Happy Hour Hound: Hot Joy's truncated offering 

click to enlarge Chicken kaarage - JESSICA ELIZARRARAS
  • Jessica Elizarraras
  • Chicken kaarage
click to enlarge Chinese steamed buns - JESSICA ELIZARRARAS
  • Jessica Elizarraras
  • Chinese steamed buns

It's no secret that we're fans of Hot Joy, the little pop-up that could, and chef Quealy Watson's pride and, well, joy. So when the eatery rolled out a happy hour menu earlier this month, our interests were piqued. And although it is quite literally an hour long, the case can be made for ditching work early to make it into Hot Joy daily from 5 to 6 p.m.

For starters, I can't remember the last time I've left the joint without dropping more dough than I probably should. In this case, the prices are almost ridiculous—house cocktail are $4.99, house wines, available in red and white, are $2.99, the punch of the day is $2.99, the house shot (Fernet-Branca during my visit, which I didn't brave this time) is $2.99 and Lone Star tallboys go for $1.99. Because I had dilly-dallied my way in, I only had 50 minutes to take advantage of the offerings so I made haste and ordered the punch, a mix of gin with a hint of grapefruit juice that paired well with the snacks available.

On the bite side of things, a hefty order of fried chicken kaarage (think popcorn chicken for grown-ups), sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and paired with a funky mayo came in at $5 and was easily shared between two. The Chinese steamed buns ($3 for a pair) were tasty and wee (and made me long for the bigger, but elusive versions available at Kung Fu Noodle off Bandera). Pastry chef Jessica Perez delivered, once more, with a miso caramel cream puff ($2) that was playful, evenly balanced and encased in a textured puff that made for an indulgent couple of bites.

If this review seems hurried, then you'd be correct. By the time we'd polished off most of our bites, the hour was coming to a close. I used my last 10 minutes to order a Soi Cowboy cocktail made with white rum, pineapple shrub, nama sake and aloe juice. The combination proved different—bitter and sour, but still toothsome—and a good end to the speediest happy hour I've conquered in months.

The environment was calm, rare for most HJ visits, but my mad dash to check out the happy hour could have used a few more pals to really turn up. My bill, $19 and change without tip, was my accomplishment for the week—that and zooming in just past deadline with this breezy piece.

Hot Joy

1014 S Alamo, (210) 368-9324, hotjoysa.com

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