Arts and Entertainment

HAPPY HOUR: 5 local picks from the Federal Way Mirror

A margarita at Azteca in Federal Way. - Casey Olson/Federal Way Mirror
A margarita at Azteca in Federal Way.
— image credit: Casey Olson/Federal Way Mirror

The Federal Way Mirror sampled a handful of popular happy hour spots in the area. Check out the reviews below.


Happy hours: 3 to 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. to close daily.

What to expect: What goes better together than chips, salsa and a cold drink? Not much, if you ask me. And it's pretty obvious why it's tough to find a seat inside the cantina at Federal Way's Azteca restaurant.

Like with any Mexican restaurant, it's very difficult to not overload on those free chips and salsa before ordering a meal. It's even tougher when you have a cold beer or a margarita in front of you. The salty tortilla chips, coupled with the spicy salsa, make the beer go down a little faster than normal.

But if you are able to save a little room, Azteca's queso dip is ridiculously good. The cream cheese based dip has a little spice to it and is the perfect thickness to stay on a chip. The only problem was the portion size was a little small. We had to order multiple bowls of the dip to quench our hunger.

The happy hour tacos are also a very good value at $4.95. A person could theoretically eat the two tacos as an entire meal. The food menu at Azteca also includes other traditional Mexican dishes like quesadillas, taquitos and nachos.

Drink specials include $2.50 domestic draft beers, $3.75 well drinks, $4.50 margaritas, and a glass of sangria for $3.75, among other things.

The only drawback of the cantina at Azteca is the lack of seating for a bigger group of people. There are basically only three booths inside the bar that can seat more than four people in the same location. Even if you are lucky enough to secure one of those booths, it is not real fun when somebody sitting in the middle has to use the bathroom. After a few beers or margaritas, it seems like you are standing up and sitting down more than Congress during a State of the Union speech.

Address: 32015 23rd Ave. S., Federal Way.

(Pictured above: The bar at R-Jay's Scoreboard Pub, as seen on the pub's Facebook page)

R-Jay's Scoreboard Pub

Happy hours: 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday.

What to expect: If you like watching sports on flat-screen TVs while drinking beer, then the Scoreboard Pub is the place to be. With apologies to my wife and kids, I really can't think of a better combination after a long day at work.

Every open area of wall inside the tavern is littered with a television, and they are all tuned into some type of sporting event. The Scoreboard also features two of my favorite beers on tap — Manny's and Mac & Jack's.

The TVs and drinks are obviously the biggest draws during happy hour. Beer specials include $2.50 pints, $4 steins and $9 pitchers of Bud Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon, and $3.50 pints, $5 steins and $11 pitchers of Manny's and Mac & Jack's. Well drinks are $3.50, house wine is $5 and Scoreboard Punch is $5.25.

Drinks aren't the only thing that the Scoreboard can brag about during happy hour. The food menu has shrunken considerably since new ownership took over earlier in the year, which might be a good thing when it comes to happy hour.

The current happy hour specials are good, old-fashioned "bar food." And there's a reason that "bar food" has been around since the beginning of time — because it tastes good when you are drinking alcohol. The Scoreboard's basket of fries might be the best value on the happy hour menu. For $3.99, there are too many French fries for one "normal" person to eat in one sitting. The beer-battered onion rings are also a solid, stick-to-your-ribs choice off the happy hour menu for $4.99. Other specials include chicken strips for $4.99; deep-fried pickle spears, mozzarella sticks or jalapeño poppers for $5; and a half-size chicken Caesar salad for $7.99.

Address: 1200 S. 324th St., Federal Way, near Celebration Park.

(Pictured above: The view from The Cliff House Restaurant in Northeast Tacoma.)

The Cliff House Restaurant

Happy hours: 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close every day.

What to expect: This place might have the best view of any happy hour location in the area, making it the perfect choice on a sunny day. The only problem is the Cliff House's narrow outdoor deck — which looks out over the Puget Sound to Stadium High School and the Tacoma Dome — can only seat about 14 people at a time.

