Folks in Issaquah like to drink in the afternoon, apparently. At 5 on a recent Wednesday, many parched would-be patrons anxiously circled the Coho Café bar in a futile search for an empty stool or table during happy hour (3–6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close daily). The big, diverse crowd was like a cross section of an Eastside demographics report: Young execs in striped oxford shirts sipped Stimson Cellars merlot ($3.50) while scrutinizing legal-size documents in leather portfolios; well-coiffed older women laughed over rum and Diet Cokes ($1 off); and construction workers in stained sports T-shirts and twentysomethings with flip-flops and manicured toenails soaked up draft beer ($1 off). Because the happy hour area includes several all-ages booths, a handful of surly tweenagers added sweatpants and Game Boys—duds I have not observed in a happy hour setting since I visited Butte, Mont., two years ago—to the in-house couture. When I first sat down, I felt like I was in an upscale, copper-accented TGI Fridays, but my first bite of the beer-battered halibut taco ($3.50)—perfectly crispy and spicy in its warm tortilla with chipotle lime mayo—assured me that Coho knows fish. Luckily, the happy hour menu has lots of it, including seared ahi ($6.95) and crab cakes ($7.50). I guess cheap alcohol and great seafood are the social glue that bonds all Eastsiders, appearances be damned.
Coho Cafe 6130 E. Lake Sammamish Pkwy., Ste. A, 425-391-4040, www.cohocafe.com. ISSAQUAH