Seattle Weekly's Happy Hours Guide

22 (nee Doors) continues to hold the title of the darkest, loungiest bar on 15th Avenue at night. It's good for cocktails and fine dining with bird-like portions, which serves a discriminating muncher well during happy hour. By day, you can take advantage of its cozy patio to savor reasonable drink specials: draft beers are $1 off, well drinks are $4, and the best bargain is their fine wine glasses for $4, roughly half the usual price. The "naked" chicken wings ($6.50) are exceptional—perfectly fried, with crème fraîche and their house hot sauce—and the mini-burgers ($5) are a popular complement to a beer. But above all, it's the truffle fries ($5), shoestring-style and generously drizzled with the oil of the most decadent fungi, that are the best offering for taste, price, and ability to properly accompany alcohol. You're more than likely to get a server with a personality to boot, so be prepared to mingle. And the best-kept secret is the small plates for half-off late night Friday and Saturday: You can eat a gourmet dinner for under $10. HOLLIS WONG-WEAR 405 15th Ave. E., 324-6406. CAPITOL HILL

Beveridge Place Pub Do you love beer and dogs? Of course you do! Man's best friend wanders freely in this watering hole, one of the few remaining liquor-free taverns in the city. No booze means Beveridge Place doesn't have to serve food, so your dog can hang out while you and your friends sample from more than 100 bottles and 25 draft brews. You can bring in whatever you want to eat, or order a pizza from Zeek's next door (delivered to your lap). But the deal gets even sweeter from 3–6 p.m. (starts at 2 p.m. weekends), when Beveridge knocks a dollar off all Washington microbrews. There are also daily specials like Belgian Tuesday and Anglo-Saxon Sunday that let you sample Europe from a barstool. You and your mutt will love it. LAURA ONSTOT 6413 California Ave. S.W., 932-9906, WEST SEATTLE

Bill's Off Broadway In a neighborhood hyper-concentrated with all that is slim, rustic, and meticulously manicured, Bill's Off Broadway is the real deal: an unpretentious sports bar with little sign of a deep clean or an interior decorator. Regular patrons, more of the tatted-and-grungy variety, hang around the pool table and the bar and seem not to mind that Taylor Swift pops up on the radio. The drink specials alone in their happy hour, 4–7 p.m. every day, are enough to sell you: in addition to well cocktails being only $3.25, they have a whole host of Washington state microbrews available for $2.75. The best thing on the happy hour food menu is the Spinach Dip: fresh and overwhelmingly cheesy. I wish I had downed at least two more beers before reveling in its thickness, but for $3 and seemingly bottomless crostinis, I'd call it the best appetizer deal on the Hill. The Mushroom Boat and Seasonal Mixed Green salad are $2 a pop, and the Sirloin Bruschetta—with melted blue cheese and a strong basil-and-tomato tapenade—was an impressive hors d'oeuvre for $5. The very nice, very inked server informed me that Bill's will be changing its happy-hour menu for the summer to bring in lighter flavors, but that "we're definitely keeping the Spinach Dip." HOLLIS WONG-WEAR 725 E. Pine S., 323-7200, CAPITOL HILL

The Bohemian This Admiral-area gathering place, "where creative peoples choose to converge," has a happy hour as varied as its clientele. Happy hours usually start quietly and end packed with throngs of proud new parents, the local belly-dancing troupe, elderly couples, and working artists (literally painting on canvas right in the middle of it all). The happy hours run Wednesday–Saturday from 3–6 p.m. and all night Tuesday and Sunday, and offer some of the best people-watching in the city. Folks also come for the $4 glass/$15 carafes of stunning sangria, $4 wines and dollar-off beers, well drinks and shared-plates menu. The Bohemian is well-known for its delicious $6 slow-braised garlic "bana calda"-style with Spanish white anchovies or sun-dried tomatoes, and well-loved for perfecting the art of yam fries, served with lavender honey, garlic aioli, or smoky ketchup ($7 for all three sauces). Bring your sketchbook, your honey, or your toddler, and revel in the seemingly lost art of the connected community. ZIBBY WILDER 3405 California Ave. S.W., 938-2646, WEST SEATTLE

The BottleNeck Lounge Chances are you've passed the BottleNeck Lounge a thousand times and never noticed it. And how could you, barreling as you probably do down the hill on Madison Street as it slopes toward Lake Washington? The BottleNeck is a neighborhood joint, though there's a running debate among patrons as to which neighborhood it's actually in: Park yourself on one of the forgiving stools on any given afternoon and you're almost guaranteed to see a verbal row between the Central District and Madison Valley factions over which can actually claim the bar. Otherwise, it has all the traits of a consummate neighborhood pub: comfy with a "who's the new guy?" vibe. The regulars who treat the place as if it's their own rumpus room will welcome you in over $3.50 wells or, if you prefer, a beer from the eclectic assortment of tap handles. Food remains at full price even during the 3–5 p.m. happy hour. But the conversation, which is better and, depending on your partner, weirder than you'd expect to have even on Capitol Hill, makes up for it. VERNAL COLEMAN 2328 E. Madison St., 323-1098, CENTRAL DISTRICT

The Brooklyn If you've already got your tie on, and your seats are saved across the street at Benaroya Hall, the Brooklyn's cheap drinks and snacks are on your radar. But if you're headed for the underground transit tunnel en route to the U District, this chophouse isn't as out of reach as you think (at least between 4 and 6:30 p.m., Sunday–Friday and 3–6:30 p.m. on Saturday). Bombay, Jim Beam, and Bacardi wells are $4, and the oyster du jour is a buck apiece. It may get a little crowded around the bar, and standing room only is the norm. But what is a steakhouse today if not a glorified bus stop with affordable martinis and phenomenal finger food? CHRIS KORNELIS 1212 Second Ave., 224-7000, DOWNTOWN

