3267 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 239-1143, golddustmeridian.com. 2 pm-2:30 am daily.

Since its inception a few years back, the Gold Dust has quietly held up its end as a utility bar for a seemingly endless array of social contingents—from happy-hour account managers to late-night dandies who stop in for a friend's DJ set. The lighting is appropriately dim, the booths are deep enough for privacy, the rear patio is something of a local treasure—unless you ask the persnickety neighbors—the food menu is a step above regular bar fare and includes reliable shellfish dishes, and the beer taps lately pour the Commons Farmhouse Ale. It is a useful bar, and it is a good bar. And if you're not a fiend for Belgian beer (in which case go to Bazi), it's the best bar on Hawthorne. 

Happy hour: 2-8 pm daily. Food specials, 50 cents off drafts and wells, $1 off wine.