Ivar’s Salmon House (401 NE Northlake Way, 632-0767. Happy hour: Daily 3:30 pm–6:30 pm and 9 pm–close.)
Situated on north Lake Union, looking out on the University Bridge, the deck at Ivar's takes the prize for best view. People pass in kayaks; boats dock to let passengers come aground for food. It is quintessential Seattle, and as such, somewhat hollow. There's a sense of resignation to everything, as though everyone is here because Ivar's is a Seattle institution and coming here is what you're supposed to do. Adding insult to ambivalence, the calamari comes with fried spinach leaves, which makes absolutely no sense.
The War Room (722 E Pike St, 328-7666. Happy Hour: Mon–Fri 4 pm– 9 pm, Sat–Sun 12 pm–9 pm.)
The War Room has all the elements of the ideal urban deck—high bamboo walls, black leather bar stools, girls with great cleavage who laugh loudly, and men you find attractive despite your best judgment. Below, traffic zooms up East Pike Street and crazy people shout—you get the white noise of the city without the harsh visuals. While there is no food at the War Room, the scent of Indian cuisine from the restaurant next door mingles with the smell of fresh baked bread from the Subway across the street, luring you. But the sun is hot and magnificent and the nearby food options are not as good as your nose would have you believe, so stay put and drink your dinner instead.
Tia Lou’s (2218 First Ave, 733-8226. Happy Hour: Tues–Sat 5 pm–7 pm.)
Boasting a 2,000-square-foot deck strung with lights above Belltown's First Avenue, Tia Lou's should deliver a full-on outdoor happy-hour rager—but, sadly, no dice. At 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, the deck was filled with parties of dissimilar coworkers trying to take the edge off a rough day spent in fluorescent-lit downtown offices. The margaritas were decent, the tamales tasty but dry. But that deck! Perhaps it's worth checking out again once the sun goes down and the crowd is liquored up...
El Chupacabra (6711 Greenwood Ave N, 706-4889. Happy Hour: Daily 4 pm–6:30 pm, Sun-Thurs 10 pm–12:30 am.)
The deck at El Chupacabra is essentially the front yard of a house facing Greenwood Avenue—it offers a view of nothing really, the traffic sounds are tame, the plastic deck chairs utterly nondescript. But it doesn't matter—everything feels familiar, comfortable, and just right. The potent margaritas are made from scratch, the chips come with three kinds of salsa, and the steak tacos are delicious. There's something undeniably attractive about a place that isn't trying to be anything more than what it is, and succeeds beautifully.