We’ve all experienced the happy hour bait-and-switch tactic: Your local watering hole promises cheap drinks and discounted fare between the hours of x and y. These deals pull at your wallet strings; you are hooked. Slapping one hand over your eyes, you use the other to point in the direction of the closest happy hour restaurant, hoping for heavy-handed drink pours and tolerable chow. Fear not: There is a better way to discover happy hour nirvana.
My Mission: comb Whatcom and Skagit counties for the happiest of happy hours and challenge my discriminating palate for the best these two counties have to offer in the form of inexpensive food and drinks. Simply, I want to get the best bang for my buck, and this part of the Pacific Northwest serves up some premium choices.
Reasons to Visit: Light menu, live music, hand-crafted mead, perfect date spot and an urban winery tasting room.
Tasty Bites: By far and away, the spotlight here is the variety of meads Honey Moon has to offer. The drink favored by artists and kings is best accompanied with a side of luxurious cheeses, meats and locally made pastries. For $15, Honey Moon’s Happy Hour menu features a tasty cheese plate and half a carafe of your choice of mead. All meads are $1 off, and don’t forget to save room for some Strawberry Shortcake.
Insider Tip: The Honey Moon is Bellingham’s best-kept secret in my opinion. Besides its charming alley location in the Market District, there are fewer things more satisfying than sipping a glass of Lover’s Mead, sucking on the pit of an olive, and fading into the Bellingham sunset.
HH: Tues.-Sat., 5-7 p.m.; Mon., 5-11 p.m.
1053 N. State St., Bellingham
Bayou on Bay
Reasons to Visit: Cajun comfort food, tons of seating, great for people watching.
Tasty Bites: Hush Puppies aren’t just for your feet anymore; for $4 you get a dozen cornmeal lovelies with fresh remoulade. That same remoulade pairs nicely with the sweet potato fries, arguably the best in the PNW according to many locals. The macaroni and cheese is a must have.
Insider Tip: Connected to this Cajun sensation, is the Bayou Oyster Bar. Ask
your bartender to suggest a drink if you’re intimidated by the spirits list. The staff is
classically trained and craft their own unique house-made bitters and infusions.
HH: Tues.-Sun., 4-7 p.m.
1300 Bay St., Bellingham
Reasons to Visit: Diverse organic menu, fancy champagne cocktails, and great after-work meet-up spot.
Tasty Bites: The “Seed to Plate” business concept extends beyond the regular menu, and keeps it real, with mouth-watering organic fries ($3) served with roasted pepper aioli; or the unbeatable, aky chicken pot-pie, loaded with fresh local veggies ($5) – sorry Portlandia fans, the chicken is sans its birth certificate.
Insider Tip: Daily drink specials include regionally made wines, and impressive craft brews from local distributors ($3.50).
HH: Daily, 3-6 p.m. & 9 p.m.-close.
1317 Commercial St., Bellingham
Poppes 360 Neighborhood Lounge
Reasons to Visit: Connected to the Lakeway Inn, Poppes 360 offers room, board and Bellingham’s best martini.
Tasty Bites: With a stellar happy hour lineup it’s not difdifficult to find an appetizer or small plate to complement your favorite beverage. The Sweet & Spicy Calimari with sesame seeds and Sriracha aioli ($6) is an inexpensive starter easily shared between two people. The Halibut Kebobs wrapped in prosciutto ($9), is another tasty treat that highlights Poppe’s delicious surf & turf options.
Insider Tip: This swanky spot hosts live jazz on the weekends, which makes it the perfect date spot for you and your closest Coltrane enthusiast.
HH: Daily, 4-7 p.m.
714 Lakeway Dr., Bellingham
Reasons to Visit: Big-city atmosphere, good food, generous sized portions.
Tasty Bites: The Asian influence on the menu is apparent on both the Happy Hour menu as well as the regular menu, however, during special hours you are able to sample their discounted Social Starters menu, which offers a taste of American and Asian cuisine. The General Tsao’s Chicken ($7) is an excellent way to enjoy this fusion of flavors at cheaper price. The Salt & Pepper Dry Ribs ($6.50), offers not only a mouth-watering name but are unanimously the best ribs amongst my friends and I.
Insider Tip: On a hot summer day Scotty Browns balcony is the ideal spot to sip a Mimosa and relax with friends, family or coworkers.