Cactus on Alki offers a great happy hour on warm days, with pull-up glass doors to welcome summer breezes. Happy hour is 3–5 p.m., seven days a week; a bit too soon for some, but for others a great excuse to get out of the office early. Bebidas include $5 margaritas and mojitos, made with such tangy, fresh juices you'll be hard-pressed to have just one. (Five-dollar sangria, wine selections, and $3.50 Dos Equis beckon those looking for something a little less exotic.) Bocaditos include perfectly balanced $4 grilled jalapenos filled with herbed goat cheese, wrapped in bacon, and served with buttermilk crema; blue corn calamari; and smoked chicken quesadillas ($1 more will get you a Quesadilla de Hongos—"mushrooms" for vegetarians.) For $6 you can gorge yourself on a happy-hour serving of nachos: fresh chips smothered in cheese, roasted corn, black olives, jalapenos, chipotle-tomato salsa, buttermilk crema and guacamole, or camarones d'el diablo, crispy white Mexican prawns with spicy diablo sauce and mango-pineapple mojo. The food at Cactus is reminiscent of that amazing road trip down south you once took—or have been jonesing for. You can't help but leave with a full belly, a burning mouth, and a warm glow to take you out into the night. ZIBBY WILDER 2820 Alki Ave. S.W., 933-6000 (multiple locations), ALKI

Cafe Solstice For anyone wanting to escape the drunken frat boys hanging outside Earl's on the Ave, Cafe Solstice offers a retreat with plenty of hookup potential—for those digging artsy girls or vintage-clad guys poring over chemistry notes, that is. Just as its name suggests, Solstice is a rarity: a cross between an art gallery and lofty lounge, with those manning the counter serving as both baristas and bartenders. And there's no better time to show off your glamorous, nerdy style than during one of Solstice's happy-hour stretches, 4–6 and 9–11 p.m., featuring $1 off drafts such as Stella or Elysian ESB. Even on a busy weekend, you won't have to worry about fighting the crowds for your pint, although you might coax a raised eyebrow from last year's professor sitting nearby, because his latte cost more than your brew. LAUREN LYNCH 4116 University Way N.E., 675-0850. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

The Capitol Club is a rare creature in a neighborhood crowded with hipster hangouts and gay dance clubs. Adorned with velvet curtains, satin throw pillows, and candles, it exudes a casual yet sexy Mediterranean vibe. Hence, it draws an eclectic crowd that includes intimate couples, drunken brides-to-be, musicians, and even belly-dancing troupes. During happy hour (5–8 nightly, all day Sunday), the bar pours $3 wells and beer, plus $4 housemade sangria. You can also nibble on $5 Spanish tapas, featuring mussels, calamari, and roasted potatoes. (If you feel especially indulgent, order the breaded, deep-fried bacon with—wait for it—chocolate-chipotle dipping sauce.) The Capitol Club is best experienced while seated on the outdoor balcony overlooking the neighborhood. But come summer, be prepared to wait for a table. ERIKA HOBART 414 E. Pine St., 325-2149, CAPITOL HILL

Chapel looks like it belongs in The Shining. Blame history: The sinister space is housed inside a mortuary built in the early 1920s. (Apparently, the dead aren't big fans of natural light.) But Jack Nicholson would have to be insane[r] to order a bourbon on the rocks at this bar, as Chapel arguably boasts the most distinctive martini menu in the city, offering 40-plus options infused with every ingredient imaginable, including rosewater, sweet tea, coffee, and blackberries. Getting through the list is a daunting but plausible feat, given that all martinis are $5 during happy hour (5–9 p.m., midnight–close Monday–Thursday and all day Sunday). If you want guidance, the most popular drink is the Chloe, a vodka/vanilla/lavender potion with a sugar rim, named after a resident bartender bearing a striking resemblance to actress Chloë Sevigny. Be careful, though: It's easy to overlook your tolerance when downing glasses of liquid candy in a haze of pretty bartenders, throbbing house music, and darkness. Then again, feeling like death after spending the night in a funeral home may just be inevitable. ERIKA HOBART 1600 Melrose Ave., 447-4180, CAPITOL HILL

Daniel's Broiler Once Seattle's premier fine-dining steakhouse, Daniel's now attracts a crowd that prefers traditional hearty fare, big portions, and a killer view over linen-draped tablecloths and expensive stemware. It's the 180-degree view of Lake Washington and the Leschi Marina that continues to make this one of Seattle's best destination restaurants. That view comes with a price, however—which makes Daniel's happy hour one of the best bargains in town. From 4–6:30 p.m. daily in the bar, you can sample some spendy appetizers for half-price. You can't lose with anything on the menu, but the bacon-wrapped scallops ($8), the jumbo Gulf prawn cocktail ($8), and Daniel's popcorn shrimp with Sriracha chili sauce ($7.50) are crowd-pleasers. There are also martini, draft beer, and wine specials. Though Daniel's has a reputation for catering to a well-heeled crowd, the staff couldn't be more hospitable and accommodating to folks there solely to take advantage of this awesome deal—proof that a spectacular view and good, cheap food puts everyone at ease. JULIEN PERRY 200 Lake Washington Blvd., 329-4191 (multiple locations), LESCHI

