Kyle Houk

The Place: Salty's on Alki , 1936 Harbor Ave. SW, 937-1600, WEST SEATTLE

The Hours: Monday-Friday 3-6 p.m., "Seahawk Sunday" 5 p.m.-close (but


A Dignified Happy Hour at Salty's

Kyle Houk

The Place: Salty's on Alki, 1936 Harbor Ave. SW, 937-1600, WEST SEATTLE

The Hours: Monday-Friday 3-6 p.m., "Seahawk Sunday" 5 p.m.-close (but there is no longer a need for this information)

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The Deal: The aspiring Seattle comedian Johnny Waycock and I explored a hidden side of Seattle, one unknown to many residents. We made our way quietly down the upscale neighborhood streets that crown West Seattle until we came upon a barely noticeable trail that penetrated the roadside woods. Waycock led me down the thickly-wooded trail until, like El Dorado, it opened into a BMX paradise. Carved from the Earth with nothing but the rusty shovels and stamps thrown haphazardly to the side, fully exposed to the weather, a movie miniature appeared and grew. As we neared, ramps built from the sandy soil rose above my head like the pyramids of Egypt. The 70-degree inclines were smoothed and hardened with cement, using craftsmanship that could stem only from a labor of love. I tried to run up one, parkour-style, but I only made it halfway. Waycock started a fire with the dry paper he keeps sheltered beneath a brown tarp. "Do yourself a favor. Follow that trail, dude," he said.

I did as I was told and walked a caterpillar-like trail of small ridges and valleys before the thick cover of bare winter branches opened up into a clearing. Elliott Bay lay sprawling before it, with Bainbridge Island off in the distance. A ferry stirred up the water into white caps and foam as it chugged along to Alaskan Way. Birds flew in small groups. The wind was muted by the brush, and a peaceful feeling overcame me.

As the four o'clock hour approached, I said, "Let's go. Happy hour started an hour ago." We quietly made our way up the hill and down the other side to the restaurant. "We don't have bikes with us, so we're good," Waycock said. Apparently the ramps have been flattened in the past because they're not, shall we say, supposed to be there.

As we got down to sea level, the water and the Seattle skyline appeared. A right onto Harbor Avenue and a quick left brought us into Salty's parking lot.

The happy hour specials look decent from afar: oysters at two bucks apiece, fish tacos for $4 (later to realize that taco is singular) and coconut-crusted prawns for $6. For drinks, Rainier and Salty's own Salmon Amber are $4 a pop, and Session bottles are a cool $2. A few wines are $5 a glass and wells are $6. A select list of $6 cocktails is also featured; I tried the Blue Marlin. It's a mixture of coconut rum, Blue Curacao, and spiced rum with slices of pineapple and orange and a maraschino cherry. It tasted like Panama City, Fla. during Spring Break--a mixture of pre-mixed, sliced fruit and the aroma of suntan lotion.

I had four oysters, the Alki sushi roll, coconut prawns and a fish taco. The food was just ok. The sushi roll was way too QFC-quality. The coconut prawns were crisp and sweet, but sat immersed in bright red sweet and sour sauce, the kind that cheap Chinese restaurants use. It had the super sweetness I usually identify with high fructose corn syrup products. The oysters, on the other hand, were fantastic, plump and juicy. The fish taco was good, too, but $4 should get you more than one.

The Digs: The vast dining room was decorated with lingering 6-foot-tall nutcrackers and oversized Christmas tree ornaments that hung from the enlarged treble-hooked wooden lures that loomed above. An impressive 20-foot replica of an antique baitcasting rod and reel also hung from the ceiling. We found a table with a view of the city and the sea (a very easy thing to do at Salty's). The hours spent exposed to the cold had worked up an appetite in both of us, but Waycock did not seem overly concerned, as he loudly talked on his cell phone and missed his chance to order twice.

Salty's has one of the best views of any restaurant in Seattle, and even on a dark, grey day the power remained. The view became especially spectacular as night fell, and the city by the bay lit up, making the nutcrackers seem relevant once again.

A crowd of affluent-looking middle-aged folks salt and peppered the restaurant, quietly enjoying the dignified air. I felt like a fish that had just jumped out of Elliott Bay and into the dining room.

The Verdict: "This happy hour is conventional," I noted during the experience. The beer list is small and not too interesting when compared to most restaurants and bars in Seattle. The most interesting brew is the Ninkasi IPA with the likes of Manny's Pale Ale and Widmer Hefeweizen being the next most interesting before plunging into the abyss of Rainier and Bud Light. The cocktails--the Berry Best Cosmo, the Spicy Moscow Mule, the Prickly Pear--all seem uninspired. The wines aren't priced right for happy hour, with only three selections at $5, then up to $7 and topping out at a very un-happy hour $14. The retirement-community atmosphere, the lingering holiday decor and the unexciting food all led Waycock to reminisce. "It's like Christmas at my grandparents, with a view."

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