Tequila Happiness at the Saint
Capitol Hill appears to have adopted a zero tolerance policy regarding early-evening glumness. No matter how dark and dismal the world may be, around every corner a happy hour awaits, hoping to warm your exterior and inspirit your interior while promising not to denude your wallet. Many places have had happy hours for aeons—classics include Tango (fancy), Charlie's (divey), Liberty (sushi)—but the economy's slumping has prompted pretty much every restaurant and bar to join in. Just recently, Monsoon added a happy hour (with menu items from Monsoon East, opening soon in Bellevue), as did Dinette (after installing a tiny, sweet bar); Artemis has expanded happy-hour hours (along with yet another new chef); Esmeralda, the "Mediterranean bistro" now occupying the abundantly odd space on 12th Avenue where the (also abundantly odd) pizza/burrito place was, offers "sunset" specials (not at actual sunset, which currently occurs around 3:00 p.m.); and the Saint has introduced a "5 for $5" happy hour, five drinks and five Mexican small plates on sale from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. daily.
While the others remain to be explored, a recent Friday at six o'clock found the Saint packed with seekers of cut-rate "Tequila Salvation" (the Saint's motto). The triangular building on East Olive Way, formerly home of the Wingdome, is now painted an unmissable blue. Inside, it is lit by five suspended orbs that glow like moons immersed in a tequila sunrise; the other end houses the six-seat bar/temple to agave, the bottles interspersed with innumerable candles on high-reaching shelves. On a couple of the highest: two bursts of red-flower bouquet, near a blackened bull skull. It's a pretty place, with whitewashed, weird-shaped walls showcasing portraits of old-time matadors, their faces variously grim, seductive, solemn, totally dopey, highly bad-assed, and, in one case, identical to that of Kevin Spacey.
When the Saint opened last spring, some complained that it was too expensive. Now a few $5 and $6 tequila cocktails have joined the $9 to $12 ones, and food prices have come down a little. In the edible department, the 5-for-$5 menu is satisfactory, if not a lot more: flavorful but chewy carne asada tacos, decent nachos, mini enchiladas that want a bit more sauce, chicken mole that tends toward bitter (though better than too-sweet), and the winner, bright-tasting ceviche on light, ungreasy house-made masa rounds.
The staff, while somewhat harried, was entirely pleasant. "I'm just helping out my homey," one apparently conscripted server said cheerfully. And in the arena of salvation, the shaggy-haired bartender made one of the very few proper margaritas in Seattle: pure lime goodness with lots of ice, forsaking sweetness and—heaven forbid—premade mix.