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I love and hate the beginning of football season. I love it because it means football is finally back on television for a few months. I hate it because it signals the end of summer, my favorite season of the year, especially in the desert.
Similarly, I love and hate good restaurants. I love them, obviously, because I know I’ll nearly always get good food that I’ve come to know and enjoy. I hate them, conversely, because I know there will often be a lot of customers ordering and enjoying the same food I do.
OK, maybe hate is too strong a word. But you get the picture.
My sweetheart, Nicole, and I visited Chili’s Grill & Bar, located along “Restaurant Row” on Amargosa Road in Victorville, last week to sample their happy hour offerings. I’ve been to Chili’s more times than I can count since it opened about a decade ago. In the same tone, Nicole has spent many a dollar and enjoyed many a meal and beverage at Chili’s.
Some of the serving and bartending staff even know her by name, as was the case last week when we visited and were greeted by Michael behind the bar, who remembered Nicole from her previous visits.
We sat down at the bar top right around 5 p.m. Wednesday, which was right in the middle of their happy hour time frame: 3 to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday through Thursday, 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday and all day on Sunday.
On most of the TVs were preseason NFL football games and about 20 minutes after we arrived, the entry way to the restaurant was loaded with guests waiting to be seated. Remember how I said I love and hate the beginning of football season, and love and hate good restaurants? Both were happening at the same moment. Weird, but somehow appropriate.
I also met bartender Kara, who oddly enough recognized me from my time in one of my previous bands, Harvard Road. Both Kara and Michael were very nice and helpful during our entire visit.
The happy hour prices on beer range from $2.99 for a small glass of domestic draft to $5.29 for a tall glass of super-premium draft. Nicole ordered a tall Samuel Adams Rebel IPA (super-premium draft) while I got a tall Blue Moon (premium draft for $4.29).
After perusing the happy hour food menu, we agreed on three items to sample: Skillet Queso, a combination of hot bean-based chili and cheese served with thin, warm tortilla chips and a cup of salsa for $2.99; a half order of boneless chicken wings tossed in Chili’s honey chipotle barbecue sauce and served with a side of ranch dip and celery sticks for $2.99 (a full order is $4.99); and the Jumbo Soft Pretzels, which come in three and are typically served with cheese dip for $4.99, though we didn’t get the cheese dip.
Nicole told me that on one of her previous visits, the friendly bartender, Michael, had suggested in place of the cheese dip she try dipping the large pretzel sticks in alfredo sauce. That really intrigued me, so I agreed to get the alfredo instead of the cheese.
The Skillet Queso came quickly after ordering, less than two minutes. It was just as good as I’ve come to expect at Chili’s as it’s an item I’ve ordered numerous times, but this time it was bit cheaper than normal; usually it’s $5.49.
The half-order of boneless wings (five wings) followed a few minutes later. The honey chipotle sauce has a sweet taste at first and a bit of a kick comes after the initial taste. The wings were cooked just right in my opinion without too much batter surrounding the meat. Again, the price during happy hour on these wings is great: a full order (10 wings) is usually $8.69.
The most interesting part of the samplings came with the pretzel sticks dipped in the alfredo sauce. It was definitely a different flavor than the typical cheese sauce or mustard (depending on your preference when eating a pretzel whether it’s at a ball game or a sit-down restaurant). The alfredo was creamy and spiced right without being too heavy or rich in flavor.
Since we were only sampling — neither of us were looking to get filled up on appetizers, though by the time we left we weren’t exactly hungry anymore — we packed up what we had left of everything, except the wings since we finished those, and headed back to the Daily Press office to offer the remains to the evening crew laying out the news pages.
I set everything out on my desk and after I explained a bit of our visit, everyone in the room came over to sample the food. It seemed, from my point of view, to be a resounding positive review from everyone who tried what I’d brought back.
And while the food really was good and fun to try (especially the alfredo sauce with the pretzels), the shining star of this happy hour visit has to be the service, which Nicole described as “top notch.” The high-quality service, combined with the decent prices and the tasty food, this columnist gives Chilis’ happy hour five out of five stars.
Martial Haprov writes Happy Hour, a weekly column focusing on food and drinks offered at discounted prices at Victor Valley eateries, in the Food & Drink section of the Daily Press. Have a suggestion for the column? Drop him a line at MHaprov@VVDailyPress.com.