The Place: Hunger, 4256 Fremont Ave. N., 402-4854, FREMONT.
I devoured my food before I remembered to take a picture of it.
The Hours: Daily 4-6 p.m.
The Deal: For the drinkers, there are $5 specialty cocktails, such as the popular Pimm's End (Pimm's, bourbon, lemonade, and cucumber), the New Orleans Buck (a play on the dark & stormy), and, what I had, the house sangria--dark red and spicy in all the right places. There are also $4 wells, $5 glasses of wine (pinot noir and sauvignon blanc), $3 Olympia tall boys, and $1 off draft beers--I had a wheaty local Fremont Brewing Harvest Ale for $3.50. And for the eaters--a selection of tapas small plates for $5 each. Some options might not seem worth the price--a plate of olives and nuts for five bucks? No thanks--but others are more filling--Moroccan spiced fries dusted with garam masala and cayenne, the pasta of the day (on this particular night it was a seasonally appropriate gnocchi with brown butter sauce and butternut squash)--and the food I sampled was definitely rewarding. More on that later.
The Digs: Hunger's tucked into upper Fremont Ave. in a cozy space with dark red walls, a cleanly white-tiled bar, and dim lighting, mostly furnished by candlelight. Throw in a fireplace and it'd be the ideal spot to spend a cold winter's evening. Even without the hearth, it's a warm, inviting place. Older couples dine at the tables, younger ones drink on the bar stools. On the speakers, slick, if not a little outdated, electronic music plays, from Daniel Bedingfield "Gotta Get Thru This" to Telepopmusik's "Breathe." A single small TV hangs in a high corner, playing Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette on silent. One wall is adorned with quirky portraits--a customer's rendition of Hunger's kitchen, bar, and wait staff, plus some other regulars. "Up there is Anya," points the bartender, "someone who's been sitting at our bar since we opened it."
The Verdict: Hunger's about three blocks or a two minute walk from my house, but this was my first visit. I can't believe I've been complaining for so long about upper Fremont's lack of a good neighborhood bar when Hunger's been sitting there waiting for me for months now. The laidback ambience is perfectly relaxing, the drinks are potent and nicely varied, and the food is just delicious--it rivals the cuisine of that other Mediterranean tapas bar, Ballard's Ocho.
Off the $5 happy hour menu, the prawn bruschetta is three slices of toasted baguette topped with beautifully sauteed prawns and a drizzle of sweet reduced balsamic that marries wonderfully with a relish of red peppers and picual olives that tastes almost pickled. In my book, sweet and sour always works. Also $5, the wild boar sliders are probably the cutest items on the menu--alongside a tiny salad of potatoes and celery with a grainy mustard dressing, two soft, airy buns filled with barbecued pulled pork and a smear of goat cheese on the bottom. Also in my book, if you're going to smear your food with something, it should probably be goat cheese. Both dishes--the bruschetta and the sliders--are absolutely addictive.