Sacramento’s Best “Not-So-Obvious” Happy Hour Spots

By Jan Katerkamp,

The wife and I enjoy ourselves some happy hour.

We realized recently that we’re a little too old, married and lame for the late-night bar scene, but not yet to the point in married life where we read magazines and fall asleep on the couch with CSI:Miami on in the background.

(It’s possible that only my parents do this. I’m not sure. Regardless, look for my upcoming article: TV Shows that Only Exist as Background Noise for Old Married Couples. See also, CSI: Wherever; Burn Notice; The Closer; Leverage; Everybody Loves Raymond; Two and a Half Men; Food Network.)

Anyway, happy hour is the perfect medium for us. We get a little bored with the obvious choices from time to time (i.e. Devere’s, Monkey Bar, Zocalo, etc.), so we’ve found a few places that we love, but for whatever reason seem to always be a happy hour afterthought.

Here’s a few to check out, along with some thoughts on why we like them:

Pre-Flight Lounge: I had never heard of this place until a few months ago while killing time on Yelp. (4.5 stars on Yelp. People love this place.) It’s a hidden gem. I mean it’s really hidden. It’s at 547 L St., kinda tucked away underneath the mall. I realize that sounds strange, but trust me. This place is great. I’m always on bike, so I just cruise down L Street, carry my bike down the stairs on the right between 5th and 6th and lock it up inside the little holding area they have. Head down another set of stairs and there’s Pre-Flight. I’ve never driven over, but I’ve heard that they will validate your parking if you’re in the Downtown Plaza garage.

Grab one of the tables adjacent to the bar and a sweet old lady will come help you. She’s the caring nurturer type and hates to see empty glasses. Always a plus. The jukebox is fantastic. It still uses old 45s and is incredibly cheap (2 songs for a quarter, or something like that). The selection is limited to oldies tunes, but they go nicely with the overall experience. The décor is fantastic as well. You’ll see what I mean.

No beer on tap, which is usually a turnoff, but they have a decent selection of ice cold bottles. There’s a full bar to go along with that, and the tender pours a stiff drink. The regulars at Pre-Flight seem very nice, and it appears to be small dog-friendly. There was a little Jack Russell Terrier in there last time entertaining the crowd. I think his name was Lou.
Anyway… Pre-Flight. You want to go to there.

Note: It’s only open on weekdays, and only until 9pm.

Morgan’s: This one’s in sort of a weird spot, at the corner of 34th and S. It used to be called Liquid. (Just a quick rant: Terrible name. I know it’s gone, but a dive bar named Liquid? It’s not a rooftop shiny shirt club… There aren’t any go-go dancers… Terrible.)

Incredibly friendly bartenders,  really good bar food, jukebox, Big Buck Hunter, and pool tables. There are usually a few specialty beers available on tap in addition to the standard domestics. PBR is relatively cheap ($2 pints, I believe), and they have a bike night on Sundays which brings that down another dollar if you ride in. The food here is really what makes it worth trying. The ribs are amazing, and I’ve had one of the best turkey clubs here that I’ve ever eaten. I’m fairly sure I heard the bartender say that they smoke all the meat themselves out back. If you get a little too drunk at Morgan’s one night, just go right back in the morning for a great hangover breakfast and good bloody marys.

Socals Tavern: This place is way down Folsom near 52nd. They have shuffleboard, pinball, cheap drinks, and a solid selection of draft beers. That’s really all you need to know. If you’re a smoker, they have a little enclosed smoker’s cove adjacent to the bar that you can access from inside. Pretty cool little feature.  We usually stop here for some drinks and games if we’re on our way to East Portal Park or Hoppy Brew Co. down the street.

Benny’s: Yes, granted, there’s been some trouble here recently, but definitely not during happy hour. Anh (sp?) is by far one of my favorite bartenders of all time. He pours very strong drinks and is always happy and ready to chat about whatever. I LOVE the addition of the menu. Just fried bar food, but it’s solid. I love myself an old school mozerella stick. I’m pretty sure they’ll still let you bring in food from Chita’s next door too, if you’re hungry for taqueria (Go with the carne asada super nachos). On a nice day, the patio out back is perfect, and the bartenders are sometimes willing to bring your drinks and food outside for you if it’s not too busy. I wouldn’t expect it, but they might surprise you. Cheap 24oz PBR cans are always available, and they usually have both Rubicon IPA and Racer 5 on tap. Also, Big Buck Hunter (Yeah, that’s twice I’ve mentioned it. I’ve never been hunting and never want to, but have you ever played BBH? It’s fun.)  and one of those high-tech, find-any-song-for-an extra-charge jukeboxes. I like those.

My ideal Benny’s combo: PBR tall boy, order of  cheese sticks, Cake on the jukebox. (That’s right, wife. You’re in Sacramento now, and YOU WILL LISTEN TO CAKE (to be read in the Will Ferrell “I Drive a Dodge Stratus!” voice.)

That’s it for now. Enjoy.

About Jimmy Spencer

Jimmy Spencer has extensive experience in journalism and new media. As the founding editor of, Spencer combines his writing, reporting and editing skills to produce a "pretty good site about midtown." During the day, Spencer covers government and also covers the NBA. At night, he watches T.V. and plays on the Internet. Every now and then, he walks around his midtown neighborhood. Spencer began his professional journalism career with The Sacramento Bee, finishing his tenure with the McClatchy-owned newspaper in the new media department. Spencer moved to Connecticut where he continued his growth in new media as a writer/content producer for NBC Sports. Spencer also worked in media relations with the Sacramento River Cats, Minor League Baseball Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Spencer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from California State University, Sacramento where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The State Hornet campus newspaper. Spencer was raised in Marin County and currently lives in Sacramento, Calif. Spencer works in the community as a high school basketball coach in the Sacramento area.


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Posted by on Aug 18 2013. Filed under Bars and Nightlife, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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