3940 Fourth Ave. (Hillcrest)
Happy Hour: 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 to 11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 to 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
Come On Get Happy! | Dr. Ink
What a shame that subterranean bars are a rarity in San Diego, unlike the basement conversions found commonly throughout the Northeast and Europe. But once you find one, there is an explicit camaraderie that occurs when sloshing with friends beneath the sidewalk, where passersby will never spot you.
Even on warm summer days, the sub-level Kous Kous is a cozy sanctuary that carries the allure of a Moroccan tea tent, except there is alcohol involved and you are, oddly, in the middle of Hillcrest. The imported lanterns and needlepoint fabrics flowing throughout this secluded restaurant set the tone for a restful happy-hour experience that could easily tempt you into staying for dinner.
Owner Moumen Nouri is “the host with the most,” an affable guy originally from Marrakech who steers you to a menu of discounted drinks and exotically seasoned tapas while describing the customs of his homeland, if you so inquire. The bargains are offered twice a day, in late afternoon and resuming again after the supper rush.
From the specialty drinks list, you pay only $4 for a “Moroccan kiss” made with medium-bodied champagne infused with touches of orange blossom water and pomegranate juice. The drink’s floral undertones are balanced with a modicum of St. Germain Liqueur, and yes, your lips feel kissed.
A sweeter smooch comes in the form of a tall drink called “Harem’s,” which mixes brandy with traditional Moroccan mint tea. It’s a versatile drink served iced or heated. Naturally we chose the former as a cool-down on a muggy day. The tea used in the drink is made stovetop and also incorporates orange blossom water before it reduces to a semi-thick concentrate capable of camouflaging the booze in your glass.
Other drink specials include well drinks for $3, a couple of different craft beers for $2.50 a piece and a few wines for under $5 a glass, which includes a perky Merlot-based sangria with cinnamon, rum, clove and orange blossom.
As Nouri delivered to our table a ravishing non-mayo Moroccan potato salad ($3) spiked with parsley, lemon and olive oil, he explained that nowhere in Morocco has he ever found a place conducting happy hour, saying he did not hear of the term until he moved to the United States in 1996.
Lucky for us, he’s on board with the tradition, providing us drinks for 50 percent off, while slinging a variety of other tapas such as gently seasoned kefta kabobs and stuffed endive leaves at $2 off the regular menu prices.
The floral, bubbly elements in the “Moroccan kiss” provide a novel departure from straight-up champagne. Fans of mint tea will love the brandy-spiked “Harem’s” cocktail.
Ginger, cumin and cinnamon are among the spices that come to the forefront in a variety of reduced-price tapas that include ground beef skewers, herby Moroccan potato salad and endive stuffed with lentils and white beans.
The restaurant slashes its drink prices by 50 percent, affording you to partake in a mishmash of tapas that are $2 off the regular menu prices.
Owner Moumen Nouri oversees the operation with heart and soul, ensuring that customers feel right at home in his traditional Moroccan atmosphere.
With two happy hour sessions offered daily, it’s actually difficult to avoid them.