Happy Hour: Martini Modern Italian

The Short North's Martini Modern Italian is swanky: High-quality food and refined cocktails are served on an elegant white-top bar. But don't be fooled by appearances. Martini is anything but ostentatious - an uber-friendly and knowledgeable bar staff and outstanding early-evening deals make every patron feel like living the life of luxury is right up their alley.

The booze: 
As you can probably guess, Martini specializes in cocktails of the straight-up variety. Any concoction you can imagine is available for low-cost sipping during happy hour.
In the mood for high-end vodka or well-aged bourbon? You won't break the bank. All liquors - top-shelf or well, neat, on the rocks or mixed - are only $4.

I opted for one of their signature drinks, the Apricot Sage. Served in a martini glass, this combination of Woodford Reserve bourbon, apricot nectar, fresh-squeezed lemon and house-made sage syrup was the highlight of a cold and blustery week. A sage leaf garnish gives the sweet, cider-colored beverage a sharp aroma.

Other signature drinks include the pear vodka and St. Germain martini with fresh-squeezed lemon, as well as a couple of refreshing drinks served on the rocks - Italian Grapefruit Gimlet and the Short North Tea.

The food: 
The ambiance and superbly priced drinks will draw you in, but the half-price appetizers will keep you for a second round.

Parmesan-covered Beef Carpaccio ($7) pairs just a touch of salty cheese with a thin slab of raw beef. It's topped with a gorgonzola cream sauce and a crunchy-outside, soft-inside polenta cake, and you'll order a second helping. I guarantee it.

If raw meat isn't your bag, Martini's first-rate bruschetta ($4.50) or pan-seared sea scallops with mascarpone polenta ($7) are tasty alternatives.

There's also Martini's famed antipasto plate ($8.50) - an absolutely beautiful appetizer, even though it's mislabeled. With prosciutto, soppressata, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella and Cambozola cheeses, white bean salad and perfect, pancetta-wrapped figs, it could easily be an entire meal.