only alcohol I will have during Sober January is for the J&J Buzz, I was especially looking forward to our outing.

We decided to check out Aquarius, which I had not been to before. It is located at the foot of the wharf in the Santa Cruz landmark,  the Dream Inn.  (Glad it’s back to being the Dream Inn).  When we walked up I was surprised to see it is now the Jack O’Neill Lounge.  I asked the hostess whether this was still Aquarius and she said the lounge is now separate, but the food is from Aquarius and so they work very closely together.  There is Jack O’Neill photos and memorabilia all over the lounge.

The first thing to know about the lounge is the view is breath taking.  The entire lounge is floor to window ceilings overlooking the beach, west cliff and the wharf.  In the lounge, there are window seats with cushions which are quite comfy.  We started out at the bar, of course.

This was Michelle’s first Happy Hour Buzz so we had to acquaint her with the very stringent rules and standards Josephine and I apply when working on a review.  This is very serious business and no fun will be had – NOT!  Just don’t eat or drink anything until we get a photo of it!  That’s the rules, honey.

We opened the menu to discover that Jack’s Lounge has Happy Hour – seven days a week from 3-6 p.m.  Now what’s not to love about that!!  A happy hour on Saturday and Sunday is a rare thing indeed and much appreciated.

Our bartender, Haskell arrived and explained the rather complicated happy hour menu. $5 wine and $4 beer, Good, good.  $7 well drinks and $10 specialty cocktails.  What????!!!   Is this happy hour or not?  I had a bit of sticker shock on that one.  Now they actually list their wells which were a bit higher end – Skyy and Jim Beam, etc. but still seven bucks for a well??  Hmmmmm.

They had a nice list of specialty cocktails that are usually $13 and were $10 for happy hour. I broke down (it was sober January and I was going to make the most of this drink) and ordered a Cucumber Collins with Hendrick’s gin, shishito pepper, cucumber and mint.  Michelle ordered a Blood Orange Mule with Grey Goose vodka, blood orange, mint and ginger beer.   Jo went with the happy hour red – Bogle, I believe.

Jo and I ordered the Kale Salad and Pastrami sliders and Michelle tried the Fish Tacos, grilled with fries for $2 extra.  The appetizers on the menu ranged from Truffle popcorn ($8) Hummus ($9), Tuna Tartare $10), Marcona almonds and olives ($12),Brie ($12) pan seared scallops ($13),   during happy hour the appetizers are 25% off.  It was really nice to see such a healthy and varied menu on a happy hour, but the price is high.

Josephine pointed out that this is a high end hotel and most expensive hotels like this don’t usually offer happy hours at all, which is very true.  Plus, there is that spectacular view.  I wandered over to admire the light and view of the beach.  It really is special. When the drinks arrived, they were quite tasty and you could definitely taste the alcohol in them.  I savored my cucumber Collins and really enjoyed the sip of Michelle’s Blood Orange Mule. 

It was great to have Michelle with us and we discussed the film, which has been unfairly shut out of the Oscars.  It is my favorite movie so far in my Oscar research and the Director should have been up for Best Director in my opinion.

The food arrived shortly and was all very tasty.  It was unusual combinations of food with things I’ve never heard of – but the combinations were good.  I liked the duck on top of the kale salad.  The dressing was very subtle.  It is heaven to have such an item on a happy hour menu.  At first, I thought the pastrami sliders were a bit overcooked, but they grew on me.   The thing I don’t like about sliders is they usually don’t have lettuce, but these had kraut on them and that was delicious.  I liked the slaw - standard cole slaw – nothing special (like Hula’s ginger cole slaw, for example). 

Jo and I shared one of Michelle’s fish tacos and it was quite delicious.  Michelle liked that you had your choice of grilled or crispy.  I liked that it had cabbage and avocado.  I tried a few of Michelle’s fries.  I’m not a fries person, but these were unusually tasty, I thought.

Time for the next drink – so I tried my standard rum and diet.  There well is Bacardi.  You could taste the rum, but it came in an awfully small glass for a $7 well.  We were waiting for Joanie and Gary to arrive, but Michelle needed to get to her classroom, so she headed out.  Not more than a minute later Joanie and Gary arrived.  I couldn’t believe they hadn’t run into Michelle, but they came in from a different direction.

We moved over to a window seat and made ourselves at home.  The cushions are actually quite comfortable to lie down on, so I indulged.  Gary and Joanie ordered beers, the kale salad and the hummus.  I had my last rum and coke for January and we discussed movies and the Science of Happiness course,  that Jo and I are taking.  The light was getting spectacular out the window.  The company was wonderful and it felt like we had escaped  away on vacation.

When the bill came Joanie very generously picked up the tab.  Wow -  funding for the Santa Cruz Happy Hour Buzz!  Thank you, thank you Joanie, so generous!!!  What a wonderful way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., with good friends, good food and drinks and an iconic view of Santa Cruz.