Dante's While not as on-top-of-campus as the stately College Inn or as Husky-centric as the sporty Duchess, Dante's remains the most collegiate UW bar, because it's the only one that'll remind you of what bars are like in tiny college towns. It's dark, cavernous, and can be anything to anyone. It has a piano, games galore, a DJ booth, dance floor, and even a Star Wars–centric trivia night. It acts as though it's the only bar in a town where there are hundreds of them. And that's precisely Dante's charm, made all the more alluring by its Thursday-night happy hours, where pitchers of Miller High Life dip to $2 from 8–9 p.m. before ascending to $4 at 9 and $6 from 10 until last call. You'd expect more "Hey, I ordered at 8:59/No, it was 9:01" back-and-forths between cash-strapped students and tip-hungry bartenders. Yet strangely, that rarely seems to happen; instead, everyone orders enough pitchers at 8 to render the turn of the hour inconsequential, and to send them well on their way toward a night to remember that they're sure to forget. MIKE SEELY 5300 Roosevelt Way N.E., 525-1300, UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

Diller Room at Stella Caffé Back in the day, there was a narrow bar-cum-restaurant on First and Virginia called The Virginia Inn. This bar sold good drinks and delicious yet minimal food, and turned up the house beats and fuzzed-up guitars just enough to pump a little extra life into the after-work situation called happy hour. Then they closed for remodeling, and the new Virginia Inn that emerged was just like its neighbors: a classy restaurant with an above-average bar. The Diller Room brings that old-school Virginia Inn vibe to the block at First and University (across from SAM). Pair up their bacon-and-gorgonzola salad with a glass of Bombay and a plate of salami to share (all $5 from 4:30–7 p.m., Monday–Friday), and you've got the finest newcomer the Seattle happy-hour scene has seen in years. If meat and gin aren't your speed, the Grey Goose martinis and Beecher's cheese plate (again, both $5) are where you live. CHRIS KORNELIS 1224 First Ave., 624-1299, DOWNTOWN

Earl's on the Ave While their website claims they make the best drinks in Seattle, "best" clearly translates to "strongest." In that case, it's no lie, and a claim that UW students will devotedly attest to. The $4.50 nightly specials are what cause the most commotion—especially a legendary Long Island iced tea (on Mondays) that's sure to kick you in the ass as fast as you can get it down. And because there are literally no shot glasses in the entire bar, pourings are done by sight, and generously so. If you can still stand afterward, there are a handful of pool tables and a regular weeknight DJ. But this is a place to drink above all else; top-shelf liquors might not be a priority, but you probably won't remember what they taste like anyway. And after a night at Earl's, it will become blatantly obvious that you can't afford not to come back. NICK FELDMAN 4333 University Way N.E., 525-4493, UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

El Gaucho It's hard to believe that when El Gaucho first opened in Seattle more than 50 years ago, it was a blue-collar restaurant where celebrities mingled with locals and diners ate and drank next to an open-pit charcoal broiler until the wee hours. Today, the second incarnation of El Gaucho is one of Seattle's most expensive steakhouses, a throwback to those swanky '50s dinner clubs where what you wore was almost as important as what you ate. It's a big reason El Gaucho was created on a set, a sort of stage to let diners shine. If customers are the stars and the food the supporting cast, then happy hour at El Gaucho is the scene-stealer. Tuesday–Friday from 5–7 p.m. and all day Sunday and Monday, barflies are treated to half-price appetizers. That means that for $7.50 you can get a burger that comes with a half-pound of Angus beef prime top sirloin, or Dungeness crab cakes with roasted red-pepper pesto. For a couple bucks more, you can get the steak sandwich grilled on top of a Gaucho baguette. Baby back ribs (the original 1953 recipe) are a steal at $8. There's also a selection of martinis, wines, and draft beers to wash down this giant dose of nostalgia. JULIEN PERRY 2505 First Ave. (also in Bellevue and Tacoma), 728-1337, BELLTOWN

Finn MacCool's At first glance, Finn's might appear to be a run-of-the-mill Americanized "Irish" pub, complete with trivia night, karaoke, and an official happy-hour menu that only reinforces the concept: $3 drinks and $4 apps materialize both early (4–6 p.m.) and late (10 p.m.–midnight). But the bar's magic is in its nightly rotation of 8 p.m-to-close specials. During Tuesday's weekly beer-pong tourney, you can cash in on $5 High Life pitchers even if you don't have a paddle in your hand, or drown your losses in $3 Jack Daniels and Jameson shots. Thursday nights—the bane and fortune of college students—offer the allure of $1 Millers and $3 Jäger shots that do their best to keep you from sobering up. And Sunday, for those dedicated enough to keep the streak alive, means half off everything. That's right, everything. NICK FELDMAN 4217 University Way N.E., 675-0885, UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

Fresh Bistro With steak-night Mondays and seafood-boil Wednesdays now gracing the menu, why wouldn't you visit this popular neighborhood bistro in West Seattle? The menu is farm-to-table, and a good value. The regional cuisine isn't your standard salmon and salad; all of chef Dalis Chea's dishes have a unique twist of some sort, like pork-belly banh mi sliders and crispy duck rolls with duck confit and truffled peanut sauce. And that's just the happy-hour menu, offered daily from 4–6 and 9-10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Saturdays). The best happy-hour deal is the bento boxes: all six $5 happy-hour selections for $25. There's also a new vegetarian bento: three $6 bites for $18. Even if you're a meat lover, you'll enjoy the shiso vegetable tempura and plantain poutine with smoked mozzarella and spicy black-bean gravy. That's the thing about Fresh Bistro: Just when you think you've tasted everything on the menu, Chea adds something new, giving even the most loyal customers an excuse to return. JULIEN PERRY 4725 42nd Ave. S.W., 935-3733, WEST SEATTLE

Il Fornaio Admittedly, Il Fornaio comes off a bit stuffy. But don't let the spiral staircase, classical music, and overwhelming number of graying women in pantsuits put you off. This Italian restaurant inside Pacific Place is well worth a visit during happy hour on weekdays from 4:30–6:30 p.m. It features $3 beer, $4 house wine, and—here's where it gets very attractive—a free, all-you-can-eat antipasto buffet. The spread, based on the chef's whim of the day, varies, but usually includes chicken wings, crostini, pasta salad, marinated olives, and an assortment of cheese. If you're too self-conscious to make multiple trips to the buffet table, you can also order off a $5 menu of more substantial dishes like pizza, polenta, and calamari. But really, order another glass of wine and loosen up. It's the uninhibited who make out like bandits in this scenario. ERIKA HOBART 600 Pine St., Suite 132, 264-0994, DOWNTOWN

