I won the bet.

After languishing at a table at Kaspar's wine bar, my friend and I squeaked in an order for an obscene quantity of schmancy happy hour food just before the 6:30 p.m. cutoff. The waiter was of the lovable, myopic, bumbling variety. The bar was as full of upscale cheapskates as it could be without any unseemly standing around. When we got our food, we asked for salt and pepper and a wine list. The waiter forgot immediately, and I could tell he forgot, and I mentioned this; my friend protested, and a wager for a drink was made. When we finally got his attention and asked again, there was not a glimmer of recognition that this had all already transpired.

I did not begrudge him. After all, I got a drink out of it, and some people just aren't meant to be waiters. Kaspar's isn't meant to be a restaurant and wine bar for much longer either-the lower Queen Anne institution of fine dining will do catering and events only after June 11-so it all seemed to fit. Plus-and I know it's not supposed to work like this, but it does-Kaspar's happy hour is so cheap, you're willing to forgive a lot.

We had a half-dozen oysters on the half shell-Gold Cove from Hood Canal, not too big, not too small, a little sweet, cool and seawatery and fresh-for $4.50. A woman at the bar was scarfing them down, a clock in her mind clearly ticking. She had the right idea. Three greaseless tempura prawns with thick-cut fries ($5) made for fine snacking, and a wedge-of-iceberg salad ($3) was decent with its Gorgonzola dressing and bacon bits. I've always heard raves about the Tower ($9 for two people), a three-tiered rack of daily-changing specials, but it was firmly in the quit-while-you're-ahead category. The bottom plate held pounded chicken breast with limp asparagus bathed in a butter sauce and topped with crisp-fried onions (the best part); level two was orzo pasta primavera in a garlic cream sauce that passed subtle and went to boring, though the chiffonade of veggies still had life in them; and the top was slices of seared tuna, not the nicest, with some of those white stringy layers among the flesh.

Meanwhile, however, the atmosphere soothed me against my will. If you visited a rich grandmother who lived in Santa Barbara, this is the kind of place you'd find after she went to bed. It's all taupe and smooth jazz and natural light. Eventually the waiter knocked a plant off the neighbors' table. This made me happy-if you're going to bumble, by all means, knock over plants. A group exited, and all their debris sat there until sometime after we left. Who cared? It was happy hour. ■

Support The Stranger

Kaspar's Restaurant & Wine Bar, 19 W Harrison St, 298-0123. Happy hour Tues-Fri, 4:30-6:30 pm, until June 11.

bethany@thestranger.com

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