Time was, a trip to the Academy Theater in Montavilla meant just one thing: dinner at Ya Hala beforehand. But that changed when the Observatory opened and divided our loyalties with its siren song of golden rosemary-garlic fries, inventive twists on cafe standards and a veggie burger that even carnivores order repeatedly. The soothing color scheme, accented by a minimalist chandelier, helps create a casual-chic vibe (though the concrete floor does add to the ambient sound level). A spacious bar hints at the elaborate cocktail menu, but don't be fooled into thinking the Observatory is just a glorified bar. Try the mussels, which are served in either a ginger-sake broth or a white wine one that's dotted with chorizo. No matter your entree, you won't have room for dessert. Which is fine—we'd rather end things with one of their sweet-toothed cocktails. Come to think of it, maybe we'll stay for another, and skip the movie. HANNAH FELDMAN.
What to drink: Two allspice-spiked Spiced Manhattans and I'm under the table.
Happy hour: $3 draft beer and well drinks, $1 domestic cans, $5 house wine and cocktail special, $2-$5 insanely generous appetizers 3-6 pm daily and 10 pm-close Sunday-Thursday.
Entertainment: Eavesdropping.