Industry Lounge Meat markets get a bad rap, especially the ones that can't be bothered to pretend that they're anything other than meat markets. The Industry is that kind of bar. Still cavernous and spare, the former Copper Door has been otherwise spruced up. But a paint job and double flat-screen televisions can't hide the truth: The place is designed to attract power drinkers. The only real difference is that the Copper Door's regulars were 40-something blue-collar types looking to booze, while the Industry's target market is 20-something blue-collar types looking to booze and trawl for strange. In Georgetown, where hipster cool is currency, that'll earn a bar some sneering disdain. But the Industry doesn't care, and that's precisely what makes it so charming. Instead of a diverse whiskey selection, it has an every-day happy hour, when well drinks and pints are both $2.50 from 3–6 p.m. Instead of a scene, it offers the latest in digital-jukebox technology, and the prospect of seeing women gyrate to radio-friendly hip-hop with the sound cranked to 11. But even if you never take to the ambience, it would be hard to deny the drawing power of Taco Tuesdays, where you can eat and drink your fill from 3–6 with a few guys who just knocked off work and then duck out before the lushes show up. VERNAL COLEMAN 6601 E. Marginal Way S., 762-3453. GEORGETOWN

Ivar's at Pier 54 It's amazing what price will do for a person's perspective. Invite a non-tourist to happy hour at Ivar's, and you'll get laughed at. Tell them it's the Ivar's on the waterfront at Pier 54, and the chuckling only gets louder. Volunteer that the happy hour at Ivar's boasts well cocktails and the good stuff on draft for $3.50 from 3 p.m. to close every single day—not to mention ridiculously cheap snacks like four-piece fish 'n' chips for $7—and you've got a friend ready to pick up cab fare. In a city with shamefully few places to sit, sip, and admire Elliott Bay, Ivar has always been there for us, even if we haven't for him. CHRIS KORNELIS 1001 Alaskan Way, 624-6852, DOWNTOWN

Ivar's Salmon House has one of the best outdoor patios in the city. Sitting at the north end of Lake Union, you watch kayakers and sailboats traversing the lake before a striking view of Seattle's downtown. The whole experience is more casual than the harried pace at Ivar's downtown location. But as you enjoy a spring sunset, you suddenly think: "I need to get in another order of fish 'n' chips before happy hour ends!" Relax, because no, you don't. Ivar's doesn't boast the cheapest happy hour in the city, but it has one of the longest: 3:30 p.m. to close every day of the week. It makes you wonder why they even bother with the "regular price" on the bar menu, since there's no excuse for paying the extra few dollars for salmon tostadas, scallops, or kalua pork sliders. And while $4 draft beers aren't exactly a screamin' deal, the price won't go up, so you can have your leisurely fill. LAURA ONSTOT 401 N.E. Northlake Way, 632-0767, WALLINGFORD

JaK's A pioneer in the West Seattle Junction's renaissance, this venerable steakhouse, situated on the neighborhood's main drag, has been keeping it real with comforting, no-frill culinary favorites since 1996. There's also nothing frilly about JaK's happy hour—it's literally only an hour, 4:30–5:30 p.m. Monday–Friday. The abbreviated menu includes a list of $5 items, including a barbecue sandwich and a very hearty burger and fries (they'll be happy to throw on some cheese and bacon for a little extra dough). But in order to take part, you'll first have to find a seat in the packed-like-cattle bar. You'll also have to order a drink, as the happy-hour menu comes with a one-drink minimum. No biggie: Wine is only $5 during happy hour and cocktails run from $4–$6. Draft beers are a buck off. If you're lucky enough to participate in JaK's happy hour, you'll be rewarded with generous portions and even bigger hospitality. JULIEN PERRY 4548 California Ave. S.W., 937-7809 (multiple locations), WEST SEATTLE

La Isla Amid the crowded bars of Ballard lies this charming Puerto Rican joint that caters to those who want to shake up their routine a bit. La Isla doesn't try to compete with the culinary powerhouses nearby, nor the hip new bars known for their specialty cocktail programs. Rather, it's the place to go for rotating seasonal beers, rums, empanadillas (a smaller version of empanadas), and some of the cheapest happy-hour food this side of the Ballard Bridge. Every day from 3–6 p.m, La Isla's bar offers half-off all appetizers and discounts on drafts and bottled beers. Add to that $4 mojitos and $3 Cuba Libres during late-night happy hour (10 p.m.–midnight), and you've really got yourself a beach party. The appetizer list is a long one, but sure bets include the pez gato sliders ($2.99), camarones ($5.49), and pork empanadillas ($2), which are a little on the doughy side but still tasty. The cheap and greasy food at La Isla will be your new best friend when your island state of mind becomes clouded by one too many Dark 'n' Stormies. JULIEN PERRY 2320 N.W. Market St., 789-0516, BALLARD

