The scene: We went on a recent Thursday night, close to 6 p.m. At many places this would be pushing the happiest hours. But at Alba we had some time to settle in and peruse the menu before making a decision — its happy hour doesn’t end until 6:30 p.m.
Alba is known for its inventive menu, but its atmosphere is sophisticated as well. This is a place you can go in work clothes or on a dressy date and not feel overdressed. The bar area is separated from the dining area, and has a modern feel. A curved bar snakes through the room, allowing ample seating and space for mingling. A few high-top tables, for two or four people each, dot the rectangular space. The concrete floor is warmed by a red-painted wall and candles.
What we got: The happy hour specials include a $5 martini list and half-price starters. I landed on the East Village martini, made of Pearl vodka, olive juice and spiced goat cheese-stuffed olives. As someone who orders my martini dirty with no vermouth, this one was exactly how I like it. I’d heard word that Alba’s stuffed olives were incredible, so I had high expectations for the two speared in my martini glass. It wasn’t an exaggeration — the olives are so delicious I got downright greedy and refused to share a tiny taste with either of my happy hour companions. It’s a perfect mix of spice and cheese that takes this martini to high levels.
One companion ordered the Kentucky cousin, made of bourbon, lemon, mint, simple syrup and cherry. It tastes like a fruity version of another Kentucky favorite, the mint julep.
I also got the white bean giardiera bruschetta, usually $9, but at half price for happy hour it’s a steal. Four perfectly prepared pieces of bread were topped with beans, arugula, carrots, cauliflower and parsley. A fresh and delicious taste and texture, but the beans were tricky to keep in place. These were easily shareable with small decorative plates delivered to our table.
My happy hour companions split the Ubben Farms lamb empanadas, usually $10, but $5 at happy hour. Two pastry-like pieces filled with shredded lamb received high praise from both. The taste and texture of the pastry shell doesn’t take a back seat to the delicious meat. They were gobbled quickly.
Other specials: Half-price bottles of wine on Wednesday nights — the bar has an impressive list that’s also written on the wall.
Worth leaving work early for: The starters and martinis are delicious, and well worth the full price. But with the $5 martini list and half-price appetizers deal, it’s worth taking advantage of the whole hour and a half.
Find it: 524 E. Sixth St.
Info: 244-0261, albadsm.com
Happy hour: 5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday