550 12th Ave, 206-328-2030; 500 Terry Ave N, 206-623-2711; 2685 NE 46th St, 206-328-1112
At this Vietnamese street-food restaurant (where the happy hour runs 3 to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday to Sunday, and 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. every night), the bar makes the rare decision to offer not only discounted drinks, but also an entirely different cocktail menu. The happy hour list offers ingredients and combinations that fit well with daytime drinking: some lighter, some brighter than the dinner cocktails.
The Ginger Pop floats basil seeds—think oversize chia seeds—in vodka with house-made ginger syrup, Dolin Blanc vermouth, fresh lemon juice, and soda. It's the kind of easy-drinking refresher you want when the sun still shines in the sky. Similarly, the Old Pal twists Canadian rye into a negroni-style drink, and the Angus Stinger plays like a mature mojito with Scotch and mint. Both make time slow down as if you are escaping from a hot Hanoi afternoon.
Food discounts vary from a few cents to a few dollars depending on the dish, but the best deal is the deep discount on Ba Bar's incredible pho: A bowl is just $8, down from $12, for the long-simmered rich broth, high-quality meat, and fresh-made noodles.
927 Ninth Ave, 206-397-4053
Vito's specializes in ambience. Big leather booths, low lights, and the lounge look—befitting for a bar that's been around since 1953. Signs on the way in advertise live jazz music, and on the way out warn, "What happens at Vito's stays at Vito's." The old-school cool is interrupted only by the flash of reddish lights bouncing off the improbable disco balls and the thoroughly modern cocktail list.
The happy hour here is from 4 to 7 p.m. Drinks like the Panther Dash, a murky, savory mix of bourbon, Meletti amaro, sherry, and lemon, come fairly cheaply on the standard menu ($10), convenient since cocktails don't qualify for Vito's happy hour. Well drinks, "bubbles," beer, and wine do, but the real savings come from the food. During happy hour, garlic bread and a grilled Caesar salad come in at $3 apiece, each providing a Tuscan villa worth of Parmesan and garlic. The sliders, filled with meatballs, marinara, and mozzarella ($4), are a bygone style but a timeless taste. Eating little sandwiches at the big, dark bar is transporting. You might pay full price for the cocktail, but that's the fee to enter the time machine back to the 1950s.
2332 Second Ave, 206-956-8423
Inside this dark Belltown bar resides one of the most lighthearted happy hours in town (4 to 7 p.m. every day). Billed as "ridiculously" happy, its snacks are snarky but its drinks are serious. Five of them, all up to Rob Roy's standard as one of the city's best spots for craft cocktails, come at a steep discount: Here's the place to find $14 drinks for $8 and similar deals.
Among the five, there is something for every palate. The spirit-forward Fancy Vesper brings elegance to the classic cocktail with Absolut Elyx, Beefeater 24, and Lillet. The Monolith spices things up with Ancho Reyes, an ancho-pepper-infused alcohol, before cooling it down with pineapple and mint. And tiki lovers will find their paradise with the Ted Shackleford: whiskey, orgeat, pineapple, and lemon. But most intriguing, perhaps, is the Daily Punch! (exclamation point theirs). On a recent afternoon, it was basically a negroni punched up with sparkling wine—a fun, smart twist on an old favorite. And fun is the operative word at this happy hour, where the free goldfish crackers flow with as much ease as the smiling bartenders' ordering advice, and the "faux pho ramen" doesn't cost anything at all. Of course, if you ask for one, you might learn it's just a cup o'noodle soup fancied up with lime and herbs.
2205 Second Ave, 206-728-6069
You could call this speakeasy-style Belltown bar a bargain basement during happy hour (5 to 7 p.m. daily), when the drinks sink from $11 to just $7. Built in the former boiler room of an old hotel, it's a literal basement, and from the minute you enter through the alley (instructions on their website: "Look for the wooden door"), you're Alice in Cocktail Wonderland. Exposed brick, low ceilings, and small, creatively carved-out spaces create an intimacy with either the bartender and/or whomever you're with, depending on where you sit.
Upstairs, the six bar seats are the perfect place to debate the merits of various gins with whoever is behind the stick while you drink. Downstairs, cozy into the couches or carry on at one of the few tables over a spicy El Camino (tequila, pineapple juice, Pineau, and chili liqueur) or the dark, complex Death Star (bourbon, fig and maple syrup, and lemon juice). Wherever you choose to take your drink, the tiny space and laid-back atmosphere make this an easy place to work your way through expertly made cocktails that mix traditional spirits and interesting ingredients in new—and ultimately fascinating—fashion.
400 Fairview Ave N, 206-457-8287
Most happy hours, you're there for the drinks and the discounts, but at this 14th floor patio, you're here for the view: one that encompasses all of Lake Union, the Space Needle, and—to be honest, most of Seattle. That the stylish outdoor space comes complete with creative cocktails and food from Top Chef competitor Jason Stratton is simply icing on the cake. Or maybe it's the wildflower honey on the cheese plate. While happy hour is limited to the patio, the patio isn't limited by the seasons: clear panels protect from the wind, a covered portion from the rain, and heaters and custom-made blankets from the winter chill. A $7 well drink or glass of wine by the glass will keep your insides warm, as well.
Happy hour happens from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 5 to 6 p.m. on weekends. The food menu, while not discounted, is worth lingering on top of the city for, bringing Stratton's Italian and fine-dining background to owners Wassef and Racha Haroun's Middle Eastern expertise. After a glass or two of discounted drinks, it's nearly impossible to turn down dishes like cauliflower hummus and grilled trout with sumac, labneh, and fenugreek brown butter.
8421 Greenwood Ave N, 206-457-5656
Chef Eric Donnelly's meat-centric follow-up spot to Fremont's RockCreek Seafood went bigger and better, but also took a risk by creeping away from the culinary center of the city. No worries: The Greenwood location just makes it that much easier to grab a seat during the 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour—at the bar only.
The yellow-tiled wall of the bar, the bright marble counter top, and the light-filled corner space go against the steak-house image that a place called a "cattle company" might exude. But then again, so does the menu. While there's plenty of meat on offer at happy hour (in the form of a burger, sausage roll, or quail pâté banh mi), the stars of the dinner menu—the vegetables—also show up: the much-buzzed-about house-pickled vegetables with blue-cheese tahini and the grilled eggplant salad with black bean vinaigrette. And while the happy hour drinks menu offers a few house wines ($6 a glass, $24 a bottle) and a beer (Montucky Cold Snacks, $4), it also has two cocktails that sum up FlintCreek's conflicted steak-house identity: the dark, classic, meat-friendly old-fashioned and the bright, refreshing flavor of the Hemingway daiquiri ($7 each).