Licorous The faux-tin ceiling is a stunner, the gauzy pink curtains lend a lovely light to the space, and sitting at the bar you'll get a primer on all the drinks being mixed and muddled before you. These cocktails, which run the gamut from traditional to more esoteric takes on the familiar, are the reason to come for happy hour, Monday–Friday, 5–7 p.m. House cocktails are half-off the normal $10, incentive enough to get here before you might normally begin your evening. The Lark (named for the restaurant next door, also owned by Johnathan Sundstrom) is a flute of pinkness: Prosecco infuses a bit of bubble into pink grapefruit juice and Campari. Their near-Manhattan offers a nice interpretation of the classic brown cocktail; the Santa Maria is made with Elijah Craig bourbon, Ramazzotti, and Santa Maria al Monte, and finished with Orchard apricot and rhubarb bitters. The bartender is more than happy to translate the ingredient list: 12-year-old small-batch bourbon made in Kentucky by Heaven Hill Distillery is mixed with two Italian amaros and topped with apricot brandy and rhubarb bitters. The result is a Manhattan touched with a scent of complex, imported fruit. The eats are less stunning, and your selections are more limited. Pretzel Dots are sliders on miniature pretzel-dough buns, filled with gruyère, coppa, and sauerkraut ($6). The coriander-glazed lamb ribs are better, but not so generous for $13. A single dollar will get you spiced peanuts; two gets you a small dish of olives. Better to enjoy the cocktails and head elsewhere—next door is a nice option—for sustenance. ADRIANA GRANT 928 12th Ave., 325-6947, CAPITOL HILL

Lombardi's Apparently, some people have issues with pomegranate-juice cocktails. Well, of course they're not supposed to taste like Shirley Temples—the whole point of the fruit is its puckery tartness. Lombardi's pomegranate lemon drops have an elegantly astringent zing worthily representative of what its ingredients should taste like, and at happy hour they're only $4, as are a handful of other cocktails, draft beers, and selected wines by the glass. An even better bargain is the food menu: At $4, $5, or $6, any choice is generous enough to be your dinner. (Order two dishes and you'll leave as full as you need to.) The sauce for the spaghetti Bolognese ($4) is succulently meaty; the pizza margherita ($5) is loaded with perky basil; the bruschetta ($6) comes with your choice of a half-dozen toppings—the luscious fig jam could even serve as your dessert. Also generous are the happy hours: 3–6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close, and all day Tuesday. GAVIN BORCHERT 2200 N.W. Market St., 783-0055 (multiple locations), BALLARD

Matador There's really only one way to celebrate pretty much anything—birthdays, anniversaries, getting fired, your new job—and that's tequila. Sadly, neither the tequila nor any other drinks are on special during either the early (4–6 p.m.) or late (10 p.m.–1 a.m.) happy hours at Matador. But if you're going to participate in some south-of-the-border-style revelry, the only way to prevent total booze disaster is to eat. A lot. And for that, Matador can absolutely help. Twelve appetizers are featured on the happy-hour menu, including nachos, fish tacos, or (if you're going to do it right) the habanero fire prawns—all so you can keep pounding shots well into the wee hours with a reasonably manageable hangover to show for it. LAURA ONSTOT 4546 California Ave. S.W., 932-9988 (multiple locations), WEST SEATTLE

McCormick & Schmick's happy hour isn't just the bargain meal against which every other Seattle establishment must measure its menu, it's the nation's happy hour (Monday–Thursday, 3–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–midnight; Friday, 3–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 4–6 p.m. and 10 p.m.–12:30 a.m.; Sunday, 4-6 p.m. and 9–11 p.m.). With locations from Arizona to Alabama, this (partially) rotating menu looks a lot like the land it feeds: a tidy array of cheap beef ($2.95 half-pound cheeseburgers), international fare (chicken quesadillas, $3.95), and seafood (steamed mussels, $4.95). It's also not without imperfections: The oysters are served lukewarm on a plate without ice, the fried-chicken biscuits are to be avoided, and there are no beverage discounts. Peaks and valleys, just like the land we call home. CHRIS KORNELIS 1103 First Ave., 623-5500 (multiple locations), DOWNTOWN

The Metropolitan Grill sports a classic East Coast, old-money vibe, with gleaming brass fixtures, three layers of crown molding, lots of polished wood, and forest-green seats. The best spot in the bar is the circular booth in the back. It seats five comfortably, and feels like an outsized Tilt-a-Whirl. The portions will also make you feel like a kid. The thick-cut onion rings are enormous rounds of breaded sweetness, and the Wagyu burger ($5, like pretty much everything else on the happy-hour menu) is a greasy, melty, juicy steal. Or you can opt for a $3 oyster-shooter trio. The mood is business-luxe, so don't be surprised to be the only person not in a suit. Happy hour begins promptly at 3 p.m. Monday–Friday, and runs until 6. It gets crowded, so stake out a spot early to partake. One caveat: The drinks are not cheap—Manny's Pale Ale is $6, the martinis begin at $11, and a perfectly mixed Negroni will set you back $13. The deal here is food-only; even a Rainier will cost you four green ones. ADRIANA GRANT 820 Second Ave., 624-3287, DOWNTOWN

Mona's is well-known for being one of the only places to enjoy live jazz in Greenlake, if not the only one. It also brings a sexy vibe to an area focused on cozy, casual neighborhood hangouts. Happy hour at Mona's runs 5–7 p.m. daily, with a 10–midnight happy hour Tuesday–Saturday, and features $3 wells and drafts, $5 wine selections, and $5 takes on traditional happy-hour bar foods. Under the sultry red lighting, happy-hour lovers can feast on truffled mini-mac 'n' cheese, goat cheese pizzetta, baked brie, a grilled caesar salad, and a selection of sliders. What makes Mona's great for a happy hour is that you leave feeling relaxed and romantic; it's a great place to start a date, and might make you feel as if it should continue until sunrise. ZIBBY WILDER 6421 Latona Ave. N.E., 526-1188, GREENLAKE

