The Hours: Enjoy drink specials and cheap appetizers every day of the week from 3 to 6 pm. Reverse happy hour also kicks in from 10 to 2 am Sunday through Thursday, or 11 to 2 am Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, there are no appetizer specials during reverse happy hour, so stick to the cheap drinks.
The Details: $2.75 well and domestic bottled beer, $3.50 featured draft, and $3.75 margaritas round up the deals on drinks. Between 2 and 9 bucks will score you some cheap apps like tequila shrimp, crab cakes, quesadillas and the tacos.
(the happy hour break down after the jump)
The Interior: The atmosphere in Carlsbad Tavern mirrors the cave it's named after. The décor may be a little cheesy, but it's definitely fun. After walking up the wooden bridge and observing the water fall and lagoon area, enter the bat cave. Bats hanging from the ceiling, bats tacked to the wall, a field guide for identifying bats in the wild, you get the picture. Carlsbad Tavern takes their bats serious, but they also keep it tongue-in-cheek. The bar inside is modeled with a cantina feeling in mind, and has a hot tin roof surrounded by plenty of chile pepper lights. Happy hour seating is available at the bar or at several huge, comfy booths (upholstered in the requisite Southwestern color scheme, of course).
The Cost: One bottle domestic, a couple of wells and two appetizers came to $16.50 before tax and tip.
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The Conclusion: Carlsbad Tavern is a fun destination to mix it up at happy hour, although it's more conducive to small groups than a large mob of folks. The drink specials are decent if you're interested in wells or domestic bottles, but if you're craving anything other than that or a margarita, you're out of luck. So make sure your happy hour tastes align with the menu or you'll be stuck paying full price.
The same love-hate relationship exists with the appetizer selection, which is comprised of about ten offerings that range in price between 2 and 9 bucks. This is a pretty big spread, and almost 10 bucks is hardly a deal for happy hour. Order smart though and you can eat like a king for cheap.
The New Mexican pot stickers ($4.50) are one appetizer that is definitely worth the price. Filled with Anaheim chiles and chicken and surrounded by a salty sweet corn sauce, this Asian-New Mexican hybrid is plenty filling for the price. The price is right for the green chile cheese crisp ($3.75), although a heavy hand with the salt shaker was needed to finish up this bland cheese crisp.
Overall Grade: B