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(post, Kathleen Bauer)
I have to admit that happy hours do just that. They make me happy. I'm happy when someone suggests meeting for a happy hour drink. I'm happy all that day just thinking about it. That evening I'm happy to be sitting and ordering my happy hour drink and little plates of happy hour food. And I'm happiest of all when I get the happy hour check and it's way less than it would be during regular hours. So when my cousin Julie called and suggested meeting for happy hour, you can imagine how...well...happy I was to accept. We settled on 50 Plates because of its proximity to her workplace and because I hadn't been back since a media dinner last July. The bar is a tiny place. Just a couple of small tables and maybe eight stools at the bar, so it's either designed to be crowded or they let folks flow over into the dining room. The ceiling is low and the lighting is intimate. Not that it's dark, but it does have a certain sophisticated sleekness with the low lighting, hard surfaces and black-and-white color scheme. My favorite bartender, Suzanne, holds down the fort on Monday and Tuesday nights, so I knew we were in for a good time. I hadn't had one of her trademark Monique's Gimlets (made with Hendrick's gin) for ages but, alas, they were out of Hendrick's that night. Then, because resourcefulness is the hallmark of a brilliant bartender and Suzanne blows the lid off the Stanford-Binet of mixology, she subbed in a new local gin I hadn't tried called 12 Bridges. Its flavor derives from the 12 botanicals used in its recipe and it has a distinctive cucumber character as well, perfect for the gimlet. So with that settled, we ordered some nibbles from their bar menu starting with their signature dirty rice beignets and, at Suzanne's suggestion, a wedge of iceberg with warmed cherry tomatoes and pancetta drizzled with invisible vinaigrette. A couple of other plates, including one of their house-made pretzels, bronzed and salty, that Suzanne brought on the house, concluded our very happy evening. What more can you ask of an hour of happiness? Details: Happy Hour at 50 Plates. Mon.-Fri., 3-6 pm. 333 NW 13th Ave. Phone 503-228-5050.