Summers are for sipping—and lingering, laughing and lounging with friends. Here’s a handy happy hour guide (numbered in no particular order) to the lake area’s best spots for laid-back eats and delicious drinks that’ll help you (almost) forget there’s such a thing as work or winter.
1. The Suburban
Excelsior | Weekdays 3–6 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 9–close, all day Sunday
“Whether you’re an old-school Miller Lite drinker or like trying a new tap IPA every visit, you’re going to get a good deal,” says co-owner Ashley Berset. “People come to happy hour to either celebrate a great day, get over a bad day or to kick off the weekend spirit!” With that as the vibe—and a locale that focuses on fun and sports fans every day and every hour—it’s hard to go wrong. Try out the gigantic community table with a crowd of up to 20 of your closest friends, get a few of the large baskets of tater tots or fries, and you’ve got the makings of a great night ahead. Bon appétit!
Minnetonka | Daily 3–6 p.m., bar, lounge and patio
Bacio does comfort well—really well. So it’s the perfect place to unwind in a classy yet casual atmosphere. And after a long day at work (or dealing with kids on summer break) you’ll be happy to know Bacio takes a simple four-tiered approach to food options. Simply choose from the $5, $6, $7 or $8 list and you’re covered for steamed edamame, fish tacos, a bacon cheeseburger or turkey burger, pizzas and more. Unsure? Try the wings, smoked or buffalo-style. General manager Sue Birchhill says, “Those are fantastic!” Local tap beers are $4.50, wine is $2 off, and the $5 cocktail list includes seasonal margaritas, sangria and a cosmo. (The gang’s all there.)
3. Joey Nova’s
Excelsior | Weekdays 2–5 p.m., plus an hour before close
Joey Nova’s might be known for pizza, but it’s also home to an ever-changing happy hour menu that has featured flatbreads, mini corn dogs and pretzels. This time of year, chefs frequent local farmers markets and dream up of-the-moment dishes that showcase the best in local, seasonal ingredients. Check out the selection of local craft beers and wines that pair well with small plates. “The main menu is pretty traditional,” says general manager Gary Ezell. “But we have lots of fun with happy hour specials!”
Wayzata | Hours vary
6Smith’s rooftop patio and indoor seating flex to fit any occasion. During happy hour, a simplified menu starts with $2 oysters on the half shell. Four dollars will get you a tap beer, ranging from Michelob Golden to Summit EPA to Enki or Wayzata Brew Works rotating taps; plus rail drinks, fries or curds. For $6, move up a tier to wine, rail Manhattans or martinis, or apps like the prime rib lettuce wraps or calamari with Thai sauce, to name a few. Eight dollars buys spendier wine or higher-end apps like short-rib or lobster sliders. Owner Randy Stanley says that, while happy hour is “always a great way to cut loose, 6Smith has an approachable, sophisticated environment. There’s a little more swagger for the money.” Can’t argue with that. Oh, and the drink menu changes frequently, so snap up the drink of the moment while you can—it could change any second.
Wayzata | 3–6 p.m. daily, bar and patio
The fried clams are a fun spin on the usual calamari. The wings are dry-rubbed and delicious. And if you want something lighter, try the hummus served up with toasted pita bread and chopped veggies. There’s a Spanish-style sangria that’s to die for. And new this year is an Aperol spritz, “a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an aperitif in northeast Italy,” says manager Patricia Conchon. “The drink is prepared with Prosecco and a dash of bitter liqueur, such as Aperol.” She adds, “The vibe on the patio is awesome in spring and summer, with views of the lake. From the after-work crowd to families to couples with dogs, it’s all-around a really vibrant and happy place.”
Excelsior | Weekdays 3–6 p.m., daily late night
Yes, there’s a solid selection of drink specials, appetizers and meals to fit any appetite or post-work mood, but Maynard’s is almost synonymous with mojito. Choose from mango, black cherry, traditional lime and mint (the Maynard’s mojito) or the “skinny” gluten-free variety (that is, if you’re trying to save room for the signature waffle fries). The fries are not discounted for happy hour, but the mojitos are!
“Imagine spring break meets your post-workday escape with some of your favorite colleagues and friends,” says general manager Jack Stevens of the after-work vibe. “It’s a very relaxed and casual atmosphere, with the best views of Lake Minnetonka to boot.”
7. Avenida Cocina
Wayzata | Daily, restaurant and patio
Come for the half-price apps, margaritas, tap beer and glasses of wine; stay for the ceviche, summery décor and ample patio space. There’s a whole line-up of classic dishes and newly created Mexican-Asian fusion dishes served up around a 360º bar that sets a fun tone for the rest of the restaurant. The patio has great sunset views and a waterfall feature, so you can sip a signature margarita and pretend you’re in Mexico.
Pro tip: There’s a private indoor dining room with an attached patio that makes for a charming venue for a baby shower, wedding rehearsal dinner or other event.
Minnetonka | 3–6 p.m. Sun.–Thurs. dining room, plus bar-only late night
Spasso has a thing for from-scratch cooking and impeccable wine pairings. The Wine Shoppe next door is a sister company, so diners score retail prices on wines and don’t pay a corkage fee if a Wine Shop bottle is bought to go with a Spasso dish.
Despite the fancier vibe, you can “come as you are—we’re not fine dining, and not just a wine bar,” says general manager Shannon Clancy. During happy hour, check out the list of $3 wine pours, $4 rail drinks or $1-off tap beers that’ll complement the almond-crusted Brie, a pizza or side of green beans or sautés featuring the famed Szechuan sauce (back by popular demand).
Wayzata | Weekdays 3–6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. | Bar only
The mahi-mahi fish tacos, sesame tuna, chicken bacon flatbread and crab cake sliders are favorites among the happy hour crowd that gathers for delicious eats in the nautical, practically-on-top-of-the-lake CoV. Enjoy $6 rail martinis, $4 rail drinks, $5 taps and specials on whites and reds. “We’re right on Wayzata Bay. The windows retract and open up—it’s really like sitting on the porch at somebody’s house,” says manager Greg Mulrenin. We’re in.
10. Victor’s on Water
Excelsior | Daily 4–6 p.m. | Bar, hightops and patio
There are pizzas and meatballs and an extensive menu of other options at Victor’s. But even though it’s not an official happy hour special, the chupacabra (like a spicy margarita) is a best-selling drink. Just like spicy tequila concoctions are apt to create, there’s a laid-back vibe at Victor’s, even though it’s an upscale place. Managing partner Janel Olson says there’s one group of 10 or so regulars who first met at the bar at Victor’s and now meet almost every Wednesday for happy hour. “We’re that kind of bar,” Olson says. “It’s reminiscent of Cheers.”