Jak's Grill, a local chain with locations in West Seattle, Laurelhurst and Issaquah, has 'em lined up at the door for happy hour.

HAPPY HOUR |

The faithful come to Jak’s Grill in West Seattle early, as in, the-doors-aren’t-even-open-yet early. They stood outside on a recent Wednesday afternoon, a dozen strong, shivering, hands in pockets, waiting for the clock to hit 4:30. All 20 seats were occupied within 10 minutes.

A day later, at the Jak’s Grill in Laurelhurst, there were about five happy-hour-goers waiting for the bar to open.

Managers at both restaurants say they aren’t even the busiest. That distinction goes to the Jak’s Grill in Issaquah.

This local chain of restaurants has seen its happy hours earn cultlike status in the past 12 months. No one saw this coming.

It’s not a bar synonymous with pizazz. None of that repurposed or distressed décor that’s in now. It doesn’t play the hip and trendy game. Its patrons tend to be in the 40-up-to-retirement-age range. (That’s especially true at its West Seattle location.)

Jak’s is a cozy, unpretentious joint with a good happy-hour burger — a loosely packed patty, grilled to a smoky finish, pink in the center. The kind of burger your neighbor grills on the Weber during the July Fourth weekend, topped with tomato, lettuce and onions, and for a buck more, two slabs of Cheddar. The soft buns absorb the drippings from the half-pound burger. Comes with fries.

A huge mound of onion rings, a grilled-chicken Caesar and some shrimp and beef dishes are on the $5 menu. But it’s really all about the burger here — just an old-fashioned burger.

There are better happy hours without the wait or crowd. Hard not to like Jak’s, though. On a recent visit to the Laurelhurst location, I ordered the BBQ sandwich. When the bartender asked how it was, I said, “Eh, I’ve had better.”

He disappeared to the kitchen, returned two minutes later and said, “You’re right. I tried it. It’s not up to our par. I’m taking it off your bill.” (He didn’t know I was a reporter.) Later, when the check came for the beer, he apologized.

Laurelhurst: 3701 N.E. 45th St.; happy hour from 5-6 Mondays-Thursdays and 4:30-6 p.m. on Fridays.

West Seattle: 4548 California Ave. S.W.; happy hour runs from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

Issaquah: 14 Front St. N. Happy hour from 4-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (Jaksgrill.com).

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com