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

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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.

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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

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