It's an open secret: During happy hour, Seattle's bars offer plenty of affordable food to the city's broke masses. Carefully follow this intensive, day-by-day guide to the week's best discounted bar fare, and you'll easily discover how to keep yourself fed and socialized without busting the bank.
If you want a fancy meal on a Sunday, you have several options. The cavernous Il Bistro (93 Pike St #A, 682-3049; happy hour daily 5–6:30 pm, Sun–Thurs 10 pm–midnight, Fri–Sat 11 pm–1 am), located in the Pike Place Market, somehow manages to be simultaneously swanky and low-key. Head to the lounge, which is graced with the loveliest vault windows you've ever seen. If you can live with yourself, order the ground-veal lasagna ($3.95). During happy hour, the pasta dishes are portioned at half-size, but your serving will be ample—a little larger than a lady's fist—and the lasagna is nice and hearty, while a sprinkling of Italian flat-leaf parsley brings a pleasant freshness. If veal gives you nightmares, get the four-cheese pizza ($8, with mozzarella, fontina, provolone, and Parmesan). Also downtown, the Wild Ginger's expert kitchen staff prepares the happy-hour food specials of the Triple Door (216 Union St, 838-4333; happy hour daily 4–6 pm, Sun–Thurs 10 pm–midnight), such as salt-and-pepper squid ($3), stuffed calamari ($4), and Szechuan chicken wings ($5). And in West Seattle, upscale-food discounts abound at Shadowland (4458 California Ave SW, 420-3817; happy hour daily 4–6 pm and Mon–Thurs 10 pm–midnight), including a yummy Wagyu cheeseburger ($6) and well-loved mac 'n' cheese ($5).
Few things brighten a Monday like cheap oysters. If you agree, head directly to Ama Ama (4752 California Ave SW, 937-1514; happy hour daily 4–6 pm and 10 pm–midnight), the sleek yet unpretentious West Seattle favorite whose walls boast a collection of sunburst clocks, a real zebra skin (to which the poor animal's filleted and flattened head remains attached), and a taxidermied impala, which is creepily magnificent. If you're really hungry, order the chicken-fried oysters, which are panko-breaded and served with wild-mushroom three-cheese mac and cheese ($8.75). This dish is delicious but so rich that you won't be able to finish it, not even with the help of a friend. (When nine bucks buys enough grub to stuff two people, attention must be paid.) Oysters on the half shell are 75 cents each, so go nuts. Some are a little gritty, but they're all fresh and very fun to eat. As far as other oyster venues, Belltown's Flying Fish (2234 First Ave, 728-8595; happy hour Mon–Fri 11 pm–midnight) will feature seasonal 25-cent oysters (!) this September—although this difficult time slot will challenge anyone whose schedule is inhibited by a standard nine-to-five. In Ballard, the Jolly Roger Taproom (1514 NW Leary Way, 782-6181) doesn't have a traditional happy hour, but its everyday prices are consistently low. The oyster sandwiches feature pan-fried oysters, cabbage, and tartar sauce for a mere $2.75 each or three for $6.95.
Today is Tuesday and you want sushi. Head to Capitol Hill's Liberty (517 15th Ave E, 323-9898; happy hour daily 4–7 pm) for a variety of thrifty sushi delights, such as a $3 spicy tuna roll. (Fair warning: Liberty is a low-key and wildly popular joint not particularly celebrated for its service, so try to get there early, or be prepared for a bit of a wait amid the throng.) Also on the thrifty-sushi beat is 'Ohana (2207 First Ave, 956-9329; happy-hour schedule varies, Tues is 5–7 pm and 9–11:30 pm), a tiki bar and eatery in Belltown offering $3 California or salmon-skin rolls alongside an assortment of reduced-price hand rolls. Beyond the raw: Today brings "Taco Tuesday" deals to the Wild-rose (1021 E Pike St, 324-9210), Seattle's lone lesbian bar, where starting at 3:00 p.m., beef-and-black-bean tacos are $1 and chicken tacos are $2. If you prefer West Seattle bikers to Capitol Hill sapphists, head to West Seattle's beloved dive the Alki Tavern (1321 Harbor Ave SW, 932-9970), where Tuesdays mean $1 Wimpy burgers after 5:00 p.m.
