I don't know exactly when upscale restaurants started offering happy hours, but I'm ready to kiss the first restaurateur who got that sweet wheel in motion. "Let the discounted food and drink commence," I imagine him saying with a generous twirl of his Monopoly game mustache. No disrespect to foie-gras-laced desserts or hazelnut dust, but high-end happy hours are the greatest thing about fine dining in Seattle. They give the rest of us—who normally couldn't afford these places—a chance to eat there for less.
To come up with this list of favorites, I used a few guidelines: (1) Most of the food should be around $5 to $10 and drinks $4 to $7, (2) it should feature a few substantial dishes that you can make a meal out of, none of this just-plates-of-wee-toasts crap, (3) it shouldn't be offered in a space so tiny that only a special few can enjoy it.
I had to make up these rules to winnow the list, which is clearly a sign we're awash in good things. Lord only knows how long these higher-end restaurants can afford to offer these deals in the age of skyrocketing Seattle rents. Slurp up the half-off oysters while you can.
1060 E Union St, 206-900-8808
4743 Ballard Ave NW, 206-395-9227
If you want to sample the best oysters Seattle has to offer, you'll have to wait in that almost-out-the-door line at the Walrus and the Carpenter—or do you? Skip it and head on down to Bar Melusine's happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m. instead, where you can sample the same bounty at one of Renee Erickson's newer (and less crowded) outposts. We coasted in right on the hour and were seated and ordering up half-off oysters in five minutes. Unlike most other oyster happy hours, Bar Melusine offers half off EVERY kind of oyster, not just whatever one they feel like discounting that day. So you don't have to stare longingly at the un-discounted Shigokus or Kumamotos. There's $1 off drink specials and a few discounted small plates like fried oysters and a mini cheeseburger—but hell, you're really here for the raw oysters, aren't you?
The Walrus and the Carpenter offers a progressive happy hour, which means 50 percent off oysters for the first hour, 25 percent off for the second.
Bar Melusine happy hour: 5–6 pm Sun–Thurs; $1 off beer, wine, and cocktails, $9 boilermakers; 50 percent off oysters, small plates $7–$8.
The Walrus and the Carpenter happy hour: 4–6 pm Mon–Thurs; 50 percent off oysters 4–5 pm, 25 percent off oysters 5–6 pm; $1 off beer, cocktails, and whiskey tastes.
501 Stadium Pl S, 206-257-4259
A 2016 semifinalist for the James Beard Award for best new restaurant, Girin has been earning raves for its ssam plates and dense homemade dumplings (mandu) since it first opened. You'll want to beeline for those dishes and the oysters on the happy hour menu. Get the $6 ssam "cup" with the tenderest kalbi beef short rib (normally $32 for a full-size plate). Dumplings are $5 a plate, and the bartender will ask you if you want them steamed or fried. Go fried, and down them with an old-fashioned if it's the drink special—they make a great one here with a stiff pour. Girin is right next to CenturyLink Field, but they don't offer happy hours on game or concert days, so it's best to call ahead first.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm in restaurant/bar and 9 pm–close in bar, daily except on event days, Tuesdays in bar; $2 off drafts, $6 wine by glass or $22 by bottle, $6 drink specials; $5–$9 food specials; $1 oysters late night.
1201 Alaskan Way, 206-623-4340
There are many oyster happy hours in Seattle, but the long-running one at Elliott's is still one of the best, with an additional choice of more filling dishes (coconut prawns, fish tacos, salmon sliders) for $4 each. Alas, this is one of those insanely popular happy hours that you can really only do if you have a half day off work—you'll need to get there at 3 p.m. to make sure you secure a space and grab the oysters when they're still $1.50 apiece (they go up to $2 in an hour).
Happy hour: 3–6 pm Mon–Fri; $4–$5 beer and house wine, $6 drink specials; $1.50–$2.50 oysters, $3–$4 food specials.
2323 Second Ave, 206-838-8008; 501 E Pike St, 206-420-8355
401 15th Ave E, 206-838-2878
Happy hour menus and times vary slightly between these two Ethan Stowell restaurants, but both offer fantastic discounts on his more popular pasta dishes. Hit Tavolata for $9 gnocchi alla romana and $11 rigatoni with spicy Italian sausage (both normally $18), and at Rione XII, the amazing tonarelli cacio e pepe goes for $12 (normally $17). For some reason, the pasta prices at the Tavolatas are slightly cheaper, but you do score a bottle of wine for $20 at Rione. A nice selection of wine is featured—rosé and prosecco or Lambrusco in addition to the usual red and white, and at $6 to $8, the drink specials are a no-brainer—usually perfectly mixed manhattans or negronis.
Tavolata happy hour: 5–7 pm daily, bar only; $3–$5 beer, $5 wine, $6–$7 drink specials; $5–$8 small plates, $9–$11 pasta specials.
Rione XIII happy hour: 5–7 pm Sun–Thurs, entire restaurant; 5–7 pm and 10–11 pm Fri–Sun, bar only; $1 off beer, $6 wine per glass and $20 per bottle, $6–8 drink specials; $3–$9 small plates, $12 pizza and pasta specials.
615 19th Ave E, 206-325-2111; 10245 Main St, Bellevue, 425-635-1112
Monsoon offers an impressive number and variety of dishes during their happy hour; you can currently choose from 14 different small plates at the Seattle location, from pork sliders with hoisin aioli to tofu spring rolls to a noodle salad with braised pork in coconut milk. Portion-wise, the salt-and-pepper chicken wings offer the most bang for the buck (five for $6), and don't miss popular appetizers like the crispy imperial rolls or the bò lá lt (flank steak wrapped in lá lt leaves and grilled), or the light and refreshing coconut daiquiri when it makes an appearance.
Happy hour: Seattle, 3:30–5:30 pm daily; Bellevue, 3–6 pm, 9 pm–close daily (bar only); $5 beer, $6 wine, $7 drink specials; $1.50 oysters, $6–$8 food specials.
1305 E Jefferson St, 206-328-7090
Usually only two or three cocktails are featured on fancy happy hour menus, but Seven Beef offers about eight, with special attention paid to liquor preference—manhattans or old-fashioneds can be made with bourbon or rye, martinis and collins with vodka or gin. The beef-heavy happy hour at this steak house (beef burger, beef tacos, beef belly on toast) feels tailor-made for carnivores, but it's actually the steamed clams I enjoyed the most—the addition of anchovies and cream adds more flavor and substance to the classic white-wine broth. On warmer days, enjoy it with a side of extra bread and butter on the patio.
Happy hour: 4–6 pm and 9–11 pm daily, in the bar and patio; $5 beer, $6–$8 wine and drink specials; $7–$9 food specials, $12 steak.
1522 12th Ave, 206-457-4068
2230 First Ave, 206-374-8717
Momiji's happy hour has become so popular that you have to either (a) come at 4 p.m. or (b) hit up the similar one at its sister restaurant Umi, which feels slightly (but only slightly) easier to get into. What can you say about this much-loved happy hour? Everyone has their favorite dishes, and I can't seem to leave without ordering the $6 California rolls, $7 grilled garlic short ribs, and $8 salmon sashimi. I've only made it to Momiji's late-night happy hour once, which offers fewer sushi options but does bring out the braised pork shoulder (kurobata no kakuni) and the sautéed seasonal mushrooms for $8 each.
Momiji happy hour: 4–6 pm daily in restaurant; 4–7 pm and 10 pm–12:30 am daily, bar only; $4.50 beer, $6–$7 wine and sake; $5–$11 food specials.
Umi Sake House happy hour: 4–6 pm in restaurant daily; 4–8 pm bar and front porch only; Sun–Thurs 10:30 pm–close; $4.50 beer, $5 wells, $6–$7 wine and sake; $5–$11 food specials.
928 12th Ave, 206-552-9755
For their happy hour, the much-lauded craft cocktail bar sadly offers no drink specials—when I asked, my host replied, "All our drinks are special!" and then gave me the majesty-of-Jamie-Boudreau spiel. Oof. In the meantime, all their food menu items are half off for happy hour—which isn't quite as exciting as your $20 drink going down to $10, but does make eating there a hell of a lot cheaper. The markdowns are significant—a half dozen oysters for $9 instead of $18, a rib eye steak for $15 instead of $30. Celebrate with another drink.
Happy hour: 5–6 pm Mon–Thurs; half off food menu.