If you can sit in the lounge of Guard and Grace and order well drinks and small plates without feeling outclassed, you've passed the test. Troy Guard's paean to fine cuts and chops and 2015 Best Steakhouse winner certainly caters to the well-heeled crowd (literally — shoe game on point, ladies and gentlemen), but its "social hour" gives a chance for just about anyone to enjoy Guard and Grace's beautiful space and atmosphere. Yet it still won't stop you lusting for the New York strips being served all around.
Served weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., happy hour at G & G brings a short menu of original appetizers and the usual lineup of drafts, cocktails and wines. But the plates are mostly unique to happy hour, and the drinks are carefully selected. I didn't expect to be wowed by the day's rotating champagne cocktail ($7), but the mix of peach, bourbon and sparkling wine was refreshing and simple the way a discount cocktail should be, and my companions raved about their glasses of house red wine ($7). Six-buck wells and $3.50 drafts of Odell, Firestone Walker and Upslope are also available.
The charcuterie plate ($8) arrived first, truly smashing in its presentation. Although it's a step down from the spread served at dinner, we were presented with a very fine lonzino — cured pork loin — which paired well with a hard sheep's milk cheese. Accompanied by pecans, pepper jelly, olives and some rustic bread still kissed with the essence of good meat on the grill, it was an impressive arrangement, visually and tactically. For something a little more filling, Guard and Grace offers a $10 burger or a pair of personal-size flatbreads. The smoked chicken flatbread ($8) is a mixed-up idea that could have been poached from the likes of McCormick's, but the kitchen pulls it off, dropping the chicken on a tangy guajillo sauce and piling it with cheese and neon slices of jalapeño. And for a chef who's in every business but pizzerias, the sweet and pillowy crust made me hunger to visit a fictional TAG Pizza Bar.
A segue into dinner became a bit of a shock as we contemplated the high price tags and haute-er-than-thou culinary combinations (featuring one of the best house salads I've ever sampled, by the way). Social hour is a calculated step down from the main event at Guard & Grace, but it's unique in its own way. It's worth stopping by for a taste of the good life like you won't find at any other happy hour.
Perfect for: Anyone who really likes to dress up for a night out. There's no official dress code, but you'll feel like the proverbial weevil in the baguette if you show up in a t-shirt. But if you thought Guard and Grace caters exclusively to Gordon Gekko and Ebenezer Scrooge, the steakhouse is celebrating administrative professionals all this week — a nice touch.
Don't Miss: Even though the steaks here are much-lauded, you can still have a good time at Guard and Grace without ordering a slab of meat. My companions loved their salmon, and G&G's fantastic slate of sides could even make a meal if you're determined to stay on budget.