It's Wednesday, and you're ready for some straightforward New American food. The Eastlake Bar & Grill (2947 Eastlake Ave E, 957-7777; happy hour Mon–Fri 3–6 pm and 10 pm–midnight) brings affordable prices and little fanfare, with an early-'90s-ish interior that's all bleached wood and swirling floral prints—it's better to request the patio seating. Considering its price, the grilled salmon burger ($4.75), prepared with Alaskan salmon and topped with the usual condiments, is adequately tasty, and the budget-friendly Southwestern quesadillas ($2.75) feature the standard blend of black beans, corn, and cheddar jack cheese for an uncomplicated treat. Best of all is the Eastlake's daily special, which on Wednesday means steak and fries for $5. For similar no-bull pub-grub meals, head downtown to McCormick & Schmick's (722 Fourth Ave, 682-3900; happy hour Mon–Fri 3:30–6 pm, Sat–Sun 4–6 pm), a perpetually crowded franchise regarded for its unusually large portions and cheap plates ($1.95 salmon cakes, $3.95 pork carnitas tacos, $4.95 shrimp skewers). If you're into meat and can handle an uppity scene and overpriced domestics, Ballard's Matador (2221 NW Market St, 297-2855; happy hour daily 4–6 pm and 10 pm–1 am) features discount appetizers (such as $5 blackened fish tacos and $4 Tex-Mex spring rolls) and $8 steak nachos that are rumored to be excellent. Also in Ballard, the Tin Hat (512 NW 65th St, 782-2770) hosts an amazingly thrifty Wednesday-night spaghetti dinner (6 pm–midnight), complete with meat sauce and Texas toast for $3.95.
Everyone deserves Mexican food on Thursday, including your broke ass. Head to The Saint Social Club (1416 E Olive Way, 323-9922; happy hour daily 5–6 pm), located in the tastefully redecorated former home of the Wing Dome, where happy hour means half-price deals on full-size entrées. The mole con pollo ($5) comes with fresh and tasty rice and beans and a lime-juice-spritzed salad; the mole is as thick and black as chocolate pudding, with a bitter edge that gives an unexpected kick. For other nonconventional pub-food options, Capitol Hill's Maharaja (720 E Pike St, 320-0334; happy hour daily 4–9 pm) offers $1 Indian appetizers (garlic naan, meat things) with a drink purchase. Ballard's La Isla (2320 NW Market St, 789-0516; happy hour daily 3–6 pm and 10 pm–midnight) offers half-price Puerto Rican appetizers, including bacalaitos (cold fish fritters, $3.50).
On Friday, you want the best goddamned deal in town. Unfortunately, it's offered at Il Fornaio (600 Pine St #132, 264-0994; happy hour Mon–Fri 4:30–6:30 pm), which is an impossibly huge, bilevel restaurant located in the Pacific Place shopping center. Il Fornaio is a chain, which gives it a sterile feel, and there will be no shortage of schmaltzy music and besuited professionals in the mix. You won't want to get drunk here. Still, the appetizers are complimentary as long as you're seated at the bar, and there is no drink minimum. In fact, you don't even have to buy a beer—so if you're a teetotaler and/or a merciless cheapskate, you can just order a soda. The food is always elegant, and the selection ranges daily from bruschetta to pizza to antipasto. Also on Fridays, Ballard's beloved dive bar and yacht club the Sloop Tavern (2830 NW Market St, 782-3330) hosts an intimidatingly underpriced steak-dinner special starting at 5:00 p.m., when a cut of sirloin topped with grilled onions and mushrooms, served with a side salad and baked potato, is a mere $10. Meanwhile in Greenwood: Early risers/all-night drinkers can avail themselves of Baranof (8549 Greenwood Ave N, 782-9260; happy hour daily 6 am–7 pm), home to ridiculously inexpensive happy-hour breakfast-combination specials, such as the two eggs, hash browns, toast, and coffee plate for $4 (Mon–Fri 7–9 am).
Thank God it's Saturday, and Ballard's Coppergate (6301 24th Ave NW, 706-3292; happy hour daily 5–7 pm) exists. This deeply charming joint is known for its authentic Scandinavian fare, and nearly everything tastes wonderful, from the gravlax (Swedish cured salmon, served with pumpernickel and dill mustard, $6) to the blomkalsuppe (creamy cauliflower soup, drizzled with lemon oil, $4). The kjottkaker plate (Swedish meatballs, $6) is sublime, served with a potato puree and a savory lingonberry preserve. Also bringing European cuisine to a neighborhood-bar setting, South Lake Union's Feierabend (422 Yale Ave N, 340-2528; happy hour daily 3–6 pm) carries German fare, such as reibekuchen mit apfelmus (potato pancakes topped with applesauce, $5).
Bon appetit, cheap eaters.