Eat like a king on pauper's pay during happy hour

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Happy hour is the new early bird.

Many of South Florida's finest restaurants offer five-star dining at two-star prices during social hours in the bar.

So get happy. It's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Try Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Truluck's, Cut 432 and the Mai-Kai. These are just a few upscale spots offering half-price deals on entrees and appetizers paired with top-shelf sips.

A friend and I recently bellied up to the bar at Truluck's in Fort Lauderdale and shared an incredible $9 jumbo lump crab cake (it's an $18 appetizer in the dining room), $7 perfectly fried calamari, $7.50 crunchy shrimp and two cocktails for $6 each.

We, and our wallets, left full. The bill was less than $36.

So don't wait for a special occasion to enjoy the good life at these happy-hour hot spots, which also got two thumbs-up from our fabulous dining critic, John Tanasychuk.

Cheers!

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse: The Sizzle, Swizzle and Swirl menu is served from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Coral Gables. Entrees and drinks cost just $7. Try the Prime burger with fries or the crab BLT. Wash 'em down with a blueberry mojito or Ruth's Manhattan among others. Info: RuthsChris.com.

Truluck's: The chain, also in Boca Raton and Miami, is known for stone crab claws caught by its own fleet of fishing boats. Loosen up with top-shelf pours for $7 or less all night Sunday and 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Oysters Rockefeller, normally $19, cost $8.50. Info: Trulucks.com.

Cut 432 in Delray Beach: This hip steakhouse on Atlantic Avenue has a snappy happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. daily. Throw back a $5 blood orange margarita or a $3 house wine. Snack on $5 Oysters Rock or truffled mac and cheese. Info: Cut432.com

Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale: Sip a Zombie and step back in time at this midcentury Polynesian gem in Oakland Park. Hang loose with half-priced appetizers (crab Rangoon!) and drinks (mai tai!) in the Molikai bar from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. On Wednesdays, there is a free buffet with $10 purchase, too. Info: MaiKai.com.

What's your deal? Email dchristensen@sunsentinel.com.

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