Let's end our week a little more happy, shall we?
Earlier this week, I took you on a tour of El Gaucho's happy hour. Yesterday, I wrote about Merende. Today, I offer you a report of happy hours at three more Tacoma restaurants that serve noshable eats at bargain bar prices: Pacific Grill, Stanley & Seafort's and Duke's on Ruston.
Don't think of happy hour as a time to swill the drink of your choice. Think of it as a time to graze. Cheaply.
Here, then, a look at happy houring on the cheap...
Where: 1502 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma; 253-627-3535; www.pacificgrilltacoma.com
Happy hour: 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 p.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m-6 p.m. Saturdays; 9 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Of all the restaurants sampled for this report, Pacific Grill was the one that made me want to return – repeatedly. Four pages of menu choices – all but three of the 20-something menu items are half off – and a longer daily offering from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. makes this the tiara for every happy hour diva.
Classic grilled cheese, $6: Cave-aged gruyere sang sweet and nutty against the melody of mildly pungent vintage white cheddar. The cheese duo oozed from between two crusty pieces of grilled country sourdough. The apple (correction: tomato) chutney on the side nudged the sandwich to sublime with just the right amount of sweetness to coax alive the sharp, cheesy flavor. Crispy housemade potato chips were light and airy, leaving me wondering if they were not so much fried as they were air crisped. How do they do that?
Barbecued oysters, $6.50: Six oysters, barbecued and served in their shells atop an attractive display of rock salt, were loaded with a smoky dose of chewy, delicious pancetta; so much so that the pancetta overpowered the brininess of the oysters. Oyster purists: Skip the pancetta.
Cheeseburger sliders, $5.50: Two juicy, sirloin burgers came perfectly grilled medium as requested. The burgers got cheesy-sweet treatment from tangy Russian dressing and pungent aged white cheddar. Nestled between two nosh-worthy fluffy dinner rolls, the diminutive sliders are small, but decadent. And they come paired with the best fries in town: thinly sliced shoestring potatoes fried crispy with whole garlic cloves and crispy-crunchy sprigs of fried rosemary and sage leaves.
Mussels and fries, $6.50: Sweet, rich and smoky comes with wide appeal. A big plate of sweet, meaty mussels swam nicely with huge chunks of applewood-smoked bacon in a garlic- and basil-scented wine bath. And it comes paired with those amazing garlic fries.
Meat candy, $3: By no means will the five pieces of meat candy fill you up, but it will leave you drooling Homer Simpson-style. I don't know what I like better about meat candy – the chewy, sticky texture or the sweet-smoky flavor of the creamy roasted sweet dates wrapped up snug and happy inside a thick, chewy jacket of apple-smoked bacon.
Where: 3327 Ruston Way, Tacoma; 253-752-5444; www.dukeschowderhouse.com
Happy hour: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close, daily
Duke's may have an abbreviated happy hour menu, but the waterfront restaurant with a killer deck offers one of the best $5 deals in town. All drinks and eats, except the chowder, on the two-page happy hour menu run $4.99.
Dangerously "Killer" prawns, $4.99: Five sweet, plump oversized prawns are gussied up with a spicy, garlic white wine sauce zapped with red pepper flakes and roasted red peppers. Inexplicably, the prawns were served atop a big slab of airy white bread that greedily soaked up the sauce, but was too mushy to eat. I wanted sauce to enjoy with the accompanying grilled bread. My advice: Ask for bread on the side only.
Tuna wasabi quesadilla, $4.99: Tuna heaven comes in the form of a grilled flour tortilla stuffed with meaty, marinated yellow fin crusted with black sesame seeds. The accompanying wasabi mayo offered a nice nasal sting, but those less wasabi-inclined can enjoy the quesadilla with the chunky, fresh, brightly limey guacamole on the side.
Steamers, $4.99: This ginormous dish of steamers hands down was the best deal on the menu. The clams – fresh from Olympia, our server told us – were sweet little morsels infused with a boozy beer garlic broth. Chopped fresh herbs and roasted garlic nudged the flavor to divine.
Duke's slider, $4.99: The sirloin burger patty on the solo slider burger was too dry, but was helped along with a liberal smear of mayo and a pillowy soft potato roll, buttered and grilled. Fries were nicely done, but nothing remarkable other than that they were generous.
Duke's chowder, $3.99 cup; $5.99 bowl: Creamy chowder full of plump clams with a kick from a blend of fresh herbs and garlic. Smoky bits of bacon added savory dimension.
The Stanley & Seafort's Classic Sampler includes three towers: the first tower is roasted garlic prawns, the second layer is teriyaki tenderloin and the third layer is a crab dip. Photo by Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune.
Stanley & Seafort's
Where: 115 E 34th St., Tacoma; 253-473-7300; www.r-u-i.com
Happy hour: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Friday; and after 9 p.m.
Stanley & Seafort's was my bartender find, courtesy of the fellow working behind the bar at Duke's. "You've got to try Stanley's. The menu is awesome," he said. And it's true, bartenders know where to get deals. Stanley's menu has 20 items, all half off during happy hour. And the bar is one of the most romantic spaces in town after dark, with a stellar view of Tacoma to keep you distracted.
Kobe meatloaf sliders, $4: Discs of meatloaf dosed with garlic paired with a palate jab from a salty olive mayo and a spicy sweet tease from a smear of sweet-hot Chinese mustard. Hawaiian rolls infused another sweet note to the savory-rich sliders. Three sliders for $4 is a sure bet bargain.
Warm brie with macadamia nut crust, $6: The crust was thick and rich, maybe too thick for some, but macadamia nut fiends won't complain. Be sure to enjoy while hot, the cheese loses its ooze upon firming. Served with apple slices, bread and a drizzle of honey.
Calamari with plum sauce, $5.50: Kicky jalapeno and five-spice seasoning pushed this dish to flavor defcon yum. Flash-fried calamari with an aromatic shot of five-spice offered a tongue tease from jalapeno slices, a squeeze of lime and fragrant cilantro leaves. A bitter radicchio salad offset the kickiness some. This dish is not for the flavor meek.
Classic sampler, $13.50: This dish comes as an impressive three-tier tower. Plate one offers three roasted prawns fragrant with garlic perched atop sinfully buttery mashed potatoes. Teriyaki tenderloin with rice comprises plate two. The sweetly glazed meat was perfectly charred, fork tender and sprinkled with sesame seeds and chives. Hot king crab and artichoke dip was mostly artichoke and not enough crab. What it lacked in crab, it made up for in gooey – and paired perfectly with the chewy rosemary ciabatta that kept arriving throughout the meal. I love a place that keeps (good) bread coming.
YOUR TURN: I couldn't possibly cover all the happy hour deals around town. Where are your favorite happy hours? Comment here, please.
WHEN TO GET HAPPY
A quick guide to the times of the happy hours featured in this series:
El Gaucho: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 10 p.m.-close; 10 p.m.-close Saturday and 4:30 p.m. to close Sunday.
Merende: 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 p.m-close Fridays-Saturdays and and 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.
Duke's: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-close, daily
Stanley & Seaforts: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday-Friday; and after 9 p.m.
Pacific Grill: 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 p.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5 p.m-6 p.m. Saturdays; 9 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.