Motif Hotel, 1415 Fifth Ave, 206-971-8015
Oh, Frolik. Where do I even start? The place is so unique it deserves your attention. Here's how the Motif Hotel's marketing staff describes the place: "A vibrant design creates an edgy yet STYLISH environment that awakens the youthful spirit and releases the mischievous side in all of us." The place looks like someone's imagining of the future, with lots of plasticky furniture, weird swinging cocoon loveseats, tons of sleek and superfluously molded tables, and a 20-inch-long marble high top with a glass-enclosed fire pit running down the middle, end to end.
I guess in the future, we will spend all day wearing iridescent jumpsuits and taking "fun shots" with friends on a rooftop patio. About those fun shots ($4), so prominently featured on the happy hour menu: avoid. The fun shot when I visited was a combination of three rail liquors and Red Bull. Not fun. When I tried the Whosie-Whats-It Daily Cocktail, it was basically a whiskey Coke with some walnut liqueur—not wildly thrilling, but for $6, I couldn't complain.
Their affordable brews ($4 drafts) and addictive cheese balls are reason enough to go. Their "Regional American" cuisine, cooked with "a signature Northwest Pacific flair," is great drinking food, as proved by their Crispy Fried Goat Cheese balls with caper-parsley-basil sauce ($5). Were there not a limited number per plate, I could have eaten them endlessly. The Nearly Classic Deviled Eggs ($4) were exactly as promised—a little bit of innovation, but not so much as to detract from the simple pleasure of a deviled egg.
And Frolik is stuffed to bursting with games. On the patio, there is shuffleboard and ping-pong. Inside, couches are arrayed around TVs equipped with video game systems. My mom wasn't exactly raring to play Super Smash Bros., but I'm sure if you're in the market for a little intra-office team-building, it'd be a blast.
Happy hour: 4–7 pm every day; cocktails $6, wells/sangria $5, beer/fun shots $4, snacks $4–$8.
Hotel Monaco, 1101 Fourth Ave, 206-624-7755
Sazerac is an enormous restaurant, with decor that's zany and fun in a New Orleanian kinda way, but some aspects are a little unnerving, like the false fronts of a movie set. That said, the low tables in the bar area have lovely plush chairs, perfect for expunging workplace grievances with your office bestie before heading home from downtown. It's a rare thing, finding a table at which you can truly settle in, stretch out, and bitch about work. Which is, if we're honest, the whole point of happy hour.
The food is perfectly conducive to this: unapologetically rich, "I deserve this" Cajun fare. On a recent visit, I particularly enjoyed the fried boudin balls ($8). They came with a hot pepper jelly for dipping that was equal parts sweet and spicy, providing the perfect sharp edge to unctuous, indulgently smooth balls of fried meat and rice. Oh, and definitely try the smoked catfish deviled eggs ($2.50 a pop). But the duck-fat fries ($5) were a miss—they're more jojo than fry, and insufficiently crispy even for that. They also have $4 glasses of house wine, which is cheap for a downtown hotel happy hour, but after a long day, my colleague and I opted for their $7 sparkling option, which was a good call.
Happy hour: 4–8 pm Mon–Sat; cocktails $6–9, house wine $4, bubbles $7, beer $3.50–$5, snacks $5–$14.
Alexis Hotel, 1007 First Ave, 206-624-3646
The Bookstore is a great place to go for solo happy hour. For one, drinking here feels like drinking in a well-appointed study replete with a massive selection of Scotch. The ambience is cozy, it's got nooks, and it's an all-around good place to chill. One mistake I made on a recent visit: ordering ceviche. Ceviche is patio food, not study food. Steamed clams, fries with fromage blanc, wings—yes. High-acid summer food—no. Aside from that misstep on my part, my visit was thoroughly enjoyable. It's an excellent venue for a bit of laptop hobo-dom or some uninterrupted reading time—it's designed to look like a library, after all. Their wi-fi requires you to sign up for Kimpton rewards, which I ain't doing, but (shhhhhhhh) nearby Hotel 1000's guest wi-fi signal is mad strong.
Happy hour: 3–6 pm and 10 pm–close every day; cocktails $7–$9, wine $5–$6, beer $5, snacks $5–$8.
Mayflower Park Hotel, 405 Olive Way, 206-623-8700
For martinis, this is the place to go. Oliver's doesn't offer drink specials for happy hour, instead going with the old-school option: feeding patrons free snacks to soak up their booze. It's unexciting but decent fare. Veggies and dip, chicken wings, chips and guac, sliders, and such like. That said, even at $12+ per drink, your tab will be comparable to other happy hour options, and you'll be both full and tipsy.
How best to get tipsy? Well of course the martini is amazing—it's their claim to fame. But my choice would be absinthe, as they serve it in the traditional French style, fountain, spoon, and all. I also highly recommend Oliver's for any private business dealings you may need to conduct. There is a large pillar obtruding into the bottom section of the restaurant, and the tables behind it have maximum privacy. Also, it's in the old-timey Mayflower Park Hotel, Seattle's oldest continuously operating lodging. You'll feel like a Chicago mob boss, even if you're just meeting that one obnoxiously fit friend who can't shut up about yoga.
Happy hour: 4:30–6 pm Mon–Sat; free snacks.
Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St, 206-343-6156
Like Oliver's, this place feels like somewhere from which many captains of industry and criminal masterminds orchestrated coups and made fortunes. According to the Sorrento Hotel's website, the site used to be a "billiards hall," then "a Filipino restaurant decked out in puka shells," then, for several decades, the Hunt Club. But according to the history, the Sorrento's dining space was known as the Dunbar Room from 1961 to 1964, and that's what it's called again today.
