‘Eater Eats Under $9

Where I ate: McCormick & Schmick’s, 2000 Main Street, Irvine.
What I ate: 1/2 pound cheeseburger and fries, and an order of Haystack Onions.
What it cost me: $1.95 for the cheeseburger and fries, $1.95 for Haystack Onions and $2.75 for a drink, plus tax.

McCormick & Schmick’s is both a leprechaun’s dream and a macho man’s haven, with its 72-inch flat screen TV flashing ESPN sports highlights, and waitresses waiting on you in short green plaid skirts. After your senses get used to the deluge of Irish-masculine paraphernalia of shamrocks and kegs, prepare yourself for this hidden trove full of cheap food and drinks.

Make sure you go during happy hour, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. until midnight, Monday through Friday for these amazing deals. With a diverse happy hour menu of either $1.95 or $4.95 items, you get much more than your money’s worth. The only catch is that you must order a drink (non-alcoholic or alcoholic — it’s your choice) in order for the happy hour menu prices to be applied.

The cheeseburger is presented on a large white platter, garnished with the usual sides: crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, red onions, a dill pickle wedge and condiments, waiting to be piled on at your leisure. No onions? No problem; you make it to your liking. The burger patty itself is a hearty 1/2 pound slab of juicy, fully seasoned charbroiled ground beef that doesn’t disappoint in size. A generous slice of cheddar cheese is tantalizingly melted on top of the meat in an ingenious concoction of meat and cheese. The soft bun that holds everything together is nothing to complain about either. And what’s a burger without fries? For merely $1.95, you get a restaurant style burger and a friendly side of finely made French fries.

What goes well with this tasty monstrosity of meat, cheese and bun is an order of McCormick & Schmick’s Haystack Onions. These are definitely not the run-of-the-mill onion rings like they sound. Haystack Onions are a pile of crispy fried onion pieces served with a side of dipping ranch served in bountiful portions.

The actual restaurant is relatively dimly lit, with dark green wooden tables and high booths. This place is a few minutes from campus, nestled amidst corporate buildings. Parking is free with validation. Don’t let the dreary looking businessmen drowning themselves in pitchers of beer turn you off. Watching adults come in after their 9 to 5 shifts, plop down at the bar and shovel food and drinks into their mouths as they try to hold conversation with the few ladies sitting at the bar, is almost as, if not more, entertaining as watching the sports highlights on the big screen. It gives you a little preview of what working life must be like. The prices are phenomenal, the food is up to par, and the environment is extremely laid back. If you have a couple of bucks and don’t want to settle for a measly drive-thru dinner, McCormick & Schmick’s happy hour is a great place to feast.