Henry David Thoreau once said, "That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest." Naturally, Thoreau was speaking of 25-cent PBRs and other cheap boozy pleasures, and thus the modern-day happy hour was born. Every bar has a happy hour, but not every happy hour can possibly live up to its optimistic title. How do patrons define happiness? Is happiness simply a cheap drink or is it more elusive? How cheap does this happiness come, and which bar serves up the best happiness in town? At least three bars—Azura Asian Bistro, Cafe Metropolitain, and Peso's Kitchen & Lounge—boast "Seattle's Best Happy Hour" or some variation thereof. I was sent to discover which bar can actually lay claim to such a weighty title.
Azura Asian Bistro
Along Azura's outside deck drapes a banner bragging "Seattle's Best Happy Hour." A bucket of beer (five Sapporos in ice) costs $10, well drinks are $3.95, and appetizers run $2.95 each. Arriving to find a dozen or so revelers on the outside deck, I ordered a well drink, a sushi roll, and a shrimp-and-basil rice roll, and was served promptly by a very polite waitress.
The appetizers were a mixed bag: The shrimp-and-basil rice roll was delicious, but loosely assembled and therefore incredibly messy. The sushi roll was fishy and disappointing. My $3.95 drink was more weak than cheap. Azura was far from living up to its boast of best happy hour. I was unfulfilled.
I decided to leech some happiness from a neighboring table. I introduced myself to Paul and Jeremy, a pair of friends in a rock band called Snow. It was their first time at Azura—while heading to the Cha Cha Lounge, they'd been ensnared by Azura's promises of cheap sushi. However, they were having trouble getting served.
"What about this place makes you happy?" I asked them.
"The cold beer and cheap food," said Jeremy. "Happy hour is truly a benevolent thing, created by benevolent people, who were probably also business people. It's a gesture of goodwill toward mankind, and I appreciate it."
"What would make you happier right now?" I asked Paul.
"Going down on a girl," he replied. "Can I ask you a question? How many sexual partners have you had?"
"Four," I lied. "Would you say your sex life could fit into one of those really depressing baby coffins or a regular-sized one?"
"The last week or two, a baby coffin."
"That's sad," I said, but secretly it made me happy. Mission accomplished. I left Paul and Jeremy alone with their cheap sushi.
Peso's Kitchen & Lounge
Peso's was packed, despite the fact that their happy hour includes NO DRINK SPECIALS, only $4 appetizers. What the fuck? No drink specials for happy hour? Had everything my alcoholic father taught me been a lie? I shelled out $6 for a margarita. Not a good start.
"What brings you to Peso's for happy hour?" I asked the girl next to me. Her name was Jennie. The room was dim and the crowd so uniformly tan that it would have been difficult to distinguish individuals from the pack, if not for the saving graces of pastel polo shirts and Crest Whitestrips.
"The enigmas," Jennie replied. "This room is full of enigmas... I feed off them. Peso's will never run out of enigmas. They are everywhere."
"Huh," I replied. Her words only made sense once I substituted "roast-beef tans" for "enigmas." A friend joined me at the bar as Jennie drifted off to trap herself an enigma, and we decided to order several more ridiculously priced margaritas and a few discount appetizers—garlic "firecracker" prawns and braised, fried smoked bacon. Our waitress was sullen and needed to be flagged down for our orders (after a half-hour of patient waiting).
The firecracker prawns were not worth the energy they took to chew, but the braised and fried bacon was stunning. It was a solid brick of bacon, and it was larger than a grown man's fist. Fact: You have not lived until you've eaten a fist of bacon. I left content, if not a little happy. Bricks and enigmas aside, Peso's wasn't stellar enough to merit the title of Seattle's Best Happy Hour.
I slipped into Cafe Metropolitain at the beginning of their late-night happy hour, which boasts $2 wells and 25-cent PBRs, as well as a daily drink special. Despite the healthy crowd vying for happiness at the bar, a strong drink was placed in front of me almost instantly. As if by magic, I could taste my cares slipping away. I ordered a large, warm German-style pretzel, which came with mustard imported from Kentucky. It cost $1.50, and was the tastiest thing I'd eaten since my brick of bacon.
"Hey you!" I pointed to a man reading at the table next to me. "What makes happy hour happy?"
"A lack of coworkers."
"A slow and care-filled handjob under the bar?"
"Has that ever happened?" I asked.
"Then what keeps bringing you back?"
Fair enough. His name was Jake and, as he told me, a drink is a drink is a drink. "However," he said. "One pleasant hour spent wooing a pretty stranger with discount drinks makes my day worthwhile."
Unsurprisingly, the recipe for a great happy hour is a delicate blend of inexpensive food and booze, and a beautiful crowd of people to accidentally rub up against, repeatedly. Cafe Metropolitain fulfilled my expectations cheaply and handsomely, with a side of pretzel.