THE GREEN ROOM
1426 First Ave., DOWNTOWN 206-628-3151
5-8 p.m. daily
IT'S CALLED "HAPPY HOUR" for a reason: It's supposed to be happy. Bars will microwave frozen chicken wings, deep-fry some greasy cheese sticks, pour weak well drinks, and expect you to pay top dollar for it. Where's the happy? But, thankfully, a lot of Seattle bars get it, and the Green Room is the mother of all these.
Being inside the Green Room is like visiting the innards of a big, friendly turtle. It's all various shades of its title color, with a crescent-shaped bar and walls curved just the way a turtle shell might be if you were swallowed down the hatch. The bartenders smile and ask you questions like, "Are you still happy?" Happy hour patrons are a good mix of hipsters, tattooed rockers with long hair under leather Aussie hats, First Avenue pimps, and tourists from Fairbanks, Alaska, such as the one who made this observation: "You know sometimes you walk into a place and you get that sketchy feeling? I don't get that here."
This is all part of the charm—comfortable, space-age-y bar stools (with backs!); candles in jars; a glass wall etched with the names of past acts at the Showbox (within which the Green Room is annexed). Sometimes there's football on a large projection screen. Other evenings there are great DJs.
The real happy hour test is in the food and drinks, and everything here is just $2: beer, well drinks, yummy tacos, enchiladas, and Mexi-seasoned fries. They have all the standards on tap (and bottled requisites). The wells are poured stiff and serious. The food can make a happy hour connoisseur cry—no wings, no cheese sticks, just authentic Mexi-style food that's better than it needs to be. The tacos include meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and jack cheese, and the little flour tortillas are actually fried to delight, not steamed into watery oblivion like some happy hour tacos. The food comes with deliciously spiced rice topped with fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole.
When the bartender asks if you're still happy, the answer will invariably be "yes!"
A short and extremely worthwhile walk from downtown, En is a prime post-work retreat. Happy hour is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m Monday through Friday. The house wines ($3.95) and imported beers ($2.95) don't mess around, and the modern Japanese appetizers (two-for-one during happy hour) will knock you on your ass if the drinks haven't already. The food, like the decor, is exquisitely understated. The agedashi's tofu cubes—golden on the outside, silky soft on the inside—bask in a pond of salty fish-broth goodness. The ample portions and happy prices will make you feel like you're getting away with something. Get to know Wei, the owner. 2429 Second Ave., 206-770-0250. BELLTOWN
Your typical cheap tacos and 'ritas affair—for two bucks you can feast on a couple of meat tacos, a cheesy quesadilla, or even cheesier nachos, and $3.75 will get you a tasty (albeit weak) Sauza Silver margarita. For $2 more, you can get a shot of Sauza Silver in your Corona (ay-aye-aye!). What sets Jack's apart from other happy hours on the Hill is the breathability factor. The space is vast, with good-size booths and banks of French windows that open onto the street, creating a welcome breeze and that tricky I'm- indoors-but-it-feels-like-I'm-outdoors effect. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays and 5 to 9 p.m. weekends. 1501 E. Olive Way, 206-324-7000. CAPITOL HILL
Part sports bar, part hunting lodge, and part longshoreman's tavern, this ain't no hipster joint. The bartenders chat with the regulars and take long drags off their cigarettes behind the bar. The clientele, all sporty and Seattle-like, sit at wooden tables with old friends and watch ESPN on elevated TV sets. The fish and chips are deliciously golden and crisp on the outside, soft 'n' tasty on the inside. A tub of tartar and a domestic draft beer ($1.75 from 5 to 7 p.m. and midnight to 2 a.m. daily) or a well drink ($2.25/$2.50) make it a meal. 3005 N.W. 54th St., 206-789-4865. BALLARD
Is this place for real? Its dark red interior—with vinyl booths, buttoned walls, and a mirrored dance floor—is so over the top that it works. Just as this retro lounge seems to have slept through a few eras, its happy hour prices appear unaffected by decades of inflation. In other words, the price is right Monday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., when everything—yes, everything—is $2. Beers, well drinks, and any one of three appetizers: strangely Dick's-like cheeseburgers with a few yummy fries ($2!), serviceable mini-pizzas ($2!), or the requisite wings ($2!). 927 Ninth Ave., 206-682-2695. FIRST HILL
Some days, a mini cheeseburger just won't cut it. Head here if you desire a swankier after-work bar. It's all black, gray, and chic, and during its "post-work program"—apparently "happy hour" is too pedestrian—$5 (that's cheap in W land) will get you one of their signature drops, a well drink, or an appetizer. Watch out for the drops. Those yummy, fruity, sugar bombs, served in big martini glasses, are stronger than they taste. The appetizer list is long and exciting— tuna tartare with chili, mini barbecued-beef sandwiches with slaw, Moroccan chicken skewers with olives and cucumber yogurt salad, and more. Fourth Ave. and Seneca St., 206-264-6000. 3-6 p.m. Sun.-Thurs. and 11 p.m.-close. DOWNTOWN