Newark happy hour: the definitive rankings

Santa Fe's Hurricane
Sara Pfefer/THE REVIEW
Jack sips a margarita at Santa Fe.


With so many choices for bars and restaurants on Main Street, students looking for an enjoyable happy hour experience have a tough decision to make. I attended six happy hours for the first-ever “Jack Cobourn Bar Crawl.” I scored each happy hour on a 10-point scale in consideration of price, taste, menu and ambience. In order to protect my liver and avoid making an appearance in the police reports, I spread my crawl out over four days. Here are the rankings from okay to great.

Sixth place: Deer Park Tavern (6.9)
A place with a lot of heritage, Deer Park Tavern has been referred to as a “townie bar” by my father since he went here in the seventies. I went on Friday with my friend Lauren to see what it was like for happy hour. It was packed due to Parents & Family Weekend, so much so that we were asked if we wanted to sit outside. While the bar specials for drinks were decent, with prices in the low single digits, the waitress said there were no bar specials for food except for a buffet (which quickly ran out). Lauren ordered a Corona, and I had a Stella Artois. The mood was convivial but loud, and you couldn’t really hear the music over the noise. If you like a nice, quiet happy hour, the Deer Park Tavern is not for you.

Fifth place: Klondike Kate’s (7)
Although it’s considered a Newark landmark, I have always found Kate’s to be affordable only if you’re willing to sell a vital organ. I once spent $16 on lunch without even ordering an alcoholic drink, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that happy hour here was affordable. I ordered a $2 Yuengling Lager, which was the best-selling beer they had that night. At 5:30 p.m. the air was flat, with more of an adult feel, though well-dressed students arrived at 5:45 p.m. There was only one kind of bar special: wings. I ordered the $5.50 eight boneless wings with General Tso’s sauce. While they were decent, I’ve had better. Even though Kate’s was better this time around, it still felt like an average meal.

Fourth place: Santa Fe (7.5)
If you’re in the mood for Mexican, forget California Tortilla. Head to Santa Fe instead. I ordered their $8 Blue Orange Hurricane Margarita (see photo), my first margarita ever. It was strong but tasty. The atmosphere inside was crowded yet calm, so it was a pleasant experience. There’s a $5 Happy Hour Hurricane as well. Chips and salsa are complimentary, but the $6 nachos are very filling. I will probably go back to Santa Fe when I’m in need of a strong drink.

Third place: Catherine Rooney’s (8.1 points)
If you want an Irish-American vibe, head to Catherine Rooney’s. Like Kate’s, they have $2 Yuenglings. More importantly, there is a choice of $5 appetizers to go with them. I ordered the Irish wings with whiskey sauce, and they were worth the price. Flavorful and tender, I think they have to be some of the best wings on Main Street. The atmosphere was quiet at 5:30 p.m., but the bartender said it would pick up around 6 p.m. and it did. The music was a nice combination of ’60s and ’70s rock, with some psychedelic music by Jimi Hendrix thrown in for good measure. It was an enjoyable experience.

Second place: Home Grown Cafe (8.3 points)
After my Santa Fe trip, I headed here for a fantastic happy hour. The place had a nice attendance, particularly the bar, which was lined with people. Though I did not order any food, the nachos looked good. Embracing my inner Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, I ordered a White Russian: the alcoholic equivalent of a black-and-white milkshake. The music was a mixture of Pink Floyd, Phil Collins and Steve Miller Band, and it set the mood perfectly. It was relaxed and calm, just the way happy hour should be.

First place: Kildare’s Irish Pub (8.5 points)
If you want the authentic Irish experience, head to Kildare’s for a bit of “craic” or fun. At 4:30 p.m., small groups crowded around the four-sided bar, enjoying themselves immensely. Kildare’s has half-priced appetizers, so I ordered the fantastic $4.50 Craic Nachos—cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole served on their house potato chips. Their best-selling beer, a Lagunitas IPA (the West Coast equivalent to Dogfish Head), was not as good as I expected. It was strong and bitter, and I was disappointed by that. Overall, however, the bar’s beer and mixed drink selections are both varied. So, if you want some calm, quiet fun, head to Kildare’s. You just might see me there.

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