So in sum, Jack O’Neills Lounge has great hours – 7 days a week from 3-6, a spectacular view and wonderful ambience, the food and drinks are tasty and the service is good.  The only down side is the price, which is not really happy hour prices.  That said however,  it is still a happy hour I am sure to return to again and again to sit by the window and savor the best of Santa Cruz.  Happy indeed!

Julie’s Rating: 4.5 shots!
Jo's Review


Aquarius is located in the luxurious beach front Dream Inn hotel. The hotel has been a fixture in Santa Cruz for as long as I can remember. It went through some name changes (Coastal Santa Cruz Hotel, Uggh) and style changes and received its current facelift from the new owners in 2008. Luckily they went back to the original name Santa Cruz Dream Inn. The hotel has a bird’s eye view of the Santa Cruz Wharf, the Beach Boardwalk and the famous Cowell’s beach and Steamers Lane, known for its great surfing. One thing about this place is you can’t beat the view. 

The restaurant is called Aquarius but the bar/lounge area is named after the famous local surfer dude of all time the Jack O’Neill Lounge.  This local legend had resided here since 1959 and his name brand can be found on wet suits, surf gear and clothing. There are pictures and memorabilia all over the lounge of Jack with a surf board ceiling historic pictures of the area surfers.

This happy hour, the first of the New Year, is looking good already because we have some fun friends joining us. Michelle, Joanie and Gary. Michelle started off with us at the movies (we saw Selma, great movie) and we were ready for a drink and some happy to happen. You walk into the bar area which is all windows on the ocean side so you have a panoramic view of the ocean, wharf, Boardwalk and Steamers Lane. It has a nice sized bar with plenty of seating around cozy little tables and a cushioned bench area along the windows.  I start snapping pictures all over while Julie does the introductions and we settle into the bar and start checking out the goods.

Happy Hour here is every day from 3-6pm with $4 bottled beers only (no draft beers for happy hour), $5 house wine, $7 well drinks (good well), and  $10 specialty drinks. Food is from the lounge bites menu and everything on that is 25% off. I decide on wine while Julie and Michelle had the specialty drinks. For food we go with The Black Kale Salad with Duck confit, Pastrami sliders and Fish tacos. I was surprised to see on the menu that the sliders and tacos come with cole slaw and if you want fries you pay extra. Usually you get fries and have to pay extra for the cole slaw or salad so that was a nice change. Since we’re all trying to be more health conscious it’s nice to see them offering these options.

So the drinks have arrived. My wine is a nice Bogle red blend. Julie’s goes for a specialty cocktail the Cucumber Collins which looks very tasty, light and refreshing. Michelle’s gets the blood orange mule which comes in a pint glass and from the look on her face I would say it’s very tasty as well. 

The food looks yummy and I haven’t eaten for a while so I dig right in.  The Kale salad is nice and light, not as much quinoa in it as I thought but the duck confit on top was a real treat, crispy and tasty. The sliders were so good I just wish there was more than 2 of them. The pastrami was cooked crispy which didn’t appeal much to Julie but I liked it. The sauerkraut on it was nice and tangy. The cole slaw was o.k nothing special. The fish tacos were great. We went with grilled instead of fried and we got french fries instead of cols slaw so we could try everything.   

The taco had this yummy lime sauce on it that really set off the fish and lots of fish in it as well. The french fries were nice and crisp and came in a cute basket.  That seems to be the trend for fries right now, showcasing them in a little wire basket. Anyways we were munching away and talking about how good the food was. Julie and I both went for another drink but Julie changed over to a rum and coke. Michelle’s drink was pretty big so she was still sipping on it. The camera is snapping away and we are laughing it up. The happy is settling in just right.

After we have gobbled up all the eats we decide to move to the window seating and take in the view.  Joanie and Gary should be arriving soon and Michelle is taking off on us. It was fun chatting it up with Michelle. I must admit it is a nice view from this lounge. It’s very calming and relaxing.   

Joanie and Gary arrive and it’s time for another round. The two of them are so full of life and energy it’s always fun around them. We greet and order some drinks and they decide on getting a little something to snack on as well so they go for the Spinach Hummus. It looks rather good and I’ve never had spinach Hummus before, it was quite yummy served with veggies and pita bread. 

I have been very impressed with the food, tasty and somewhat healthy, which is a surprise in happy hour food, but a welcome one. While we were settling up the bill Joanie surprised us by taking care of it. Wow that was a wonderful surprise, how generous of her to do that. I love that kind of kindness and warmth from friends it really put the icing on the cake so to speak.

Well the sun is setting and my glass is empty so it’s about time to go. Happy hour at the Jack O’Neill Lounge, Aquarius at the Dream Inn has been fun.  The food was very good; the ambience was relaxing, and the bartender and hostess friendly. As far as happy hour goes the food and drink prices are a little high, but you are eating at a high end hotel right on the beach with a million dollar view. I guess one expects to pay a bit more for that. All in all though it was a good time.

Jo’s review: 4 shots!