It takes a lot of gusto to name a restaurant after an expression that brings thoughts of warm smiles and boisterous laughter. It turns out that co-owner Alycia Prather had herself in mind when opening in the former location of recently relocated Hunger. The moment you hear her laugh, which she does often while serving up craft cocktails from behind the cozy bar, you’ll understand why.
The menu: I arrived for dinner expecting American and Mexican classics, based on what other customers were saying online. But unfortunately, the biggest Ha! moment turned out to be the curious lack of Mexican food, except for the black-bean quesadilla ($8) on the appetizer menu and a green chili burrito on the breakfast list ($9). The Spanish steamed clams appetizer ($11), along with the seasonal mushroom and butternut-squash gnocchi ($14), beef bourguignon ($14) and steak frites ($17) point across the Atlantic, not south of the border. Prather says the menu was overhauled in early December due to turnover in the kitchen.
The sandwich menu — featuring a brioche burger ($9), sriracha grilled chicken ($11), crab melt ($13) and pinto-bean veggie burger ($10) — brings the cuisine closer to home.
What to write home about: The big bowl of butternut-squash and pear soup ($6) that my guest and I shared for a starter was the hands-down winner during our visit. Smooth and creamy with exotic sweetness and spice — and baguette slices for sopping — the dish was nourishing all on its own. My crab melt was a bit too salty for my taste but otherwise a good follow-up to the soup.
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What to skip: Pinto beans might not be the right choice to use in a veggie burger. The burger lacked both firmness and a satisfying texture.
The setting: Two small rooms painted in rich tones of orange and green, with low lighting and chill-out music, create a lounge-y atmosphere, perfect for enjoying Ha!’s signature cocktails.
Summing up: Butternut-squash and pear soup, crab melt and pinto-bean burger came to $29, plus tax and tip.
Tyrone Beason: email@example.com