Noc Noc comes off as the twisted love child of the Cheesecake Factory and a gothic dive bar, thanks to its decor: high ceilings, imposing seats, and dim lighting. Mounted above the liquor shelves, a red-eyed demon glowers at patrons and appears to demand they drink themselves stupid. Noc Noc attracts street urchins, suits, and everyone in between during its potent 5–9 nightly happy hour, featuring $2 beers, $3 wells, and $3 tater tots. The bartenders pour the drinks with a heavy hand; their screwdriver is a glass of vodka with orange juice added merely for color. And it only takes a couple to get the well-heeled patrons to loosen their ties and switch to what their more down-to-earth peers have been nursing all night: $5 40-ouncers of Pabst. ERIKA HOBART 1516 Second Ave., 223-1333, DOWNTOWN

Oliver's Twist If bars were people, Oliver's Twist would be Salma Hayek: a deep, dark, voluptuous space with gothic yet playful feminine accents and a quirky sense of style. This extends to the happy-hour menu. Daily from 5–7 p.m. and all night Sunday, Oliver's Twist offers $1 off beer and wine and $2 off specialty cocktails like the Maylie, a sultry blend of vodka, lemon, and pear nectar balanced with absinthe and rosemary. Additional concoctions take advantage of the surprising tastes of cava, rhubarb-tarragon syrup, and Cynar (artichoke bitters), which features prominently in the best-named drink ever: The Artful Dodger. Foodwise, Oliver's Twist offers $1 off everything on its menu, including garlic truffled popcorn, an addictive snack presented in a striped paper bag; tangy fennel-anchovy pizettes with tomato confit, black olive, and reggiano ($7); an explosively garlicky dose of lacinato kale ($4); and a sublime grilled cheese and frothy tomato cappuccino. If I could, I'd spend all my happy hours cuddled in the bosom of Oliver's Twist. Or Salma Hayek. ZIBBY WILDER 6822 Greenwood Ave. N., 706-6673, PHINNEY RIDGE

Palomino Located on the top floor of City Center, this stylish restaurant attracts droves of 20- and 30-somethings, especially at the end of a workday. It serves standard midscale American fare (pasta, seafood, steak), decent but forgettable. However, the happy hour (4–6 p.m. and 9 p.m.–close, daily) is an absolute steal, ideal for a girls' night out or a pre-movie dinner date. Specialty cocktails ($4) include candied apple drops, cranberry mojitos, and pomegranate martinis. Highlights on the appetizer menu ($7 and under) are the calamari, the crab-artichoke dip, and gourmet pizzas loaded with prosciutto, rotisserie chicken, and mushrooms. The evening will feel far more lavish than your check indicates. Better still, your server will validate your parking, so you can enjoy a downtown romp to work off that buzz. ERIKA HOBART 1420 Fifth Ave., Suite 350 (also in Bellevue), 623-1300, DOWNTOWN

The Peoples Pub There are the little nibbles that dot most happy hours, and then there's Germany. It's a wonder everyone in the country that spawned the autobahn isn't enormously fat, if the menu items they've exported to our shores are an accurate representation of their eating habits. Peoples Pub takes the best of German cuisine, in gut-busting portions, and dishes it up to hungry Ballardites. And from 3–7 p.m. (Peoples Pub understands that you need the extra hour to get to Ballard), you can tuck into a bratwurst plate or a burger for $3 off the menu price. (It comes with one less side dish, which your heart will probably thank you for.) And most important, the pub knocks a little off the price of the world's greatest appetizer— deep-fried pickles—and you can wash it all down with a $3 beer, well drink, or vino. The standard happy hour is the only time to get the drink specials, but the food prices drop again at night from 10 p.m.–close. As the Germans would say, "Das ist gut!" LAURA ONSTOT 5429 Ballard Ave. N.W., 783-6521, BALLARD

Pies and Pints The name says it all: This is a place to sate two of man's basest urges, for fine brews and for heavenly, puff-pastry-encased pot pies. The early happy hour (4–6 p.m.) features $1 off drafts from their nine rotating tap handles, and the later version (10:30 p.m.–close) boasts $1 off wells and $2 PBR. But more important, both make available a uniquely delicious twist on fillings for the homemade dough, including mini-Reubens and spinach feta rolls. And best of all, those same windows offer patrons the option of any pie-and-pint combo for just $9. There are other rotating specials, like Sunday's all-day $1 off microbrews and live folk music, but in the end this cozy spot is a gastropub in the best sense of the en vogue term. NICK FELDMAN 1215 N.E. 65th St., 524-7082, ROOSEVELT

The Ram The dual-function Ram Restaurant and Big Horn Brewery fits in well with the upscale shopping-center crowd; even the formidable collection of Husky memorabilia is artfully framed and mounted. But during happy hour, what was a midrange eatery becomes an extremely affordable bonanza of $4–$6 appetizers, including loaded nachos and massive chicken quesadillas. And, being a brewery, both the early and late happy hours also include $3 18-ounce imperial pints of all six of their cheesily-named in-house beers, from Buttface Amber Ale to Total Disorder Porter. The Ram's expansive seating and plentiful TV screens make it perfect for birthdays and football games, but Monday Trivia's $3 32-ounce growlers and Sunday night's half-tab special prove there really is a way to enjoy University Village on a student's budget. NICK FELDMAN 2650 N.E. University Village St., 525-3565 (multiple locations), UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

The Rat and Raven Inhabiting the same two-story space that once housed Paddy Coyne's Irish Emigrant, the Rat and Raven comes from similar stock as Capitol Hill's Clever Dunnes Irish Pub, but takes a decidedly British turn. Though with a significantly cleaner atmosphere, R&R maintains the same wonderful mixture of collegiate and European appeal as its predecessor, with an even balance of darts, pool, and arcade-style video games. And from 3–6 p.m., they offer $1 off most of the surprisingly delicious food and all drafts and wells, then stretch the happy hour into an all-day gig on Sundays—a perfect excuse to watch soccer matches on the big screen. NICK FELDMAN 5260 University Way N.E., 524-3166, UNIVERSITY DISTRICT