HH: Fri.-Sat., 3-6pm; late-night, 10 p.m.-Midnight
3101 New Market St., Bellingham
Lighthouse Bar & Grill
Reasons to Visit: Breathtaking view of Bellingham Bay, great wine selection and historical character.
Tasty Bites: The Lighthouse’s small plates offer a wide range of delicious sea and land charcuterie. As far as mushroom dishes go in Bellingham, you cannot beat the Forager’s Pride ($7), an assemblage of tasty lion’s mane mushrooms, layered with golden beets and chevre. For a nice mix of good bar food and a lunch item, the Chicken Tenders ($7) are not your average breaded chicken strips. Breaded in house and paired with a unique blackberry barbecue sauce, you’ll never say “KFC” again.
Insider Tip: Every third Wednesday, the Lighthouse puts together a Wine Social, where Northwest wine distributors assist in creating a line-up of local spirits to pair with unique hors d’oeuvres.
HH: Every day, 3-6 p.m., 8 p.m.- close
1 Bellwether Way, Bellingham
Reasons to Visit: Newly opened, this eatery is already getting attention with a write up in Sunset magazine; 60+ tequilas to sample
Tasty Bites: Street Tacos ($2) – with six meat llings to choose from and handmade corn tortillas – are the name of the game here, but certainly not the only mouthwatering option. The Spicy Mango Margarita, made with fresh mango and jalapeno, is fast becoming a customer favorite.
Insider Tip: Wednesday nights are ladies’ nights with $4 margaritas. Everybody can enjoy $5 margaritas on Fridays.
HH: Every day, 2-7 p.m.
517 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon
The Brown Lantern Ale House
Reasons to Visit: Scrumptious pub fare, bustling, energetic vibe, live music every weekend and sublime beer menu.
Tasty Bites: The Brown Lantern’s discounted menu offers heaping portions of above average bar fare. The GBGB is not your typical breadbasket, served piping hot this Gorgonzola and basil garlic bread ($5) is paired with a thick, flavorsome balsamic reduction; and after 10 p.m. keep the party moving with a provolone cheese and cheddar pizza for just $12!
Insider Tip: Suffering from a bit of a hangover? The Moscow Mule is a modern twist on your Grandpa’s Mint Julep – served in a copper cup; ginger beer, fresh lime and vodka complete the ideal morning-after beverage ($7).
HH: Daily, 3-6 p.m.; Sun.-Thurs., late-night, 9 p.m.-close
412 Commercial Ave., Anacortes
Reasons to Visit: Super high-quality local ingredients, posh atmosphere, stirring cocktail and spirits offerings, and historic Skagit Valley location.
Tasty Bites: Enjoy the romantic décor of the Seeds experience, and fall in love with their discounted happy hour delights; highlights include the TLC-rich BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders ($6), offering dreamy house-made buttermilk biscuits and creamy horseradish mayo; or perhaps my fave comfort-food menu item, the House Made Coconut Prawns ($6), truly a shrimp lover’s delight!
Insider Tip: Take advantage of the hard-to-find spirits available for $1 off the regular menu price. My suggestion, the Ambassador 2010, a delicious concoction of Tanqueray Gin, Earl Grey syrup, egg white and fresh lemon juice. No more Orange Julius’ for me after the Seed’s experience.
HH: Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.
623 Morris St., LaConnor
The Trumpeter Public House
Reasons to Visit: Old-world ambiance, delightful place to linger with co-workers or friends, and boasts a world-renowned gluten-free menu.
Tasty Bites: The challenge with the Trumpeter’s discounted Happy Hour’s menu is where to start, and most all are gluten-free or have the option to be gluten-free. The Stuffed Roasted Cremini ($7), is not your average fungi dish, loaded with breadcrumbs and Gorgonzola cheese, the intensity of flavors will spice up your evening. Also don’t pass on the Trumpeter’s signature Crab Cakes ($10), unencumbered by tacky fillers and other unsavory typical crab-cake mortar, instead these pan-seared beauties are full of flavor and topped with Rooster Sauce.
Insider Tip: On a rainy day, scoot up to the replace in a comfy chair and enjoy one of the many selections of imported pitchers ($18), or single malt scotches the Trumpeter offers. And with a $1 off during happy hour, you might begin to feel like you’ve stepped inside a Hemmingway novel.
HH: Mon.- Sat., 4-6 p.m.
416 Myrtle St., Mount Vernon
August/September 2012 Bellingham Alive/North Sound Life