Happiness is a tricky thing. It’s quite the elusive noun because it’s not tangible, like a xylophone. It’s not visible, like a shadow.

You can’t even hear it, like a Carpenter’s song. (And I’ve only just begun.)

Although we certainly know when we’re unhappy, happiness can sometimes just ease in and ease back out. Sure, a big ol’ dose of it can be caused by your recent Anthropology spree/Himalayan trek/supafly booty call, but often we just coast along, somewhat dis/content and try to grasp at that greased pig we call happiness.

Thankfully, there’s Happy Hour.

I don’t know what genius first created cheap drinks immediately after work, but I for one would like to give him a big ol’ smooch. (And yes, I’m certain it was a man. A chick would’ve done… oh, I don’t know… cheap pedicures or something. I anxiously await the merging of the two. Someone, get on that.) What better way to cause a big jump in happiness than getting your tipsy on after leaving the bossman?

Shango Bistro & Wine Bar here in Buffalo is the closest thing I’ve found to nirvana. (Being an atheist, that’s a big leap of faith that I don’t have, but I digress.) Conveniently located across of the south campus of the University of Buffalo, Shango wisely serves no hard liquor, thereby sparing themselves of hiring a bouncer to cast off young’uns looking for Jell-o shots (another near-intangible noun if ever there was…) But beer and wine? Done and done.

Owners Jim Guarino and Marla Crouse are both fantastic at what they do. Jim mans the kitchen and dishes out some tasty New Orleans-inspired fare while Marla sips her way to the perfect wine list. Jim’s menu includes catfish po’ boys, Creole bouillabaisse, homemade mac-n-cheese, and the infamous bananas foster. He’s also a beer enthusiast, which is confirmed by Shango’s impressive beer list. Marla has made it her modus operandi to seek out interesting wines from lesser-known areas, and I’m pleased to report that she has both Scheurebe AND a biodynamic Gamay by the glass. Swoon. That they are newly wedded to each other solidifies their status as the epicurial power couple of western New York.


Already feeling pretty damn ok, I
wandered over there this past Thursday for Happy Hour to get positively
goofy. Happy Hour kicks off at five and is doubly happy since it lasts
until 7. It was packed, which is happening more often then not, and
which further increases my happiness since many places I like in
Buffalo seem to have a hard time staying afloat.

We forced our way through the crowd to
a little table opposite the bar and claimed our territory. Marla
scooted by to hand us the wine and menu specials before having to
attend to a few customers. Despite being rather limited due to our own
annoying veggie-ism, I was thrilled (synonym for happy, after all) to
see the avocado spring rolls with sun-dried tomatoes,
roasted corn, cilantro cashew pesto and chili pepper garlic sauce on
seaweed salad listed. It remains my go-to menu selection and I often
make that my dinner. (Which was the intention that night, but we got a
little too happy and assaulted a lot of cheese at home. It
wasn’t pretty.) One of my friends ordered the chicken and sausage gumbo
and, being an avid ‘Nawlins frequenter, was raving about it. The gents
ordered Allagash Double, a Belgian-style ale. According to my
chivalrous escort Paul (who is about beer the way I am about wine –
take that however you wish), it’s a “decent American micro version… but
I have 6 better in my cellar right now.” For this non-Beer Chick, I
thought it was pretty damn good. Sure, it was big in flavor, but Paul
pointed out that it was brewed towards the American palate, so it is a
bolder flavor than a traditional Belgian. Which means, I suppose, that
I liked a Goats Do Roam of beer? I don’t know how I feel about that…

I started with Colonia
las Liebras Bonarda
. It’s simple, straight-forward, and since there
were no esotericas featured for happy hour, what could I do? I drank it
because, well, it was in front of me. And, to be honest, unless I’m
with wine geeks, I rarely want to spend time analyzing the crap out of
something because I don’t want to be that person. For the
second round, the gents got Wolaver’s Brown Ale. I didn’t taste it
because I’ve had it before and I do like it. I also like Wolaver’s
because they’re organic, but I’m thinking they’re kinda like Bonterra
and end up the go-to organic beer because they’re big and have invested
in marketing.

My second glass was a Rosso di Toscana by Il
. Again, not the most profound wine in the world, but I heartily
enjoyed it as the bliss increased by the hour. (And c’mon – how can I
not enjoy something with Cannaiolo? The amount of vowels alone make me

After that, things get
blurry. I know we stayed to watch Leeron Zydeco set up and jam away on
his mighty keyboard, and I’m pretty sure I drained another glass of the
Toscana. The gents get another round or two of Wolaver’s. A camera crew
showed up to do a feature on a local news network just as the kitchen
fan broke, the resulting smoke of which I assured Marla lent
authenticity to the joint. I stumbled out quite happy indeed.

Until this morning.
Happiness fled from me at some point during the night and sent in it’s
evil twin, Hangover. Bah. But I’ve already marked my calendar for my
next date with Happiness, which coincidentally lands on a Thursday
between 5 and 7 at Shango. At least this time, happiness is predictable.