Open since late last fall, the Polaris area Wharf is the newest - and best - incarnation of the Columbus legend originally christened in the 1970s. Like previous Wharf iterations, it's an old-school hoot run by the Chalkias restaurant family of Greek and seafood fame.

Some people have a sweet tooth - I have a cheap tooth. Yeah, I can't eat enough of that inexpensive stuff.

But hey, I want those low prices to buy me high quality. That's why for years and years, I've been hunting down and writing about great happy hour deals at otherwise dollar-demanding restaurants.

While those happy hour bargains are hard to beat, they're fraught with roadblocks. Namely, cashing in on them entails playing an inconvenient game of beat-the-clock. Also on the "con" side of that ledger: The same alluring values are almost never offered during leisurely weekends.

Enter Fisherman's Wharf.

Open since late last fall, the Polaris area Wharf is the newest - and best - incarnation of the Columbus legend originally christened in the 1970s. Like previous Wharf iterations, it's an old-school hoot run by the Chalkias restaurant family of Greek and seafood fame.

Keeping up with that reputation, this Wharf is accommodating and eye-catching, and far from stuffy or chi-chi. Similarly, though there are some "fancier" dishes, most of the Wharf's unpretentious and straightforward fare (read: retro) relies on freshness and simple preparations for impact. But that freshness can cost you, as many entrees climb into the upper $20s.

Enter Fisherman's Wharf happy hour bonanza.

Generously offered Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and, most invitingly, all day Sunday (!), during the Wharf's happy hour, a long list of adult beverages is discounted, and 10 small plates are sold for a song -plus five bucks. Now that's a Sunday munching price I can get behind.

Thus did I find myself at the large rectangular bar around halftime of the first NFL game - that's about 2:30 to the football challenged. Within minutes, my eyes became fixed on the huge pigskin-beaming flatscreen, and my mouth began working on these things (served from a special, bar-only happy hour menu):

Fried Right

• Calamari Sure it's an overworked cliche, but that cliche still pleases when cooked correctly - as it is here. Crispy on the outside and fresh and super tender on the inside, this squid's perfect with just a squeeze of lemon, but comes with a potent aioli.

• Shrimp Unlike oceans of lesser shrimp in town, this excellent butterflied sextet arrived sweet and unencumbered by unattractive iodine flavors.

• Fish When I was informed the fish variety changed regularly, I was bummed to hear usually underwhelming tilapia was featured that day - until I ate the big, plump, juicy, black-pepper-dusted and clean-tasting filet; it came with chunky and pickly homemade tartar sauce.

Fancier Grub

• Shrimp Santorini Another half-dozen nice-quality shrimp (this time unfried) was perkily sprinkled with warm feta and graced with sun-dried tomato and basil oils. This one's rich and salty and looks as good as it tastes.

• Ahi Tuna Thin, attractive slabs of sashimi-grade tuna were rimmed in black and white sesame seeds, edge-seared and plated with wiggles of wasabi sauce plus sweet soy on the side.

• Smoked Salmon Bruschetta A terrific trio of pita toast points layered with thickish rolls of silky, smooth fish were topped with a killer, caper-dotted tzatziki.

Fish-free

• Pita Pizzas Made with grill-toasty pita loaves, nice tangy tomato sauce and melted cheese but skimpily applied toppings, these were nothing special.

• Cheeseburger It was big and chargrilled and came on a nice toasted bun, but like the mini pita pizzas, didn't exhibit this place's strengths.

Photos by Jodi Miller

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Fisherman's Wharf

1611 Polaris Pkwy., Polaris

614-431-1411

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