Seattle Times writer Tan Vinh looks back on a year at the area's bars, and picks out his top 10 happy hours.
Another year done. Another year plopped in front of the bar. That’s a lot of chicken wings and sliders. And Negronis. Always the Negronis.
Here’s a list of my 10 favorite happy hours, drawn from a year of noshing and spieling on the bar scene. “Favorite” entails not just the quality of the bar food — though that played a big role — but also something more visceral. Because sometimes, all a boy wants is to hang in a dive bar, with cheap beer and hot chili on a damp, wintry day, and belt out “Psycho Killer.” (You can’t do that at a Belltown bar.) Which is why a Georgetown bar made my list.
Happy hour should be informal and festive, the food cheap, or at least a good value. Unlike your white-tablecloth dining room, a loud environment doesn’t earn a bad mark. It’s happy hour.
Branzino: Some stellar pizzas, ridiculously priced at $6, with interesting toppings. (Egg and bacon; blue cheese, pear and roasted chicken.) Some pretty good bar noshes, like the grilled-lamb meatball. The deep-fried rice balls aren’t a bad consolation prize for vegetarians. The most underappreciated happy hour in Belltown.
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2429 Second Ave., Seattle; happy hour daily 5-7 p.m. and again 10-midnight on Tuesdays-Thursdays, and 10 p.m.-1 a.m. on Fridays-Saturdays. Pizzas and bar snacks $4-$7. Beers, well drinks and wines $3.50-$5 (206-728-5181 or www.branzinoseattle.com).
Brouwer’s Café: A rotating lineup of 63 microbrews on tap and 300 bottled beers behind those taps. One of the few places where you can often find Dogfish Head and Russian River Brewery on tap or by the bottle.
400 N. 35th St., Seattle, happy hour daily 3-6 p.m. with $1 off beers on tap and bar-food specials (206-267-2437 or brouwerscafe.blogspot.com).
Monsoon East: Trendy Eastsiders hit downtown Bellevue or inside The Bravern for happy hour. But go off the main drag and hit chef Eric Banh’s joint for some gourmet noshes: frog legs, Carlton Farms pork ribs, beef carpaccio and his signature bo la lot, flank steak wrapped in leaves and grilled.
10245 Main St., Bellevue, happy hour daily 3 p.m.-closing on Sundays-Thursdays, and 3-6 p.m. and again 9 p.m.-closing on Fridays and Saturdays. A $1 raw bar; happy-hour food $5-$7 (425-635-1112 or www.monsoonrestaurants.com).
Pair: Just seven dishes on the happy-hour list, but each one — from Fontina mac-and-cheese to the grilled eggplant with spiced tomato sauce and an egg, sunny-side up — falls in line with Pair’s penchant for making simple dishes elegant.
5501 30th Ave. N.E., Seattle, happy hour 5-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, food $2-$5, beer and wine $2-$6 (206-526-7655 or www.pairseattle.com).
Palace Kitchen: The kitchen knows how to have fun. Remember the Spam-like edible, made from Berkshire pork, that tasted like Spam? The bar theme now is bacon, including a sweet-potato ball with maple-braised bacon. Wash that down with bourbon infused with bacon. Then come back two weeks later, and you’ll find a new bar menu. Likely something surprising. A bit mischievous, even.
2030 Fifth Ave., Seattle, happy hour 4:30-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Bar food is $3-$4 and beer and cocktails are $3-$4, with weekly happy-hour specials. Drinks only at the happy hour between 11 p.m.-1 a.m. (206-448-2001 or tomdouglas.com).
Poppy: Features the “thali” — five different small bites on a tray. Think of it as five small plates, such as a smoked salmon wrapped around latke, tasted on a recent visit. Many bites are a twist on Indian cuisine, like the roasted cauliflower sesame spread with naan, sprinkled with black onion seeds. One of the city’s most exotic and refreshing takes on happy-hour food.
622 Broadway E., Seattle, happy hour 5-7 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and again 9-11 p.m. except on Sundays when it ends at 10 p.m. The early happy hour features $5 thali; late night, it’s $6 “naanwiches.” Beer, wine and cocktails $3-$5 (206-324-1108 or www.poppyseattle.com).
Serious Pie: One of the city’s best pizzas; the crust tasted like pastry. Watching downtown workers trying to rush in before the 5 o’clock happy-hour cutoff is worth the visit. A second Serious Pie is headed to South Lake Union next year.
316 Virginia St., Seattle, happy hour from 3-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays with $5 mini pizzas, and beer and wine $3-$5 (206-838-7388 or www.tomdouglas.com).
Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack & Watering Hole: A roadhouse-themed bar, Johnny Cash wailing on the jukebox, a cold, wintry day. A pint and some hot chili should sound good about now. Pork, smoked brisket, turkey and beef are your options. That Texas Red chili is a killer. Bits of Angus beef with no beans. A robust, meaty chili with a mild heat lingering in the back of your throat. Kobe hot dog. Hand-cut fries. Food is two times better than it needs to be at a dive bar.
5606 First Ave. S., Seattle, happy hour 4-6 p.m. daily with $3 Frito Pie and “Sloppy Jose,” and $1 off on beer and cocktails (206-762-7900 or www.slimslastchance.com).
Toulouse Petit: I don’t like a third of its bar food. But there are about 60 items on the New Orleans-themed happy-hour menu — something for everyone.
601 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle, happy hour 4-5:30 p.m. and again 10 p.m.-1 a.m. daily. Shared plates $4-$7 (206-432-9069 or www.toulousepetit.com).
Zig Zag Café: An extensive list of original and classic cocktails. The best happy-hour cocktail deal in Seattle. Lots of dry, bitter drinks. Good service and some great talents behind the bar. And to think that I almost made it all the way through a bar story without mentioning Murray Stenson.
1501 Western Ave., Seattle, happy hour 5-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, $6 cocktails (206-625-1146 or zigzagseattle.com).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or email@example.com