Spring Hill's rising-star chef bestows his skill on happy hour.

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Happy hour at Spring Hill: not a hard sell to the masses. Its chef, Mark Fuller, is one of our brightest stars. His restaurant is one of the city’s finest.

When his West Seattle restaurant started happy hour Aug. 10, the news on the blogosphere went viral. Commuters from across the city packed into its 8-seat bar.

One couple came from Kirkland. Quite a ways to go for bar food. There are fries, golden and salty, with a meaty aroma from being deep-fried in beef fat. Gives them a McDonald’s frylike flavor. Served with a house-made ketchup and — even better — a house-made ranch sauce that will have you dip and dip again.

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The Beecher’s cheddar grits, blanketed in Parmesan and marinated mushrooms, was an umami blitz.

There are chicken wings — crispy, a bit greasy, but still better than your average pub’s — but not the same signature chicken that Spring Hill serves on Monday nights, which have a two-month waiting list. For that acclaimed Monday fried chicken, you have to, well, get on the wait list. There’s no way around it.

Spring Hill’s happy hour is fine, if you put it in perspective. It’s bar food, not cuisine with the depth and sophistication — nor is it as labor-intensive — of the dinner menu.

But you’ll be rewarded if you read the bar menu carefully. There’s a “daily happy-hour special,” and often that’s a selected appetizer from the dinner menu for happy-hour price. Or a chef’s special. One evening, that bar special was cured salmon with huckleberry purée. On another day, it was beef tartar, covered in egg yolk. Scooped that up with some salty, vinegar chips made from mandoline-sliced fingerling potatoes. One of the more elegant bites you’ll find in a bar.

Spring Hill, 4437 California Ave. S.W., offers happy hour Tuesdays-Fridays from 5:45-7 p.m. with $4-$6 bar food and beers $2-$3.50, $5 well drinks and $3 off wine by the glass (206-935-1075 www.springhillnorthwest.com).

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

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