But the view, along with the food and beer, is well worth making the drive into the Brown's Point area of Northeast Tacoma for happy hour, which I did on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

The blackened cod soft tacos are very good if you like things with a little spice. Despite being a happy hour special, the tacos can be eaten as a meal. You get two tacos filled with fish, coleslaw and a homemade jalapeño tomatillo salsa. I really have no idea what a tomatillo is (a Mexican tomato), but it sure tasted good complementing the spicy cod and jalapeño.

My drinking buddy ordered the sweet Thai chili prawns, and they were also the perfect match for the nice, cold beer and the sunny skies. The prawns were a good kind of spicy in the end, making you more inclined to take a drink of my Newcastle Brown Ale, which isn't a bad thing.

The happy hour menu also features oysters on the half shell (three for $7.50), steamed baby Manila clams ($8), fried calamari ($7), salmon or beef sliders ($3), flat bread pizza ($7), braised bacon ($7) and tenderloin tips ($8).

The Cliff House also has numerous drink specials during happy hour, including $2.50 domestic beers, $3.50 microbrews, $3 well drinks, $5 chardonnay, cabernet or merlot, and $6 martinis.

Address: 6300 Marine View Drive, Tacoma, 98422, in the Brown's Point area of Northeast Tacoma.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

Happy hours: 3 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 3 to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

What to expect: The bar inside the Red Robin near The Commons Mall is exactly what you look for in a place to stop for a drink or two after working all day. They serve ice-cold beer and well drinks at a cheap price along with food that you can snack on as an appetizer or even an early dinner.

The happy hour appetizer menu at Red Robin is an impressive one and ranges in price from $3, for things like guacamole and chips, to $7 for quesadillas and wings. My favorite is Red Robin's signature Towering Onion Rings. The mountain of onion probably might not be the best thing to order if you are on a first date (fire breath). But if you are happily married or with a buddy, the Towering Onion Rings are awesome.

In terms of libations, Red Robin is pretty much status quo. Domestic draft beers are $2.50 for a 16-ouncer, and premium beers are $3.50. You can also buck up and get a Mondo beer (22 ounces) for just $1 more. Obviously, that's exactly what I did.

Well drinks are $2.50 and you can get premium-brand liquor for $1 more. Golden margaritas are $3.50 and the house wine is $2.50.

Address: 2233 S. 320th St., Federal Way.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Happy hours: 2 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday.

Buffalo Wild Wings is pretty much what you'd expect for a place based on wings and sports. Flat screens adorn almost every inch of available wall, with broadcasts from all over the country. Patrons happily munch on their wings or other delicious foods.

For the happy hour seeker, BWW's delivers. Domestic "tall" draft beers start from $3 during happy hour, while a number of appetizers are available for $3: mozzarella sticks, roasted garlic mushrooms, chili con queso dip, mini corn dogs, regular onion rings, and chips and salsa. Drink specials for the daily happy hour include Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan and Absolut Vodka.

Outside of the daily happy hour, BWW's also offers "Wing Tuesdays," where any of the restaurant's chicken wings, traditional or boneless, are offered for 60 cents a wing. In this day and age, any place that can provide you with value like that is a keeper.

Address: 2005 S. 320th St., Federal Way (near The Commons Mall)

— This review is by Greg Allmain, FW Mirror reporter

Reader suggestions

Last month, The Mirror asked readers on Facebook about suggestions for good happy hour spots.

• Chris Dinkins: The Rock Wood Fired Pizza and Spirits, 34817 Enchanted Pkwy. S., and The Ram, 31920 Gateway Center Blvd.

• Claudia Saint Jacque: Applebee's, 1801 S. 320th St. "Their late night happy hour is a pretty great idea."

• Np Nilsen: Jersey's Sports Bar, 35509 21st Ave. SW.

• Shih-An Cheng: "Burger Express (32805 Pacific Hwy. S.) serves beer too!"

• Carrie Stalder: "Salty's (28201 Redondo Beach Dr. S., Des Moines) and the Cliff House have delicious and responsible happy hours."

• Margie Nalbone-Ortiz: "Vince's (32411 Pacific Hwy. S.) has a great happy hour. $5 salads and entrees."

• Aj Otto: Gino's Bistro, 4624 SW 320th St.

• Mike Jankowski: "My faves are McGrath's (1911 S. 320th St.) and Buffalo Wild Wings, both are right in the mall parking lot."


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