Rock Bottom To say Rock Bottom serves huge portions would be a gross understatement—even a linebacker might struggle to clean his plate at this popular chain restaurant/brewery. Happy hours offer $3.50 pints of beer and $5 appetizers from 3–6 p.m. weekdays. Rock Bottom brews its beer onsite; try the Rain City Red, which puts Mac & Jacks to shame. Its appetizers—a pound-plus of buffalo wings, giant ballpark-style pretzels, and colossal nachos loaded with refried beans, cheese, and jalapeños—are akin to entrées. The titan toothpicks, Rock Bottom's signature starter, could be used as weapons: hit someone in the head with one of these crispy tortillas and they're a goner. On warm days, the outdoor patio offers the best seating. You can people-watch from there, and bring your dog. There's more than enough food to go around (and under) the table. ERIKA HOBART 1333 Fifth Ave. (and in Bellevue), 623-3070, DOWNTOWN

Shuckers at the Fairmont Olympic For those of us who can't afford rooms once occupied by the likes of Mick Jagger, Prince, and Paul Simon, a handful of bar nuts are as close as we're going to get to a taste of the good life. Unlike the pleasure of that kid opening the front door for you, the nuts are gratis, and they're just the beginning. The rest of the happy-hour menu (3–5 p.m., Monday–Friday) isn't much spendier. The oysters, shucked at the end of the bar, cost a buck, and come arranged on a bed of crushed ice alongside fresh horseradish, cocktail sauce, and a complimentary bowl of bread, baked on the premises. As far as excuses to leave work early go, this beats the hell out of beating traffic. CHRIS KORNELIS 411 University St., 621-1700, DOWNTOWN

The Signature Lounge Never mind that it's located within the chic confines of Queen Anne, or that it features karaoke four days a week (apologies if listening to off-key renditions of "Single Ladies" is your thing): The Signature Lounge offers the most affordable assortment of Asian happy-hour eats this side of the International District. Prawns, delectable barbecued-pork sandwiches, chicken wings with sweet-pepper dipping sauce—all these can be had for less than $3 during the weekday happy hour. Playing hooky? The first happy hour starts at 3 p.m and lasts until 6. Workaholic? Not to worry, another round starts at the stroke of 8 and lasts until 12:30 a.m. The price of well drinks during both: $2.75. Of course, the heaviness of the pour depends on whether you're a regular and how well you tip. But at those prices, not tipping decently approaches dickishness. VERNAL COLEMAN 530 First Ave. N., 283-6614. QUEEN ANNE

Six Seven Situated "on the edge" of Elliott Bay, Six Seven (in the Edgewater Hotel) pulls off its Northwest-style "mod-lodge" shtick simply because the view is unbeatable. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame glimpses of ferry traffic, the stunning sunset-stained Olympics, and the occasional bald eagle. This is a great location for business happy hours, to impress out-of-town visitors, or even for a relaxed kickoff to a first date. Happy hour runs 3–6 p.m. Sunday–Thursday, and features $6 signature drink specials such as the pineapple-infusion martini (vodka subtly infused with fresh pineapple), $6 wine specials, and $3.75 drafts. Five-dollar food deals include saffron-drenched Penn Cove mussels, sweetly breaded Tiger prawn "corn dogs," and faintly sweet blackberry hot wings. Additional treats include classic fish 'n' chips, sliders, and a Salumi plate with fruit pastes, olives, dry provolone, and grilled artisan bread. Impress some clients with the view, and just maybe you can come back to celebrate after sealing the deal. ZIBBY WILDER 2411 Alaskan Way, 269-4575, DOWNTOWN

Still Liquor Simultaneously grasping at the Prohibition spirit and a restored '20s auto-garage feel, Still doesn't exactly fit into the speakeasy-style mold so prevalent around the city lately. Comfortably dim with big windows and soul music in the background, this watering hole sports the rawness of exposed wood and concrete while matching it with modern comforts like heated seats, a much-appreciated amenity for cold nights on the Hill. It may not be long, but this 5–7 p.m. happy hour offers $2 bottles of Session Lager, $4 wells, and a mystery cocktail special. Because no specific crowd has laid claim to Still, nobody fits in and nobody stands out, making this out-of-the-way bar a perfect launching pad for an extraordinary end to a very ordinary workday. NICK FELDMAN 1524 Minor Ave., 467-4075, CAPITOL HILL

Sushi Kanpai It's possible you were wandering around First Hill near Eighth and Marion one day when you were stopped dead in your tracks by a delicious smell you couldn't quite identify. That smell is Kanpai's spicy baked mussels, covered in scallops, roe (fish eggs), and something they call a Japanese spicy sauce (think Sriracha and mayonnaise). It is one of the best things I have ever had the privilege of putting in my mouth, and from 2:30–5:30 p.m. daily, 10–11 p.m. Friday–Saturday, and all day Sunday, you can get the world's most delicious appetizer for only $4.50. The happy-hour menu is quite extensive, including several decent rolls, sashimi, sake, and several other appetizers. But it's those mussels that should have you sneaking out of work a little early to get started on your evening. LAURA ONSTOT 900 Eighth Ave., 588-2769, FIRST HILL

Toulouse Petit This is a restaurant of no limitations. It says so right on the menu. Chef Eric Donnelly has been keeping a packed house with his French Quarter cuisine since Toulouse opened last November. Donnelly calls it an adult playground: a place where there's something for everyone, whether it's a classic hand-crafted cocktail or a Creole fix you're after. This lively Lower Queen Anne hangout also offers a stellar happy hour with 75 items on the menu, 50 of which cost less than $5. The menu reads more like a book, and is offered twice a day, from 4-5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.–1 a.m. There are entire sections dedicated to oysters, sliders, charcuterie, and even steak. And in a brilliant move, Toulouse also offers a breakfast happy hour from 9–11 a.m. Monday–Friday, consisting of more than a dozen scrambles, omelets, and benedicts, plus French toast and pancakes, for $6. Pair that with a breakfast margarita, and you've got a good ol' Southern recipe for happiness. JULIEN PERRY 601 Queen Anne Ave. N., 432-9069, QUEEN ANNE

