Happy hour can mean many things in this town, from your standard $2 tacos and half-price drafts to special small plates at some of Bend's finest restaurants. But of all the happy hours I've taken advantage of (and there have been a few) the one at the Wine Shop & Tasting Bar on NW Minnesota is perhaps most unique. Because it's a shop, the setting is distinctly different from a bar or restaurant and, it turns out, a very nice alternative. On quieter days, this is the perfect spot for a nice glass of red with a book or a pre-dinner Belgian beer on special, but later in the week it can get lively. With high ceilings, dark red walls lined with paintings and racks of beautiful bottles, and clusters of festive patrons chatting around little black bar tables, it'd be easy to mistake the scene on a Saturday for a cocktail party or an art opening. The space, down to the long wide wooden bar that's lower than normal and reminiscent of a rustic dining room table, really lends itself to socializing. Even the music, generally lounge-appropriate and at perfect background volume, enhances the mood. Adding to that, of course, is the ultimate menu for a wine-and-cheese affair-a long list of cheeses and charcuterie, great beer specials and over 40 wines, ports, sakes and champagnes available in tasting portions and by the glass. And the best part is that the party doesn't have to end there. Because it's a wine store first and foremost, you can buy a bottle or two of your favorites and keep it flowing wherever the night may take you.
What: The Wine Shop & Tasting Bar Happy Hour
When: 4:30-6:30 p.m., Tues.-Sat.
Where: 55 NW Minnesota Ave.
Specials: $1 off glass pours and sake cocktails; $2 PBRs, $2.75 selected imports and microbrews, and more.
Why: Happy hour doesn't have to come with a bar stool.