Marina-area happy hours feature satisfying $6.50 pizzas, delectable mahi-mahi tacos and a decadent bacon cheeseburger slider

By Christina Campodonico

Take it from the locals. Happy hour is the best time to indulge your taste buds at a new restaurant or revisit a favorite without stretching your weekly budget too far. Gone are the days when happy hour was only for hard drinkers. Cocktails, beer and wine are still part of the ensemble cast, but at these three Marina del Rey happy hours the food is the breakout star.

Fall in Love with Carbs Again @ Settebello
3 to 6 p.m. Mon. thru Fri.

Settebello’s pies are big enough to split one,
two or three ways

Hit up Settebello if you’re craving meat, cheese, bread and more bread. The weeknight happy hour menu offers craft cocktails, sfizi (snacks), crostini and delicious “mini”-pizzas — all $6.50 each.

I’m putting “mini” in quotes because these wood-fired pies are anything but. Spanning the width of a good-sized dinner plate, these pizzas are big enough to feed two or three and come in a variety of flavors, from a traditional Margherita to a bold and spicy Diavola with peppered salami, roasted bell pepper, crushed red pepper and garlic. Whatever pie you try, the soft and doughy inner crust is the kind you’ll want to eat the proper way (with a knife and fork), but you can enjoy the fire-grilled edges with your fingers.

For even more bready goodness, order the piatto misto, a mix of Italian cured meats and cheeses accompanied by a huge side of crispy focaccia bread. And definitely don’t forget about the artichoke crostini. Served on sourdough-like house bread, a smoky speck tops a hearty bed of artichokes. But the best parts are the tangy goat cheese spread and a balsamic-y sweet sauce drizzled over the top. You’ll want to use all the bread to sop up every bit of extra sauce.

Another not-to-be-missed bar bite is the arancini — two balls of fluffy hot fried mushroom risotto and melty mozzarella cheese topped by a creamy tomato sauce. It’s almost like a mozzarella stick, but the much more refined, grown-up version of it. If you’re feeling magnanimous, order one plate and split it, but the glutton in you might want to keep this dish all to yourself.

Settebello is in Marina Marketplace, 13455 Maxella Ave., Ste. 250, Marina del Rey. (310) 306-8204;

Say, ‘More Mahi-Mahi’ @ SALT Restaurant & Bar
4 to 6 p.m. Daily

In terms of ambiance, few places in the marina can beat SALT, the Marina del Rey Hotel’s airy in-house bar and restaurant. Boasting harbor views, outdoor seating with fire pits and seafood-driven fare, the coastal chic restaurant recently launched a new happy hour menu which goes from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, including weekends.

During happy hour, you can live large on a budget. Slurp $2 oysters with chef-selected condiments or sip a cocktail of the day for $8. I recommend The Captain — it’s a refreshing, cucumber-infused take on a Moscow Mule without the carbonation. If you’re pacing yourself, start with a house wine or draft beer for $6.

Notable happy hour menu items include the mahi-mahi fish tacos and deep-fried Mary’s chicken thighs, each $9. Served in sets of two, you won’t want to share the tacos. They showcase tender, perfectly grilled mahi-mahi mini-filets wrapped in wonderfully warm corn tortillas and cushioned by layers of mashed up avocado and black bean. The creamy slaw on top with just a hint of spice and cilantro makes these tacos heavenly and totally un-shareable. The Mary’s chicken thighs are substantial enough to share with a friend. These flaky and crispy hunks of meat come in sets of four with a creamy-tangy buffalo sauce that’ll satisfy
your inner barfly — the classy version.

SALT is inside the Marina del Rey Hotel at 13534 Bali Way, Marina del Rey. (310) 301-1000;

Praise Hamburger Heaven @ Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar
6 to 8 p.m. Tues., Weds. & Thurs. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fri. 4 to 8 p.m. Sat. & Sun.

Nighthawk is the kind of place that stands out. Where else can you get spiked milk after midnight near the marina?

Recently the backdrop for a taping of the pilot episode of “Happy Hour Hunters,” the late-night bar and restaurant has been pretty quiet about its hearty new happy hour menu over the last few months. “We haven’t done any PR, any marketing,” general manager Lance Sellers tells me.

When I visit on an evening in late January, several tables are filled with friends convening for eats and there are a few patrons sitting at the bar; it feels like those in the know have discovered this early bird offering and haven’t minded keeping this low-profile appetizer-hour to themselves.

My companion and I munch on tater tots and candied bacon strips ($8), feast on fish ‘n’ chips ($9), nibble on the double-cheese quesadilla ($8), and devour the hot bacon cheeseburger slider ($4). I really wish we had ordered two (or maybe four) of those sliders, because Nighthawk’s happy hour cheeseburger is sinfully good. Tapatio-candied bacon, melted aged cheddar that soaks into every crag of the burger, and Nighthawk’s signature secret sauce (a cross between some kind of Sriracha and chipotle aioli, I’m guessing) combine with a moist mini beef patty for hamburger perfection.

Order two or three and they could work as a satisfying meal all on their own, but I recommend pairing the burger(s) with tots to satiate both your burger and fried potatoes fix. You’ll also get extra Nighthawk sauce and Tapatio-candied bacon, which sticks to your teeth in a good way — like your favorite fruit roll-up or beef jerky did as a kid.

Wash it all down with a Blue Cow cocktail, a sweetened-up version of a mule with blueberry jam, lime and ginger beer. Since I was doing dry January (I know, so hipster), I forwent the vodka, but would definitely love to have this cocktail again with the extra kick.

Nighthawk is at 417 Washington Blvd., Venice. (424) 835-4556;