Easy access to excellent local oysters is perhaps one of the best things about living in Seattle. However, those lovely oysters don't always come cheap, often ringing in around $3 a pop. As sensual a pleasure as oysters are, and as much of an advocate of eating for joy rather than satiation that I am, I cannot condone spending $36 for lingering hunger. Don't despair, though! If you, like me, love bivalves that don't unbalance your budget, our city is also blessed with a number of terrific oyster happy hours. The vast majority of them are shucker's choice, but when you're in the midst of so many amazing oyster beds, shucker's choice ain't such a bad thing.
1001 Fairview Ave N, 206-588-2680
The White Swan Public House is the latest venture from Matt's in the Market owner Dan Bugge, an upscale Eastlake pub whose patio really gets you up close and personal with the lake. The view is truly insane. Despite what might seem like a pricey menu overall, their happy hour oysters are actually some of the more affordable offerings around at a mere $1 to $1.75 each, depending on what they're shucking. For those who are ballin' a budget, they also offer "Shells and Champagne" at a flat $75. I doubt it's Dom Perignon, but still not bad for some true champagne and bivalves! Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
1517 Pike Place, 206-624-7166
There is no more quintessential Seattle experience than the Athenian, nestled as it is among the already iconic stalls of Pike Place Market. The restaurant itself is famous for that scene in Sleepless in Seattle, in which Rob Reiner and Tom Hanks reflect on modern dating. It's still the kind of place where a couple of guys can sit at the corner of the bar and do just that. At the Athenian, you will not hear about the oysters' origin or species. You will not see a wine list. You probably won't even get table service, because happy hour is so busy that you might find yourself bellying up to the standing bar. That's fine. At the Athenian, you don't need any of that stuff. You just need a local microbrew in one of their fresh-from-the-freezer frosty mugs ($4.50), a half dozen of whatever they're shucking ($1.50 each), plenty of lemon, and maybe a good book. Happy hour is 4 to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
1415 First Ave, 206-622-6044
As much as I love the Athenian for my Pike Place Market oyster fix, it's hard to resist the newfound allure of Tankard & Tun. The latest offering from Pike Brewing Company, it is their very Northwest version of a Parisian brasserie, and it's great. The "Hoppy Hour" oysters are nearly as cheap as the Athenian's at $2 each, and you do get to hear about where they're from and what species they are, if that's the mood you're in. I've been consistently impressed with chef Gabe Spiel's dedication to oyster sourcing, and it seems like some new and interesting bivalve just got dropped off every time I drop in. If he's got anything from Drayton Harbor Oyster Company, get them. Happy hour also includes their very delicious Pike-beer-battered fish and chips for $10, as well as a similarly priced burger with "fancy cheese," so you can make it a late lunch if you like. In the drinks department, they take $1 off their many, many varieties of craft beer, and $2 off wine. Happy hour is 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
1201 Alaskan Way, Pier 56, 206-623-4340
Elliott's is the home of the city's famed Progressive Oyster Happy Hour, which means that oysters are cheaper the earlier you get there. If you arrive at 3 p.m., you'll be rewarded with $1.50 oysters. At 4 p.m., they go up to $2 each, and advance to $2.50 each from 5 to 6 p.m. Cheap drinks are offered throughout—$5 house wine, $4 Coors Light, $5 Farmstrong pilsner, $6 cocktails—as well as $4 small bites to supplement your oysters. Pro tip: Get the tequila lime mussels, get the calamari, eat the mussels, and then dip the calamari in the mussel broth. With only the aioli it's served with, the calamari can be a bit too bready. Doused in the tasty tequila lime broth, it's just the thing. Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.
300 Westlake Ave N, 206-728-8595
Flying Fish, whose vaguely Asian approach to seafood won chef Christine Keff a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest back in 1999, flew away from Belltown to South Lake Union way back in 2010. Keff also sold the spot to a Chinese restaurant investor and Flying Fish regular named Xiao Ming Liu in 2013. Despite all that, its famous oyster happy hour definitely did not fly away, and you can still get yourself some great oysters for only $1.25 each. During a recent visit, it was surprisingly empty for a place with thousands of hungry tech workers streaming by. Thus, I enjoyed a dozen big, briny Pacifics with friends in relative peace, as well as some sashimi scallops on the half shell ($1.75 each), some solid calamari, and a surprisingly perfect fish and chips snack plate. I'm also happy to report that their delightfully retro truffle fries ($7) are as much of an umami bomb as they should be. Drinks are gently priced, with drafts at $4, house wine at $6, martinis at $6, manhattans/margaritas/old-fashioneds at $7, and fruit-tinis at $7. They also do fried whole rockfish at $14 a pound for early happy hour (3 to 6 p.m. daily) or $12 a pound for late happy hour (8:30 p.m. to close daily), which is a pretty cool thing to have on your happy hour menu.
1212 Second Ave, 206-224-7000
The Brooklyn is a high-ceilinged, ornate, and pleasantly archaic downtown dinner spot, replete with valet parking. Their oyster happy hour is an institution. When I go, I try to imagine what an investment banker in a movie would order, and get exactly that, because that is where they excel. Supplement your $2 oysters and $7 martini with the house-made potato chips and French onion dip ($6), the deluxe bacon cheeseburger ($9), or maybe some balsamic glazed steak bites with Oregonzola ($9). The tuna tartare ain't bad either, although it doesn't quite conjure up the aura of pinstripes and portfolio diversification that I so enjoy there. Happy hour is 4 to 6 p.m. daily, beer and wine is $5, call cocktails are $7, martinis and manhattans are $7, and they've got a daily rotating cocktail for $8. Food ranges from $6 to $8.
1521 Melrose Ave, 206-501-4321; 410 Occidental Ave, 206-501-4060; 124 Republican St, 206-501-4442
They used to have Kusshis for $1.75, one of the first tide-tumbled oysters on the market. The trend has caught on like wildfire. According to a Hama Hama Oyster Company blog post on tumbled oysters: "Compared to beach grown oysters, tumbled oysters normally have a more compact body and retain their liquor longer after being shucked. They're also easier to shuck. And because they have a different diet (more food, different kinds of food) than beach grown oysters, they have different flavors and seasonality." They now do Fat Bastards and Kumamotos for that low, low happy hour price, which are also tide-tumbled and also delicious, and because Taylor is also their own shellfish purveyor, you're getting some extremely fresh oysters. Better still, you can wash them down with $6 glasses of muscadet, rosé, or cava. Capitol Hill happy hour is 2 to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday; Lower Queen Anne and Pioneer Square happy hour is 4 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.