Happy Hour

Happy Hour Eats In Metro Detroit


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 In 1978, a Harvard Medical School study measured the effect of happy-hour drink specials on alcohol consumption in casual- and heavy-drinking males. And although it doesn’t take a scientist to understand that patrons drink more alcohol when it’s cheap, that’s exactly what the study found.

Bars and restaurants, of course, were hip to this fact all along.

The term “happy hour” is rumored to have come from 1920s Navy slang, referring to onboard ship entertainment before dinner. But it’s more likely — given this country’s sometimes-unfavorable attitude toward liquor — that it emerged as a way for watering holes to advertise discount drink specials without violating laws restricting them.

Thanks to an economy in the (drunk) tank, the popularity of discounted food and drinks, usually beginning at 4 or 5 p.m., has surged in areas where it’s still allowed. (Some states, Massachusetts, for example, have outlawed happy hour altogether.)

We did our own analysis of specials at metro Detroit watering holes and restaurants — a process admittedly less scientific than Harvard’s. Our research left us full, and our wallets happy … or maybe it was the other way around. Really, it stops mattering after a few cocktails.


Lily’s Seafood Grill & Brewery

410 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-591-5459, lilysseafood.com.

Happy Hour:

Weekdays 2-6 p.m.,
Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.,
Monday 2 p.m.-closing.

Of all the microbreweries in the Woodward corridor, Lily’s tends to be the most grossly overlooked. Sure, it’s primarily a seafood restaurant with a blue-collar, New England atmosphere (certain patrons wouldn’t look out of place working the docks of Boston Harbor), but it also boasts some of the finest beer in metro Detroit — all brewed on-site. Considering that some establishments charge upward of $4 for a pint, the $2 handcrafted happy-hour drafts here are a no-brainer. On a hot summer day, try a shandy — a cocktail of lemonade and lager — while lounging on the patio, watching the hipsters go by.

On the food side, no surprise, Lily’s focuses heavily on items from the sea. The $3.99 Cheap Eats menu includes a Creole soup and catfish fingers. We tried the herb-crusted shrimp, served on a bed of rice and sweet mustard. The shrimp was deep-fried, but not overly greasy. Another highlight was the smoked-salmon dip, which is served with toasted sourdough and comes topped with capers, halved cherry tomatoes, and slivered onion. The dip is light and creamy — a pleasant appetizer to share with friends or colleagues.

Like most of the happy hours we visited, Lily’s menu includes a take on the mini-burger, or slider. Their version is a crab-cake slider served with a proportionately small side of skinny fries. The crab cake’s consistency holds up well and tastes fine with a hint of fresh cilantro and “island spices” that elevate it from the pedestrian. The fries, however, are more of an attractive garnish than something to be eaten.

The atmosphere is casual, so come as you are. Just don’t order a Bud Light.


Ronin Sushi Bar

326 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-546-0888,

Happy Hour:

Weekdays 5-7 p.m.

“Ronin” refers to a Japanese samurai who lost his master. It’s an appropriate moniker for this Royal Oak sushi restaurant, because of its youthful, slightly rebellious tone. The dark, contemporary setting appeals to the professional 20- and 30-something crowd with its black-leather couches and live bamboo trees. Large front windows open wide on warm days, making Ronin feel like a bit of bustling Chicago plopped down next to the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

Get here early, because the bar fills up quickly, even on rainy Fridays.

Though it’s just around the corner from Lily’s, Ronin feels like a trip to the other side of the world. Drink specials include $3 well drinks, $2 hot sake, and $5 cold sake. The 22-ounce can of Sapporo and hot sake for $8 is the real deal here, along with $2 drafts of Miller High Life. The food is dominated by sushi, but also features $2 edamame and $4 gyoza dumplings. The standouts, though, are the Kobe sliders, a quality reflected in the $16 price.

A note: Ronin’s definition of sliders (think large) skews in diners’ favor. The two full-size burgers come without much accompaniment, however, which is a shame, considering that the sliders on the regular menu are topped with smoked bacon and sriracha (hot sauce). Still, the portion is large enough to split between two people. And they’re served with a mountain of delectable shoestring fries. The question is: Are they worth $16? That leaves room for pause, considering what the folks are doing over at Roast (see next review).

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