Lucca Restaurant & Bar
1615 J St., Sacramento
Wanting to explore the elegant side of happy hour deals, I was in search of a restaurant known to serve food that was slightly upscale; a place that wasn’t necessarily known for being a bar. Since I was going to a place that was slightly more expensive, I bumped my spending limit up from the traditional Happy Hour Hound budget of $20 to $25. True, that’s not a large increase, but it allowed me to get that one extra dish to put this outing over the top.
It didn’t take long to find many great options that were within walking distance from my house in Midtown, and after examining menus, I decided on Lucca on 16th and J streets. Lucca is one of those places that I have known about for years, yet for one reason or another have never actually been to. I find that dropping in on a nicer restaurant during happy hour is a great way to experience all they have to offer without breaking the bank.
Lucca has some great cocktails ($6) on their happy hour menu, such as the cucumber bramble (gin, lemon, cucumber and blackberry brandy), Don Quixote (tequila, aperol, lime and jalapeno) and the cosmonaut (vodka, triple sec, raspberry and lime) but I opted for a Ruhstaller 1881 Red Ale ($5), which paired well with the variety of items I was about to order.
Though a bit hesitant, I stayed true to the goal of getting the most bang for my happy hour buck; so as the waitress glided to the table I promptly opened my Yelp app and “checked in” to receive a complimentary order of zucchini chips. Always feeling a bit awkward when using coupons or discounts, my waitress didn’t bat an eye and seemed more than happy to supply the pile of the veggie crisps. I also ordered the ricotta gnocchi ($6), steamed mussels ($6) and of course the Bag O’ Lucky Dog Ranch Beef Jerky ($6) which brought my total to $23.
The zucchini chips came out first, and instead of being haphazardly thrown onto a plate, the deep-fried veggies arrived cascading out of a metal container lined with white butcher paper. Well worth the self-conscious Yelp check-in, the chips were slightly salted, perfectly crispy and a great alternative to potato chips, providing that much needed base layer when consuming happy hour drinks.
Next came the Bag O’ Lucky Dog Ranch Beef Jerky. This was indeed the first time I have ever had the option to order beef jerky from a restaurant and was expecting a small artisanal paper bag filled with the dehydrated meat. To my surprise, my waitress arrived at the table offering three options of beef jerky (original, teriyaki and peppered) packaged in the familiar resealable plastic bags we all know. I went with the peppered variety and ripped open the bag as if I were leaving a convenience store—I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun. Right away I could taste the superior quality of Dixon’s Lucky Dog Ranch beef. The jerky was thick and had just the right amount of tenderness. After realizing how well beef jerky pairs with an ice cold beer, I’m surprised more restaurants don’t have it on the menu.
After the beef jerky arrived the food service slowed a bit due to the flood of hungry playgoers in search of a pre-show dinner before heading around the corner to the Wells Fargo Pavilion. This wasn’t a problem since I was content swigging back my drink while casually gnawing on jerky and enjoying the atmosphere. Before I knew it the ricotta gnocchi arrived. Well worth the wait, the soft starchy pillows smothered in a bright marinara sauce quickly reminded me that the dishes at Lucca were made with finesse—which was briefly forgotten while chomping on jerky.
Right before my final dish arrived my attentive waitress placed a plate of sliced bread on the table, nonverbally letting me know that said bread was solely there to be submerged in the briny, buttery, garlicky goodness that would soon arrive; and though the mussels did arrive at the table quite a bit later than all of the other bites, they ended up being a great way to cap off a happy hour at Lucca.
There were many other items on the happy hour menu that I look forward to trying, like the Lucky Dog Ranch beef burger ($7) and shishito peppers and halloumi ($6.50). Lucca’s happy hour does get crowded fast and is first come first serve so arrive early, be patient, and you will be rewarded with an upscale happy hour experience.
Happy hour at Lucca is 3–6 p.m. Monday–Wednesday, 3 p.m.–close on Thursday, 3–6 p.m. on Friday and 12–6 p.m. on Saturday, and is available in the bar area only. For more info check out Luccarestaurant.com or call (916) 669-5300.