Grab the Bar Menu, Lose the Boat Shoes, at Kirkland's Fish Cafe

Snub a good happy-hour deal, and you might as well just eat your cash with a knife and fork in my book. So when not one but two surrounding tables of diners at the Third Floor Fish Cafe made a point of asking the waiter to swap the cheap bar menu for a regular dinner menu during happy hour (4–6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close Mon.–Sat., all night Sunday), I thought I'd stumbled onto the set of Brewster's Millions. Then—seriously—I overheard one guy say, "When I go boating, I hate it when people don't bring their boating shoes when they get on the boat," and I understood that I was, in fact, in a parallel universe: downtown Kirkland. Basking in the golden Sunday-evening rays reflecting off Lake Washington through the tall bar windows, it felt pretty swell to be an interloper in the Tommy Bahamas lifestyle via half-off bar food, $3 draft beer, and $4 wells and wine. The bar menu is an eat-with-your-hands version of the fussier dining-room fare that includes fish tacos, artichoke dip, chicken samosas, and ribs. The thick, rich chowder ($3.50) comes with meaty chunks of clams in a foot-wide, inch-deep bowl. Add a glass of Mac and Jack's African Amber and five crunchy pieces of battered cod and fries ($5), and even my husband's bottomless stomach began to wave the white flag. My steak sandwich ($5) was tasty, if somewhat light on the promised horseradish in the horseradish mayo. Good thing all the background yacht talk had some kick.

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