In a juxtaposition that is oh-so-Seattle, the heavily tattooed, aggressively attractive wait staff wear old-timey starched white shirts and suspenders, moving quietly and efficiently through the hotel's well-appointed Fireside Room to take orders and deliver three-tiered metal towers of snacks (the snacks are $9 each, or $24 for a tower of three). The place is not known for its kitchen, so I ordered cheese, charcuterie, and oysters. Twenty-four bucks might seem steep for happy hour, but wait until you get a tower laden with prosciutto di Parma, smooth-shelled Kusshi oysters, and a more-than-generous hunk of Humboldt Fog.
As for drinks, the Vesper (unlike the one I foolishly ordered at the Bookstore) was bracingly dry, with a perfectly subtle note of Lillet Blanc, instead of a cacophony. Sitting on a couch by the fireplace, reading an engrossing novel, and munching on blue cheese–laden rosemary crackers, it was pretty obvious why the Silent Reading Party happens here the first Wednesday of every month.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm daily and 10–11 pm Thurs–Sat; rotating cocktail $9, wine $7, beer $4.
Hotel Max, 612 Stewart St, 206-443-3663
Miller's Guild is where chef Jason Wilson landed after his beloved restaurant Crush closed. Miller's Guild is known for its wine selection, as well as its enormous wood-fired oven, somewhat annoyingly dubbed "the Inferno™." That said, the Inferno™ is a pretty cool thing, and Miller's Guild's happy hour is an accessible way to get yourself a steak from within its fiery confines. Specifically, a nice bavette from Niman Ranch accompanied by beef-fat fries for a mere $21. Being a dolt, I ordered one of the few things on the menu not subjected to the Inferno's molten embrace, the Wagyu tartare, and was left wishing I'd jumped into the fire. The tartare was fine, but the butter-soaked rye toasts it was served with stole the show from the beef itself. Perhaps they could offer the toasts as a stand-alone dish? I'd pay $5 for a dozen.
Anyway, happy hour wine is $7 across the board (red/white/rosé), and is dependably good. Ambience-wise, there are a couple cool dividers stuffed with logs (not sure if they're for show or if they actually power the Inferno™), a pretty snazzy chef's counter you won't get to sit at if you're headed to the bar to save bucks, and, if you're someone who likes to work after work and drink while you do it, a window counter with convenient and plentiful plug-ins.
Happy hour: 2–5 pm and 9–11 pm every day; wine $7, beer $5, snacks $6–$21.
Four Seasons Hotel, 99 Union St, 206-749-7070
You can easily drop as much at Goldfinch Tavern's happy hour as you would for, say, a lavish dinner for two at Ba Bar or Cafe Presse. But it's not completely unreasonable ($1.50 an oyster if you spring for a dozen, which, astonishingly, meets the Athenian's happy hour price), and it's downright delicious.
While the $10 bowl of albacore poke—tossed with seaweed, sesame, pine nuts, scallions, and serrano chilis—is tiny, it is also a delightfully tangy, tender umami bomb, and well worth every penny. The smoked fish crostini are a better value at $8 for three small toasts with liberal scoops of salty, smooth smoked whitefish. There are also $5 fries, served with a superlatively silky dill aioli. As for drinks, the Americano ($8) was made with a precise touch on the sweet vermouth, leaving it as perfectly bitter as I hoped it to be. My companion was similarly pleased with her $8 glass of big, bold Washington red.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm daily; wine/cocktails $8, beer $5, oysters $2/dozen for $18, snacks $5–$15.
Inn at the Market, 1600 Post Alley, 206-728-2233
Cafe Campagne deigning to have a happy hour is proof that Bacchus exists and is watching out for us. Located in the lower level of the Inn at the Market complex, Daisley Gordon's Pike Place Market mainstay offers a perfectly curated food menu and some mad decent French wines for mad decent prices. All glasses are $6, including non-vintage brut, and they offer bottles (red or white) for $32. That's not Cafe Presse Vin ExPresse prices, but I'm happy to pay a little more for the privilege of sitting on Campagne's alley patio and watching all the tourists scurry by while sipping a lovely, un-oaked chard from Mâcon.
The menu is simple and to the point, and sticks to the French classics. They offer pâté sandwiches served cold on tiny pastry-puff buns; a slider version of their excellent lamb burger; moules marinière; those addictive beef skewers from their yearly Bastille Day fete; and socca, a perfectly pliant chickpea pancake slathered in salty, piquant black olive tapenade. There's a reason this place has earned the city's undying adoration.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm Mon–Fri; cocktails $8, wine $6, beer $4, $32 bottles, snacks $5–$12.
Hotel Ändra, 2000 Fourth Ave, 206-441-1430
Lola is a happy hour powerhouse par excellence. Located in the swanky Hotel Ändra, its bar has long attracted the sports-jacket-and-jeans after-work crowd, who come for the cheap skewers and top-notch martinis. When the bar is really rocking, they assign a cocktail server to the lobby, so you can get cozy on the couches by the fireside, too—nice in wintertime.
Regrettably, I did not order the saganaki when I visited recently, so I don't know if they light it on fire and yell "Opa!" as they used to do at the Byzantion on Broadway. They do, however, bring your skewers in a traditional saganaki pan, and theatrically deglaze it with ouzo for you. I had the squid, a tough protein to get right, but get it right they did. The lightly charred cephalopods were perfectly supple, eminently flavorful, and well accompanied by the ouzo-basted onions. I think it's safe to say that, if they're nailing the squid, the other skewers are probably equally on point.
There's cheap Greek lager ($4.25), but that aforementioned martini is a steal at $7.50. The gin-soaked, feta-stuffed olive awaiting you at the bottom is the perfect thing to cap off happy hour.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm Mon–Fri; cocktails $6.50–$7.50, wine $6.50, beer $4.25, snacks $4.25–$7.50.