Happy hours are appreciated for their budget-friendly snacks and beverages, but what if you tend to work too late to enjoy them? Happy hour at Hawgs Seafood lasts until 6 p.m. every day, and, uniquely, on Friday and Saturday it begins at 11:30 a.m., and Sundays at noon.
On a Saturday afternoon, folks at the bar were enjoying football on two big screen TVs. On the covered patio, diners at tall tables basked in rays of the sun from its lower autumnal trajectory. We took a warm window seat in the dining room where we could enjoy the large, colorful underwater photographs of marine life.
Sipping refreshing house ‘Ritas ($6) we perused the starters menu, where two to four dollars had been shaved off the price of each appetizer.
Each of the half dozen Oysters Asiago ($10) was topped with a bit of sautéed spinach and garlic and then Asiago cheese, which melted in the oven to form a rich, salty shell.
Bright red Wings ($8), crunchy and meaty, were spicy, but not blazingly so, and served traditionally with crisp celery and chunky blue cheese dressing.
The house-smoked salmon is served on salads, and in pasta with Parmesan cream sauce. As a happy hour starter ($9) it was accompanied by tender baby greens mixed with a marvelous roasted garlic vinaigrette. The flaky fish itself, pleasingly pink, was soft enough to spread on the crisply toasted crostini. Its smoky flavor held its own against the delightful horseradish cream sauce.
We were very enamored of the two Crab Cakes ($8), decidedly the best we’ve tasted in Santa Cruz. Barely bound together, sweet pieces of crab with no overpowering additives were lightly breaded with panko. The silky caper-lemon-butter sauce added but a bit of tartness without distraction.
Hawgs Seafood Bar, 1917 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 458-3474. Full bar. Open Monday through Thursday 4-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday noon to 9:30 p.m. Visit hawgsseafood.com.