Via Tribunali offers one of the best happy-hour deals to be found: $5 cracker-crust Neapolitan pizzas and $3 Peronis. If two of you are meeting at this sleek, dark-wood bar tucked behind All City Coffee, you'll be tempted to order two of each, or perhaps share a half-liter of wine ($8 for house red or white, both of which are more than passable). Call it an Italian take on beers and pie, with the requisite singed-crust entrée a fraction of the usual $11–$16 per-pie price. The choices are minimal: salame (i.e. pepperoni, by Salumi), marinara, margherita (with basil), and—perhaps the tastiest—anchovy, dotted with salty fish you'll pluck off to pop straight into your mouth. The mozzarella is fresh, the tomato sauce made from sweet imported San Marzano fruit. If you can get yourself to a barstool between 4 and 6 p.m. any day of the week (or later, from 10 p.m.–close), the deal is yours. ADRIANA GRANT 6009 12th Ave. S., 464-2880 (multiple locations), GEORGETOWN

Victory Lounge Sometimes you can tell years in advance that a particular bar is going to turn into a total dive. Victory Lounge is such a place. Sure, it's clean now, but keeping this place from becoming completely grimy is going to be like trying to hold back the tide. I once saw two mailmen making out at the door. (One of the mailmen was a woman, but you get the idea.) The happy hour goes from 4–7 p.m. every day and is refreshingly straightforward: $3 wells, $2 PBRs, $7 PBR pitchers, $1 off draft microbrews (there are also deeper discounts on individual days of the week). The liquor selection is pretty extensive: They've got Pabst Blue Ribbon and bottles of Veuve Clicquot. They've got a food menu, but everyone knows hardcore drunks don't eat, so if you want to become a future denizen of this future dive bar, I suggest you just start guzzling PBR pitchers. Now. SURLY GOURMAND 433 Eastlake Ave. E., 382-4467, CASCADE

West 5 is home to bartender Mike Howell, lover and adept wielder of Chartreuse. You'll recognize the bottle of this bright-green herb liqueur that dates back to the 17th century, when it was first created by Carthusian monks. It's not a mixed-drink staple thanks to the strong licorice flavor, but Howell proudly mixes it into one of West 5's signature cocktails, served for a mere $4 from 4–6 p.m. every day. Pair them with any of the appetizers (also only $4 during that two-hour window) and you've practically got yourself date-night-worthy food and drink, provided you don't mind scheduling your evening of romance on the early side. The only thing missing from the happy-hour menu is West 5's famous mac 'n'cheese. But if you go full-price on that, you can save the extra cash by ordering $2.50 pints of Manny's. The lesson of all of this: If your date thinks it's crass to try and squeeze in a delicious meal with drinks for under $20 by eating early, they aren't good enough for you anyway. LAURA ONSTOT 4539 California Ave. S.W., 935-1966, WEST SEATTLE

Yen Wor Village is the dankest hole in West Seattle's upscale Admiral Junction. The happy hour, 3–6 p.m. daily, is so byzantine that it seems that the IRS designed it: 50 cents off Rainier cans and $1 off doubles. But that's not all: Every day of the week has a different happy-hour special. For example, on Mondays Jägermeister shots are $1 off. And to add another confusing layer to Yen Wor's veritable Grand Canyon of happy-hour specials, a dry-erase board promises even more specials, such as $1 off appletinis. However, it goes without saying that if you're ordering an appletini in a place like Yen Wor, you're obviously Terri Schiavo. (Actually, if you're ordering an appletini anywhere, you're pretty fucking dumb.) The best thing about Yen Wor is the killer happy-hour food specials: $5 gets you a pile of fluffy pork fried rice, a greasy but crisp egg roll, and a couple slices of that shitty overcooked red pork tenderloin you can drunkenly buy at Safeway at 3 a.m. But if you're sitting inside Yen Wor Village at 4 p.m. on a weekday, something tells me you probably don't care how dry the pork tenderloin is. SURLY GOURMAND 2300 California Ave. S.W. (also in Greenwood), 932-1455, WEST SEATTLE

Zig Zag Café This favorite downtown watering hole on the Pike Street stair climb has never lacked customers, who flock nightly to see what drink maestro Murray Stenson is concocting. But the less flashy pleasures of an early arrival (5–7 p.m.) are cheap, tasty treats like the olive, almond, and hummus platter ($4). The sautéed calamari ($7) arrives in a neat little pyramid of lemon tomatoes and capers, and is neither too briny nor too chewy. It washes down well with an Imperial IPA ($2.75), or whatever other beer is being featured that night. If you step up to the mini-pizza ($8), you should sample the deep wine list ($4 a glass); we'd recommend the 2004 Waterbrook merlot as a robust companion to the crisp, tidy pie. The happy-hour menu isn't huge, but everything on it is good, including the bruschetta ($6). Still, most people come for the legendary cocktails ($5), some of which are lit aflame in pyrotechnic displays at the bar. Try the One Legged Duck (American whiskey travels to Europe) or Satan's Soulpatch (bourbon kissed with citrus) or whatever's been named and created at the time of your arrival. The Petit Zinc, for instance, is an elegant encounter between Cointreau and vodka. "I could drink these all night," my companion sighed during a recent visit. Well, nobody says you have to leave at 7 o'clock. BRIAN MILLER 1501 Western Ave., 625-1146, DOWNTOWN

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