Midtown Happy Hour: Skip Cornerstone and Head to Opal for a Cinco de Mayo Redux
I haven’t really found any inexpensive Mexican bars in Midtown. There’s some fine places to get Mexican food, like El Rey del Sabor, or the out of bounds Tulcingo Del Valle (and I finally got Zach to write about Las Poblanitas this week!) But none of those places really qualify for a ML happy hour. So, when Cinco de Mayo came up this Tuesday I was a bit at a loss where to take everyone. We decided to make the best of it and just bar hop in search of a good margarita and happy hour. Every bar was offering Cinco de Mayo specials after all, so we kept it simple.
Our first stop was the Cornerstone Tavern. They had $5 margaritas, Hornitos shots, Coronas and an assortment of $4 drafts. Free chips and salsa were at the bar and the decorations came straight from your local party store. The ‘ritas were too sweet, but satisfied the craving. I doubt they have free chips on a regular night and the happy hour special wasn’t that great so I’d suggest skipping Cornerstone (which is what we did after one drink.) That’s when we came across Opal: a cocktail lounge serving up 2 for 1 quesadillas and drinks ’til 9pm. This was clearly the place to go. There were two bars sections, and the main bar in the front had some of the coolest punk rock artwork that I have yet to see in the corporate blandness of Midtown.
The back room hosted a darker bar with a little bit of an open floor to get your groove on. The place was busy at 7pm but we easily scored some standing room at the bar. As opposed to your usual internet jukebox there was a live DJ spinning an eclectic mix of European-Alternative pop to old-school new wave and rock. Like the music, the patrons were also a good mix of cultures (aka not too heavy on your bland corporate types.) Manning the bar were two pretty young dolls that quickly poured a mean drink and kept your glasses full. Like always, here’s some eye candy (this week, it’s for the boys):
Unlike some 2 for 1 specials the bartenders at Opal don’t mess around with any silly drink tokens. Instead you get both your drinks up front. Two fisted drinking here I come! We ordered a couple of Jack Daniels on the rocks ($8), well drinks ($7) and Stoli sodas ($8). Once they were all poured and on the bar, it was like I was already seeing double. Needless to say we didn’t leave for another bar. Although the drink specials are a regular part of their weekly happy hour, the two for one quesadilla special was only for Cinco de Mayo. However, it turned out there was also a company party going on with a full spread of appetizers and we were invited to partake. We tried the shrimp poppers ($14), spinach dip ($12), sliders ($9 for 3) and chicken wings ($9).
Though we were lucky (and cute) enough to score some free food, there are some items worth paying for. I’d go back for the sliders, which were nice and charred on the outside and red in the inside and topped with caramelized onions. The wings were pretty standard, not crispy, but good enough for a night of drinking (and with these strong drinks you’ll need the grease.) The breaded shrimp and spinach dip were probably the worst of the lot and I’d avoid them. All in all, pass on Cornerstone and walk the extra blocks to Opal. Even though it can’t be Cinco de Mayo everyday, their weekly happy hour will make you feel like it is.
The +/- will be a mix of both bars this week:
- Cornerstone has a decent happy hour especially on beer
- Opal’s happy hour is unusually long (till 9pm!!) and gives you the most bang for your buck with 2 for 1 drinks on Tuesdays and more drink specials every evening. http://opalbar.com/
- Food at Opal is good in that basic salty, greasy, bar & grill way
- Hot bartenders and live DJ
- Diverse crowd
- Cornerstone’s ambiance is pretty bland and basic
- Opal was perfect on Cinco de Mayo, but I’m not sure if every happy hour there is this fun and diverse
- If you don’t enjoy double fisting, you may not be into Opal
Cornerstone Tavern, 961 2nd Ave (btw 50+51st St.), 212-888-7403
Opal Bar & Restaurant, 251 E 52nd St, (btw. 2nd+3rd Ave), 212-593-4321