Morton’s Bar 12-21 is Just Fine for Happy Hour

We like to eat and drink whether it’s at high-end Michelin-starred restaurants or very casual places, and in very few cases, at national chain restaurants. We make an exception for Morton’s located in downtown San Jose, a high-end steakhouse chain that serves as one of our favorite watering holes prior to going to Sharks hockey games. In San Francisco, Morton’s is often maligned since garnering a zero-star review from Michael Bauer, the Chronicle’s food editor and reviewer in 2010 (the only one he has ever given). A recent survey also revealed that Morton’s is the favorite dining establishment for married people to take their lovers – in other words, the #1 spot for cheaters. We pay no mind to all this negativity because Morton’s in San Jose suits our purpose for pre- and sometimes post-Sharks games noshing. The NHL and the San Jose Sharks are just starting their season now so we’ll be spending some time here to get onto the proper hockey attitude adjustment, especially during their happy hour. We have never eaten in the dining room or tried any of their steaks so feel free to stop reading now if you are looking for the steakhouse experience.

Most, if not all, Morton’s has a separate bar area refereed to as Bar 12-21. No, it’s not named for the hours they are opened (although it comes pretty close), but is named after the date that the first Morton’s in Chicago opened. Morton’s Bar 12-21 offers a more casual place to eat than the formal dining room; but more importantly, it offers excellent dual Happy Hour specials which run from 5:00 – 6:30 pm and again from 9:00 pm until closing — just the right hours to grab some drinks and bites before or after a Sharks game. We’re season-ticket holders, so we come here often and this post documents several visits. Happy Hour deals are plentiful where most of the dishes shown in this post are priced at $6 or $7, and the large Mortinis are priced at $8 – a relative bargain for the high steakhouse quality of food served.

Bartender Melanie, a red-haired beauty from Germany, is usually behind the bar when we visit and she makes a mean Gin Martini with hand-stuffed blue olives:

The generous portion of Fresh Cut Potato Chips and Dip is always a great start:

For those looking for a somewhat healthy option, the Iceberg Wedge Bites might fill the bill; but it’s only healthy if the bacon and blue cheese were held back. The ratio of toppings to iceberg heavily tilts toward the tasty toppings:

Perhaps the healthier option is to get the three rare Ahi Tacos served in crispy wonton skins:

Quite possibly our favorite pre-game snack is the Mini-Crab Cake BLTs. It’s not so much cakes as it is large lumps of crab meat topped with crispy bacon, tomato and iceberg lettuce cups:

Depending on how much attitude adjustment we need, we switch between getting the deadly Gin Mortinis or the Manhattans made with Jim Beam Rye. In either case, two rounds of their drinks always puts us in a proper game-time mood:

The Prime Cheeseburger Sliders is another favorite. Usually served in threes, we ordered a fourth one so we don’t have to fight over the odd burger. Since this is a steakhouse, when the burgers are ordered rare, they arrive at the perfect temperature:

Items from the full menu can also be ordered at the bar, and this Macaroni and Cheese is one of the better versions that we have had. Very rich and gooey, it is the perfect Mortini alcohol absorber when paired with the burger sliders:

Wonder why we always nosh before the game? Because this is what it looks like on the concourse between periods, and the food and drinks at Morton’s is not only better, but also much cheaper:

If the Sharks game ends before 10:00 pm and we feel like celebrating a Shark’s win, we sometimes return for a nightcap or a snack for the second daily Happy Hour. They may not shake artisinal cocktails or serve farm-to-table food, but the bar bites are solid. Morton’s is really one of the better dining options in downtown San Jose, especially before (or after) a Sharks game.

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